Tag Archives: traumatic brain injury

Between Hope And Acceptance

Abi Dietz was on her way to school in September 2012 when an auto accident left her with a severe traumatic brain injury. After the accident, Abi was unable to move or communicate. After extensive inpatient rehabilitation, in June 2013, Abi was able to move into her mother’s home. Her family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive for uninsured expenses to help improve Abi’s quality of life and maximize her mobility and independence. Abi’s mother, Georgina, gives us an idea of how life changes after a traumatic injury.

Abi Dietz HelpHOPELive

Abi was injured in 2012


Describe a day in Abi’s life.


Abi is 100% dependent on the assistance of others for all activities of daily living. Each morning when Abi wakes up, I or another caregiver do passive range-of-motion exercises with her. We do her personal care and get her into her wheelchair using a hoyer lift. We then read to her, watch YouTube music videos or do other movement exercises, such as throwing a beach ball and asking her to bat or kick it back to us. This responsive movement is actually new, and even though it seems slight, we are glad that she is responding more than she previously had been.

We have Abi stand in the standing frame three times per week. We take her to scheduled doctor’s appointments, the mall, a local art museum and to the park when the weather is nice. We have a music therapist come in weekly and spend an hour working with her. She listens to familiar songs she used to like, and the therapist tries to get her to play a digital guitar on an iPad or move her hand and arm to play a simple instrument.


Have you noticed any improvements since the injury?


Abi is now able to move her left side at times, but her communication is inconsistent. At times, she is more alert and moves more to look around at her environment. She also shows more movement when giving someone a fist bump, trying to hold something and letting it go again, or reacting to someone throwing a ball towards her.

Abi Dietz HelpHOPELive

Abi is currently 100% dependent on the assistance of others


What are some of the biggest challenges of life with a traumatic brain injury?


The accident has changed our family dynamics in many ways and it has been difficult. Finances are a struggle as well as feelings of isolation. The struggle between accepting what is and still having hope is also a challenge.


What are you fundraising with HelpHOPELive for?


We have been able to purchase an accessible van thanks to fundraising and financial help from a family member, but we still have outstanding expenses. Abi was a musician and music therapy has reached her in places that other therapies haven’t. This type of therapy is not covered by insurance and we use the money raised through HelpHOPELive to pay for it. We also fundraise for in-home massage therapy and physical therapy. Abi has painful spasticity issues and these therapies help stretch and relax her so that she is more comfortable.

music therapy

Music therapy is not covered by insurance


What does hope mean to you?


Hope means believing that things can change. It takes a lot of patience to wait for change to happen and as I said before, it is hard to find the balance between hope and acceptance.


What can the average person do to recognize Brain Injury Awareness Month in Abi’s honor?


You can donate to HelpHOPELive in honor of Abi to help her secure life-enhancing therapeutic treatment that could help her regain mobility and communication skills. You can also send a card to her or to anyone who has a traumatic brain injury. We receive beautiful cards with nature photography from one couple at least once per month. It is so nice to know we are not forgotten.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month


Follow Abi’s story at helphopelive.org. If you know a family that needs help covering the uninsured expenses related to a traumatic injury, start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit today.

In Times Of Crisis, Love Brings Us Together

These quotes from individuals and families from all walks of life show just how important love and support can be as you strive to meet the challenges before you.

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Love Keeps Us Strong…


“For the love of our son, Nick, we want to be here for him and his able-bodied brother for as long as possible. That’s what keeps us strong and driven.”

Nick and mom for love quotes post

-Judy, mother of Nick Rouse (injured in 2008)


Love Helps Us Thrive…


“We wouldn’t be thriving as well as we are without love. Love in its many forms is what keeps us pushing forward.”

-Kristen and Jeff Sachs (injured in 2013)


Love Keeps Us Going…


“I believe love plays a big role in health. It is family and friends that keep you going and your spouse or partner and kids that give you the fight to carry on and get a normal life back. #NeverRetreatNeverSurrender”

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Michael Carns (fighting MS)


Love Gives Us Hope…


“Love from family or friends gives a person the will to keep pushing and the hope of a better outcome. If everyday struggles become overwhelming, the distraction of love can soothe the soul.

Love is also a powerful tool. While in the Shepherd Center for two months with my son, I saw people who didn’t have any friends or family to support them, whether it was someone to watch a movie with or someone to give them homemade food or a silly gift. Those people did not thrive in recovery, did not smile or laugh, and did not have the desire to get up and do therapy. There was an employee at the Shepherd Center who gave every person and family member a hug, every single day. She knew the power of love.”

-Lori, mother of John LeMoine (injured in 2014)


Love Keeps Us Healthy…


“Love and the time we spend with each other and people who are special to us has been at the center of Suria’s recovery and it has kept us both healthier. There are times when one of us may not feel well, but after a few laughs, it’s like you’ve been given a special pill that can help fix what ails you. Just the act of loving another can make you love yourself more. You’ll find you start taking extra steps to take care of yourself just to keep that good feeling going.”

-Kirby and Suria Nordin (injured in 2014)


Love Motivates Us…


“On this difficult road to recovery, the love God has for me and the love I have for my family is the source of my strength. It is love that gives me the will to work harder than I thought I could and to keep going when so often I’ve wanted to surrender.”

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Joe Piscitelli (injured in 2014)


Our goal is to help people fundraise within their own communities for their medical and related expenses. It’s true that fundraising can help you secure tangible resources, like medication or physical therapy sessions, that improve your health and quality of life. But fundraising isn’t just about money: fundraising gives your friends and family members the opportunity to lift you up and offer you the emotional support that nourishes you as you face your medical burdens.

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Do you know someone who is struggling with medical expenses and is in need of financial and emotional support? Consider helping him or her to launch a fundraising campaign to ease the burden.

HelpHOPELive Clients In The News October 2015

October brought us falling leaves, pumpkin spice indulgence and autumn fundraising milestones! Here are three compelling client stories featured in the news this month.


Matt Collura: Annual 5K Provides Financial And Emotional Benefits

Matt Collura 5K Run/Walk

In March of 2011, the Collura family, of Monroe Township, N.J. was rocked by a shocking accident: a snowboarding injury left then-28-year-old Matt Collura reliant on a wheelchair for mobility as he coped with a life-threatening traumatic brain injury. From acquiring specialized accessibility equipment that would keep him safe in his home to pursuing intensive rehabilitative therapy, Matt was facing a long emotionally and financially draining road to recovery. His friends and family members turned to HelpHOPELive for support. With Matt’s passion for athletics and running, a friend suggested planning a 5K fundraiser in his honor to rally community members to help cover the uninsured expenses as a result of injury.

Matt Collura 5K Run/Walk 2015

The Matt Collura 5K Run/Walk celebrated its 5th anniversary on October 11, 2015. The event draws hundreds of supporters who enjoy the opportunity to give back to their friend and neighbor as he continues to pursue recovery with dedication. For Matt and his family, the event is far more than an opportunity to offset vital medical expenses; the run provides a powerful dose of emotional support that keeps him striving forward. “This is a chance for [us] to participate in a day that Matt refers to as the best day of the year,” his supporters wrote on his HelpHOPELive Campaign Page. Since the accident, funds raised from the Matt Collura 5K Run/Walk have helped Matt to pursue the rehabilitation he needs to speak, walk with minimal assistance and pursue a greater degree of independence by moving out of his parent’s house and into a group home. (5K supports Monroe man’s recovery from accident)


Patrice Penny-Henderson: ‘Angel’ Aids Music Teacher With Rare Disease

Patrice Penny-Henderson Elkhart kidney transplant

A rare blood cell disease severely reduced Patrice Penny-Henderson’s kidney function, forcing the elementary school music teacher to receive dialysis three times each week to stay healthy. Despite Medicare coverage, out-of-pocket costs of $20,000 or more made a kidney transplant seem out-of-reach for Patrice. That is, until a chance encounter blossomed into an unexpected lifeline.

In 2015, seven years after she was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, Patrice reconnected with a former co-worker, Susan Law, who was stunned to hear about her medical ailments. Susan sprang into action, connecting Patrice with HelpHOPELive and helping her to plan community fundraisers to cover her medical bills. Susan and Patrice “chose HelpHOPELive over other popular sites like GoFundMe” in order to secure a tax-exempt donation option for her contributors and expert insights from a HelpHOPELive Fundraising Coordinator. Patrice calls Susan “an angel” for stepping in to support her efforts to secure a lifesaving transplant. (Longtime Elkhart music teacher…needs kidney transplant due to rare disease)


Michael Carns: Military Vet Puts Difficulties On Display To Fundraise For MS

Michael Carns veteran MS multiple sclerosis Marine National Guard

After dedicating himself to years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard, Michael Carns was attacked by an enemy of a different kind: multiple sclerosis (MS). The 46-year-old father of three began to rapidly losing his independence and his mobility, struggling to provide for his three children as daily tasks like cooking and using the bathroom became formidable obstacles.

That’s when Michael learned about a treatment trial in Chicago that offered hope for potentially halting the progression of his MS in its tracks. He would need to raise $150,000 to be eligible for the potentially life-changing course of treatment. Michael knew he had to do something to show his community why he needed their emotional and financial support. He reached out to a local news station and offered them a chance to film the impact of MS on his daily life.

In a video interview, Michael shows viewers what life with MS really looks and feels like, from painstakingly transporting himself to his son’s football games to coping with fears that he will not be there to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. For Michael and his children, fundraising with HelpHOPELive has come to represent a second chance – an opportunity for Michael to pursue advanced treatment that could give him back his independence. “Believe that there is hope, still, because there always will be,” affirmed his son Mikey. (Military veteran hoping for treatment to fight MS)


Get your campaign in the news! If you need help with press releases and media outreach, contact your HelpHOPELive Fundraising Coordinator today.

 

A Bolt Out Of The Blue: Ethan’s Story

For the friends and family of Ethan Kadish, the phrase “a bolt out of the blue” is much more than an expression. It’s a description of a day that changed their lives forever.

Ethan was an all-American student who loved hitting home runs and performing in the school play. In June of 2013, Ethan was playing outdoors at a summer camp in Indiana when a lightning bolt launched at him out of a clear blue sky, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury that altered his world in an instant. Ethan now depends on nursing care, a wheelchair and a feeding tube. He cannot speak or purposefully move his body without assistance.

HelpHOPELive Ethan Kadish lightning injury

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWisC

Today is the second anniversary of Ethan’s injury. We spoke to Jen Smilg, a close friend of the Kadish family, to learn more about Ethan, the strength of his support network and his family’s limitless resilience.


How did you learn about Ethan’s accident?

One of my three sons, Ethan Smilg, is close in age to Ethan’s brother, Zakary. My husband and I became close friends with Ethan’s parents after our children met, and we became each other’s emergency contacts. I received the phone call from the Emergency Department in Indianapolis.

Ethan Kadish HelpHOPELive lightning injury

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWxUT


How did Team Ethan emerge as a community support network?

Another close family friend developed Team Ethan as a way to organize the delivery of meals, hospital visits and overnight stays. Ethan’s accident brought our faith-based and local communities together to support the Kadish family. The community is still coming together all the time to support his recovery. A small group of us remain on call to stay with Ethan when he is hospitalized. We all just do what needs to be done.

Today, there are not only events orchestrated by close friends and family but also spin-off fundraising events by supporters who have heard about his condition, with 100% of the proceeds donated to HelpHOPELive in Ethan’s honor. We have inspired others to raise awareness and fundraise for HelpHOPELive to support his family’s expenses.

Everywhere you look there are people connecting with Ethan’s story and making an effort to bring hope and relief to his family. Dan Nichols, a well-known Jewish musician, attended the summer camp where Ethan was injured. He reworked an acoustic version of his song and prayer, Chazak, to dedicate to Ethan. Amy Bennett and her husband, Rabbi Jim Bennett, are both involved with the summer camp where Ethan sustained his injury. Amy created beautiful bracelets and has donated several thousands of dollars from bracelet sales directly to HelpHOPELive in honor of Ethan.

Ethan’s Little League Team organized home run derbies to fundraise and his middle school held bake sales and donated the proceeds to his HelpHOPELive campaign. Every little bit helps, from major fundraising events to local lemonade stands.

bracelets Chazak HelpHOPELive Ethan Kadish

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWxUT


How did Team Ethan respond to the expenses associated with his injury?

Ethan’s family faced the financial burden of his treatment head-on. There are so many elements that must be managed, from overnight care to rehabilitation, education and transportation. His family continues to fundraise for these needs through HelpHOPELive, and they draw both financial and emotional support from the community.

HelpHOPELive gave us the essentials and we took it from there. Many of Ethan’s supporters have stepped up to donate their time as well as their financial resources.

Ethan Kadish Team Ethan HelpHOPELive injury lightning

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWxUT


What sort of therapy does Ethan participate in?

Ethan takes part in daily physical therapies, occupational and speech therapy in his home and at a local rehabilitation center. There have been small victories.  Ethan smiles and laughs when he hears music. We’ve mourned the Ethan we used to know and we are now embracing the new Ethan. Ethan’s peers have been very accepting and embrace his new identity.

Ethan Kadish physical therapy rehabilitation lightning injury HelpHOPELive

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWxUT


Has Ethan’s injury created a need for greater advocacy or safety precautions?

Raising awareness about the bolt out of the blue phenomenon is definitely important, and so is lightning awareness. Weather stations should take precautions to warn local citizens about these dangers, and individuals should respond to dangerous weather appropriately. However, I strongly believe that fear and terror are not appropriate responses. My kids and Ethan’s siblings have continued to return to the summer camp where Ethan was injured. The camp is their community away from home, and this accident should not stop them or any other camper from experiencing that.

There have been quite a few recent news stories about people being struck by a rogue bolt from a blue sky.  These sorts of stories provide an opening for community support and family connections that can be incredibly meaningful. I think connecting with families who have gone through similar situations would be a powerful resource.

Ethan Kadish brother family lightning injury HelpHOPELive

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWisC


How did Ethan’s injury impact his family?

The term “bolt out of the blue” sums it up: his family still remains unsure of what the future holds for Ethan. Most doctors have never even encountered a lightning strike survivor. The uncertainty is tough to deal with, but everyone keeps going.

At social occasions people will almost always ask the question, “How are Ethan’s parents doing?”  My answer is, Scott and Alexia’s life is what it is, filled with the ups and downs and constant change of parenting three children. Life threw them a curveball and they are all adapting as any parent or family would.

Ethan’s family has had to learn as they go because his condition is so rare. They probably know more about brain injuries and the effects of lightning now than almost any other family out there. They know advanced medical terms cold. All of his family members have become advocates for his care and recovery.

Ethan Kadish hospital HelpHOPELive injury

Image source: http://ow.ly/OWisC


Jen Smilg manages the Team Ethan official website as well as the associated social media accounts.


Ethan and his family face
lifelong expenses associated with his injury. Visit Ethan’s HelpHOPELive Page to learn more about his medical needs and how you can help.

7 Amazing Books About Transplant And Disability

Summer is here! No trip to the beach or backyard barbecue is complete without a story that makes you laugh, cry, gasp, think or dream. Here are 7 amazing books that highlight the daily triumphs and struggles that come along with an injury, chronic illness or transplant.


 

7. Where Is The Mango Princess? by Cathy Crimmins

 

where is the mango princess

Topic: Crimmins’ husband, Alan, sustains a traumatic brain injury in a speedboat accident. As Alan copes with the effects of his brain injury, Cathy must learn to care for a man she doesn’t understand anymore.

Read It If You Liked: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Reader Review: “This book can be a difficult book to read because of the deeply emotional subject, but is a touching memoir told with a great deal of humor, and most of all… honesty.”

Sneak Preview:

“But all of a sudden Al stops talking and turns to me. “I want to call Cathy.”

I laugh lightly. “Al, I’m here. You don’t have to call me. Here I am.”

“No, I want to call Cathy. The Other Cathy. The one at home.””


 

6. Letters To Sam by Dan Gottlieb

 

Letters to Sam Gottlieb NPR

Topic: Gottlieb, paralyzed in a car accident, writes compassionate and insightful letters for his autistic grandson, Sam, afraid he won’t live to see Sam come of age. Gottlieb is the host of NPR’s Voices in the Family broadcast.

Read It If You Liked: Tuesdays With Morrie

Reader Review: “Letters to Sam is a touching, soul-provoking work of art which I could not put down. I read the book in one day and did not want it to end. As Dan Gottlieb [wrote] to his grandson, Sam, I could feel my own heart opening up.”

Sneak Preview:

I wanted to teach him what I’ve learned about fighting against the kind of adversity that I face almost daily and fear he will face also. And I wanted to tell him how peace often happens when we simply stop fighting.


 

5. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

 

Wonder Palacio book cover

Topic: What’s more intimidating than going to public school for the first time? That’s easy: starting 5th grade with glaring facial deformities. With courage and perspective, Wonder’s young hero, August, takes it all in stride.

Read It If You Liked: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Reader Review: “Wonder captures the dual nature of childhood, both how cruel and how tender we can be with one another. It’s about the wounds we inflict and the scars we carry, all the things that teach us to do things differently the next time.”

Sneak Preview:

Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world. –Auggie


 

4. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

 

Gathering Blue Lowry book cover

Topic: Kira, a disabled orphan, is left to fend for herself by a callous, unforgiving dystopia that has labelled her useless.

Read It If You Liked: The Giver

Reader Review: “With characteristic grace, Lowry pulls her reader into this tale of a devastated world in which judgments are harsh and the dead are left to rot in the fields. Here we find Kira, her leg twisted from birth and her heart, impossibly, nourishing hope.”

Sneak Preview:

Fear was always a part of life for the people. Because of fear, they made shelter and found food and grew things. For the same reason, weapons were stored, waiting. There was fear of cold, of sickness and hunger. There was fear of beasts.


 

3. Change Of Heart by Jodi Picoult

 

Change of Heart book novelc cover Picoult

Topic: Shay is sentenced to death for a double murder. One of his victims has a sister who is now in desperate need of a lifesaving heart transplant. Is it ever too late to seek redemption?

Read It If You Liked: My Sister’s Keeper

Reader Review: “Her writing pulls you in until you cannot let go until the end. This book about life and death cuts so close that it keeps you wanting more.”

Sneak Preview:

There’s always going to be bad stuff out there. But here’s the amazing thing — light trumps darkness, every time. You stick a candle into the dark, but you can’t stick the dark into the light.


 

2. Pulse by Edna Buchanan

 

Pulse crime suspense book novel Buchanan cover

Topic: Pulitzer Prize winner Buchanan brings us this gripping page-turner about Frank, a businessman who received the transplanted heart of a man who committed suicide. Guilty and conflicted, Frank investigates his donor’s life and stumbles upon a gristly conspiracy.

Read It If You Liked: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Reader Review: “The writer’s imagination is a breath of fresh air, and I found myself involved with the characters – feel sorry for them, hate them, question them, and try to imagine myself in their shoes.”

Sneak Preview:

Frank Douglas has everything to live for. But someone else had to die first.


 

1. The Diving Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

 

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly cover memoir Bauby Elle

Topic: At 44, French Elle’s editor-in-chief, Bauby, was blindsided by a rare stroke. When he awoke from a 20-day coma, Bauby was “locked in:” his entire body was paralyzed aside from his left eye. By blinking his way through the alphabet, Bauby dictated this vivid and moving memoir one letter at a time.

Read It If You Liked: The Glass Castle

Reader Review: “At times, I had to suck in my breath and set the book down to pause, it was so profoundly heartbreaking. He shares with us his deepest, raw thoughts about his daily life, his former lifestyle, his children, the blessings he misses and the pleasures he now looks forward to, as well as the torment he cannot control.”

Sneak Preview:

Once, I was a master at recycling leftovers. Now I cultivate the art of simmering memories.


Did we leave out any of your favorites? Reach out to us on Facebook or on Twitter and tell us what we should read next!

 

No Limitations: Equestrian Vaulting

We spoke to Alanna Flax-Clark, a paraequestrian who competes in equestrian vaulting and shows in paradressage events. In 2008, Alanna contracted an infection that rapidly destroyed her ability to walk. For Alanna, hippotherapy was an introduction to the immersive world of adaptive athletics.

Alanna Flax-Clark paraequestrian adaptive athletics HelpHOPELive horses

Alanna Flax-Clark is a paraequestrian competitor.

“Sports like equestrian vaulting and dressage have played a big role for me in gaining strength, coordination and mobility,” Alanna said. “It’s important that no matter how you get around, whether you walk or roll, you feel confident and secure in your body. I’ve learned to feel stronger and happier through my participation in sports.”

About Equine Therapy

According to the American Hippotherapy Association, hippotherapy is a way for patients to “engage…neuro, sensory and movement systems.” As the AHA notes, “a horse’s rhythmic, repetitive movements work to improve muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination, strength, flexibility and cognitive skills,” and encourage patient responses that simulate the techniques used for walking.

horse therapy hippotherapy equine therapy

Hippotherapy can improve strength, flexibility and even cognitive skills.

According to Ride On equine therapy center, “the horse, in some respects, ‘lends’ his nervous system to the patient so that the patient may experience organized movement.”

While adaptive riding tends to be recreational, hippotherapy is considered medical rehabilitation and is always supervised by a physician or professional. Hippotherapy has been used to rehabilitate patients with cerebral palsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and multiple other conditions.

HelpHOPELive equine therapy horse therapy rehabilitation horse riding horseback

Hippotherapy is always supervised by a professional.

New Challenges: Equine Athletics

Alanna began pursuing hippotherapy “with no expectations.” Today, she spends the majority of each week riding or training her horses for equine events.

hippotherapy horse therapy rehabiliation Alanna Flax-Clark

Alanna spends the majority of each week involved in equine activities.

While initially she worked with horses for physical therapy benefits, Alanna soon realized that she wanted more of a challenge. “After going through rehab and not seeing any progress, I began to get frustrated,” she said. “I wanted to get stronger, regain more mobility [and] coordination, and just be able to go outside in the fresh air and have fun.”

Over time, Alanna graduated from hippotherapy to adaptive riding lessons. At a riding show, Alanna competed in three classes and took home two first place ribbons and one second place ribbon. On a fateful day in 2013, Alanna saw an equestrian vaulting group perform at her riding facility. “When I saw what they were doing, I knew immediately that I had to get involved!” said Alanna.

equestrian vaulting gymnastics horse therapy

Equestrian vaulting is an impressive and challenging activity.

Equestrian vaulting is essentially gymnastics on horseback. To most, Alanna’s ambition as a wheelchair-bound rider seemed lofty and even ludicrous. But with tenacity, Alanna was able to begin competing on horseback at a walking pace within a year.

training equestrian vaulting Alanna Flax-Clark

Alanna kept practicing until she was able to compete at a walking pace.

The Benefits of Adaptive Athletics

Alanna identified some profound physical and emotional benefits of paraequestrian participation. “I didn’t grow up around horses and did not expect to fall in love with them as much as I did,” she said. “They really have transformed my life. Most people in wheelchairs participate in sports with other people who have similar disabilities. However, when I’m out of my chair on my horse, I’m on more of an even playing field with everyone else. You can’t even tell that I have a disability.”

Equestrian vaulting horse therapy hippotherapy Alanna Flax-Clark

“When I’m out of my chair on my horse…you can’t even tell that I have a disability.”

Equine athletics is supportive and collaborative, Alanna confirmed. “At practice my teammates ask for feedback on their routines and form; they don’t even see my disability,” she said. “They want me to jump right in and help. It’s an environment full of respect and encouragement.”

Equestrian vaulting hippotherapy Alanna Flax-Clark teamwork

Equine athletics is supportive and collaborative.

She hopes her tenacity will allow other individuals with disabilities to discover equestrian sports for themselves. “I’m the only [athlete] in a chair that competes at vaulting competitions, to my knowledge,” she said. “It’s a more difficult matter for people with disabilities to participate…at the competitive level – even though it shouldn’t be! Horses aren’t the first thing that people turn to when faced with an illness or disability. I hope that starts to change. Vaulting is truly an accessible sport for everyone, no matter your age or ability. When one person starts doing it, it opens up doors to others.”

Getting Started

Alanna urged fellow athletes to overcome their initial trepidation. “Many people think that getting on a horse is impossible depending on their disability, but if there’s a will, there’s a way!” she said.

equestrian vaulting equine therapy horses Alanna Flax-Clark wheelchair

“Horses are naturally empathetic animals.”

“Horses are naturally empathetic animals and can help people overcome their personal challenges. I never would have thought that I’d learn to post at the trot, be able to sit independently at the canter, and even do a shoulder stand or maneuver off my horse into my wheelchair!” Alanna said. I’ve made a huge amount of progress…I’m still continuing to make big strides and learn new things each day.”

Learn more about hippotherapy and paraequestrian athletics before you participate, and always discuss your plans with your support team. You can track Alanna’s progress in paraequestrian vaulting and dressage on her website.

4 Things You Need To Know About Your TBI

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. To honor TBI survivors and their daily struggle to find a ‘new normal,’ we’ve created this Guest Post with Huffington Post writer and TBI survivor Amy Zellmer. If you’ve experienced a TBI, here are four things you need to know right now, and four ways to find support.

Brain Injury Awareness Day HelpHOPELive

March 18 is Brain Injury Awareness Day.

One: It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or stressed out.

A TBI can spark a range of confusing emotions, from anxiety and apprehension to anger, helplessness and panic. Zellmer confirmed that after her TBI, she constantly felt afraid of sustaining a second injury and daunted at the prospect of managing her TBI symptoms for the rest of her life.

Some TBI sufferers encounter “a daily struggle even trying to get out of bed in the morning,” said Zellmer. “They are terrified of what might happen to them next. Some have such profound anxiety that they can hardly leave their home.” Zellmer cautioned that attitude shifts after a TBI can be severe. “My personality has changed,” she said, “and I am aware of my mood swings…sometimes the bad days are just more than I can handle.”

Find Support: Zellmer notes that the fear, anxiety and helplessness that you feel can be successfully managed and treated. Sticking to a routine, staying involved in the activities you enjoy, and accepting that your feelings are normal are helpful first steps.

For additional support, there is no shame in seeking professional help. “Seeing a therapist on a regular basis has really helped me deal with my PTSD issues and fear of hurting myself,” said Zellmer. “A therapist is not there to judge you or tell you you’re right or wrong. They are there to help you sort through your emotions and anxiety to relieve yourself of the negatives in your life.”

Anger HelpHOPELive Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness

It’s normal to feel angry, afraid or resentful post-TBI.

Two: Cognitive issues can catch you off guard.

There are multiple cognitive symptoms that might affect your daily life after a TBI. For Zellmer, cognitive issues following her TBI were both frustrating and disruptive. “We [as TBI survivors] have cognitive deficiencies that don’t make sense, even to us,” Zellmer noted. “The confused woman in the kitchen staring at the oven is someone I am just now starting to understand,” she said. “I am finally coming to terms with this ‘new me.’”

Find Support: According to Zellmer, the cognitive issues associated with your “invisible” injury can make you feel isolated, judged or misunderstood. “After my TBI, I felt isolated and alone,” said Zellmer. “No one really seemed to understand what I was going through, or possibly, they didn’t believe it was as severe as it was. When injuries and illnesses are invisible like TBI, it’s easy for others to say, ‘well, you look normal, so you must be okay.’”

Zellmer responded to this isolation with action: “I created a group on Facebook for survivors to hang out and feel like they fit in. Many were craving this sort of connection and community.”

Speaking with like-minded TBI survivors may significantly improve your mood and outlook. The connections may even help your brain to physically heal. “For me, personally,” said Zellmer, “once I began to understand that my symptoms were normal and fit the scale of what others were dealing with, it really started to help my healing and the grieving process as I let go of the ‘old me.’”

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive memory

A TBI can result in multiple cognitive symptoms, including memory lapses.

Three: Every TBI is different.

For some, a TBI comes with constant physical pain and overwhelming fatigue. For others, the injury is synonymous with constant confusion and debilitating memory impairment. Your TBI is as unique as you are, and your symptoms may be a one-of-a-kind blend of physical or mental challenges. Ultimately you are the only expert on your unique circumstances and struggles following a TBI.

Find Support: For Zellmer, finding an outlet for her emotions and thoughts was an important step in the recovery process. At first, said Zellmer, “I didn’t have the courage. I [was] scared…scared that people will be snarky or rude….scared of reliving the fall.” Zellmer realized that releasing her emotions would allow her to support other TBI survivors and conquer her own fears about her experiences. “Writing is your therapy, Amy,” she said to herself to combat the doubts.

“Finding your ‘new normal’ is an important part of recovery and healing,” said Zellmer. “Get out and get active or find a hobby.” Not all hobbies will bring you as much satisfaction as frustration: “Many of us can’t deal with computer screens or loud stimulation, so finding a new alternative can be challenging, but rewarding when you find it,” Zellmer said.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive outlet

A positive outlet can help you come with your emotions post-TBI.

Four: TBIs are expensive to rehabilitate.

The average lifetime cost for a TBI averages $85,000 but expenses for a severe TBI can top $3 million. The recovery process may call for therapy, physical rehabilitation, extensive medical testing, medication, transportation to specialization centers and regular GP or hospital visits. Some costs, including temporary housing and transportation, may not be completely covered by all insurance plans.

Find Support: HelpHOPELive supports TBI patients in their recovery process by providing assistance with fundraising both online and in your community. If you are struggling with the costs associated with your TBI, learn about your options at m.helphopelive.org/supportforinjury.

Zellmer noted the importance of finding professionals who will give you the support and insight you need to recover. “Find a doctor who understands and ‘gets’ you and your TBI,” she recommended. “If you’re not happy with the one you’ve got, look for another, or ask for a referral from someone in your area.” Finding the right recovery team for you may be an ongoing process. “Be an advocate for your health!” Zellmer urged.

You don’t have to face your TBI alone.

Though every TBI is unique, you don’t have to struggle with the symptoms of your TBI without support. Zellmer releases regular blog posts on The Huffington Post for TBI survivors.

Brain Injury Awareness HelpHOPELive support

53 million U.S. citizens are living with a brain injury. You are not alone.

“Know that you are not alone,” said Zellmer. “There are approximately 53 million people in the U.S. living with a brain injury. There are many groups out there trying to help raise awareness. Get involved! Join support groups. Get active. Embrace your new life!”

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