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About My New Normal

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post. At 59, in great health and working full-time as a copy editor for AARP, Suzanne was planning a trip to London to celebrate her 60th birthday, when everything changed. She experienced a series of seemingly unrelated health complications... Read more

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The ABCs of Brain Injury: V Is for Voices in Brain Injury Recovery

Carole Starr | Suzanne Tobin

Follow the winding path of my journey of brain injury recovery, an amazing and life-changing experience…

In 2017, I attended the annual conference of the Brain Injury Association of Maryland for the second time.

The closing keynote speaker was  Carole J Starr. A brain injury survivor, she talked about her new book, entitled To Root & To Rise: Accepting Brain Injury.   After hearing her keynote in March, I ordered the book through her website.

A resident of Maine,  at the time of the car accident that caused her brain injury on July 6, 1999, she was a 32-year-old freelance corporate trainer and an amateur classical musician.

In the confusing months and years that followed, Carole realized that her life had been permanently altered.

She needed a new purpose, so in 2010 she and her mentor Bev Bryant founded Brain Injury Voices, an award-winning survivor education, advocacy and peer mentoring volunteer group.   Carole started writing her book in 2005 and finished it in 2017. And if you are a skeptic about what brain injury survivors can accomplish, look at what their  group has accomplished since 2010.

In her book, she recounts her 17-year journey to the “new life” she’s created to help other brain injury survivors, as an author, brain injury advocate and keynote speaker.  She talked about the “old Carole” and the “new Carole.”

Afterward, I went up to her and told her that I wanted to be her when I grew up from my brain injury; my symptoms began July 8, 2013. In my brain injury support group, we joke that  we are only as old as our years since the brain injury, so I’m only 5 now, and her book has helped me move closer to acceptance of my “new life” in the last year.

Her book was only available in print, but not in an audiobook or MP3 format that I could listen to, which is the way I have been “reading” since I realized that I could no longer have the brain power  between my eyes and my brain required to read and comprehend the written word. It is just too exhausting. Audiobooks work much better for me now.

Little did I know that just a few months later, I would have all the time I needed to study her book, as she intended, in my own way. (More on that in my next post. Watch this space.)

In the comments section below, I’d love to hear any recommendations on how other survivors and caregivers   nurture hope in your “new life.”

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About Suzanne Tobin

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post.

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