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"She is an amazing young woman."


Photo credit: Coast Mental Health's Courage to Come Back Awards.

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."

The moment that changed everything

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.

Long road to recovery

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."

Inspiring others

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.

 Content Editor

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Choosing to move forward

In addition to relearning how to live independently, she had one more goal that was deeply important to her: to get married and start a family—which early on, didn't look likely. Exactly nine years after the crash, she married her long-time sweetheart and the couple recently celebrated the birth of their son, Charlie.

“I have everything I ever wanted," she recently said in an interview. “I worked my butt of for a decade to get to where I am today."

Recognizing her courage

While it doesn't surprise those who know her, Harriet's signature drive, determination and effort are now being recognized across B.C. because of her Courage to Come Back Award.

“I'm thrilled to see her win this award," said Dr. Yao. “The best reward for us who manage patients with severe TBI is to see people like her return to a successful, happy and productive life.  I am very happy to see how she has become an independent, capable woman (and now mom)!"

Learn more about Harriet's story:

Vancouver Courier article

Global News story

SOURCE: "She is an amazing young woman." ( )
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