Kitti Tong was walking home from work at a major hotel corporation’s headquarters outside of Washington, DC when she was hit by a car. She suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, was subsequently diagnosed with Aphasia, and spent the next five months fighting to get back on her feet. Hospitals and rehab facilities were not where the 27-year-old pictured herself spending time at this stage of her life. Nevertheless, she pressed on – determined to utilize all available resources to help her regain life skills and her identity.
One of the tools she found helpful to address recovering everyday abilities was Constant Therapy (she calls it the “one dollar a day” tool). We recently spoke with Kitti about her recovery, how she uses Constant Therapy, how she never gives up and maintains a “growth mindset”, and what advice she has for others facing a long recovery.
Here is Kitti’s story and how she stays motivated, in her own words.
On November 12, 2018, I was hit by a car in a crosswalk in Rockville, Maryland.
I was in a coma for one month on life support with a severe brain injury. After five months in the hospital and four brain surgeries, I relearned everything: my right arm, right leg, and right double vision. However, I couldn’t talk for months and months. It was frightful and dreadful.
From the brain injury, I have aphasia. Aphasia affects comprehension and communication—reading, speaking, or writing. It’s a disorder resulting from damage or injury to a specific area of the brain.
My co-worker/best friend/caregiver helps me—with Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy. We work on memory—Connect 4, Sequence, and Jenga. We also worked on language — 5-Second Rules, Wiz Kids, Brain Quest, 120 Pronoun, Alphabet & Phonics, Ellen Game, and Scattergories. We read children’s books, read newspapers and magazines out loud, and listen to podcasts.
In the last two years, I found and have been using Constant Therapy. It is so cool—$29.99 per month. “It is one day, one dollar!” I was so excited to find the program. Every day, I clicked “Everyday Skills” for one hour. For example, “Understand Voicemail”. Constant Therapy will speak the voice message and ask the questions. Another example, “Read Multiple Paragraphs”. It will show a document and ask questions. It is really useful! “One day one dollar” really helps!
My left brain is scattered but my right brain works well. I use aids like text-to-speech and translation. When I was hospitalized, my speaking voice was silent but I sang. Art and music help! Last October, I did my first art show, called Art on the Avenue in Virginia, and sold twelve paintings. In the last few months, my caregiver and I were chosen to speak at a presentation, “Brain Plasticity”, at Meeting Professionals International, and I was featured to present “What is Aphasia”, “Different Abilities”, “Survivor” and “Top 10 with Aphasia” to Boston University, International Aphasia Movement and Brain Injury Services.
I also have a YouTube channel, “S.A.Y.—Younger Aphasia Group”, with over 4000 views. I interview medical professionals – OTs, PTs, SLPs – and younger survivors of TBI, stroke, and aneurysm with aphasia.
I am being reborn into a new me. Year by year, I felt like I was a baby, relearning everything. Now, I am a teenager, and processing and learning new things. In the future, I will be an adult and be working again.
If you are facing a long recovery like me, keep on going. Don’t give up.
Losing language does not mean I cannot communicate. I am still me.