Sunday, March 08, 2020

#LoveYourBrain


This week was one that exhibited how much I've gained from my stroke: As Leader of the Ability Employee Resource Group at work, I helped facilitate recognition of March as Brain Injury Awareness Month by partnering with Goodwill of Northern New England's Neuro Rehabilitation Services to bring a  speaker to the Portland area. Kevin Pearce was a champion snowboarder who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury while training for the Winter Olympics in 2010. He has since used his accident to fuel his Love Your Brain Foundation and his mission to make a positive impact (no pun) on the BI community and to influence brain safety in extreme sports. Even though the similarities between Kevin and me end with the fact that our brain injuries happened around the same time, I did my research on him by watching The Crash Reel -- a documentary covering his injury and recovery -- which I think is the most balanced portrayal I've seen of BI recovery challenges from the perspective of both the survivor and his/her support circle. Because Kevin was so established in his field at the age of 22 and his identity was so tied to his physicality, I think he had some unique hurdles in overcoming both his and his friends desire for him just to be "the same old Kevin," as well as his family's desire for him to remain safe and healthy; but I could certainly identify with those conflicts, as well as the quest to find his new purpose and a sense of independence. If I'm allowed to pat myself on the back (left shoulder only), I admire how both he and I have used our ten years of "recovery" to accept who we are, not mourn who we were.

So it was my pleasure to have the opportunity to tell him as much in my introduction at the event. Below is the best picture I have of the somewhat awkward hug we shared as he entered the stage and I exited (how do you properly greet someone in the COVID-19 Age?). Can you tell which is the young, handsome, oozing-with-positivity athlete and which is the middle-aged, lop-sided, disheveled schlub?#LoveYourBrain


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