Jana Jackson of Grass Valley, California, doesn’t remember the morning of February 28, 1993, when she was driving on the Pacific Coast Highway toward church. Another driver, heading northbound, was driving wildly at 75 mph after having argued with a spouse. The cars collided head-on. A driver’s-side airbag saved Jana’s life.
But she had a broken right wrist, left hip, and three ribs, a collapsed lung, and a serious traumatic brain injury. Two months later, she awoke from a coma. “I couldn’t walk or talk and couldn’t figure out why my mother was there when she was supposed to be in Africa,” said 42-year-old Jackson in a telephone interview. Her parents had been missionaries on a two-year stint in Nigeria.
Today, after rehabilitation, she is almost completely unable to use her left arm and leg, which makes walking difficult. She falls down quite a bit. Outside, for safety, she prefers using a wheelchair. She also has severe short-term memory difficulties and other issues.
“My train of thought doesn’t stay on the tracks very well,” she said.
Yet she has not allowed her accident to derail her life. Her long-term memory is excellent, she said. She types 35 words a minute using only her right hand. She has traveled around the U.S. and world to 38 states and 13 countries and remains an ice hockey fan. And, along with a pet bird, she is able to live independently in an apartment.
In everyday life, she copes well. For example, after a shuttle service takes her to the supermarket for monthly shopping, “I go get someone at the grocery store to help me, to push my cart, and get things for me, like milk and eggs,” she said.
Rather than attend church, where she experiences anxiety being around crowds and is unable to exit for the bathroom at will, she listens to online sermons. She also has many online friends. Surprisingly, she claims no anger towards the person responsible for the accident.
Why her positive attitude toward life? Jana said for her it began with acceptance. Before dying in 1997, her mother had a favorite saying that Janna has used over the years to help her weather difficulties. Her mother said: “Once I accepted Jesus as Savior, he could do anything he wanted with my life at any time and he owed me no explanation.”