On February 18, Denver serial rapist Brent J. Brents nearly beat 33-year-old Tiffany Engle to death. She was his last victim—and she is also my friend.
Dr. Berry became Tiffany's brain-injury bible. She asked him to explain things to her, tell her why certain things were happening to her, and what she could expect from each event. He tried to explain why the therapists were having Tiffany do things she thought were too remedial or not important. He listened when Tiffany talked about her feelings of guilt that her little brothers had to deal with something so horrible so young. He was there to alleviate some of her fears. He told her that she wouldn't ever remember the details of her attack-her brain injury had wiped those memories away. He couldn't, however, promise she wouldn't have nightmares-like the one especially vivid daydream she had that Brents was climbing up the outside of the hospital walls to get to her. He did explain to her in exact detail that Brent J. Brents was locked up tight.
Dr. Berry discussed with Tiffany how she would never be the same. He expressed to her his concerns that she might not be fully integrating the attack into her life quite yet. He tried to get across that many brain-injury patients, especially those with right hemisphere injuries, can potentially have a difficult time dealing with emotional issues during their hospital stay. Patients often don't begin to focus on their cognitive issues until well after they leave Craig and re-enter a society that can seem faster, less forgiving, and more complicated than it did before the injury.
On the other hand, injury or no injury, Tiffany may simply be a person who doesn't need to examine or dwell on life's inescapable negatives. She might simply be pragmatic, positive, not overly emotional, and realistic. Just like an Engle would be.
The one thing Dr. Berry expresses absolute certainty about today is Tiffany's inexplicably good fortune. In his experience, Tiffany's brain injury had the potential to produce devastating, lifelong effects. Dr. Berry can only say that she's an anomaly. "I don't know if it's luck or if it's resilience, but she's fortunate," he says.
Thursday, April 14
Fifty-six days after paramedics carried a broken, battered Tiffany into the Denver Health ER, she walked out of Craig under her own power. Her release had been delayed a week by a nasty staph infection in her surgical incision, and she still had to wear the protective helmet, but Tiffany no longer needed to live her life in the hospital.
Unfortunately, she couldn't live alone yet either. She wasn't allowed to drive. She still needed regular blood tests. And she hadn't been alone for nearly nine weeks. The plan was for her to go back to Sioux City for a month so that her family could make sure she was capable of living outside the hospital's caring embrace.