It’s been almost exactly 15 years and I still remember that morning as if it were yesterday.
I woke up early and left my apartment for a 10-block walk to the Philadelphia Daily News, where I worked as a reporter. It was a clear, brisk fall morning and I was thinking about an interview I had arranged for later that morning with a young lady who had rappelled down a high-rise building and almost died. A block away from the office, I was crossing a street and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the ground, hyperventilating. An elderly man trying to beat an oncoming car had turned into the crosswalk and hit me on the leg with his bumper. I was thrown into the air and landed on the concrete sidewalk.
Miraculously, I did not break any bones. But I had a brain injury – a condition called post-concussive disorder. For months, I suffered from a variety of problems, including dizziness, lack of balance and the inability to process and remember information. The next year was a blur of doctor’s visits, tests, physical and speech therapy and limited capabilities at work. I looked normal, but I was far from that in my brain. It would take three years to fully recover.
The most valuable lesson I learned from that experience was the power of a positive attitude. The frequent appointments with doctors and therapists made me focus on my medical problems – and it became depressing and draining. I felt like my world had fallen apart. But as my symptoms improved and I gained more energy and cognitive capabilities, I decided to focus on my attitude. It sounds trite, but I realized that by thinking positively, I felt better. And once I committed to an optimistic approach to my life, my recovery took a fast track.
I also realize now that I was extremely fortunate to have health insurance. In fact, I had top-of-the-line insurance through my employer. I could choose the best doctors and not worry about paying the bills. Not being insured would have been disastrous. Starting in 2014, federal law will require everyone to be insured. Colorado will help people purchase insurance through a new marketplace called the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, which is being planned for a 2014 launch. We will be reaching out to the approximately 800,000 uninsured Coloradans to help them get covered. That will include many young, healthy adults who don’t see the need to buy insurance. I will tell these “young invincibles” my story as an example of why health insurance is so critical. You never know when disaster will strike. And when it happens, it will be hard enough to get through it, even with insurance. You will need all the help you can get: insurance, a support network and a positive attitude.