By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
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"It was a very strange thing in the beginning," Audry recalls. "After I got out of the hospital, really the only thing I could do was go to the movies. There isn't a lot going on in there, you know, just looking up at the screen. Afterwards, I could remember all of this random information about the film -- what actors were in it, what other movies they'd been in, who the producers were. But I couldn't tell you what eight times eight was."
Audry is still hurt, but she's getting better by the day. Her memory is the part most obviously affected by the injury. The entire month before and after that day in May just vanished -- not in the way non-essential data fades from the front lines of awareness, but in the way you cannot recall something you never consciously experienced. Sometimes trying to conjure up the past is like trying to remember the future. She can barely recall the period she spent as a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she graduated with a degree in journalism in 1999. She has vague, flashing memories of that blissful year in San Francisco.
When Audry began seeing specialists at Spalding, her mental abilities resembled those of a fourth-grader. She had to relearn how to pick objects out of a pile of beans, how to throw a basketball, how to jump rope. In therapy, she followed a regimen of drills designed to stimulate the left hemisphere of her brain and repair nerve damage there. Although she showed early, unexpected signs of recovery, therapists were careful not to raise Audry's hopes too high.
"They didn't know what was going to come back," she says. "They said my eye would probably be crossed permanently, that I wouldn't be able to drive, that I wouldn't be able to function that well. It's sort of like I went back to being a ten-year-old child. I had to learn how to do everything again; it was all new experiences. I think now I'm back to being more like a teenager, mentally, and hopefully, sometime soon I'll return to being an adult.
"It's hard for a lot of people who've never been around a brain injury to understand," she adds. "They'll look at me, and I don't look different, so they'll assume that I'm fine. But I'm still a little bit slow at some things, like talking, formulating ideas and writing. Little things that you take for granted, like going to the grocery store or getting gas, are now more like tasks that I'm experiencing for the first time, and they require all of my concentration. I lost a lot of my independence."
What she didn't lose was music. The entire time she was hospitalized, even before speech returned, Audry had beats, rhythms and lyrics in her head. Despite the damage to her brain, her "music center" -- a walnut-sized area behind the forehead that some neurobiologists associate with musical comprehension, taste and processing, among other functions -- appeared to have remained intact. And although the act of DJ-ing -- syncing up records, steadying needles on wax, matching rhythmic patterns and lyrical loops -- is about as integrated, complicated and coordinated an activity as there is, Audry's skills behind the tables hadn't diminished a bit.
"I don't think my creative side was affected," Audry says. "The weird thing is, I had to learn to tie my shoes, but I was able to DJ like nothing ever happened once the paralysis started to go away. I did have to make some adjustments. I now cue records with my left hand, whereas I had previously cued with my right. That took some getting used to."
When Audry announced that she was ready to try spinning again, Derrick took it as a good sign.
"Music was the one thing that I was just really hoping to God she still had," he says. "She came over here to DJ for the first time after the accident, just to practice. We just had a couple of turntables set up. I helped her get familiar with the mixer, just to be sure she knew what was what, and the first time she was right on it. She had it flawless. I knew she was going to have it, because she's one of the hardest-working people I've ever met."
In August, Audry got behind the tables again in a proper club setting, at the Funky Buddha. The crowd was primarily composed of friends who'd joined in a gigantic benefit concert at the Church in July, an event designed to help Derrick and Audry cover their massive medical expenses; Audry had maxed out her benefits at $100,000. (Two similar events were held for her in San Francisco.) Since then, she's appeared in the club a handful of times; a recording of one of her sets, Live From the Funky Buddha, is available through her Web site, www.missaudry.com.
"I wasn't nervous about getting back up there," she says. "I was too excited. The music really was an important part of my therapy, I think. When something's taken away, you miss it. And when it's there again, it's all new again. You're amazed by it, enthralled. I think, in a weird way, that the accident has actually helped my career."