Happy New Year | Reflections on an Amazing 2016

I wanted to take a moment to reflect back on all that I experienced and accomplished in 2016. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of all that we have done in the past 12 months, and I wanted to be sure I documented it all for my “memory”!

My year started off pretty amazing as I received a silver medal in the Midwest Book Awards for my first book “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal”.

I spoke to about a dozen different local Rotary groups about my experience in an effort to raise continued awareness about TBI.

In March I headed to Washington DC for Brain Injury Awareness Day at the Nation’s Capitol, thanks to my many donors through GoFundMe and offline who helped cover my expenses! I was joined by my fellow TBI friends — new and old. While I was in DC I took the opportunity to speak to about a dozen groups including Argosy University, the ADAPT Clubhouse, and Brain Injury Services. And of course, no trip to DC is complete without a day of fun touring the monuments (thanks Paul!). 

In June and July I took an incredible road trip out West where I spent some time with fellow survivor Peter and his amazing wife Sarah in Los Angeles. I spoke to a group in Ventura, before heading to Arizona for a few days where I spoke to the We’re Moving Forward group, Health South, and the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona. (I want to make sure I take a moment to thank those who were generous enough to offer me a place to stay, take me out for meals, and help with many of my expenses on this trip ….. you all know who you are!) 

In September I began my journey back to wellness after I started treatment with Dr. Jeremy Schmoe at MFNC Brain Rehabilitation in Minneapolis. Within two weeks he had my vision, dizzy, and balance issues under control!

In October I was a presenter at the Minnesota Bloggers Conference talking about “Blog to Book”.

I launched my second book in November, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength and Inspiration” which is an anthology — a collection of 87 stories written by survivors and caregivers from across the globe. This book was published in collaboration with 197 backers on Kickstarter who raised the funding needed to edit, format, design, print, and ship the book!!! 

In December I was a presenter at the Texas Brain Injury Symposium in Austin, Texas and met some amazing vendors and fellow survivors, as well as healthcare professionals.

Throughout the course of the year I continued contributing to the Huffington Post, and also had articles published in: Yoga Life Magazine, The Challenge, Wagazine, and I also contributed to three separate anthologies (2 on brain injury, and 1 by a NY Times best selling author!).

I was a guest on WCCO radio several times, as well as Sun Sounds of Arizona while I was in Phoenix. I had a television appearance on a local tv show:  “It’s a Woman’s World” and also had a lot of media coverage in local newspapers.

I was a part of four different online business summits, all bringing my experience of TBI, running my business, and writing a book — with the message of how to turn a trauma into something bigger than myself as an advocate.

In my business, I had numerous new coaching clients that I had the honor of helping achieve their goals, after not being able to work for almost two years!!

My podcast series has consistently had over 1,000 listeners each month, and I had some amazing guests on my show including Ben Utecht and Cyndy Feasel.

Overall, 2016 pretty much kicked ass. My TBI message is being heard across the world through all different mediums, and I know that if my story affects even just one person, I have done my job!!

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement! It is because of YOU that I keep doing what I do, even when the haters start talking loudly and call me names. I know that I am doing good in the world, and won’t stop until the Universe tells me it’s time to turn over the reigns!!

Look out 2017: Washington DC or BUST!!


Meet Karla | Faces of Traumatic Brain Injury

karlaName: Karla J. Stento
Fort Myers, FL

Date of your TBI: October 3, 2016

How did your TBI happen: I had a headache for a couple weeks. It wasn’t anything serious so I thought. By the 10th day it got worse. On a Saturday night I wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. l woke up in the middle of the night and fell out of bed flat on my face. I hoisted myself up and remember my leg felt funny and was dragging as my head was pounding. I went back to sleep and slept most of Sunday. My fiance, Kristin woke me up and kept asking me if I was okay. I just wanted to sleep. Monday morning I went to the walk in clinic and they immediately sent us to the ER. Upon arrival I began feeling things I never felt before in my head and body. I was taken for a CT Scan where I was diagnosed with a half dollar size brain bleed and I had suffered a stroke. I remember telling the Dr. he had the wrong patient and was crazy as I just had a bad headache. I was made aware the headaches were caused by the cerebral hemorrhage and I was having a stroke the prior day and a half and never even knew it. I do however, remember when everything stopped working shortly after the scans.

What has been your biggest challenge post-TBI: My biggest challenge has been learning to do everything all over again. I’m left hand dominant and my brain injury and stroke affected my left side. I’m a type A personality, always going a hundred miles an hour, doing 50 things at once, very independent and always in control. Now, I have no control over a lot of what my brain is doing and thinking, my speech is slow, my memory is pretty bad and I have no feeling in my left hand, arm, left leg or foot. I’m learning every day how to do everything I was taught as a child. It’s a struggle, but I’m fighting every day! 

What has been your biggest blessing post-TBI: My biggest blessing first and foremost is that I’m alive, I survived! Without the unconditional love and support of my amazing fiance and family, I’m not sure where I would be today. I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love, support, cards, emails, texts everyday from even people as far back as elementary school. While there was no underlying cause for my injury, I am beyond blessed for who I am today and the loving people surrounding me daily!

What is your biggest piece of advice to other TBIers and loved ones: My biggest piece of advice is to love yourself no matter what! Be patient and have courage, you got this! Tell your loved ones we may not be the same person we were prior to our injury, and have a different brain now, but love us for who we are today. I would also like other TBIers and loved ones know that you will love this journey and the “new” me, and if you want to see us fly, take my hand and follow along next to me on this journey.

What do you do to relax: I like to laugh and take lots of naps.

What do you do for fun: I like to read, play fun brain and board games.

What is your least-favorite household chore that stresses you out: Being anal, very neat and organized, I love a clean house. When you have a huge house that’s all tile, sweeping and mopping now takes days to do!

Would YOU like to be featured on our blog?? Fill out this online form: https://goo.gl/forms/hgDam3WzvFrNQOaV2

Meet Joanne R | Faces of Traumatic Brain Injury |

joanneName: Joanne Ritchey
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Date of your TBI: December 16, 2011

How did your TBI happen: A metal sign about the size of my hand fell on my head in a store while I was Christmas Shopping.

What has been your biggest challenge post-TBI: Headaches, short term memory loss, limited focus and concentration.

What has been your biggest blessing post-TBI: Finding online TBI support groups and learning about TBI’s.

What is your biggest piece of advice to other TBIers and loved ones: Rest. Learn to listen to your symptoms and rest. Loved ones, remind your survivor to rest. Sounds silly, but it easy to forget that your brain needs rest to heal.

What do you do to relax: When I am feeling well enough I go on long walks with my dog. When I need to rest, just sitting on the couch with my pup has been relaxing and healing.

What do you do for fun: It’s sounds strange, but I feel like I have forgotten how to have fun. I am working on it.

What is your least-favorite household chore that stresses you out: Putting laundry away. I find it overwhelming to sort and organize the laundry to be put away.

Would YOU like to be featured on our blog?? Fill out this online form: https://goo.gl/forms/hgDam3WzvFrNQOaV2

WCCO Radio Interview | CTE TBI NFL | Dr. Jeremy Schmoe & Amy Zellmer

wcco-with-bookThis weekend I had the immense pleasure of being a guest on Roshini Rajkumar’s “News and Views” segment on WCCO 830AM talk radio.

I was accompanied by my amazing doc — Dr. Jeremy Schmoe — of MFNC Brain Rehabilitation in Minneapolis. He has been a critical part of my healing process and I was honored to share the spotlight with him.

I have been a guest on Roshini’s show numerous times, and it is always such a pleasure to be able to advocate TBI awareness. We talked in this episode about CTE, the NFL, and traumatic brain injury. Jeremy offered a lot of great medical information, and I offered my point of view as a survivor.WCCO Roshini Rajkumar

Our segment is about 20 minutes long, so go ahead and take a listen below and leave some comment love!!




The TBI Gift Giving Guide

giftguideWhether you have a friend, co-worker, loved one, or simply want to treat yourself as a survivor — I have created The TBI Gift Giving Guide just for you!!
Each of the items on the list have been hand picked by me and most have been created by fellow TBI survivors — I am all about supporting each other in this community! (there are a few “products” on the list that I use every day and highly recommend)
Of course, I have to start off the list with my own book because I really truly do believe in it and feel that it should be required reading for all healthcare professionals, students, caregivers, and survivors. You can find all of my other book suggestions HERE.

3. I Am Yours CD – by Cristabelle Braden
4. TBI Healing Box – by Grace Quantock
5. Mighty No Bitey bug spray – by Teri See
6. LoveYourBrain – by Kevin Pearce
7. Still On TBI – by Carissa Nielsen
FREEBIE ALERT!! Here is a list of FREE magazines and podcasts that anyone is sure to enjoy!!
1. TBI Hope & Inspiration Magazine – by David Grant
2. The Challenge! Magazine – by the Brain Injury Association of America
3. Faces of TBI Podcast series – by Amy Zellmer
** note: some links listed above may be affiliate links **

Meet David R | Faces of Traumatic Brain Injury

davidName: David Rowlands
Sydney New South Wales AUSTRALIA

Date of your TBI: March 2009

How did your TBI happen: A motor vehicle turned across my path while I was riding my bicycle. My skull was fractured and I sustained bruising to my right frontal lobe

What has been your biggest challenge post-TBI: chronic fatigue

What has been your biggest blessing post-TBI: Learning songwriting, singing and playing guitar

What is your biggest piece of advice to other TBIers and loved ones: Never give up. There is always hope in recovery

What do you do to relax: sing my songs

What do you do for fun: Go to live music venues and dance

What is your least-favorite household chore that stresses you out: Cleaning

Would YOU like to be featured on our blog?? Fill out this online form: https://goo.gl/forms/hgDam3WzvFrNQOaV2

Radio Interview | Sun Cloud Studios of Arizona |

2016-07-07-12-09-07You may recall that this summer I took a month long roadtrip to the West coast. While I was in Arizona, I had the pleasure to go into the Sun Cloud Studios and record an interview with host Judy.

We talked for 30 minutes about my book, my advocacy efforts, how to help someone with a TBI, and so much more. The interview finally aired this month, and it turned out absolutely AMAZING! I am totally impressed with how it turned out, and of course, I didn’t remember a thing we had talked about LOL so it was great to finally hear it!

There are a few notable shout-outs in the interview: 
Dr. Fred
Healing Boxes
Miss Oregon — Ali Wallace
My book Editor — Connie Anderson
The TBI Tribe 

LISTEN to the interview:


A huge thank you to everyone at Sun Cloud Studios who made this interview possible, and to Ronda at We’re Moving Forward for driving me to all of my appointments while I was in the Phoenix area!! As well as to the Arizona Brain Injury Alliance for their support. I had a truly wonderful experience, and can’t wait to visit again!

Really funny side-note: In the interview (which was taped in July) she asked me if I had plans for a 2nd book. At the time, I did — but it was a totally different idea than what actually manifested in August!! Who knew the wild ride I was about to embark on with the Anthology!!

2016-07-07-13-05-04 2016-07-07-12-57-59 2016-07-07-12-24-22

Meet May M. | Faces of Traumatic Brain Injury |

mayName: May Mutter

Date of your TBI: Feb 2013 (x4)

How did your TBI happen: Curling feb 1 – slipped on ice and hit head on curling rock Volleyball x2 feb 14 – spiked in the head, hit hard floor Volleyball feb 21 – continued playing, doctors say just the movement and diving around at that point caused another one.

What has been your biggest challenge post-TBI: Adapting to the new life and coming to terms with not being able to do what I used to do: work, social life, sports, most hobbies

What has been your biggest blessing post-TBI: Making the most of it and raising awareness through A Caged Mind Facebook.com/thecagedmind

What is your biggest piece of advice to other TBIers and loved ones: Communication, compassion, and compromise. Always talk about everything, even if you’re talked about it a million times before – both from the perspective of a TBIer and loved one. You have to understand what both are feeling in order to overcome this. As someone who’s dealing with people with concussions daily, I’ve seen a lot of break ups, and have come close to one myself, but it’s all about understanding what you’re BOTH feeling. And lastly: compromise. If, say, you two were social butterflies before, you can’t hole up and not emerge because of symptoms. I believe you need to compromise and do what you can handle, but to avoid going stir crazy, every once in a while do something fun even if it takes a few days to recover. I have found the headaches and symptoms are worth it for a week knowing I had a blast on Saturday night and so did my family. Don’t push it – pace, but don’t hole up entirely afraid of the world. It takes a while to get there, but don’t give up.

What do you do to relax: Yoga. A lot of restorative yoga and meditation. I also cook – I find the process is soothing even when I screw up consistently.

What do you do for fun: Board games. I have a few friends who come for dinner and know to take it easy on me, and I find board games are the easiest on my head (it also keeps everyone fairly quiet as they’re focusing on the game) so it’s not overwhelming.

What is your least-favorite household chore that stresses you out: Washing floors and tubs. It’s a lot of back and forth movement and pressure. I do, however, enjoy the washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen the day AFTER a messy dinner as it’s slow and calming.

Would YOU like to be featured on our blog?? Fill out this online form: https://goo.gl/forms/hgDam3WzvFrNQOaV2

Meet Amy P. | Faces of TBI

amypName: Amy Pilotte
Manchester, NH

Date of your TBI: 07/12/14

How did your TBI happen: In a Car accident. I was rear ended while at a dead stop
What has been your biggest challenge post-TBI: Accepting my New normal & navigating with the limited resources available

What has been your biggest blessing post-TBI: Be able to connect & find others who are going through or have been through this bc like they say “you really don’t know until you’ve been through it”

What is your biggest piece of advice to other TBIers and loved ones: Never Give Up~ Listen to your body, recovery is a ongoing process!

What do you do to relax: Yoga. Meditation. Journal. Listen to music

What do you do for fun: Try to stay as positive as I can & set little goals for myself

What is your least-favorite household chore that stresses you out: Laundry & Cooking~ anything with multiple tasks if A Big task for me/my brain
Would YOU like to be featured on our blog?? Fill out this online form: https://goo.gl/forms/hgDam3WzvFrNQOaV2

VA Sponsorship Opportunity

2015-12-07-21-44-25-1 Last year I had an amazing sponsor come through to donate copies of my book to the Minneapolis VA Hospital. I would love to make this happen again this year with the new book!!

With your sponsorship, we will be able to donate 30 books to the VA Hospital. A portion will go to the TBI support group that meets monthly, and a portion will go to new patients that come in with a TBI.

This is where I need YOUR HELP! I am seeking a sponsor to cover the $500 to make this Christmas Wish come true! Whether you’re able to give the whole amount, or a portion, it would be greatly appreciated. You can either be anonymous to the Vets, or I can create a beautiful silver foil label to place on each book that says “donated by XXX” with your name or company logo on it. (like the photo on the right from last year).2015-12-04-10-51-50

If you’re able to help make this a reality for the Minneapolis Vets, you can donate here: www.facesoftbi.com/donate 

Words can’t even describe how elated I know these Vets will be! Your support will go a long way towards making this a Merry Christmas for this group!!