By: Tianna Thompson
When Melinda Mast, Executive Director of the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, asked me to interview Mary Varga, I was ecstatic because I knew it would give me a first hand look into the life of someone living with a brain injury. As human beings, we tend to live our lives in the fast lane, most of us never taking the time to enjoy the little things, until tragedy strikes. As each day passes, I am learning to embrace the good and bad times, not to sweat the small stuff, and to try and make my life as fulfilling as possible because I know that in the blink of an eye, everything can change.
It is 9am on Monday, October 6th. I am standing at Mary Varga’s front door. After knocking, I anxiously awaited meeting the woman that I had heard such great things about. Mary Varga, is a beautifully charismatic woman, with an amazing outlook on life, despite all of the tragedy she has endured. She is a bright woman, with dreams to become a personal trainer. She makes it clear that even though she has been through so much pain, her hopes and dreams have never faltered.
Mary stands at about 5 feet, 2 inches. She has chin length, brunette colored hair, and a bright smile. At first glance you would never suspect she has a brain injury. It is not until she speaks and begins to walk that you notice her disability. Mary has been living with a brain injury for over 11 years. In the summer of 1997, Mary moved from Louisville, KY to Little Rock, AR to get married. One day she was driving with her then 3 month old son in the backseat, on her way to a party. She was stopped at a stop sign, when a car ran right into her car, knocking her unconscious. The impact of the crash caused her brain to ricochet back and forth against her skull, which caused the brain injury. Immediately after the impact she was in a coma. Luckily, there was a neighbor working in his yard, who happened to be a E.R Nurse. He resuscitated Mary and ultimately saved her life.
Before her injury, Mary lived a very active lifestyle. She was a distance runner, usually running between 20 and 25 miles a week, who also ran in the New York Marathon, twice. She was a very successful businesswoman, and had a career that kept her in hospitals, either in drug sales, or hospital administration of some form. When asked how the injury affected her life, she gazed out the window and replied “one of the things that changed most drastically in my life was the fact that because of my brain injury, I no longer have the balance or ability to walk or run the same way I used to. I was a distance runner and now I can’t even walk correctly” She says with pain in her eyes. “My brain stem was mainly affected by the crash, and that controls a lot of your speech, balance, breathing etc. My speech was greatly affected. My balance was greatly affected. Basically, I lost my speech, my balance and my new little family in Little Rock, because of my injury.”
“The one thing that kept me so motivated and active was my faith. My faith has increased 100 percent even in the past year. I know and believe that God saved my life that day, and it must have been for a reason, so I’m going to do something good with it. I spent the first 10 years of my injury thinking if I could just walk again, or ever have the chance to drive again, I would be complete. I rarely stopped to think about the blessings that I have and the fact that I still have my life” I long to find someway to help people and to contribute to society. People are constantly helping me and I want to find a way to give back. Because of my disability I don’t get out as much as I used to, and it’s hard because I was so active before my injury.”
Mary dreams of becoming a personal trainer. “I am well aware of my disability, and the fact that it will be challenging, but the world of health and fitness just comes second nature to me. I don’t want to feel like a charity case to whoever hires me. My dream job would be to work at a fitness center that caters to disabled people.” I asked Mary if there was one thing she could say to other people living with Brain injuries to give them hope. She smiles and says “if you keep working, as bad as it may seem now, it will get better. Life never goes backwards, and by working hard you can only get better. It’s not going to be fun, but it’s always worth it. Cherish your family and friends but remember when they are not around, that you are never alone. You always have a friend in Jesus, He never leaves your side”
Most people might know Mary from the Brain Ball, that she started. It is a formal fundraiser, to give back to brain injury survivors and to support the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky. When asked about how the brain ball event got started, Mary smiles, laughs lightly and says “Funny thing is, the Brain Ball was actually named by my sister in-law Kim. My family wanted to throw a fundraiser for brain injury survivors because of what I had been through, and because I always loved to throw parties they put it in my hands. I eventually called BIAK and told them what I was thinking and that I wanted to throw an event and they got involved. Now it is basically in their hands.”
“BIAK has been a second family to me. When I first got involved with them, I used to feel like they felt sorry for me but now I know I do as much good for them as they do for me”