The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

South student overcomes aneurysm, brain surgery


By Ashley Wood/south news editor

Deborah Crawford woke up in a New York hospital six weeks after brain surgery in 2010 unable to speak or move with no memory of who she was.

“Can you tell us your name?” the doctors asked.

“I thought to myself, ‘Who am I? I know I don’t smoke or drink, but why can’t I remember my name?’” she said.

Crawford had a blood vessel burst in the front of her brain. That vessel bled for eight hours. She still doesn’t know why the aneurysm happened.

Now four years later, Crawford is starting college for the first time taking classes on South with a new goal to push herself to her full extent.

Deborah Crawford shows her scar from brain surgery that she underwent four years ago. Eric Rebosio/The Collegian
Deborah Crawford shows her scar from brain surgery that she underwent four years ago. Eric Rebosio/The Collegian

After the surgery, Crawford slipped into a coma and then suffered three seizures that only deepened her coma.

“I went to the hospital originally because I had a throbbing headache that wouldn’t go away. I thought it was stress,” she said.

Crawford was back in her home state of New York because her mother was hospitalized. Crawford said she was supposed to be on a plane for Texas, but she never made that flight.

A doctor finally saw her in the hospital and immediately started telling the nurse to get things ready because something was very wrong, Crawford said.

“The nurse asked him how he knew. The doctor said it was because my eyes were filling with blood. That is why they couldn’t get my blood pressure ‘cause it was all the blood was going to my head,” she said.

Crawford said she thought it was all a joke and tried to laugh it off.

“I thought the doctor was someone off the third floor [the psych ward] that had gotten loose,” she said. “I told him he needed to stay outta the meds a little better and go back upstairs.”

The doctor and nurses assured her it was no joke. Within the hour, Crawford was prepped and in surgery.

When she woke up six weeks later, the doctors started asking her questions about herself and her life. Crawford didn’t know the answers.

“They told me they had gotten in touch with my son in Texas and he was on his way. I didn’t even know I had a son at that point,” she said.

When her son and family came to the hospital, she started trying to pick up all the pieces of her scattered memories.

After moving back to Texas with her son, Crawford says she got severely depressed. She just felt like she had no purpose and didn’t understand why God was putting her through all her struggles.

After almost four years of visiting doctors, struggling with depression and trying to work through her memory lapses, Crawford said she had an epiphany.

“I went to the park right around the corner from my son’s house, where they have a nice pond, and I sat there and said to myself, ‘I can’t keep coming to this park and crying every day,’” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Laughter has come back to Crawford’s life now. She said she even makes her doctors laugh with her outrageous humor.

“You know the commercial where the doctor has the patient typing on the computer? Well that’s my favorite one. I tell the doctors, ‘How come you couldn’t attach some of the parts of my brain to make me smarter?’” she said. “At least while you were there, you could have given me a boob job.”

With her humor and confidence restored, Crawford decided she wanted to try her luck at school even though her family didn’t support her decision to try.

“I didn’t tell them originally that I had started,” she said. “It slipped one day when my car had broken down at home and I had to rent a car to make it to class on time.”

Although she’s only taking one class this fall, Crawford plans to take more including fundamental reading to get her vocabulary back up.

Psychology associate professor Triesha Light who teaches the South Women in New Roles class said Crawford is a joy to have as a student.

Light said Crawford came to her at the beginning of the semester and shared her story, which took a lot of courage.

“She has such a newfound outlook on life. She knows she is alive for a reason, and she is finding that reason in college,” she said.

Crawford has a quick-witted sense of humor that keeps her class laughing like it’s comedy hour, Light said.

Light said Crawford retains information above that of an average student and has made great progress through the semester.

“Deborah is still figuring out her boundaries, but she isn’t letting her disability get in the way,” she said. “She is a motivated individual with an amazing story. She truly is an inspiration.”

With all her setbacks, Crawford said she’s just trying to make the most of what comes next.

“I just know I was left on this earth for a reason,” she said. “The part of my life before surgery had been easy. Now it will just be a little harder, but I have God on my side.”

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