Interview with Ariel Pastorek
Accidents happened at 17 months old
Please tell me about yourself. You can start wherever you would like to.
Well, I’ve been taking dance since I was seven. I have a bunch of tattoos. I have two sisters and I have a cat. I have a boyfriend, who I actually met in the brain injury group. I love doing karaoke and I love to read. The kind of books I like to read are pretty much all genres like romance, chick-flicks, mystery, comedy, and fantasy. My favorite is the Harry Potter series. My top three favorite characters are Harry, Ron, and Hermonie. Also, about five years ago, my best friend and I went on a day trip to Universal Studios in the Harry Potter land. Out of all twenty people there, they choose me to get chosen by the wand. The second time I went there was for my birthday this past year, in February.
Please share as much information as you feel comfortable about the nature of your injury and how it was caused.
I was seventeen months old, so it is quite unique. I don’t really relate to other people saying they lost friends after their accident, so I have memory loss cause I basically grew up with mine. I don’t have any other idea what happened.
I only know what happened because my mom, from the time I was born, kept a journal and she later gave it to me. All the details of my accident are in there. It was August 9th, 1988. There was a barbeque in my backyard with all of my cousins, family, friends, aunts, and uncles. At one point, I wanted to go out to the front yard to play at the swing, but since I was so tiny, I couldn’t reach the gate. Someone let me out and I was going towards the swing at the driveway, just at the same time as someone said she forgot to grab something at the grocery store. She bolted to the car and started it. Then, she backed up and felt she hit something. I was tiny, so she didn’t see me. She thought she hit something else. She went around, saw me lying there, and started screaming at the top of her lungs. Our neighbor across the street was mowing his lawn and ran over to me. He told me to squeeze his fingers if I could still hear him. And I did. That’s when I was told I lost consciousness
I only remember reading in the journal, I was rushed to three different hospitals. They had to induce my coma. Water was filling up my brain. According to my mom’s journal, there was a chapel attached to the hospital. Every night, she went to the chapel and prayed for me. I have an uncle who’s a minister and he taught the people in a church; they were praying for me. My grandma was also on the board of the united church of women’s board and she taught them; they were also praying for me. I was in a coma for six weeks. The doctor didn’t think I’d make it. I had to relearn how to walk and talk and eat and drink and everything all over again.
What was your biggest thought regarding this period of time?
I was having all my therapy sessions at Sunny Hill. There were two of them apparently. Well, Sunny Hill is in Vancouver and my parents lived somewhere else. I got to go home on the weekends, but every time my mom had to take me back, I would cry. So, my mom started the child development satour where they live to be easier. After that, when I was around 7 and 8, I had my physical therapy sessions at my uncle David’s apartment, and one day when we were driving home from my therapy session, I asked my mom why was I so different. She didn’t give me the journal till I was sixteen, so she told me that I had a car accident and that it affected me.
I was, for a long time, really mad. I wasn’t even doing any of the exercises that would help me but I refuse to because my mindset was this: “No one else had to do these things, so why do I?” And I just so badly wanted to fit in. I was in deep denial, I would say that I don’t even have a disability, I didn’t even want to acknowledge it. I didn’t even like it when anyone related having a disability to me. I would shadow that word, I call it the “d” word. I couldn’t even say the word “disability” in relation to me much less tell anyone what happened until I was seventeen. I’ve told just one counseling session.
Growing up, kids and adults would patronize me. My mom had to be a big advocate for me. I remember in grade four, when I wanted to do an indoor activity, one of the helpers said I couldn’t because she was too afraid I’d get hurt. My mom had to really stand up for me. She would say, “so if she falls down, big deal. She just wants to be like everyone else, give her a chance.” Now, it’s gotten a lot better, because I’m not a kid anymore. However, anytime I’m reminded of my disability, like when I can’t do something as easy as other people would, I’d get so sad and depressed. Sometimes, like that.
Are you living with your family or alone?
I’ve lived in an apartment with my cat for 11 years. Edtell. She came with that name. I actually got her for christmas from Santa in 2011 when she was two. One of my dad’s jobs, he worked at a kitty rescue program, so she was one of the kittens that got rescued.
What do you see as the biggest challenge of living alone with your cat?
Cleaning, but mostly because I’m lazy.
What are some of the routines which help you cope with your symptoms?
I don’t know. I guess I just go about living. I watch tv, read, and eat. I just go about my life. I’ll sweep when I see that I need to sweep and I procrastinate with cleaning. When obviously when they need to get done, I’ll need to get it done. I go for walks, watch tv, and read. That’s about it.
What is the first thing you want to do after the pandemic?
I definitely want to see all my friends and family. I want to go to movies, I miss going to movies. And Karaoke as well! My go to song is Bohemian Rhapsody and I’m really good at “Kickstar My Heart” by Motley Crue. I like singing Metallica, some oldies, a little bit of Elton John.
If you see yourself from ten years, where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have no idea. That’s a really tricky question. Hopefully, married but I always say that. I hope to play with my nephews more and to see them grow up. I suppose I’ll still be living here because I can’t see myself moving; everything I need is within walking distance. Since I can’t drive, that’s important. I like to eventually go back to school, although I really don’t like doing homework. I would also like to see myself doing storytimes at a library.
Interviewed and transcribed by Brianna Paulino