Tag Archives: #inspiration

First Day of Second Grade – Mommy of a Miracle

One of the hardest decisions on Isabella’s journey has been the decision to homeschool her.  It was honestly something that I never even thought of or considered until her medical team recommended it last year. The decision to homeschool was one of the hardest I have ever made. I knew it was the right choice for Isabella.  When it comes to her I will do anything to help.

Last year, once Isabella realized that we were going to do “work” at home she excelled.  Isabella loves to learn and that smile just lights up the room.  As Isabella’s regression set in, the one thing that she was consistent in was her “work”.   I was so happy that Isabella continued to thrive academically.  When the Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) stopped, Isabella quickly went from regressing to a downward spiral.  It was heartbreaking to watch Isabella lose skills that she had mastered and worked so hard to achieve.  It frustrated Isabella because she knew that she had already learned certain things and yet she was unable to remember.  As this past summer approached, Isabella and I worked every day to maintain what skills she still had in hopes of preventing further loss.  No matter how hard and challenging it was for Isabella, she was always excited to do her “work”.

As August approached, Isabella and I started talking about second grade “work”.  Isabella would ask with excitement about all the new things she would learn.  On Labor Day weekend we redid our “work” area in preparation for the “First Day of Second Grade”.   As I watched the excitement and joy in Isabella’s eyes, I thought this is how school is supposed to be for a second grader.  It is not supposed to be like last year- filled with terror, crying, screaming and aggression.  I always knew that I made the right decision but seeing that excitement in Isabella for second grade solidified my choice.

The “First Day of Second Grade” finally arrived.  Isabella was ready to do her “work” the moment her eyes opened.  I can’t express enough, how even though Isabella continues to regress in so many areas, it is a true blessing to see that her love for learning is still there. It continues to be our silver lining.  As we embark on another year of learning, I am excited to see how far Isabella will go.

Homeschooling was one of the hardest decisions on this journey and yet it has now become one of the best decisions.  In true Isabella fashion, she does things her way.  Isabella does not follow the path of everyone else, she is unique and likes to make her own path.  For that I am forever grateful.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGuest Blogger, Kristin Olliney-Apruzzese, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

Mommy of a Miracle – Faith

kristine & isabellaIn order to survive this journey through brain injury I think you need to have some sort of faith.  Faith is a very personal thing and yet when brain injury occurs it is often questioned more than ever.  Most people question their faith after a brain injury, but for me, it was quite the opposite.  You see before my daughter, Isabella, got sick with sudden acute encephalitis, I already had doubts about my faith.

The two years prior to Isabella’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I had helped care for my Nana who was dying from ALS.  I watched the woman that I called my Nana, who was more like a mother and best friend to me, suffer for about two years.  It was heartbreaking and it made me question my faith.   My Nana was one who always had a strong faith yet she was suffering.  At the same time that my Nana was dying, one of my best friends, Jillana, was losing her battle to an inoperable brain tumor.  Once again my faith was being questioned.  Jillana was a young athletic amazing person and yet she was suffering from this horrible brain tumor.  My Nana died Sept 2009 and Jillana died March 2010.  Within 6 months I had suffered two substantial losses.  I was angry and upset that two great people suffered and died.  I was questioning my faith; I was questioning everything that I had ever believed in.   I found myself searching for a reason to have faith because I no longer believed.  I didn’t believe in prayer because I prayed so much for them both.  I did not believe in people that claimed to have experienced miracles.  In my mind, people that claimed to have miracles were not telling the whole story and clearly something else played a hand in that “miracle”.

When Isabella got sick everything changed.  I found myself in the PICU watching my child dying before my eyes.  I was praying to anyone that was listening to please save my baby.  In that room I didn’t know what else to do so I prayed.  There was family, friends, acquaintances and strangers from all around the country praying for Isabella.  Then in the words of her doctors, a miracle happened.  Prayers were answered.  Not only did Isabella survive but she defied the odds.  Hearing doctors say that there is no medical explanation for her survival and that it is a miracle she is here, well, that gave me something to think about.  I had watched a miracle with my own eyes and there wasn’t more to the story as I had often suspected with others who claimed miracles.

As the hours turned to days then months and eventually years I could feel that my faith was returning.  I had faith to understand that the power of prayer really does work and miracles really do happen.  Not all prayers are answered how I want them to be but I now have faith that somehow some way things will work out.    Ironically that was something that my Nana had told me my whole life that I didn’t understand until Isabella got sick.

On this journey my faith has been tested over and over.  What I have found is that faith comes in all kinds of packages.  There is faith in the power of prayer, and faith in miracles.   I have faith that Nana and Jillana are our guardian angels, both never far from us.  Faith can also be found in doctors, therapists, friends, family, strangers and support groups.  Faith isn’t always this thing that is right in front of you; sometimes you have to really look for it.  Most importantly I have faith in Isabella and myself.  I know that together we can conquer any battle big or small.  After all faith helped us survive the unimaginable.

Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

26 Miles for Mom


Jonathan Korhonen will be running the 2014
Boston Marathon to bring awareness to brain injury in support of his mother.

On August 14, 2013 Annette Korhonen had a stroke, fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Over the past several months, she has endured time in the ICU and currently is in extended care in rehabilitation. She has battled through four brain surgeries, fought off cranial meningitis and endured a laundry list of procedures and issues as a result of her stroke and fall.

With her family by her side every step of the way, her son, Jonathan, has decided to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in her honor. Jonathan has always been an avid runner and his mother has always been his biggest supporter. He was in the midst of training for a marathon to qualify for Boston when his mom suffered her stroke. In order to run in the qualifier, Jonathan had to make the difficult decision of taking time away from being with his mother during the early stages of her care to run in a race over 8 hours away. He knew that she would want him to continue to pursue his dream of running the Boston Marathon. He qualified for Boston with thoughts of his mom on his mind, and quite literally, on his heart thanks to a specially designed racing jersey with her picture on it.

Jonathan is using this opportunity to run the 2014 Boston Marathon to raise money in support of his Mom as well as a way to raise awareness for the needs of the brain injury community. As he puts it, “It has been made clear that Mom’s recovery will require long-term care with significant and expensive costs that will not be covered by insurance. While I pray for Mom’s ability to recover, I also pray that the expense of care won’t prohibit us from giving Mom the opportunity to get better.” He has set a lofty goal of $50,000 and has committed to donating 50% of all the money he raises directly to the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts. Jonathan and his wife chose BIA-MA in part from a previous professional interaction Jonathan’s wife had with BIA-MA’s Information & Resources Department: The resources provided, whether it was housing options or educational materials, were always helpful, concise, and concrete. The best part was that the direct person she spoke with always followed up with an email a few months later to ensure that the resources were useful and to offer another helping hand if needed. BIA-MA’s robust advocacy efforts and the widespread footprint of their support groups is also one of their best features. “We are confident and happy to say that Mom will benefit from their resources and programs at some point throughout her journey.”

Stay tuned for our Facebook, Twitter and email updates regarding Jonathan’s training and marathon updates.

Lessons learned from Isabella

kristine & isabella
Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 7-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor. 

Sunday, February 23rd was Isabella’s 8th birthday.   Recently it occurred to me that when Isabella turned 8, she will have had a brain injury almost half of her life.  Another year older, we are still fighting to relearn everything and regain a sense of “normalcy”.  Let’s be honest. Brain injuries suck.  They rob you and your child of the simple joys in life like birthdays.  Isabella had been waiting for her birthday for a month.  We had the day planned for the three of us: her, myself and my fiancée.  We planned on presents, cake, decorations, piñata and her favorite meals.  What I didn’t take into account is that no matter how much you plan, brain injuries are unpredictable.  The after effects of a brain injury are long lasting and do not discriminate or care that something like a birthday is suppose to be happy.  Don’t get me wrong we had some great moments but as the day progressed things quickly went downhill.  It was heartbreaking to watch Isabella literally fall apart because something like a birthday was too overwhelming and too much.  She kicked, screamed, cried, hit and went hysterical until she would finally let me hold her.  My heart aches for Isabella.  I am choosing to hold on to the good moments that we had on her birthday and reflect on all that Isabella has taught me.

When Isabella was born I had no idea that this little person would become the bravest, strongest, most amazing human being that I would ever meet.  I had no idea that she would endure more in her short life then most in their entire lifetime.  You see Isabella’s brain injury has robbed her of many things in life, things that will never be ok ever again.  What Isabella’s brain injury didn’t rob was that will to fight, her unrelenting determination, her strength, her endurance, and the ability to change and amaze those around her.

Isabella has taught me heroes come in all shapes, sizes, genders and ages.  Isabella is my hero.  She has spent the last 3 + years fighting to regain her life and learn everything all over again.  Isabella lives in a scary world filled with anxiety, hallucinations, inability to express herself, loss of control over her body and mind.  Yet she tries so hard every single day.  To live in a world like Isabella’s and still have good moments that is bravery.  That is strength and endurance.

Isabella has given me the opportunity to appreciate the small things that we often take for granted.  We stop and smell the flowers.  She and I watch the sunset knowing Nana in heaven is making it beautiful for us.  We take the time to laugh, hug and just enjoy each other.  Isabella has slowed me down and made me see things that for years I never even noticed.  Life takes on a greater appreciation that most will never know unless faced with the same uncertainty of possibly losing it all.

I was already a determined person, seeing Isabella’s determination only makes me fight that much harder for her.  Isabella spent a day learning to sit up only to fall back over and then do it again.  I have watched her attempt to kick a soccer ball to lose her balance and fall.  Yet Isabella did it over and over again until she was able to kick the ball.  I have watched Isabella struggle to find the right words to read a sentence in a book.  Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 tries to get her brain to say the right word but she sticks with it until she reads the sentence correctly.  Isabella knows what she wants to say and she is determined to figure it out.  That determination is inspiring.

My wish for Isabella in her 8th year is that she will start seeing how truly amazing and awe inspiring she is.  I want Isabella to know that it is ok to be scared; doing it anyway makes you brave.  I want her to know that strength isn’t only measured with how physically strong you are but also by the things in life that are suppose to stop you and yet you overcome.  I want Isabella to know how very proud of her I am.  I love Isabella more with each day; her brain injury makes me love her even more.

Brain injuries suck.  They are gut wrenching to watch.  As a parent it can be devastating to see your child struggle everyday with things that once were easy and done without second thought.  I encourage you to find the lessons that survivors offer to everyone they know.  Cherish the moments and recognize that in an instant it can all change.

“Most people never get to meet their hero. I was lucky enough to give birth to mine.”