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Sunday, May 26, 2024

21-year-old Lady who battled brain injury during study finally survives, bags bachelors degree at University of Toronto

21-year-old, Carrisse Samuel who battled brain injury during her studies has fought back to graduate from the University of Toronto,  Mississauga Canada with a bachelor’s degree in Digital Enterprise Management.

Samuel was a second-year student at the University of Toronto,  Mississauga Canada preparing for her tests when she had a short-term memory loss according to the university’s website.

She stated that she told a friend over Skype that she could not remember anything she did that day which prompted a family friend to take her to the local emergency department, where she was told she was over-anxious about her exams.

However Samuel’s condition worsened and she had to return home at some point, she stopped recognizing her mother and had two grand mal seizures. She stated that she slipped into a coma following her second seizure.

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Doctors eventually diagnosed Samuel’s condition as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the brain. Informally known as “brain on fire”. It is commonly caused by a type of tumor called a teratoma that usually forms in women’s ovaries and Samuel had multiple teratomas.

Samuel’s mother, Bernadine, who is a nurse and had a solid understanding of the disease said the outcomes for her only child seemed difficult to deal with. Bernadine said she prayed tirelessly for her daughter to heal.

After five months of being in a coma, Samuel finally woke up. “I woke up in a daze, surrounded by bright lights, machines and me hooked up to wires. A man in white asks me my name, and it takes all the strength I have to mutter my own name,” Samuel recalls.


She said life started from scratch as she had to relearn every basic thing including speaking, eating, and walking. Samuel said her mother retaught her how to form letters and read. S

Samuel stated that she also had to relearn social etiquette, respecting boundaries, and handling emotions. She added that what was complicating her recovery was her total personality change.

Samuel who was once calm and collected became moody and impulsive. She stated that she also had surgery to remove both of her ovaries, which made her depressed but she found solace and hope in a support group for those with acquired brain injuries.

She mentioned that her recovery was quick even when the medical experts did not expect a quick recovery. Samuel stated that her motivation was the fact that she wanted to graduate from university early and with her colleagues.

“My motivation was that I needed to graduate school. That was something that lit a fire under me. I wanted to finish and walk across that stage and say, ‘I did it.’ That was really important to me,” she said.

Samuel went to rehab and after she left, she resumed back to school part-time. Despite having difficulties focusing and being encouraged by doctors to take the summer off, she decided to take two courses.

She credits the university accessibility services and her patient, supportive professors with helping her manage her workload by providing accommodations such as extra time to complete assignments and tests and allowing 15-minute breaks from class.

Even though she passed just one of the courses, given the circumstances, it was a clear win for Samuel and she was able to return to school full-time with some ongoing accommodations.

She graduated from the University of Toronto in four years and is on her way to full recovery. She stated that she is back to her normal life even though she still misses some memories from the time when she became ill.

Samuel said she is focused on her postgraduate plans as she wants to complete a Master of Information degree at the University of Toronto,  Mississauga Canada.

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