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I don’t always post anymore when I speak in classrooms about my injury recovery, but here’s a cool shot from BU in March. The students were in the classroom and I was physically distanced and omnipresent!

I spoke at the Institute of Health Professions, an independent affiliate of Mass General Hospital that grants post graduate degrees, on Wednesday last week. I was invited to speak in the second year physical therapy lab session. It was super interesting and I got some great tips! I gave the instructor two goals that I’m working towards currently before class, and each of the two sessions worked with me on strategies to meet these goals. My goals were breathing while I’m swimming the breast stroke, which I tried last summer and have room for improvement, and trail running, which I’m continuing to practice and am getting better at. It’s so fun!

Students got information I provided the instructor about my relevant medical history and goals for moving forward. Because I’m not in physical therapy any more–and haven’t been for years and years–these student tips are great!

For breathing while I’m swimming, they got a big therapy ball and I balanced on my stomach with my head “above water”, then practiced the sequencing of moving my arms in the breast stroke and taking a breath and exhaling, they told me how to coordinate those movements, and then practiced and I’ll definitely feel more comfortable in the water next time. For trail running, I practiced shifting my weight by jumping from foot to foot.

Both groups gave me the Hi-Mat test, which is the test they have also always administered at the BU classes I speak at in the spring. I can’t “bound” from my affected leg, so I always miss points, and I was expecting that in the first IHP class, so I warned the students. In the second class they asked me to try, and demonstrated what a bound looks like, and gave me some instructions, and I did it! But I wasn’t able to do it twice is a row, which is how the test is assessed, so I’ll keep practicing!

I got to see Alexis again this year in the Boston University physical therapy labs @BUSargent and I forgot to post about it! The labs took place on February 27 and March 1 this year at Sargent College. It was great to see Alexis. I still can’t skip, bound, or do a single leg stance on my left side. Year after year of these same problems but they never come up except for when I’m doing the High level mobility assessment test at Boston University. 🙂

I just signed up for a class at Brandeis called Directed Writing: Creative Nonfiction and the purpose will be to use the class to help me wrap up the book project! I met with the instructor the other day and told her I was planning to post samples of writing I complete in her class on this site to tease the book. All of this will help to show a potential publisher that there’s a here here, which will be an incentive to get involved with the project! We’ll see.


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.

I just listened to #Christian Jungersen, author of “You Disappear”, talk about his book about #family and brain injury here on @blogtalkradio. I’m glad that Christian Jungersen is writing about brain injury and that we’re not scared to talk about these issues, because the more we hear stories, the more we can work to understand the injury and the families that are affected.

Interesting that the author made the point to say in his interview that many of us don’t think about brain injury until we’ve been personally affected. This was also the case for me. After the experience (and a couple years of reorganizing), I have very much accepted this as the world where I can have the most impact.

My injury changed everything for me, starting with my brain, and Christian Jungersen says this is what interested him in the subject matter initially. Imagine your brain is changed! Jungersen does a great job in his book of exploring the impact this change has on his main character’s whole life, and I guess it has had a similar effect on me, in that I know now where I can make an impact and I’m trying to do that with both my job at the Ivy Street School and with the book I’m writing.

I’ve been asked to be a guest blogger for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, and my first post went up last week. Check it out at the Brain Injury Association’s blog, In An Instant Your Life Can Change Forever. I’m planning to focus my posts on my experience of my injury: I learned that although my life in that instance changed, it’s possible to get it back. So it doesn’t have to change forever. But I have to build up to that thesis.