By Iyana Parker, Special to the AFRO

“I believe that no matter what you’re going through you’re a survivor, if you’re waking up everyday, alive and breathing you’re a survivor,” says Teresa Rigby a 30-year-old former Baltimore City Police officer.

On June 21, 2011 at approximately 9 a.m. Rigby was the first to respond to a call on interstate 83 of an accident with no injuries. It was a misty and rainy day, and certainly one that Teresa Rigby will never forget.

As Rigby stood between her police cruiser and the Jersey wall filling out paperwork, police say that the driver of a convertible Saab lost control of the wheel and slammed into her cruiser, which then struck Rigby causing her to fall 30 feet off the side of the interstate.

This devastating fall left Rigby fighting for her life and in an ongoing state of recovery. She sustained multiple injuries including: a mild traumatic brain injury, dizzy spells, headaches, and multiple crushed bones in her face and body.

Although Rigby survived, almost three years later she has yet to fully recover. “I see a different person when I look in the mirror, some days I feel horrible, but I’m grateful to be here and I just want to be able to help people from this point,” Rigby said.

Recently, Rigby became a member of the Brain Injury Association of Maryland, and a member of the Trauma Survivors Network of Maryland. With the help of these two organizations, Rigby has put together a survivor awareness campaign using camouflage hats embroidered with the words “83 survivor.” The hats cost $20 each and the proceeds are donated to The Brain Injury Association of Maryland.

“I decided to donate the proceeds to this particular organization, because I believe it is a great way to raise awareness about brain injuries, and because I believe that every day I wake up I choose to be a survivor. Since I can no longer patrol the streets of Baltimore I want to help others and give back to the community in this way,” Rigby said.

Rigby is a leader. She recently celebrated her retirement surrounded by friends, co-workers, and loved ones, and was able to make an $800 donation to The Brain Injury Association of Maryland from the proceeds of her survivor hats.

For Rigby and others who suffer from traumatic brain injuries, recovery and treatment is an ongoing and vital process. The Brain Injury Association of Maryland suggests that “anyone with signs of moderate or severe TBI should receive medical attention as soon as possible.” While little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage caused by trauma, treatment focuses on stabilizing the individual to prevent further injury. Imaging tests are used for TBI diagnosis. Treatment is devised to meet the need of the individual and can include “physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language therapy, psychology/psychiatry, and social support.”

Rigby can recall being a very active before the accident, loving to exercise and working as a police officer. “I have come a long way and in the process I learned so much,” Rigby said. “Even though I didn’t want it to, my entire life has changed because of this accident. Now I’m just trying to move on. I just wish the driver would have driven more cautiously.”

Though Rigby has been through a lot and still has a ways to go in her full recovery, she maintains a humble, inviting, and bubbly personality, encouraging others to stay close to God, and never give up.