DALLAS -- As simple as chopping onions is to most, it is a major breakthrough for Addison-based author Donna Valentino.

'It's an uphill battle', Valentino said, 'but I'm still here.'

While on vacation in 2009, she almost lost her life riding an ATV for the first time. She recalled how innocent and fun her adventure seemed at first.

'[The instructor] shows you how to ride the vehicle, [and] says, 'Bye bye! See you in an hour!''

But Valentino crashed.

'I will probably be doing rehab for the rest of my life,' she said.

The impact of the crash tossed Valentino's helmet in the air. She remembers very little about her 49 days in ICU. But she no longer has use of her left arm, and can't taste or smell.

'They basically did a craniactomy - took the bone out, put it in a bone bank, then reattached it,' Valentino said.

Neurosurgeons at Dallas' Parkland Hospital say traumatic brain injuries are more common than you think.

'This is a big public health problem,' said Parkland Neurosurgeon Dr. Hunt Batjer. 'This costs us $67 billion a year, as a country, in direct and indirect costs... And it's not just about the money, it's about lives lost -- about young lives destroyed.'

Last year, Parkland treated more than 506 traumatic head injuries, and the Texas Medical Association said more than 500,000 emergency room visits annually are a direct result of children 14-and-under crashing on bikes, scooters, skateboards, and rollerblading.

Valentino advocates wearing helmets, but she said being alert and cautious is just as important.

'Nobody expects something like this to happen to them,' she said. 'I don't care who you, I don't care what you do for a living.'

Valentino recently shared her journey in the new book, 'Headstrong: Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury without Losing My Mind.' She said it also lead to her reconnecting with her high school sweetheart.


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