In 2014, Brenda Coulter was driving along the highway on her way into work. Her life would change in an instant when a piece of metal – likely from a truck – flew up and smashed through her windshield. Brenda lost her left eye, and needed more than one dozen surgeries to repair the damage to her face and skull.
To fill her empty eye socket, Brenda was initially fitted for an adhesive prosthetic, but it was a difficult fix. She says it was hard to get into place, and it would often be easier to not go out at all. In 2016, she learned she was eligible for a new, magnetic prosthetic. Following several more surgeries, she finally received her new eye earlier this year. I was fortunate to sit down with Brenda that day, to get her thoughts on what she has been through, and how she is doing.
Watch the video above to follow Brenda through the process of receiving her new prosthesis.
It’s been several years since your accident happened. How are you doing today?
I’ve definitely been through various stages of recovery and adjusting to the impairment, and I’m now more independent. So I walk. I’ll find a route and I’ll trek it. And I’m more open to looking for different activities. So I’ll hop in a cab and go somewhere, and am not so reliant on someone driving me. The difference is, I’ve adapted to the changes in my world.
Your last prosthetic needed to be glued on, and this one will literally snap into place. What a change!
Absolutely. The old prosthetic would gap and shift. Even smiling and facial movements, I’d feel the prosthetic because it’s rigid. The resistance against it would often loosen up the glue, and that’s if I got it properly placed at all. Sometimes I would just give up, and cancel my plans to go out.
This new prosthetic has taken something that I needed 45 minutes to one hour to do, to probably three minutes. It’s going to be easier than putting on a pair of earrings! It also feels totally different, almost like a part of me. I can just snap it in, and there it goes. I look in the mirror and wow, my face is whole!
How will this new prosthetic impact your life?
This changes my whole day-to-day outdoor experience. Now when people are looking at me with the prosthetic, I’m not impaired looking. People can be awkward, and I don’t know if it’s a lack of exposure to impairments in their lives, but they can become uncomfortable being around you. And a lot of the time, they don’t know if they should say something, and if they should react or how to react.
Now, I feel more anonymous. I have puppies, so if I’m out and interacting with other people, they are not looking at me minus my eye. With the prosthetic, I’m just going to look natural, so the conversation will be a nice flow. Interaction as opposed to reaction.
How does it feel finally getting to this stage?
It’s the end of a long haul. For so long, I was a patient, and there were lots of surgeries and procedures. But I reached a point where I got tired of being a patient. And it’s nice because as I got tired of that, I think I was healing and become stronger. I love Sunnybrook and the people here and the care I’ve received, but at the same time, I’m thrilled and excited that the prosthetic is done. The results have been well worth it.
You’ve been so open about sharing your story. Why is that?
Definitely for other people. While it was a terrible tragedy that happened to me, I had an incredible team around me, setting me on the right path. There are resources that are available, and not everybody knows that. And if it can make your life, for you inside, feel better and more whole, why not? If by sharing my story I can reach and help other people, absolutely!