After Traumatic Brain Injury, Woman Leads Second Life

There was a time when Abigail Baglione had life figured out. She was a senior in college planning on becoming a psychologist.

That all changed in an instant. Six years ago, Baglione was in the back seat of a car as it was broadsided. The damage to her body was devastating.

"She was hooked up to every imaginable life-saving piece of equipment," said her mother, Mary Baglione. "But she looked like a doll. She was beautiful, lying there, and it was hard to believe that she was so badly injured."

But one of the greatest injuries Baglione suffered couldn't be seen. It was inside her head.

When Baglione awoke after seven weeks in a coma, it was clear the effects on her brain had been severe. In an interview with ABC News' "Primetime" three weeks after the accident, she acknowledged that she couldn't talk without help.

"It has affected me physically, like, obviously I can't walk myself," she said. "I can't talk myself."

Learning New Limitations

Physical and cognitive therapy has since helped Baglione's brain rewire to compensate for some of what she lost.

"It may always take a little longer to do certain things, but the brain is amazing," she told ABC News' Bob Woodruff.

Today, Baglione, like Woodruff, is one of the millions of Americans faced with the long-term challenges of living with a traumatic brain injury.

"I've been told that my fundamental intelligence is the same," she said. "But things like my attention, my short-term memory, they have all been affected. So the result of that is that I don't seem intelligent."

But Baglione is fortunate. Many brain-injured people never recover to the degree she has, and 50,000 people die each year from traumatic brain injury.

One of Baglione's biggest challenges has been learning to accept how much the injury has changed her. For one, she can't dance anymore. She said that it is almost as if she has had two separate lives.

"I don't think going back, simply going back to your old way, is possible," she said. "And only somebody with this injury would understand that."