Mommy of a Miracle: The Crash Reels

kristinToday’s blog post is part of a monthly feature called Mommy of A Miracle written by our mommy and caregiver blogger Kristin Olliney, the mother of seven-year-old Isabella, who suffered brain damage from sudden acute encephalitis at just four-and-a-half. In today’s post, Kristin discusses The Crash Reel, a documentary about US Snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who sustained a TBI while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. To contact Kristin, tweet @KristinOlliney.

The Crash Reel is a documentary about US snowboarder, Kevin Pearce who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  This film is a very real look at how, in an instant, everything can change and never be the same.  There is no sugar coating in this film; the emotions are raw, the pain is real, everyone is affected and life as it was is no more.

When I mention to people that I watched The Crash Reel, the most common question I am asked is, “Why would you watch this film when you live it every single day?”  My answer is that The Crash Reel is an inspirational film about how one survives a brain injury.   It shows a family that is transformed by brain injury and how their love helps with recovery.   The Crash Reel caused me to have a flood of memories, flashbacks and emotions.  I love this film.  Here are five reasons I think everyone (especially those who know or treat survivors) should watch this film:

  1.  Brain injuries really do happen to anyone, anywhere at any time.  Brain injuries do not discriminate.  One brain injury occurs every 18.5 seconds according to the CDC.  Kevin Pearce was at the height of his snowboarding career.  One minute he is training for the Winter Olympics.  The next minute Kevin is in the hospital clinging to life with a brain injury.  It really happens that fast.  With Isabella, one minute she was a preschooler celebrating Thanksgiving with her family and friends.  The next minute Isabella is in the hospital dying from sudden acute encephalitis. 
  2.  Brain injuries are not glamorous like they are portrayed in TV and movies.  A patient in a coma from a brain injury does not just have vent in their mouth and their head wrapped in gauze.  The reality is that seeing your loved one in a coma is terrifying.  Isabella was hooked up to 19 machines and a ventilator.  She had tubes everywhere and her lifeless body just lay in bed.  Like Kevin’s mother, Pia, I too climbed in bed with Isabella when she awoke.  As a mother who has just watched their child nearly die before their eyes, all you want is to hold her.  Isabella and Kevin had the same blank stare in their eyes.  They are awake and in their bodies somewhere, but it takes time to find them. 
  3.  Rehab and therapy are a lot of work.  It is an ongoing process filled with many emotions and tears.  I cried and cheered as I watched Kevin learning to walk and talk.  It is so inspiring to watch survivors regain their lives.  It is a daily battle to recover.  One that is filled with therapies, medical appointments and tests. 
  4. As I watched Kevin asking the doctors when he could snowboard again or how hard he had to hit his head before he died, I was not surprised at all.  Impaired judgement and impulsivity are two of the many side effects of brain injury.  This is why people who sustain a brain injury are 3 times more likely to sustain a second injury.  Those with a 2nd injury are 8 times more likely to sustain a 3rd brain injury.  Like Kevin’s family, I worry about the possibility of another brain injury.  Isabella miraculously survived the first one.  I am not sure she would survive another.  It is a terrifying thought. 
  5.  A brain injury can destroy you or it can empower you.  Kevin has accepted that his competitive snowboarding career is over.  However, Kevin has made brain injury advocacy and education his mission.  He fights everyday to recover.  Isabella also fights everyday to recover.  She has surpassed everyone’s expectations and she continues to defy the odds every day.  I have no doubt that both Kevin and Isabella will inspire other survivors. 

I highly recommend watching The Crash Reel.  Having lived this for almost three years, I had a rush of emotions.  I laughed, I cried, I cheered and I watched an amazing family pull together.  This is an inspiring, real-life look at how a brain injury affects everyone.  It is an invisible disability that has become a growing “silent epidemic.”  When faced with a brain injury, you can choose to be a victim or you can choose to be a survivor.  We are survivors.  What about you?


2 thoughts on “Mommy of a Miracle: The Crash Reels

  1. concussion mom

    what a great blog post. Thank you for sharing your experience – it really does help to know that we are not alone in all of this, and it can be a very long, arduous journey filled with many ups and many downs. I am almost 2 years into my daughter’s brain injury and it has definitely transformed our family. I felt the same way you did about the The Crash Reel, complete with a flood of emotions. Thanks again for the great post.



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