Calgary woman severely injured in ski crash tells story of recovery with the help of music

Click to play video: 'Calgary woman injured in ski crash composes music about dementia'
Calgary woman injured in ski crash composes music about dementia
WATCH: A crash on an Alberta ski hill nearly took her life. But now a young Calgary woman is using music to tell her story of recovery and draw attention to brain injuries and Alzheimer's disease – Aug 12, 2018

Tobey Kai trains on the Crescent Heights stairs in Calgary as part of her recovery. Like going up those stairs, it’s been a tiring uphill journey for the 29-year-old Calgarian.

In January 2018, Kai’s life changed when she was struck by another skier at Nakiska Ski Area.

“I thought it was over,” Kai recalled. “I thought this was it — this is how I’m going to go — at the bottom of the ski hill.”

“I couldn’t feel anything from my neck down. I saw my fingers twitching. I knew that something was bleeding under my helmet and something was definitely wrong.”

Kai couldn’t walk for the first few weeks. The brain injury also robbed her of her short-term memory, but she was able to play a song she composed just before the ski crash.

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Kai has played the piano all her life. Last fall, she wrote a song inspired by her grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

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The lyrics: “Who are you, young lady? Are you lost?” are the words her grandfather posed to her before he died.

“I feel like it’s more of an anthem … from my previous pre-injury self to post-injury self,” Kai said. “I’m quite proud of it, because the words really do ring true now from a first-person perspective. I think I definitely relate to that song in a different way and in a stronger way now.”

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While her doctors call her recovery remarkable, Kai still can’t taste. She lives with vision problems, pain, and like other brain injury survivors, a slight change to her personality. She advises others who are recovering from injuries like hers to not be deterred.

“The biggest thing is just not be so hard on yourself; just take your time. Everyone heals at their own pace, but everyone heals.”

She plans to continue to use music to not only help her brain heal, but to raise awareness of issues close to her heart, including ocean pollution and dementia.

“Some people say it’s like death before death,” Kai said of Alzheimer’s. “Because who are we without our memories?”

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