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Our Stories - The Faces of Brain Injury

A brain injury changes the lives of the survivor, family members, and friends forever. How each of these individuals copes can make a huge difference. There are many survivors and family members who have shown extraordinary courage, wisdom, and perseverance. Their stories are chronicled below. Click through to read about these incredible survivors, family members and caregivers.




My life is separated into before and after. Before, I was a Senior Clinical Research Associate assisting in clinical trials with CAP, working with Dana Farber, Tufts, Johns Hopkins and others in cancer research. I traveled the world, owned my own home. Now, I am a survivor and I am lucky to be alive. Now I want to share my story and ensure other brain injury survivors can have a healthy and happy life. The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts has shown me that there is more for me. I volunteer at a day program, helping survivors like me. Every day I can help someone else, I feel like I've done the right thing. I am so happy to be here and have found my silver lining. Every day is a new beginning. Read Kristin's story.



While performing with my cheerleading squad at a fundraising exhibition, a flyer on top of my stunt group fell and landed on me. I did not receive immediate medical attention and was encouraged to keep performing. A short time later, I collapsed and did not regain consciousness. I had sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI), along with a collapsed lung and fractured vertebrae in my neck. Read Ryan's story.



"I never looked at myself as I was a victim or felt sorry for myself. …The amount that I have grown from all my experiences is priceless.” In 1967 and Scott was just seven years old riding in his family's station wagon when it was struck by an 18-wheeler. He spent three months in the hospital and received no formal rehabilitation. After he moved out of Ohio, there was no follow-up on his brain injury, which left Scott with many questions. Today, he's still coming to terms with his injury after almost a lifetime without talking about it. Read his story.


"Just because life is different than it used to be, doesn’t mean it isn’t as great—you just have to find a way to make it as great, even if you have to do it differently." During a soccer game in October 2011, Madeline fell forehead first while sprinting after the ball. She sustained whiplash as her head made contact with the ground more than once. Madeline had sustained a serious concussion, which she is still recovering from today. Read her story.

kristin and isabella


"She's come really far ... but she has a long journey ahead of her, but we'll take that together, too.." In 2010, Kristin Olliney and her daughter Isabella's lives were changed forever when Isabella came down with sudden acute encephalitis, which caused brain damage. Despite the number of challenges they face every day, Isabella and her mother face them head on and work on her rehabilitation every day. Read her story.

karen kelly and family


"Everything she can do we're so grateful for." On Oct. 13, 2008, Karen Kelly received a call that would change her and her family's lives forever. Her mother, Joanne Coggins, had a staph infection and was going to need surgery to remove a growth on her heart caused by acute bacterial endocarditis. During surgery, a piece of the growth detached and traveled to her brain, causing her to have a stroke. Read her story.



"I want other brain injury survivors to know you can do it." When Tiffany was just 16 years old, she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury after being involved in a serious car accident. Now, 27 years later, Tiffany has made it to the other side and gotten her life back on track. Read her story.

Nancielee Holbrook


"You lose everything you knew or had in a blink of the eye and awake to another person who has to relearn and get to know the new person you have awakened to." In 2009, Nancielee Holbrook's life was changed forever when she suffered a traumatic brain injury when the car she was in was hit from behind. Read her story.

Kelley Linn

Kelley Linn

"It's not just a headache..." There have been two constants in Kelley Linn's life for over a year now: her love of volleyball and painful headaches from two concussions she sustained while playing volleyball. Read her story.


"Never Give Up..." The look on 20 year-old Katie Atchue's face is almost always a smile. Katie suffered an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) hemorrhage when she was eight years old. This incident occurs in less than 1% of the population, and the results can be devastating. Read her story.

Joanne Susi


"It's the difference between surviving and thriving...and I'm thriving here." On March 16, 2011, Joanne Susi's life was transformed. After three long years in a nursing home, she moved into the community as a result of the ABI Waiver Program. Read her story.

Sean Rowell tethered to a disabled skiier


"I don't know exactly what happened, but it appears that I overshot the landing on my second jump and was immediately knocked unconscious... Read his story.

David and his granddaughter playing music


It all began one beautiful June day three years ago. David and Cheryl were riding with a group of motorcyclists to a music festival in New Hampshire when... Read his story.



July 4, 2007, is a day 28-year-old Shaye will always remember. That was the day his best friend fell off his skateboard and nearly died. Minutes before the accident, he had grabbed onto the back of Shaye's truck to hitch a ride. Shaye saw him do it, smiled, and slowed as he turned right. Read his story.



Cathy Hutchinson, a single mother of two from Attleboro, Mass., became a mute quadriplegic after suffering a brainstem stroke. For 11 years she lived in a nursing home which she described as "being in a prison for a crime I didn't commit." Read her story.



Ted Johnson, a 10-year veteran of the New England Patriots, knows all about the thrill of victory. As a middle linebacker, he helped the Pats win three Super Bowl titles. He played for Colorado University before being drafted by the Patriots, and was a high school football star before that. Read his story.



Kevin Lambert is an Army combat veteran who returned from Iraq in December 2006 with a serious injury to his spine, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a mild brain injury. As an outreach coordinator for SAVE program, Kevin now reaches out to other returning veterans.Read his story.



BIA-MA had not yet been founded when 22-year-old Jeff Robinson suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1981 following a devastating automobile accident. Not knowing where to turn for information and support, his mother, Barbara, joined forces with others parents of children with brain injury and started what is today BIA-MA's Berkshire Brain Injury Support Group. Read his story.


Dr. Harold Wilkinson

As a neurosurgeon and the father of a young adult son who lingered and died following a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), Dr. Harold Wilkinson has encountered TBI both as a caregiver and as a family member.  Read his story.



Danielle, Lexington

Danielle Wohl was a junior in high school when she was hit by a drunk driver and went through the windshield of the car she was driving in. At that time, her thought on wearing a seat belt was "Why bother? What's going to happen to me? Nothing." In an instant, her life changed forever. Please take 5 minutes to watch and listen to her story. Danielle is also a Survivor Speaker for our Brains at Risk program.

Carol, Norwood

Carol Maloney explains how aphasia impacts her life and how she has learned a mechanism to help her speak."...I started moving my hand and once I got the rhythm I was able to speak to people. There are people, I have been called retarded. I was actually told by a waitress in a restaurant to leave because it was disturbing the people across from me. People in the family have actually tried to have me declared incompetent because I move my hand."Learn more about aphasia, an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person's ability to process language, but DOES NOT AFFECT INTELLIGENCE. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others. Learn more.

David, Worcester

David Wright sustained a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident in 1994--he doesn't remember, that is what he is told. "I cannot remember the first 25 years of my life...the first 25 years are very blurry, foggy to's a blessing in one way, you appreciate EVERYTHING...BIA-MA has helped me get active, speaking at high schools....(with much emphasis) Brain injury affects EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU."

Linda, Marston Mills

Linda Aylmer suffered a stroke in her early 50's and underwent 4 1/2 years of physical therapy. She speaks about challenges, the fluctuation of achievements day to day. "Stroke is not the end of life. A stroke is a change and a brain injury is a change, where you have to take your whole being and readjust to challenge. It's a challenge. As soon as you realize its a challenge, you can get to work to rebuild." Linda is a member of several BIA-MA support groups and attends SHIP recreation activities with her support group members.

We would like to thank all of the Support Group Leaders and Co-Facilitators who volunteer their time, talent and HEART to run our Support Groups throughout the state of Massachusetts~our brain injury community and BIA-MA thanks you for your compassionate hearts and spirits!​

Marty, Williamstown

Meet Marty and his wife, who live in Western MA; Marty sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he fell down two flights of stairs while on vacation with his family in Prague, in the Czech Republic. Marty has no memory of the accident, he was in a medically induced coma for one month, while his wife navigated the medical system in a foreign country. 

Jeff, Chicopee

Please watch and listen to Jeff's story. One day after his 17th birthday, Jeff sustained traumatic brain injury when the driver of the car he was traveling in was sending a text message and didnt see the bend in the road, Jeff yelled to "hit the brakes" but his friend hit the gas instead and they drove head first into a tree.When Jeff got out of the car, he called his Mom, and then suffered a stroke. Jeff suffered 5 strokes on the way to the hospital, lapsed into coma and his optic nerve was severed leaving him totally blind.

Brain injury does not just affect the Survivor, it affects all in his world, including his Mom, also featured in our video. Jeff's mom quit her job to be home with Jeff full-time due to his cognitive difficulties and loss of sight. Jeff poignantly states: "I'm still me....I'm still the same person I was I just have a brain may take me a different way of doing something, but I'm still going to get the job done that you asked me to do."

Douglas, Falmouth

"From the mouths of babes..." well, sort of...Hear Douglas' story of suffering a stroke and its aftermath. "Anything that involves two hands is hard...preparing food is difficult. This morning I made my own breakfast (cold cereal)...if it's something complicated, like a fried egg, I'm in deep xxxx"

Douglas, who lives in the SE region, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in the early morning hours in 2013; A cerebral hemorrhage is an intra-axial hemorrhage; that is, it occurs within the brain tissue rather than outside of it.

He says, "You're world gets smaller...I can't walk on the beach, I'll never walk on the beach again. The soft sand is just impossible."

Douglas attends a stroke survivor support group in Falmouth, a support group for Survivors and their families. "You look forward to it because you're in a room full of people who are all in the same boat as you and it's the only time of the month where you are, and its a form of reinforcement that you cant get any other way. PERIOD!"


For more information contact BIA-MA at 800-242-0030 or email us at