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Joanne Susi

"It's the difference between surviving and thriving...and I'm thriving here."Joanne Susi was BIA-MA's keynote speaker at the 35th Annual Brain Injury Conference. 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 Joanne's story

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Our Stories

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.



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. I had no idea what a brain injury was and now realized my life would not be the same.

Read the rest of Ryan's story here...

Bryan "BJ" Williams

At 21 years old my dream to become a professional hockey player came to a halt one hot summer day in 2005. I was a passenger traveling home with a friend from a long day at work when he lost control of the vehicle and because I was not wearing a seatbelt, on impact I was ejected from the vehicle and landed on the side of the highway. Two days later I woke up in a hospital and was told about the accident. I had no idea what a brain injury was and now realized my life would not be the same.

Read the rest of BJ's story here...



"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 about his story here.



"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 the rest of Madeline's story here.

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 about their journey here.

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 the rest of Joanne's story here.



"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 the rest of Tiffany's story here.

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 the rest of Nancielee's story here.

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.

Learn about Kelley's struggle with concussions.


"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 the rest of Katie's story here.

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 about Joanne's journey.

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.