Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jamie Crane-Mauzy
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Park City, Utah, USA
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on April 11, 2015. I was 22 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was competing at the world-tour finals in Whistler, Canada. I got 4th first run, and I wanted to upgrade my off-axis backflip to an off-axis double backflip. I under-rotated, caught the edge of my ski, and whiplashed my head into the snow. My brain started bleeding in eight spots. I hurt my right brainstem, so my right side was paralyzed. I started convulsing and slipped into a coma.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Immediately. I started convulsing on the snow. First Response came, and it was obvious at the moment that I was in serious trouble. I was convulsing in a way that usually only happens on the verge of death. After I left in the helicopter, my First Response wrote up my fatality report. They though I had a “one in a miracle” chance of surviving. For the first few days, the doctors didn’t know if I was going to survive. After it became clear I was going to survive, they weren’t sure if I would ever walk or drive. They didn’t think I would be able to go back to sporting activities, accomplish anything, or live a normal life.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I became the first person in all of North America (I was in Canada at the time) to be treated with an oxygen-analyzing brain bolt. I didn’t have to have any of my skull removed because I had extra space for my brain to swell into. (See, I am a certified airhead. ;)) I didn’t break any bones or tear any ligaments.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for around ten days. I was aware for seconds, when I was flying from Vancouver to Salt Lake City, but I then slipped back into the coma.
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?
I did two weeks of inpatient therapy. Then I left the hospital and did two months of five-days-a-week therapy. Each day, I did three hours of therapy – one hour each of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Then I always say I did about five hours of my mom’s therapy. I had to relearn Rosetta Stone in English; I had to use a hand-strengthener; and I had to do Algebra 1, read, write, and do Lumosity. And then, outside of my regular physical therapy, I would do light workouts with a physical trainer three times a week. I would also do modest activities, like go for a one-quarter-mile hike.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have no permanent damage. The emotional damage took the longest to heal.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I am more aware about life. I used to be a “park rat,” just interested in skiing. I never really thought past a year, so I was very focused just on the next year of skiing. Now I am aware of my future. I feel it’s important to relax and have fun and not want to make my life in one year. I want to develop a career as a motivational speaker. I now know what I am looking for out of life, and I believe it’s moving positively. I have an incredible story to tell, so I am doing media conventions and television interviews. For the first year, I did lots of healing. Now I am sharing my story. I believe sometimes my TBI was the best thing that ever happened to me because now I have a way to share a motivational story.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I honestly don’t miss much. I can ski, flip, and spin again. I had a lot of emotional issues, but I worked through them all. So now I am just a 23-year-old girl. I don’t know how my life will turn out, but I am accomplishing as many goals as I can.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy several things: the opportunities presented to me to be able to showcase an inspiring motivational story, how happy relearning everything has made me, and how much I have grown up and evolved in one year.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike never being able to compete and go to Dew Tour and X-Games again. A TBI is not like tearing your knee, which sucks, but has an eight-month recovery. It’s a fact that TBI changes your life. You can make it as beneficial of a change as you can. But it did change, and there is no going back to being the exact person you were before the accident.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
A lot. My family has supported and helped me in a way I will owe them for life. The ski industry has kept me relevant. (For example, I was a guest athlete-announcer at the winter Dew Tour.) Since my accident, everyone has wanted to help me, which has been crazy. Now I am going to the University at Westminster College. I am working at the National Ability Center and setting goals and having accomplishments. Doing flips and spins on the water ramps again has made me so happy. The hardest part for me is dealing with all the emotions – knowing that, once you hit your head, you physically change your emotions and knowing that I was a competitive freestyle skier whose life was competing on the world tour. It’s important to remember every time it’s hard that there are still doors – grab the handles and walk through. I am only 23 and still have an incredible life to live! No one knows where this life will go. (Maybe someone reading this will recommend me to those in charge of their corporate special events who want to hire a public speaker.)
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My home life and my family have been fabulous. It has changed every week, but it is solid now and has been good for a while. What hit me the most was boys. I usually don’t fall for a boy very easily, but all of a sudden I became obsessed and needy. I wanted someone to save me. I wanted to find the man of my dreams, have him save me, and get married in the future, but fall in love right now. Then I realized that’s not me. I have opportunities, standards, and my own life. I never before wanted to find the one, and I don’t now. I have so much going in my life. I am back to being busy, and it will all work out. When I’m not looking in the future, I might find someone I want to be with. Now I’m my own best friend, and I need no one else to save me.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Going back to what I wrote before, I fell for a lot of boys I was friends with. Because everyone was so happy I was alive, no one told me “no.” They would say, “Yes, let’s hang out” and then blow me off. Now I won’t even approach them to give them the time of day. If someone generally wants to spend time with me, they have to reach out and contact me. If someone doesn’t say what’s on his mind, we can never have a genuine friendship. Many were egotistical, but it made them feel better to always agree with me because I was alive and had almost died. People are beginning to treat me normally again. I really missed how everyone would be overly nice and how no one would tease me, make jokes, or “pull my leg.” I never realized I would miss it so.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My main caregiver is my mom. She doesn’t have to take care of me now, but, yes, I do understand how I will owe her for the rest of my life. My mom is the reason I fully recovered. Back when I did three hours of outpatient therapy every weekday, I did five hours of my mom’s therapy. She made me learn Rosetta Stone in English, squeeze a hand-strengthener, do Algebra 1 again, read, write, do Lumosity every day, go for a quarter-mile “hike,” do yoga – three poses and a half hour of Shavasana (the Corpse Pose in yoga, which rejuvenates body, mind, and spirit), and more. I will owe her for more than I can ever repay. There are no words to say how much I owe her for taking care of me and allowing me to heal back to who I was before.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
Well, I have decided I don’t focus on long-term goals. I focus on making sure that every day I set one little goal I can accomplish and take baby steps in the direction I want to go. I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. I have already done television interviews, and I have media conferences scheduled. I would love to move in the film direction, be on the Ellen Show, do a TED talk, be on talk shows, and spread the message that you can be and accomplish what you want if you focus on taking baby steps and not get stressed out about how far it is to go. I would also love to start getting paid for public-speaking gigs, start filming and tell a motivational story for my segments in ski films, and find someone who sets and accomplishes his own goals (someone who feels our happiness coincides; who loves the mountains, skateboarding, surfing, and being active; who believes our lives just fit in together; and who has the capabilities to go on adventures around the world with me). I want to stay as content as possible and strong and healthy. My future life has so many possibilities. My number one goal is to stay alive and strong and live out my life.
19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.
My biggest hints are the following:
Believe in yourself. Your doctor might not; your boss might not; your CEO might not; but, if deep, deep down you believe you are going to be OK, it will happen. There are many different levels that are “OK,” but you will be content with yourself.
It’s scary to think how far you have to go and to wonder why this happened to you. So focus on just the short-term. Set one short-term goal you actually can accomplish, and take baby steps in the direction you want to go.
What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Find something that makes you happy. Then go and do it. (For me, it was getting busy, accomplishing goals, and doing sports.) And smile as big as you can.
For motivational speaking gigs and media please reach out! MoCrazyStrong@gmail.com
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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