Survivor Stories

Last updated on 08-18-2014
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There are many wonderful and heartwarming success stories relating to brain injuries. Below are links to just a few:

Ann Boriskie
Mike Abercrombie
Steve Ambrose
Linda Arms
Joey Buchanan
Michael Coss
Willie Daniels
Bill DeAngelo
Melissa Durand
Bryan Durio
Chris Falco
Randal Flutur
Richard Garneau
TJ Glavin
Geo Gosling
DuWayne Hall
Mark Halvorsen
Eileen Harrison
Scotty Hunt
Jessica Jones
Lisa Paige Kline
Hadley Korn
Michael L.
Neil Ligon
Allen London
Anne Margaret McKenzie
Randy Mallory
Rodney Noll
RoseAnn Olson
Kevin Pearce
Craig Phillips
Diane Quimby
Saul Raisin
Derek Rogers
David Scott
Mark Selman
Valerie Jo Smith
Charles Stanley
Kristin Stansell
Wes Varda
Molly Welch

Ann Boriskie

The former elementary school teacher and corporate executive suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury during a 1998 car crash. She was left unable to work because of chronic pain and memory loss, and struggled to heal physically and emotionally. Read more about Ann hitting rock bottom and her steadfast determination to overcome the obstacles in her new life.

Ann was awarded one of the eleven 2011 Community Service Awards from WXIA 11-Alive for creating, developing, and implementing the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association®. Watch a YouTube video about Ann and our association.

Mike Abercrombie

A brain injury survivor and a valued Peer Visitor for the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association®. His car accident occurred in May 1993. He was in a coma for 40 days. He then went to Inpatient Rehabilitation until August 5, 1993 and Outpatient Rehabilitation for 4 months, and then was released December 24, 1993. He returned to work in 1994. In 1995, he returned to college where he graduated with a BS Psychology degree in 1999. Mike is a certified Occupational Therapy Aide and a certified Brain Injury Specialist. Mike is LIVING PROOF that rehabilitation WORKS, and he's living proof that all of the compensatory strategies that Mike practices and teaches DO WORK.

Q: Do you need help with doing your daily activities?
Q: Do you need help living each day?

Learn how to regain your independence and take care of yourself. Read more about Mike and his rehabilitation services.

Steve Ambrose

Steve sustained a brain stem injury on the basketball court at the age of 27. He was born in Chicago, and was a Triathlete previous to his injury. Steve has a passion for life. He is an active member of The Seminole Spirit Support Group. He also swims and works out at the YMCA every week. Read his story and watch his video.

Linda Arms

Linda is a TBI survivor. Her accident happened in 2006 when she became "Mina Kitty." As part of her recovery process, Linda went onto the Web for information about brain injury. She has created a website with a simple format with access to clearly presented information. Linda says, "My goal is to educate others about brain injury, provide resources, and promote good brain health." Read Linda's own story and visit her website, The Brain Fairy.

Joey Buchanan

Joey Buchanan is a true HERO in today's world. After Joey extinguished a housefire, a 50 lb. load of sheetrock fell from a vaulted ceiling over 8 feet high and struck him on his head. From that day forward, Joey's life would be changed forever — from his "mild brain injury" sustained that fateful day. Read a few paragraphs in Joey's own words as he explains, "So that others . . . may understand."

Michael Coss

Michael Coss is the survivor of a car wreck back in 2006. He will tell you that his life was changed forever, and it's been changed for the good. Michael is also the 2012 Recipient of The Courage to Come Back Award. Michael's desire is that his remarkable story and this inspirational YouTube video will serve as much-needed hope for other TBI survivors and their loved ones. He has also written a book, The Courage to Come Back: Triumph Over TBI - A Story of Hope, as an inspiration to other brain injury survivors and also to their family members, and to also let the general public know about the benefits of hyperbaric chambers.

Willie Daniels

On January 31, 2002, I was shot 7 times — four times to the head and three to the body. I was left for dead, lying alone for two days bleeding to death; then God sent an angel that found me. My recovery was difficult; many people thought I wouldn't make it. I wanted to give up. I thought my mountain was too high to overcome. Then God spoke to me and said, "I spared your life for a reason." I then understood my mission was to spread my testimony to encourage other brain injury patients as well as gunshot victims through organizations like the BRAIN INJURY PEER VISITOR ASSOCIATION® and VICTIMS OF CRIME. To hear more concerning my remarkable recovery, tune in to my YouTube page, Saints Keeping it Real.

Bill DeAngelo

My name is Bill DeAngelo, and I am a brain-injury survivor. Before my head injury (due to a bike fall) I had natural tennis ability — I was able to hit with professionals and college players. Through determination and sticking to the principle of improvement, I have overcome double vision, complete loss of eye-hand coordination (e.g., missing a simple ball), balance problems so poor that the court felt as if I was on a boat, and a total lack of focus in terms of construction of points (e.g., I wouldn't remember what I was doing after I hit the ball). This has improved to a point of attaining an extremely high level of play. Although my high-level competitive focus is still not at 100% due to the ongoing challenges of my brain injury, my primary focus is not competitive tennis. I am directed to passing on my skills through Good Neighbor Tennis Outreach to adults and children for both competitive and recreational tennis with certain types of brain injury and disabilities. This leads to learning in recovery while having fun! In the end, the effort you make is equal to the functionality you'll get! Please visit my website or call me at (770) 650-9609.

I also have a support group called the Brain Injury Tele-Conference Support Group with sessions held twice monthly on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, from 7 PM to 8 PM We can help with coping strategies for those who aren't able to travel to or have the means to reach onsite groups.

Melissa Durand

Melissa is a former Shepherd Center brain injury patient. She was in a serious head-on collision on her way to church. Read Melissa's amazing story in Shepherd's Spinal Column, Return to Practicing Dentistry (PDF), about her determination and hard work in rehabilitation which enabled her to return to her practice as a dentist.

Bryan Durio

Bryan was in a serious car wreck in 1979 when he was only 19 years old, and his whole world was turned upside-down. He spent five weeks in a coma with a severe brain stem injury, and his left side was paralyzed. Years ago, brain injuries were not well understood or treated as aggressively as they are today. Bryan received basic therapy but very little help otherwise while recovering from his brain injury. Beating the odds, Bryan went on to get a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and had a successful career in computer programming. He continues to work in various other capacities. Bryan is also an avid volunteer as a Peer Visitor at Shepherd Center's Acquired Brain Injury Unit, Shepherd Center's Neurospecialty Unit, Shepherd Pathways, Northeast Georgia Medical Center Acute Inpatient, and Northeast Georgia Medical Center's Outpatient Regain program. He does a phenomenal job as the webmaster for the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association®. Check out Bryan's personal Survivor Story and read his mom's daily progress notes throughout Bryan's six weeks in the hospital.

Chris Falco

Chris is a great Brain Injury Peer Visitor in Naples, Florida at Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Rehabilitation. He is a living example of hope to other brain injury survivors that "you can make it." He is also successfully working part time at Home Depot. Chris had an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) in his brain. Read about Chris's diagnoses in the beginning from a family member, Nadine.

Randal Flutur

Randal is a brain injury survivor of 27 years from an auto accident. His life drastically changed on that day. He says that living with a brain injury is "like living with an unforgiving enemy that requires and demands that you be its constant and forever companion." Read his survivor story, and buy his book, The Stanger Inside of Me.

Richard Garneau

Richard is a motorcycle accident survivor who is giving back to others by being a Brain Injury Peer Visitor. Read Richard's story, including having his belief system changed from non-believing to a recognition of God's role in our lives.

TJ Glavin

TJ Glavin is the Action Sports Star/Host of The Challenge. This video shows TJ performing a stunt on his bike — and then crashing, incurring extreme brain trauma. TJ encourages all brain-injured and all disabled individuals to recognize the disability, respect the ability, and imagine the possibility

Geo Gosling

Geo was in a serious bicycle accident when he was 25 years old. Geo's experiences led him to write two books, TBI Hell and TBI Purgatory. In Geo's own words, "These books are in no way medical. They are not Rah! Rah! Work hard and everything will be fine! They are just me telling about all of the trials and tribulations that I have had to — and continue to — endure as a result of having an injured brain." Read Geo's story and click the links above to read about and buy Geo's two TBI books.

DuWayne Hall

DuWayne, a mental health worker in a hospital Psych ward, was an avid motorcycle rider who one day had to lay down his bike to avoid a car that pulled out in front of him. He incurred massive injuries, both external and internal, and required years of therapy. Having to relearn how to perform everyday tasks and basically how to live again, ten years later he slipped and broke his neck. Eighteen years into his disability, he was hit by a truck when walking across a street. Read DuWayne's personal account of how his life has completely changed and how every day is a challenge for him as a TBI survivor.

Mark Halvorsen

A brain-injury survivor who fell from the roof of his screened-in porch May 1, 1999. Mark is a Peer Visitor for the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association® and is also the originator and leader of a extremely active brain injury support group called The Seminole Spirit. Mark started his group in January 2005 with his Speech Pathologist, Katherine T. Peyton. The Seminole Spirit is a language brain injury self-help group that works with people with aphasia. This group meets bimonthly on Fridays at Northbrook United Methodist Church's Scout House at 50 Houze Way in Roswell, Georgia. Call Mark at (404) 434-7452 for more information. Read The Seminole Spirit's mission statement and the schedule of meetings.

Mark also tells his story about his wonderful spouse and marriage in Stay the Course, the M&M Way.
Watch and hear Neurosurgeon Dr. David Miller, who saved Mark's life and saved the life of another Peer Visitor on our team, Bill Peet.

Eileen Harrison

Eileen, at age 20, was driving home from college when she was in a horrible car wreck that almost took her life. After numerous surgeries and lots of therapy, she is now a Brain Injury Peer Visitor at several hospitals, encouraging other brain injury survivors with her big smile, wit, and positive attitude. Read her story as told by her mom, Sue.

Scotty Hunt

A brain-injury survivor who was in a head-on collision. His parents were told to put Scotty in a nursing home. Read in Scotty's own words about his incredible recovery. Read his mom Wynell's story, and read about Wynell's book, Why Scotty?

Jessica Jones

Listening to the doctors and counselors in the brain-injured community sometimes has you wondering if recovery can ever take place. Well, read this wonderful recovery story about 14-year-old Jessica Jones recovering completely from a severe Traumatic Brain Injury resulting from a fall off a retaining wall.

Lisa Paige Kline

After years of battling headaches this young woman was partying one night, fell down, and couldn't get up. What everyone thought was just too much to drink turned out to be an aneurysm. Read Lisa's inspiring story, My Life After an Aneurysm.

Hadley Korn

Hadley was only 16 when a truck plowed into the car in which she and a friend were riding, and she suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as a broken neck, pelvis, and ribs. She spent months in a minimally conscious state and then emerged to the point where she could be rehabilitated. For the next three months, Hadley spent her days at Shepherd relearning everything — how to walk, talk, eat, count, and read. Read this article (PDF) in the Spring 2011 edition of Shepherd Center's Neurotransmitter about Hadley's remarkable recovery and her relentless drive to get on with her life!

Michael L.

On August 16th, 2009, Michael got a headache which he ignored at first. Throughout the next couple of days things went from bad to worse, and he found out at Emory Hospital he had a cavernous malformation in his basal ganglia. He never knew anything about it until it suddenly ruptured and resulted in a very slow version of a stroke. He has had an incredible recovery and is back at Kennesaw State University where he is a Junior majoring in Mathematics. His brain injury gave him a deep appreciation for life, and he would not have recovered as well as he did if he had not been optimistic. Michael's advice? Just keep a positive attitude always. His favorite quote is "Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be." — Eleanor Roosevelt. Read Michael's full story here.

Neil Ligon

Neil Ligon is a Brain Injury Peer Visitor at Shepherd Center and Grady. He won the 2012 Triumph Award, awarded by Walton Rehabilitation Health System during National Rehabilitation Week in September 2012. Neil is also an author of the book, The Detours (click to purchase), the story of his recovery after his brain injury. As stated by Deeds Publishing: "The Detours is a story of a man who, after surviving a severe traumatic brain injury, set out to rediscover who he once was and who he wanted to become. Neil states: I suffered a traumatic brain injury that August day, and the months of hospitals and rehabilitation that followed were just the beginning of my fight."

Read Neil's full story, and visit his book/advocacy Facebook page.

Allen London

An artist, Allen suffered severe damage a decade ago when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. What he went through shaped his goal in life to help others learn and develop their skills as artists. Read more about Allen's inspiring life.

Anne Margaret McKenzie

"It was a cycling accident, out of the blue, unpredictable, and like most events that bring trauma to the brain, not something I’d ever expect would happen to me. Unseen and unimaginable, Traumatic Brain Injury is an injury to the hidden and most essential part of yourself, a crippling injury which can compromise every aspect of your life, a triple whammy of cognitive, functional, and behavioural problems, and the fallout which hits you where it hurts — in your identity, your career and social performance, in your parenting skills, in your exercise program, your sense of self worth, and in the map you thought you had painted of your life."

Anne lives in New Zealand. She tells us her story and has written a wonderful book: The Brillance and the MADNESS — Letting Brain Injury Out of the Closet.

Click here to read more of Anne's story.
Here is her book's Facebook page.
Here is her ebook on Amazon.com.
Here is Anne's website, where she runs a blog on rehabilitation.

Randy Mallory

"In April 2008 Randy experienced a traumatic motorcycle accident that changed his life. It made him realize he had been given a new chance in life, and reaffirmed for him the importance of family. A near-death experience while in the hospital made him realize his life had purpose, and as a result, he is now sharing his message . . ."

Go to Randy's website at www.beatingadversity.com to read more about Randy and to read about his book: Beating Adversity — A Blueprint for Success in Life.

Rodney Noll

Have you ever experienced a situation where you knew something was wrong, but it wasn't obvious enough to know that it was a very serious situation immediately? Have you had to face a brain surgery with the uncertainty of what the results would be? Are you post-serious brain injury and now on the road of healing and adapting that seems endless and uncertain? Perhaps my brain injury story can be helpful to you in some way.

RoseAnn Olson

Currently on the Peer Visiting team at the Shepherd Center and Shepherd Pathways, RoseAnn drowned while snorkeling in 2006. She is a wife and mom of 2 children. Read more about RoseAnn's remarkable steps to recovery on her CaringBridge page.

Kevin Pearce

Kevin was a champion snowboarder who was about to enter the Winter Olympics. He was training when his snowboard caught on the ice and his head was slammed into it when he fell (he was wearing a helmet that saved his life) — but he says his life is 360 degrees different now than before. He calls his TBI his Invisible Disability. Check out his YouTube video in which he points out aftereffects many TBI Survivors share. Also watch a very well done Australian HD story about Kevin.

Craig Phillips

In his own words, Craig J. Phillips is "a traumatic brain injury survivor, a master's level rehabilitation counselor, an educator, and a motivational/inspirational speaker with a message of hope." Craig's traumatic brain injury occurred in 1967, when he was 10 years old. He underwent brain surgery. "Rehabilitation did not exist in 1967 for brain injury, thus he had to teach himself how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences." His very informative website is Second Chance to Live, and his story is on the My About Page.

Diane Quimby

Diane is currently on our Peer Visiting team at the Shepherd Center; she was in a horrendous car wreck 5 years ago and has had over 35 surgeries. Diane is a wife and mother of 2 children, and she has authored a book on brain injury, Head Lights For Dark Roads: Packing Humor and Hope for the Unexpected Trip Through Traumatic Brain Injury.

Saul Raisin

On April 4, 2006, at the age of 23, Saul crashed in a professional bicycle race. He fell into a coma, sustaining substantial bodily damage and a traumatic brain injury. His outlook was bleak. Medical professionals did not know if he would survive, and if he did, what kind of life he would lead. Read more about Saul's remarkable comeback and mission in life, the Raisin' Hope Foundation.

Derek Rogers

On Thursday April 9, 2009, Derek was involved in a near-fatal car crash while driving his mom's SUV. Read more about Derek on his CaringBridge page.

David Scott

David was injured in a motorcycle accident when he was only 17 years old. He was not expected to live nor recover. His mom, Deanna, has written David's story in the book Reconstructing David. Read David's own story where he looks back at his life, 25 years after his accident. He also has insightful comments about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' recovery and the media's failure to truthfully portray brain injury and its real effects.

Mark Selman

At a picnic, Mark's wife, Sherri, noticed that he stopped talking, was sweating, and was slumped to one side. She immediately realized that her husband was having a stroke. Fortunately, he was rushed to a hospital where he was given tPA, a blood-clot-busting drug, and transferred to Piedmont Hospital. He had an occluded artery that was blocked by the blood clot. Thanks to the entire stroke team at Piedmont Hospital, he made a remarkable recovery in the next few days. Read the article about Mark (PDF) that appeared in the Winter 2010-11 edition of Piedmont Profiles. Ann Boriskie, Director of the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Program®, had the privilege to Peer Visit both Mark and Sheri when Mark was a patient in Piedmont's Neurosciences Unit.

Valerie Jo Smith

Valerie Jo Smith, a mother of two infants, suffered a closed head injury resulting in a stroke and left hemiplegia after an automobile accident on August 14, 1989. Read Valerie's story of how her faith in God and his will for her life — and her strong personal determination — carried her through her recovery process, the raising of her children, and the making of a new life plan for herself.

Charles Stanley

I want to give back, by being a mentor for someone going through stroke, never never give up. On Feb. 20, 2012 when life throws you a curve ball, I never thought it would happen to me, ability to walk, read, write, speak, or comprehend, it was hard and fearful, but with God, miracles happen. Heb. 13:5 I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. Three days in I.C.U., four weeks in rehabilitation center at Southern Regional Medical Center, I hope my video will encourage others, that through the storms of life, you can make it, quitting is not an option.

Kristin Stansell

Kristin was in an automobile accident in Scotland where she attended school. Considered a medical rarity, during her initial recovery she found that she could no longer hear and yet she "heard" loud noises through amplified sounds from her PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) which is becoming less with time. Communication is a problem for her because although she can lip-read a little, she found she could only communicate with her parents. Read Kristin's optimistic account of her incredible journey in her new world.

Wes Varda

Hello. On December 11, 2008 I had a brain stem stroke which rendered me "locked in". As of today, I have had an amazing recovery and am back to doing a lot of the everyday things I enjoy. Read more about Wes and watch a YouTube video of Wes's incredible recovery.

Molly Welch

Molly, a student a Auburn, was driving along a highway in Alabama in early February 2008 when she collided with an oncoming truck. She sustained a severe brain injury and remained in ICU for three weeks. She was then transferred to Shepherd Center, where she underwent multiple rigorous therapies, and she emerged a victorious young lady with great potential! Molly and her mom, Mary, are now Peer Visitors at Shepherd Center. Read an article (PDF) that appeared in the fall 2008 edition of the Spinal Column chronicling a week in Molly's life at Shepherd.