Juneau woman recovering from auto collision

19-year-old working to recover her memory after head injuries

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2002

A Juneau woman who suffered serious head injuries in a vehicle accident in Washington state this spring is back home and hard at work on rehabilitation.

Shannon Cogswell, 19, was driving west along Interstate 90 near Spokane on March 19 when she hit a patch of ice and lost control of her Mazda pickup, authorities said.

Her vehicle shot across the central divider into the eastbound lane of traffic, where it ran head-on into a semi truck, ricocheted off and collided with a Ford pickup. After hitting the pickup again, Cogswell's truck flew back through the median and came to a rest in a westbound lane.

"She's doing very well," said Shannon's mother, Jody Wade, on Wednesday. "She is up walking and talking."

After the accident, Cogswell was taken to Spokane's Sacred Heart Hospital and treated for head injuries and burns before being moved to Alderwood Manor, a nursing home, in Spokane. On May 10, she was moved to Saint Luke's Rehabilitation Center in Spokane.

Her daughter was in a coma for more than a month, Wade said. During that time, doctors gave Cogswell drugs to reduce pain and slow brain activity while swelling in her brain went down.

When Cogswell responded positively, doctors began reducing the dosage to see if she would emerge from her coma.

"We were given no positive hope," Wade said. "They started to take her off the drugs slowly because she was so heavily sedated, and we just waited."

About two weeks after she emerged from her coma, Cogswell began walking. She spoke her first words since the accident to Michael Adamson, a friend from Juneau, on Mother's Day, May 12.

"She just out of the blue started talking to him," Wade said. "I got my (Mother's Day) phone call. There were lots of tears involved with that."

Cogswell was released from St. Luke's on May 24, and returned to Juneau with her family on June 13. Since then, Cogswell has been working with her mother to improve her short-term memory.

"We work with a 'memory book,' " Wade said. "I read her a paragraph, and I want her to recall some of the most important things in that paragraph."

The process is helping "as long as we continue to do it on a daily basis."

Though Cogswell tires easily, she can give brief answers to questions. She told the Empire that she enjoys being back in Juneau and visiting with friends, and that she is concentrating on improving her memory.

Wade said strong support from the community has helped immeasurably with her daughter's recovery. Cogswell was a full-time student at Eastern Washington University before the accident and hopes to return, Wade added.

"She was thinking about being an English teacher," Wade said. "There was talk with a bunch of her friends at college - because she was so strong-headed - of her being a lawyer."

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