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.
Knowing Tiffany, I can pick out small changes in her face that tell the story of what happened that night in February. Her right ear droops slightly, and although the wound has healed the chunk out of her right ear-which her dad calls a "cookie bite"-stands out. The right side of her face, just above her cheekbone and right under her eye, still looks a bit swollen and slightly discolored. The average person walking down the street would never see these things and would never suspect that just three months ago she had nearly died.
She sees me and waves me over. I jump out of my car and grab a box full of miscellaneous items-one of which is the large astronaut helmet from Denver Health. I slap it on and walk down the ramp with a bit of a swagger. Tiffany doubles over with laughter and then says, "Man, I gotta get rid of that thing."
Tiffany is getting on with her life, but traumatic brain injury isn't something she'll ever totally recover from. Even as lucky as she was, she's been permanently altered. Out of everything that has happened to her-losing vision, losing hearing, becoming more prone to seizures, missing nine weeks of her life-it's the idea that she will never be the same that may bother her the most.
Tiffany tells me that she only realized how much it bothers her when she was watching a movie in the hospital. "I remember watching it and thinking, 'These people, these actors, are perfect in the sense that their bodies are perfect,'" she says. "They don't have broken bones, they're not missing a skull piece, they're not injured. And I thought, 'I'm never going to be perfect again.' It was losing that sense of perfection that I used to have that I don't anymore that really bothers me."
However, it may be that "imperfection" that's allowing Tiffany to get on with her life without too much emotional baggage. Because of the nature of her injury, Tiffany remembers very little of her run-in with Brents. She doesn't have the minute-by-minute play-by-play running through her mind 24 hours a day. She simply doesn't remember enough to be scared. Yes, she's mad. Yes, her physical deficits are annoying the hell out of her. Yes, she just wants her life to be normal again. And although she admits to a little apprehension about strangers now, she doesn't spend her days looking over her shoulder and waiting for someone with a two-by-four to take a swing at her.