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March 11, 2013

Becoming Meg again

After crash abroad, Salisbury college student strives to heal

Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles that follow Salisbury’s Meg Theriault as she fights to return to her regular life after a horrific accident in New Zealand last year.

Meg Theriault didn’t look in a mirror for two months. When she did, a stranger met her gaze.

Most of her hair was gone, but that wasn’t the worst of it: There was a dent on the left side of her head. A chunk of her skull was missing.

Meg’s parents told her there had been an accident, that she bumped her head. But that was two hospitals and a long plane ride ago.

Whatever had happened to her, she didn’t remember any of it. And photos posted around her Boston hospital room of a 21-year-old coed, her chestnut hair flowing below her shoulders, looked like a different person.

Now Meg’s two front teeth were cracked into peaks. Her boy-short hair was matted beneath a black hockey helmet. It protected her brain, but made her face break out in blemishes.

She could remember her semester abroad in Australia — even if some details of traveling in the Outback, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef and bungee jumping in the rainforest were coming back slowly. But she couldn’t remember New Zealand, and the last days of her foreign adventure. Something had broken and her mind wasn’t filling in the blanks.

Her parents, Todd and Deb Theriault, were there by her hospital bed in New Zealand after she came out of her coma.

“I love you, Meg,” Todd had whispered.

“I love you,” she answered.

Another month would pass before Meg smiled. She was still hospitalized, but back home in Massachusetts.

Her parents had hope, but doctors warned Meg might never be Meg again, the Boston University student who’d been on track to finish school and land an accounting job in the next year. Two months after the accident, connections to her brain were still scrambled.

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