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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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Sean Rowell

“If I had not been wearing a helmet, I would have died. “

My injury occurred on January 31, 2010.  I was in the 8th grade and snowboarding every weekend.  I loved it. That day, I decided to go to a small terrain park.  I had done jumps safely many times. 

I don’t know exactly what happened, but it appears that I overshot the landing on my second jump and was immediately knocked unconscious.  The doctors later told me that if I had not been wearing a helmet, I would have died.

I was in a coma for six days and diagnosed with a severe brain injury. The doctors did not know to what extent I would recover.  The one question the neurosurgeon asked my parents was “What type of a kid is Sean?” 

My parents told the doctor that I am very disciplined and determined.  The doctor then replied that my personality would be the one most important factor in my recovery. 

Once I was stable I was transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where I started the second phase of my recovery.  At first, I had no use of my left side and had no upper body trunk control.  Every little activity was a monumental task that completely exhausted me.  By the time I went home one month later, I walked with no aids and was able to sleep in my own room on the second floor. All of my doctors and therapists tell me that my determination to get better is why I am where I am today. 

My life has changed since my injury some for the better and some not for the better.  I loved playing football and have chosen to give it up. The doctors will not tell me what I can and cannot do, but they have told me that I must choose my activities wisely for the rest of my life.  

I am able to enjoy the snow by training for the Pre-Adaptive Coaching (PAC) program at Loon Mountain, which is part of New England Disabled Sports. The PAC program allows me to train in all the aspects of adaptive skiing including disability awareness, equipment use and maintenance, teaching techniques and skiing and riding. This program has been very rewarding for me and I look forward to participating in it this next year.

In addition, I have started speaking for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts Ambassador Program, telling others my story in hopes that I can encourage all skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets and ultimately prevent injury.

I believe that my injury has made me stronger.  I have always been determined, but I am now more determined than ever.

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