Stephanie Hutton is on a mission to raise awareness that a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is very real—even though it can’t be seen. “Because mTBI has no visible symptoms, sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand,” she explains. “It’s so frustrating when people say ‘But you look great,’ after I tell them I have a brain injury.”
In 2011 Stephanie was working in Ottawa launching a radio station when a bicycle accident left her with a broken hand, a black eye and and a mTBI, also known as a concussion. Not understanding the implications of a concussion, she floundered for 1-1/2 years, trying to work. “I thought I was losing my mind—I didn’t connect my headaches, brain fog and dizziness to the accident.”
Stephanie moved back to London and ironically, on the very day she was to start receiving concussion care at Parkwood Institute’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) program, a sign fell on her head resulting in a second concussion.
In the ABI program, therapists are helping Stephanie learn to cope with her mTBI. “When the rest of the world feels cold and harsh, the ABI team is like a cocoon,” she says. ”Their thorough understanding of ABIs and what it takes to help you get your life back is priceless.”
Some coping strategies Stephanie has adopted include living at a much slower pace, removing herself from over-stimulating situations, and following a cognitively demanding task like grocery shopping with a less cognitively tiring task like doing laundry.
Now 33, Stephanie is a peer mentor and is on the board of the Brain Injury Association of London and Region, and volunteers at Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care by visiting residents with her dog Misha. With physical fitness a priority, she’s also teaching classes at a local fitness facility.
During her treatments, Stephanie met others with a mTBI who shared her frustration about the lack of empathy for their condition, and decided to do something about it. Having worked in radio and TV for 10 years, she approached colleagues at Rogers TV who helped her make an impactful public service announcement to create a broader understanding about the face of brain injuries. Others with a mTBI also participated in the video. “I can only dream this video will help others on this confusing brain healing journey.”
Watch Stephanie’s I am the face of brain injury video:
View the 'I am the face of brain injury' video on YouTube.