Now What? – A Journey Through TBI Recovery

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Five years ago, almost to the day, my life changed in a flash. And it changed dramatically. That is because I did something I had never in my life pictured myself doing. I completed a Triathlon!!! I crossed the finish line! And then, six weeks after that, my life again changed in a nanosecond.

The decision to stretch and do something that I had never in my life pictured myself doing (a Triathlon) came from a relentless feeling of helplessness. Have you ever been there? It’s the knowledge that there is nothing you have the power to do that will significantly change something or someone.

Before my decision to compete in the Iron Girl, I was in a place of helplessness and hopelessness. It was 10 years that my sister lived with stage four lung cancer, interstitial cystitis, broken bones in her back, and migraines that plagued her most days. There was nothing I could do to make the cancer go away, or to mend the broken bones, or to release the agonizing pain from the interstitial cystitis and the migraines. I wanted to help her, to ease her pain, and I couldn’t.

Not being the type to just sit still, I came up with a plan that would help to keep my hopeless symptoms at bay. I decided to train for a Triathlon that would be a fundraiser for my sister’s out-of-pocket medical expenses. I either ran, biked, or swam almost daily for months. I got stronger physically and friends and family were donating to my cause without hesitation. I crossed that finish line and I raised money for Karin. I had a feeling of triumph as I fell into Karin’s arms. She surprised me by showing up to the race to be there waiting for me at the finish line; using her walker that held extra tanks of oxygen. I was not able to take the cancer away but I was able to “do” something, and it was something for Karin!

After the Triathlon I decided to keep training. So, back out I went: running, biking, and swimming. On one of the biking days I realized the odometer on my bike was no longer working. I knew where there was a Bike Doctor, not far off the trail, and was heading over to ask someone to take a look at the bike. I had to cross a six lane highway separated by a large median strip of grass.

I crossed over the first three lanes and was waiting on the median strip to cross over the next three lanes. As I stood there, a car pulled up and stopped in the lane closest to me, only a few yards away. The woman waved at me to cross in front of her. I shook my head, and said out loud “no, PLEASE, you go”. She did not. She continued to wave her arm indicating she wanted me to pass in front of her. By this time, several cars were now behind this woman’s car. They all began to wave and blow their horns. I continued to stand firm that I would not go, and that they needed to proceed. The seconds continued to click away, and then the second lane of traffic slowed to a stop. So, now I had two lanes of cars stopped; waving at me and blowing their horns that I should go across. I finally surrendered and began to walk my bike quickly over the lanes.

The third lane was wide open, except for the car that was traveling 50+ miles an hour, and did not see me. That car hit me. I was thrown 30 feet and sustained multiple injuries, including broken bones, ligaments and muscles all along the right side of my body. I also suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

I was flown to Shock Trauma in Baltimore MD and admitted to the resuscitation unit. Surgery was scheduled immediately, in order for me not to lose my leg. First my life, and then my leg, was saved by the outstanding work of the surgical teams at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. While in the acute rehabilitation hospital, I had to complete three hours of rehabilitation therapy a day, six days a week. There were days when the pain and exhaustion were so intense I wanted the nurses to let me stay in bed for the day.

Then, I would remember how many people were out there pulling for me, praying for me, sending me healing energy. I would kick myself in the butt and tell myself to get the hell out of bed. How could I let anyone down by being so lazy? Well, because I had a cast on my right leg, an external fixator on my right arm, a brace on my left arm, and staples going from the top of my head to my neck. That’s why!!!! Nope, not good enough. You can’t have everyone out there praying and rallying for you, and sit around doing nothing. I needed to believe in myself and to work, and work hard! I needed to get out of bed and get into that gym for my three hours of therapy.

About 1 ½ years into the recovery, I got back out on the trail; not on the bike, but definitely by foot. As friends and family learned that I was back on the trail, I would frequently get comments about how wonderful it was that I was back to jogging. My standard response was to explain that I wouldn’t exactly call it a jog; maybe more of a hobble-jog because I continued to have a limp in the right leg.

Then, one day when I was out on a hobble-jog, it hit me that any one of us might at some point in our lives need to hobble-jog. Whether it is physical, emotional, relational, or psychological – we might have to hobble-jog. It also hit me that needing to hobble-jog did not preclude me from crossing the finish line. I may not run as fast as I once did, but that does not mean I can’t keep moving forward and eventually get there.

At about the same time I was beginning my hobble-jog thinking, I was also hounding myself on a regular basis with questions: Why am I here? Why didn’t I stay dead? I wouldn’t be here if there was not something I am supposed to be doing, but what is it??? I woke up asking myself these questions, and I went to sleep asking them again. I finally had a few friends I used to call my more “woo-woo” friends start telling me that I needed to stop making so much noise about it. If I could learn to slow down and reduce the vibrations surrounding my body and spirit, it might show up. “Just be quiet Susan, and if there is a message, it will get through!”

As I thought more about the hobble-jog analogy, I decided that I wanted to do something with all the learning that had taken place as a result of my near death experience. I wanted to encourage and support others who felt as I did when I was in that bed aching from head to toe, not wanting to face anything beyond the walls of that hospital room. Even more importantly, I wanted to find answers to the huge question I asked after 12 months of rehabilitation therapy for my brain injury, “Now What???!!!!”. The fact that casts and braces are removed from arms and legs does not mean the brain injury is healed. Once I reduced the panic I felt while searching for answers, the solution came to me. In 2016, HobbleJog Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit was launched with the mission statement: HobbleJog Foundation Supports Teens and Young Adults Recovering from Neurological Trauma, Inspiring them to Reach Their Full Potential. In the first two years, we presented three grants which provide funds to what may be one of the answers to the “Now What” question. My vision is that persons in recovery from a TBI will not find themselves unable to continue their recovery following acute treatment.

Unique HobbleJog Gift Helps Young Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

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via The Pikesville Patch

Susan M. Hahn, founder and president of the HobbleJog Foundation, a Maryland-based nonprofit supporting teens and young adults recovering from neurological trauma, presented the nonprofit’s first-ever grant to help fund LifeBridge Health‘s RETURN! Brain Injury Community Re-Entry Program. A check in the amount of $10,000 was presented today to Neil Meltzer, CEO of LifeBridge Health, along with members of the organization’s Brain Injury Services of Sinai Hospital team. Hahn said, “We are very pleased to support the RETURN! program, as it aligns directly with HobbleJog’s mission.”

Maryland-Based Nonprofit Helps Provide Leading-Edge Technology Supporting Teens and Young Adults Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Susan M. Hahn, founder and president of the HobbleJog Foundation, a Maryland-based nonprofit supporting teens and young adults recovering from neurological trauma, presented the nonprofit’s first-ever grant to help fund LifeBridge Health’s RETURN! Brain Injury Community Re-Entry Program. A check in the amount of $10,000 was
presented today to Neil Meltzer, CEO of LifeBridge Health, along with members of the organization’s Brain Injury Services of Sinai Hospital team. Hahn said, “We are very pleased to support the RETURN! program, as it aligns directly with HobbleJog’s mission.”

A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivor and two-time Iron Girl triathlete, Hahn suffered a near-death experience after being hit by a car while walking her bike across a highway in 2013. Following 12 months of hospitalization, in-patient rehabilitation and outpatient therapies, she was released from care. However, she realized that symptoms from the brain injury continued and that experience lead to her exploration of resources and services for TBI sufferers who need longer-term rehabilitation. In July 2016, Hahn formed HobbleJog Foundation with a focus on supporting the uniquely vulnerable population of adolescents and young adults with brain injuries. Hahn emphasizes, “You can’t see a brain injury. People around you do not know you are struggling– possibly struggling more than ever before in your life. When casts come off your arms and legs, that does not mean the symptoms of the brain injury have gone away.”

Mark Huslage, LCSW-C, CBIST, Coordinator of Brain Injury Programs, LifeBridge Health, said, "The RETURN! Brain Injury Program at Sinai Rehabilitation Center is honored to be the first recipient of the HobbleJog Foundation Grant. This generous award will help establish the iPad Initiative, a program which uses Apple technology and selected applications to help RETURN! clients compensate for challenges in their memory and organizational skills. HobbleJog grant monies will be used to pay for both iPads and applications for young adults admitted into RETURN!. All of us here involved with RETURN! are grateful to HobbleJog Foundation President Susan Hahn for both her generosity to us and the Maryland brain injury community. HobbleJog on!"

The RETURN! program, part of Brain Injury Services of Sinai Hospital, provides participants with a variety of strategies and resources to help them cope with various TBI challenges. A new highlight of the program provides participants with a suite of electronic apps, known as the BEST Suite, proven to improve time management, memory, energy, decision-making and self- regulation—some of the most common challenges for brain injury survivors. Many users of these apps consider them “essential cognitive prosthetics.” Patients learn how to maximize the benefits of the apps while participating in the day treatment program.  [See “About BEST Suite” below for details.] For patients who do not own handheld electronic devices to operate the apps, HobbleJog Foundation’s grant will fund the purchase of iPads.

About HobbleJog Foundation Founded in 2016, Maryland-based HobbleJog Foundation was formed to provide support for teens and young adults recovering from neurological trauma, inspiring them to reach their full potential. The foundation provides funding to qualified organizations to assist them in achieving their goals for support services to designated individuals.

About LifeBridge Health LifeBridge Health is comprised of Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and subsidiaries and affiliated units, including LifeBridge Health & Fitness. Sinai, Northwest and Carroll hospitals are acute-care general hospitals with complementary clinical centers of excellence. For more information, visit www.lifebridgehealth.org.

About BEST Suite Many individuals struggle with goal-setting, self-regulation, and energy conservation/fatigue management as they transition and adapt to life after a brain injury. These difficulties often cause loss of self-esteem and confidence as well as put strain on relationships with caregivers. The BEST Suite of apps helps with these daily challenges.

Susan Hahn’s near-death experience led to a nonprofit partnership that’s helping Baltimore-area youth – SmartCEO

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via SmartCEO

On October 14, 2013, Susan Hahn was hit by a car traveling more than 50 miles an hour. She had to be flown to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center to be resuscitated, and underwent multiple surgeries to bones, muscles and tendons. She had also suffered a traumatic brain injury.

As Hahn began the long, slow road to recovery, she started to ask herself some questions: “Why am I here? Why didn’t I stay dead? What am I supposed to be doing?”

Hahn eventually found the answer to those questions by launching a nonprofit, the HobbleJog Foundation, and embarking on a comprehensive, yearlong collaboration with Good Shepherd Services, a Halethorpe-based residential treatment center for adolescents suffering from severe emotional and behavioral problems. That collaboration, while still in its early stages, is already beginning to change lives.

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HobbleJog Foundation’s Inaugural Nonprofit Partner: Good Shepherd Services of Maryland

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One year after bike accident, recovering woman looks for closure – The Capital Gazette | Nov. 2014

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via The Capital Gazette

Drivers stopped in traffic opened their doors and swarmed the body bent on the ground.

She didn’t have a name. She was 443.

Shana Rogers, an ex-police officer who lives in Glen Burnie, was one of the half-dozen people who rushed to the body. Rogers put 443’s hand in her hand. She could see bone sticking out of her leg. Her helmet was split open.

“Dear Lord Jesus, please just help this woman,” Rogers prayed.

Four forty-three didn’t make it that day to Bike Doctor, the shop a short distance from the accident scene where she was planning to get her odometer fixed.

It wasn’t until workers from the shop saw the number “443” on her helmet that authorities figured out who she was. She had completed the Iron Girl Columbia 2013 two months earlier, and that was her number.

“It was sort of a reminder of her accomplishment,” said Joy Goldman, who trained with her for that sprint race. “That’s how they identified her.”

Susan.