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Joanne Susi

"My life is separated into before and after. Before, I was a Senior Clinical Research Associate assisting in clinical trails with CAP working with Dana Farber, Tufts, Johns Hopkins, and others in Cancer research. Now I am a survivor and lucky to be alive". Read Kristin's story

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Madeline UretskyMadelineUretsky

"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.”

Prior to October 13, 2011, 17-year-old Madeline Uretsky was a four sport athlete, straight ‘A’ student, member of many extracurricular clubs, winner of several academic awards and invited to attend student leadership conferences. A self-proclaimed positive person, proactive and enthusiastic student and lover of family and friends, Madeline’s life flipped upside down after she suffered two concussions within months of each other.

In May 2011, Madeline bumped the top of her head while getting into a car, causing her a slight headache. Her doctor told her she had a very minor concussion. Only a few months later during an October soccer game, Madeline fell forehead first onto the grass while sprinting after the ball. She sustained whiplash as her head made contact with the ground more than once. She did not lose consciousness, but left the game because she, “just didn’t feel right.”

A hospital visit revealed that she suffered a serious concussion, and she began to experience symptoms like a ‘foggy feeling,’ fatigue, confusion, sensitivity to light and noise, disorientation and inability to sit up or hold her head up. She began experience sharp pains all over her head, ringing in her ears and a constant severe headache. Her family started referring to all of her symptoms as “the factory.”

“One of the most concerning times was when I could not say the days of the week or the months of the year in order for three months when asked to do so,” says Madeline. “And now, over a year later, ‘the factory’ or symptoms is still present, but thankfully less severe.”

Madeline was prescribed “complete brain rest” by her doctor. This meant no phone, no television, no computer, no texting, no coloring, no going out, and hardly any stimulation. All she wanted to do was sleep. Medically excused from school, she met with her guidance counselor after her weekly doctors appointments. During her recovery, Madeline’s family noticed her personality had become “flat.” She wasn’t the chatty, energetic girl that they all knew.

Madeline began to see a neurologist and was cleared to return to school in January 2012 for two classes each morning. She was only able to listen, could participate when she felt like it, and often went to the nurse to rest.

“My friends and teachers and most everyone at school were aware of what had happened to me, and they were all respectful,” says Madeline. “With all of my symptoms, it was a challenge to socialize and be a part of things and I do not think most people realize that. I was isolated for three months—students at school assumed a lot of things that were not true about what had happened.”

Madeline has visited a chiropractic neurologist, a neuro-trauma rehabilitation specialist, a neuro-surgeon and an herbalist. She attended speech therapy to help with processing and oral comprehension issues, massage therapy for her neck, and a chiropractic neurologist for balance and overall headaches. She wears Eyelights, which are glasses that shine a blinking colored light into one of her eyes to help her focus and decrease her head pain.

“As long and difficult as my road to recovery has been, it has also been extremely rewarding. I have accepted that my life is different now and that I have limitations,” concludes Madeline. “Brain injuries can be isolating and people need to know that they are not alone. It is important to stay positive—brain injuries are a work in progress. 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.”


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