A Small Miracle

On 26 July 2006, I suffered a severe car accident near my parent’s house in Acton, Maine. I was spending the summer at home before my senior year at Brandeis University. Instead of moving into a rented house near campus with seven of my college friends, I was moved from Acton, Maine to the ICU at Maine Medical Center. In the ICU, the attending physicians gave me a ten percent chance of functional recovery.

I’m working on a book about my experience recovering from a traumatic brain injury, when I came back to college, and the time immediately following my graduation from Brandeis University. The book is about how, at a certain point, I was able–and required–to take over and direct my progress, and it is about the way I used guided reflection to observe and direct my own development. This is a story about personal triumph over adversity. But it’s also about the triumph of the network; the web of family, friends, doctors and therapists whose support and input contributed, built, manipulated, and ultimately made my future possible… Read more »

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In the spring semester for the past few years I’ve spoken in classrooms about my experience in therapies. Last month I spoke at Boston University in a Physical Therapy lab, and last week at Emerson in the Survey of Language Disorders classroom. Students always come to the classes with great questions and I always really enjoy sharing my recovery story. I think it’s important for me to share the patient’s perspective, because these are future therapists!

A hearing for a Cognitive Rehabilitation bill happened yesterday at the State House in Boston and I testified! The bill, if passed by the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, will require insurance companies in Massachusetts to cover cognitive rehabilitation, like the occupational, physical, and speech therapy I received at Braintree and Portsmouth Regional Hospital. You can read the bills that I testified in support of on the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts’s website, here.

And you can read my testimony, here: Venell Testimony to support Cog Rehab Bill.

Or check out me testifying, here: We were all having a laugh about how long this hearing lasted!

Tessa 6

Then and Now

March 27, 2015 — 1 Comment

I never linked to this video that my friends Jeff and Josh made when they finished it! It’s a short and they’re shooting a full length version now. A little more information about the project can be found on Brandeis’ facebook page or at Spinach Pie Productions.


My former Occupational Therapist from when I was hospitalized at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital, Sheri Sharkey, and I presented last week at the Student Occupational Therapy Association at Tufts and it was so much fun! It was great to see Sheri again and I really enjoyed our presentation.

When I was telling Evan about the presentation afterwards, I remembered one girl’s question and specifically wanted to tell him about it. The student was planning to start a clinical placement in a neuro unit in a hospital and asked Sheri and me for advice about working with her future patients. We had shared with the group that Sheri and I had had a great relationship, and because I liked her I worked harder with her in therapy. The harder I worked and listened for feedback from Sheri, the more quickly I could improve.

This student asked us for advice about working with her future patients, and getting her patients to work hard with her in therapy. I thought about why I liked Sheri so much, and so enjoyed therapy with Sheri and worked hard with her. I liked Sheri because it didn’t seem to me that she treated me any differently when I was in the hospital, slowly emerging from a coma. Even though therapy sessions with Sheri were similar to therapy with any other therapist, Sheri never treated me like a patient. None of my therapists in the neuro-wing at Braintree treated me like a patient, and I think that was why their neuro team was so strong. It made a huge difference to be seen as a person first and as a patient second.