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.
Frustrated with her gruelingly slow progress, Tiffany often lay down in her bed and turned up the music. Friends had given Tiffany Tim McGraw's newest album. Two songs on the album-"Live Like You Were Dying" and "How Bad Do You Want It"-spoke to her. Every time she fell off the balance beam, she heard a verse playing in her head: "How bad do you want it, how bad do you need it, are you eating, sleeping, dreaming with that one thing on your mind? How bad do you want it, how bad do you need it? Because if you want it all, you've gotta lay it all out on the line." She always got back up.
Because Tiffany's ability to express language wasn't affected, her speech-therapy sessions focused mainly on her visual and short-term memory, both of which were, in the straight-shooting, Midwestern words of her father, "complete junk." Tiffany's long-term memory was intact, but remembering something that happened yesterday was nearly impossible for her. Ask her what she had for lunch and she wouldn't know. Try to remind her of this morning's conversation and she'd be fuzzy. She'd ask for pain meds only minutes after the nurse had given them to her.
According to Tiffany's speech therapist, recovering memory is often extremely difficult. To get Tiffany's brain working in that capacity again, the therapist had Tiffany practice logic and reading problems. Tiffany spent hours reading paragraphs and answering questions. She listened to lists of words and numbers and repeated them out loud. She looked at pictures and recited the name of each person in the photo. Each week the lists got longer, the words got harder, and the instructions changed just enough to make the therapies more difficult.
The sessions were tedious and exhausting, but Tiffany knew her scores-and her ability to function-could only improve from the less-than-10th-percentile ranking she received for processing speed and visual recognition when she arrived at Craig. Tiffany found herself thinking over and over again: If my brain would just rewire itself...please, please let it rewire itself.
Dr. James Berry's office, Craig Hospital
Speech pathology and physical therapy can only repair so much, which is why Tiffany also spent time with Dr. James Berry, one of Craig's neuropsychologists. It was his job to begin repairing Tiffany's psyche, to help her recognize what was different about her since the trauma, and how to deal with it.