A former GF Strong patient has been honoured with a very special award. Twenty-nine-year-old Harriet Ronaghan is the recipient of the 2019 Courage to Come Back Award for Physical Rehabilitation.
“It's just mind-blowing," she said in an interview with Global News. “I feel like all of my hard work has been acknowledged now."
In August 2007, Harriet, her mother and brother were on their way to the mall, when a dump truck T-boned their car. The impact of the collision left Harriet with a traumatic brain injury that would change her life forever.
Rushed to hospital for emergency neurosurgery, she was later placed in a drug-induced coma and didn't wake up for three and a half months. When she finally did, she couldn't move.
For the young athlete and dancer, the extent of her injuries was devastating.
“I had to relearn everything, [how to] blink, eat, swallow, walk, talk, everything you can think of," she said to a reporter from NEWS 1130.
She spent several months at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children and then GF Strong undergoing intense rehabilitation including physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and counselling.
But with grit and perseverance she worked through it, in just 16 months, she was walking again—without assistance.
“She is an amazing woman," says Dr. Jennifer Yao, GF Strong Medical Site Lead and Head of the Division of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, who was her attending physician at GF Strong. “She smiled and laughed a lot even when things are clearly very tough for her."
Early in her recovery, Harriet realized the power her story had to inspire others. She had made a connection the father of a young man in a coma and had told him her story of survival. Seeing that she could spread hope to others, she began writing a book titled: You are my Sunshine: The Journey Through my Recovery with a Traumatic Brain Injury. She now shares her story through presentations and media interviews in the hopes of inspiring others.