Earlier this month I was the keynote speaker at The Washington State TBI Conference in Seattle.
It was exciting and exhausting. I opened up the conference at 9:00 a.m. on day one of the two-day gathering of medical professionals, survivors and their families, researchers, and advocat
I have delivered my speech "A Distant Memory", about my own journey, more times than I can count, but it still gives me pause. The enormity of my process is overwhelming.
There's plenty to think about, like will
the microphone and projector work? Will my story
connect with people? Will I inspire
the ones who
need it the most
The projector and mic were fine, and my worries about connecting with the more than 400 attendees? Well, the standing ovation assured me that I had achieved my goal.
After my speech, a
line of people formed to talk with me and buy my book, From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue. Many people shared their own brain injury story, or their spouse's or their child's. Some, like me, acquired their TBI in a car accident.
This was the case of Sidney, 18, who was there with her parents Patrick and Stacy Ritter.
The Ritters had driven six hours to learn as much as they could at the conference, looking for answers that would help their smart, beautiful daughter who would never be a track star again. Later, at lunch Sidney told me that right after my talk, she'd gone online to register for college courses.
|Jennifer with the Ritter Family.
I cherish my time with Sidney and her parents.
Sidney's mother said that listening to my story, with my mother talking-"It was like reliving what happened to Sidney. I cried. And I was encouraged by what you have accomplished. I'm so happy we all came here and got to meet you."
Jennifer with Sidney at book signing table.
I felt privileged to share my story.
Other conference attendees suffered a sports injury, or some kind of fall which led to their TBI. And there were Veterans living with TBI's sustained in combat. The stories ran the gamut, but their questions were all so similar:
"What helped you the most?"
"How did you keep going when your doctors gave you so little hope?"
"How did you know you'd get better?"
"Do you miss riding, and other things you could do before your accident?"
I answered each question honestly and with a focus on helping the person asking the question. You cannot get better if you don't hope and believe that you can. So that's step one. But after years of delivering the message of hope and never give up, I realize I can do even more.
People with TBI and those caring for them aren't all as fortunate as I was. They don't have my mother right by their side. Not only did my mother not give
up, she was very determined to find therapies which would help my physical and neurological problems.
to my recovery as a miracle, but we also are clear about this miracle taking many years of hard work: dozens of different therapies and treatments tried, thousands of miles traveled, and lots of favors asked of friends and family.
My miracle recovery was like climbing Mount Everest, but it took longer and the odds of reaching the summit were not as good.
When I return to New Hampshire for the summer, I plan to develop a video blog sharing the things that helped me the most. No two brain injuries are the same, but I'm confident that the kinds of therapies that helped me, can help others. My hope is that in addition to my speaking engagements, that these videos will provide additional and much-needed advice to the greater TBI community.
As always, thank you for supporting my work to help
others living with traumatic brain injuries.