When she was only 14 years old, Stephanie Freeman was involved in a rollover car crash, flipping five times on a country road. She sustained lung and brain damage as well as a shattered pelvis and other physical injuries. Stephanie spent two months in a coma at Palmyra Park Hospital in Albany, Georgia, and would go on to spend a total of four months and eight days in the hospital.
After being released from the hospital, she spent another six months completing rehabilitation before she was allowed to go back to school. Finding herself a year behind her classmates, Stephanie went to summer school to catch up. She graduated with the class of ’96 and took a year off before attending Georgia Southwestern State University. She later graduated from Wiregrass Technical College with a degree in business.
In 2003, Stephanie began running to combat depression and anxiety. She’s a strong believer in physical activity and became committed to running and working out on a daily basis. She ran her first marathon in 2006 and has since run 10 marathons as well as numerous half marathons and 5Ks.
On July 10, 2006, Stephanie gave birth to her son, Range. She considers him to be her miracle baby, as she had been told after her accident that she would never be able to conceive a child.
Years later, Stephanie was working at the Boston Marathon at mile marker 25.5 when the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred. This event triggered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and brought up unresolved emotional trauma she had not dealt with as a teenager after her car accident. This event prompted her to start her foundation, Share Your Strong.
The foundation took more than two years to be established, and she now uses it as a way to bring health, help, and inspiration to people who are going through brain trauma. She raises money through the marathons she runs and has even competed fitness competitions to show that mental health can be combated without drugs.
In 2014, Stephanie ran the Boston Marathon – one year after the bombing – as a way to come full circle with all she had been through in her life. Stephanie attended Brain Injury Awareness Day in March 2015 and was invited to join the Brain Injury Association of America Advisory Council shortly afterward.
She is currently furthering her education in natural healing reflexology and neuromuscular massage therapy to help others promote natural healing of the brain. Stephane is also a certified trainer and mentor to high school kids who want to improve their health; she helps them with their eating and exercise plans and encourages brain-healthy foods.
Her motto in life is “Never, ever give up!”
When asked how BIAA has changed her life, Stephanie said: “Being part of something that completely changed my life allows me to help others with the same problems that I have faced. It touches my heart, and I am living with purpose by being part of this.”
This article originally appeared in Vol. 11., Issue 4 of THE Challenge!, the quarterly newsmagazine of the Brain Injury Association of America. Copies of the original issue can be downloaded at www.biausa.org/challenge
Read more by Amy Zellmer on Huff Post: www.huffingtonpost.com/author/amy-zellmer-634
Amy Zellmer is an award-winning author, speaker, and advocate of traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, and has created a privateFacebook group for survivors and also produces a podcast series. She sits on the Brain Injury Advisory Council (BIAC) through the Brain Injury Association of America’s and is involved with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. She travels the country with her Yorkie, Pixxie, to help raise awareness about this silent and invisible injury that affects over 2.8 million Americans each year.
In November, 2015 she released her first book, “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal” which received a silver award at the Midwest Book Awards in May, 2016. Her second book, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength and Inspiration”is a collection of stories written by brain injury survivors and caregivers and was released November 2016. for more information: www.facesoftbi.com
Hear Amy’s story as she is interviewed on It’s A Woman’s World local access television: