Former Baltimore City Police officer Teresa Rigby-Menendez does not remember the day that cut short her law enforcement career. Just over three years on the force, Rigby-Menendez had been assisting a motorist on I-83 when an oncoming vehicle lost control and slammed into her stopped patrol car, pushing the service vehicle into Rigby-Menendez and causing her to fall off the highway, a 30 foot drop.
Three years later, Rigby-Menendez is still working through her physical recovery. Forced to retire due to her injuries, she has found another way to give back. Combining her desire for service and the lessons she learned through her rehabilitation, Rigby-Menendez has founded Survivor Wear Inc., a clothing line designed to raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and the need for long-term support for those who have experienced trauma.
“Normally, when people are injured, sometimes [others] forget about them, especially when they look as if they’re doing a little bit better,” said Rigby-Menendez about the importance of realizing that recovery from injury, and especially traumatic brain injury, is a long-term process that continues well beyond the point someone leaves the hospital.
Rigby-Menendez can attest to this, as she continues to deal with the psychological scars from the accident. She continues to work through a fear of being in automobiles, regardless of who is driving; of driving on I-83; and of heights. For the first year after her accident, Rigby-Menendez required company at all times and is still working to feel comfortable being left alone.
Her recovery is still a reality she lives daily, but Rigby-Menendez credits a personal support system with all the progress she has made over the last three years. She believes this system is important to all trauma victims, and has sought to highlight it through Survivor Wear. “A lot of people that are injured resort to alcohol, or become addicted to their medication, or things like that, and they don’t have anybody there for them to back them up, and I was just trying to figure out a way that we can just work together and support one another so that we don’t have to resort to those other escapes,” said Rigby-Menendez.
Her personal support system is in place and has rallied around Rigby-Menendez’s Survivor Wear initiative. Her husband, William Menendez, is vice president of Survivor Wear, and Rigby-Menendez’s sister serves as secretary.
For William Menendez, Survivor Wear is important because it’s a chance for his wife to remain working in service to the public. “She’s retired, and she couldn’t give back again by patrolling the streets, and the only way she could give back to the community and the city was in [this] way.”
The Survivor Wear line currently consists of eight different baseball-cap style hats with variations on the ‘survivor’ theme. The hats are available online at www.survivorwearinc.com and proceeds are donated to the Brain Injury Association of Maryland. Survivor Wear’s 501(c)(3) status is currently pending and Rigby-Menendez says she is in the process of developing Survivor Wear jackets and t-shirts.
“The way I see it is when you’re wearing it, or when you support survivor wear, you purchase a hat, you should wear it with pride,” said Rigby-Menendez. “No matter what you’re going through, you had a traumatic experience or you’re dealing with everyday life, you wake up in the morning, you’re surviving.”