AUBURN | Amy Rankin was not one to take chances with other people's lives.
So when the Auburn native, then 23, and her roommate enjoyed a few drinks one fall night in 2004, the women decided to walk back to their Baltimore, Md. apartment rather than drive.
Michael Robertson, however, did not leave his keys at home.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the 21-year-old man — driving with BAC level nearly twice the legal limit — sped through a rain-slicked parking lot, driving approximately 50 mph in a 15-mph zone. When his truck struck a curb, Robertson lost control.
His car flipped over multiple times, striking Amy and her 22-year-old roommate, Stephanie Kreiner.
Kreiner was launched 60 feet and pronounced dead at the scene. A critically injured Rankin was rushed to a Baltimore hospital, where doctors fought to save her endangered life.
Somewhat miraculously, the only bone Rankin broke was her skull. But her injuries were devastating.
The special education teacher spent 33 days in a coma, and three months without half of her skull. When she finally regained consciousness, she could not speak or walk, and had to receive sustenance through a feeding tube.
Rankin could not remember the last few years of her life, and could not visually recognize her parents. Everything that once came so naturally — like swallowing and sitting up — was now impossible.
"I felt like such a baby," she said.
Bill Rankin said the doctors in Baltimore told him and his wife that their daughter would likely never walk, talk or eat on her own again. When her parents told her about the doctors' grim predictions, Rankin found their low expectations baffling.
"I couldn't believe they'd ever think that," she said.
Multiple hospitals and 101 days later, Rankin's parents carried their daughter out of her car and drove her to The Centers at St. Camillus, a Syracuse rehabilitation center.
Amy spent about nearly half a year living as an inpatient at St. Camillus, relearning how to live.
"A brain injury affects every muscle in your body. It's a lot of retraining," she said. "Everything, your muscles — that all goes out the window."
Nodding at her daughter, Patty agreed.
"It's like being reborn again," she said, "Except you're big."
Despite having to reteach herself how to do nearly everything, Rankin never doubted she could achieve her goals. She told her parents that when she permanently left St. Camillus, she would walk herself to the car.
About five months later, that's exactly what she did.
"It wasn't frustrating. I was just driven," Rankin recalled. "It didn't feel like hard work, because I just had to do it."
In the years after, Ranking progressed steadily with a mix of outpatient physical and speech therapy, surpassing her Baltimore doctors' predictions.
She eventually left her wheelchair, walker and cane behind. She relearned how to obtain simple joys — like scratching off a lottery ticket — and necessary skills — like how to navigate grocery stores.
Rankin started volunteering at Auburn's Choices for Change and The E. John Gavras Center. She found the perfect boyfriend, ran a 5K and coached her college's field hockey team.
One of the hardest aspects of her recovery was her speech therapy. To help her heal, Rankin's speech teacher encouraged her young patient to write out her life story.
Three years later, Rankin had penned an entire memoir. The title — "Nobody Thought I Could Do It, But I Showed Them, and So Can You!" — reflects the 31-year-old woman's positive nature.
As with her volunteering efforts, Rankin said, she wanted to share her story to help other people suffering from traumatic brain injuries recover.
"When I see other people with brain injuries, I think, 'This can help you,'" she said.
She published her book with her own money and gave a copy of to the legion of family members, friends and medical professionals who helped her recover. Rankin said she decided to set the price at $12 because many people in her situation are on fixed incomes.
As she continues to heal, Rankin — a woman who is quick to smile — said she wants to help others. She wants to show other people battling traumatic brain injuries that they can lead meaningful, enjoyable lives.
"Lots of people give up on themselves, but you can do anything if you try hard enough," Rankin said. "It's my hope that this book can help people recover, and give them some hope."