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Former Patient Works to Overcome Memory Problems Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

Anna Pope, 28, of Pensacola, Fla., can relate to the actress Drew Barrymore in at least one way.

“When I watch her character, Lucy, in 50 First Dates, I think, ‘That’s who I was!’” Anna said. “I feel like she and I were the same person.”

Both Lucy and Anna sustained traumatic brain injuries in car accidents that affected their memories. For Anna, reality included more than three weeks in a coma after her 2010 car accident. After four weeks at Pensacola’s Baptist Health Care, she was taken to Shepherd Center.

“I had to relearn everything,” Anna said. “I didn’t remember much at all at first, so it was a slow process. And I like to learn on my own, so I’m sure I wasn’t the easiest student!”

Scene by scene, though, her world is slowly piecing itself back together. She’s in school again, taking math classes to help her pursue a degree in supply chain logistics.

Amidst all the memory exercises and reintroductions, Anna said she is happiest to discover one unexpected change. “I’m more of a positive person now,” she said. “That’s not who I was before. I’m more appreciative and open-minded now.”

Anna wants to share that newfound feeling with others by planning a speech for new members of her brain injury support group at West Florida Hospital. “I want to let others know what I’ve realized,” Anna said. “Your injury doesn’t mean life has ended. You can take on whatever injury you have and still prosper!” 

She’s thinking about putting her message down in print, too. “I’d love to write a book about my experiences, how they’ve changed me and what I’ve learned,” Anna said. “It’s scary to say that out loud, but it would be a great challenge.” 

Written by Phillip Jordan
Photos courtesy of Anna Pope

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.