05/09/04 — Accident victim beats the odds

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Accident victim beats the odds

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 9, 2004 2:06 AM

Penelope Scoggins Taylor has beaten more than a few of the odds since being critically injured in a car accident 11 years ago.

She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for 10 days at Pitt Memorial Hospital, remaining in the hospital for two and a half months. At the outset, the prognosis appeared grim.

"When my accident happened and my parents came to the hospital, the doctors said, 'Your daughter's going to die,'" she said. "They even had my parts donated."

Sandra Scoggins said the family later received a discouraging list of things Penelope would not be able to do -- return to school, go on to college, have children. But she has accomplished each one.

The process has been admittedly slow, but Mrs. Scoggins says her daughter has come a long way.

"Penelope's short-term and long-term memory were affected," she said. "It was hard for her to follow directions and affected her eyesight."

She returned to school at Southern Wayne High School and graduated with her class in 1996. The following year, she enrolled at Wayne Community College. She has only been able to manage one or two classes at a time, but on Friday night she received her associate's degree in information systems.

"It feels great to have accomplished it because they said I would never graduate from high school, that I would never walk, never have kids, never graduate from college," she said. "I like proving them wrong."

The number of people affected by brain injuries is on the rise. Pier Tarrant, group leader for "Overcomers," a support group formed seven years ago for survivors of traumatic brain injuries.

"That population is increasing every day because people are surviving these traumas," she said. "These include strokes, heart attacks, sports injuries, and auto accidents."

Ms. Tarrant said that brain injury rehabilitation is a long-term process, different from other types of disabilities.

"Different ages come back at different rates," Mrs. Taylor said. "Part of your brain dies; your nerves and everything have to take on new jobs."

She credits her parents with standing firm in their support.

"There are homes for brain injury victims," she said. "A lot of people just stick their kids there and leave them.

"I think the reason I have done as well as I have is because of my family support. I have the best parents anybody could ever have."

She also has a wonderful husband, she said. The two met through the support group. Aaron Taylor's mother had a traumatic brain injury.

The Taylor's married in 1999 and now have a two-year-old daughter, Tiffany. Mrs. Taylor took an 18-month break from school after the birth of her daughter. She is expecting her second child in November.

"It was a miracle baby," Mrs. Scoggins said of her grandchild. "Penelope's pelvis was broken in the accident and she was told she'd be unable to have children."

Mrs. Taylor said she was excited to receive her college diploma.

"It feels really, really great," she said. "It's amazing ... We never thought I would get this far."

Overcomers meets the third Saturday of each month at Eastern Regional Vocational Rehabilitation Center. For more information, call 736-2512.