Tag Archives: facts about TBI

Over A Decade Has Passed Since Her Nearly Fatal Accident – A Look Into Karen Mertes’ Triumph Over Her TBI

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Mertes knows what it’s like to have your life suddenly altered. On Feb. 7, 2007, her life’s path was forever changed. Stationed at MacDill Air Force Base at the time, she was struck by a drunk driver who was traveling over 100 miles per hour on I-75. He had a blood alcohol level of .221, nearly three times the legal limit. During the crash, “I made a futile attempt to regain control of my vehicle as my car slid sideways down the interstate, with cars in the remaining lanes veering around my car to avoid hitting me. As my life hung in the balance, I made a bargain with God. I promised God that if I were blessed to live, I’d spend the rest of my life helping others. This promise was the genesis of my nonprofit Fulfill Your Destiny.”


Mertes suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the accident. But she is more than a survivor. She has turned tragedy into triumph, helping others who have had their world shattered pick up the pieces.

Through Fulfill Your Destiny, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, Lt. Col. Mertes financially aids people in the Tampa Bay community whose careers have been altered by injury or unforeseen circumstances. Special consideration is given to those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“Imagine if you could no longer do what you are trained and experienced to do today.  What if everything you have worked for educationally and professionally was gone in an instant? This is my story. Following my injury and treatment, it became apparent I could no longer perform the work required of a military officer with a Top Secret clearance.”

plaintiff-101-cover-audioGrab your copy of her Amazon Best Seller, Plaintiff 101, here!


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Kind Words for Karen Mertes from MADD

Recently, Karen received a hand-written thank you note from the point of contact at Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that she has been working with —
“Thank you for sharing your story with us.  Your determination and drive are really inspiring.  You have touched many lives, including mine.  I know that your story changes people and will continue to help us fulfill our mission of working towards 0 victims.
Viridiana Medellin, National Victim Services Specialist, Mothers Against Drunk Driving”
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Karen shares her story to inspire others that there is hope after tragedy. Check out Karen’s entire spotlight with MADD here.

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The Responsible Driving Campaign (RDC) – Karen Mertes Spotlight

The Responsible Driving Campaign (RDC) will continue to focus on informing/reinforcing El Paso Sector Employee’s responsibility while operating a vehicle.
Voices of Victims: Air Force Service Member Karen Mertes
By MADD July 5, 2017
 Victim Stories
Karen, a Lieutenant Colonel serving in the United States Air Force, was driving the speed limit on the interstate when she was struck from behind by a drunk driver traveling over 100 mph. The axle in Karen’s car snapped in half, and her vehicle’s undercarriage dragged creating sparks on the interstate for several hundreds of feet.Karen survived the crash but sustained multiple brain bleeds and was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her memory, cognitive functioning, and personality were all impacted. Karen remembers looking at herself in the mirror and no longer recognizing who she was.
M. (n.d.). Voices of Victims: Air Force Service Member Karen Mertes.
A DUI is extremely costly. It is putting your life and the community we swore to protect at risk.
·       Every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash
·       On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime
·       Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes
Call a ride, have a plan;  it is a mistake that cannot be undone.  


The RDC is for you, your family’s and community’s safety.

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MADD Spotlight – Voices of Victims: Air Force Service Member Karen Mertes

Last week, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), wrote a spotlight on drunk driver victim, Karen Mertes, and told her story of recovery and triumph after her accident.

Here is a snippet of the MAAD spotlight of Karen Mertes —

“February 7, 2007 was the day that forever changed Karen Mertes’ life path. Karen, a Lieutenant Colonel serving in the United States Air Force, was driving the speed limit on the interstate when she was struck from behind by a drunk driver traveling over 100 mph.

He had a blood alcohol level of nearly three times the legal limit and the crash resulted in both vehicles being totaled. The axle in Karen’s car snapped in half, and her vehicle’s undercarriage dragged creating sparks on the interstate for several hundreds of feet.”

Read the rest of Karen’s MADD spotlight here!

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Is My Career Over Because of my TBI?

After suffering an injury from a car accident, however mild or severe it may be, you must learn how to live life with your injury. It is important to remember that no matter how frustrated you become, some of these effects will only be temporary. Although, you may need to learn a ‘new normal.’


Initially, you may experience a period of denial where you’re unable to realistically assess what could be your reduced performance levels. Given my injury, I was no longer able to achieve my pre-injury performance where I had consistently exceeded expectations.

Unfortunately, depending on the severity of how your injury may impact your work performance, it could pose a threat to your case. The defense will use whatever new challenges you face at work as a litigation advantage.

You may be placed in a “no-win” situation. If you cannot return to work, his [the defense attorney] bargaining position has improved due to your lack of limited resources to live on. Also, his experts will likely opine you are a malingerer. If you do return to work, even under duress and in pain, he will argue you did not suffer economic damages as you continued to be “employable” post-injury.”

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Above quote excerpted from Plaintiff 101: The Black Book of Inside Information Your Lawyer Will Want You To Know.

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Tips for Communicating with People with Traumatic Brain Injury

Some people with TBI may have trouble concentrating or organizing their thoughts. If you are in a public area with many distractions, consider moving to a quiet or private location, and try focusing on short-term goals.


  • Be prepared to repeat what you say, orally or in writing. Some people with TBI may have short-term memory deficits.
  • If you are not sure whether the person understands you, offer assistance completing forms or understanding written instructions and provide extra time for decision-making. Wait for the individual to accept the offer of assistance; do not “over-assist” or be patronizing.
  • Be patient, flexible and supportive. Take time to understand the individual, make sure the individual understands you and avoid interrupting the person.


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How to spot a Traumatic Brain Injury

When tragedy strikes, your adrenaline kicks in and you try to diagnose the situation. But what happens when someone you love is hurt but the injury isn’t transparent? Here are some ways to get your loved one the help they need —

 In the presence of other life threatening injuries, which is often the case with motor vehicle accidents, closed head injury can be missed. The focus is on lifesaving measures.


Mild traumatic brain injury may not be diagnosed until the individual begins to have problems in what were once easy tasks or social situations.

A detailed neurological examination is important and will bring out evidence of brain injury.
Brain imaging with CAT scan, MRI, SPECT and PET scan may be useful.
Cognitive evaluation by a Neuropsychologist with formal neuropsychological testing.
Evaluations by physical, occupational and speech therapists help clarify the specific deficits of an individual.

Be very cautious when you come in contact with someone who has just been in an accident. Although your gut reaction may be to pick someone up, wait for EMS. Don’t try to self-diagnose leave that to the professionals so you can get yourself or your loved on the help they need.

For more information check out this website! http://www.traumaticbraininjury.com/symptoms-of-tbi/diagnosis/

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