Throughout time, there have been many cases that demonstrate the act of persevering through many obstacles, which causes many sources of inspiration. This is evident in Jaimie’s story. Jamie MoCrazy grew up on the ski slopes. By the time she was 18 years old, she had won Junior World Championships and moved to Utah to continue training as a professional slopestyle and halfpipe skier. However, in April 2015, Jamie crashed at the World Tour Finals, went into a coma, and became paralyzed. In an instant, Jamie went from being one of the world’s best slopestyle skiers to relearning basic gross motor skills like walking upstairs and riding a bike. Jamie didn’t let the results of this horrific accident keep her down. Instead, she worked hard to recover, leaning on her friends and family for support, and charged forward in life with optimism. Eight months after the accident, Jamie started skiing again. Shortly after, she started college and began her motivational speaking journey to inspire others to create luck in the face of trauma.
Since recovering from her accident, Jamie has spoken in front of audiences ranging from 20 to 1,000 people and presented at nonprofit galas, business conventions, and medical schools all over the globe. Her family has worked hard to support her through the difficult times in life and became caregivers for her for a period of time. Jamie aspires to help others who go through similar accidents and her family works to help caregivers manage the demands and responsibilities that are thrown on to them usually without warning. Jamie and the MoCrazy family have taken her experience and turned it into something positive in order to help others who are experiencing similar situations.
We sat down with Jamie and her family to talk about her accident and how they were able to overcome all of the difficulties. Their story as a family is incredibly inspiring and they hope that but sharing their experiences they can help inspire and help others. Jamie and the MoCrazy family have worked hard to make a difference and raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries and they will only continue to do so.
Can you tell us about your experience with skiing prior to your accident? -Jamie
I started skiing at one-year-old. Skiing has been a part of my family for generations; my grandmother was the world cup downhill champion in the 40s and my great uncle went to the Olympics in skiing twice! As a child, I was very competitive in Gymnastics, Skiing, and Soccer. At 9-years old I was interviewed for the local paper after winning state championships in Gymnasts and Skiing; I said my dream fantasy was to combine skiing and gymnastics! I did that! I became professional, winning jr. worlds, competing at X-Games, and becoming the first woman in the world to compete for a double backflip in a slopestyle run (jumps and rails) as well as the first female to flip off a rail.
How did you sustain your traumatic brain injury? -Jamie
On April 11th, 2015 I was competing at the World Tour Finals in Whistler, Canada. After my first run, I was ranked in 4th place. As someone who had been ranked 1st or 2nd overall in the world for three consecutive years 4th place was not acceptable. I upgraded my single backflip to a double backflip. I was known for my double flips I had been doing for two years and knew that upgrade could land me at the top of the podium. However, on my second run on landing the double flip, I caught an edge and whiplashed my head into the snow. My brain started bleeding in eight spots and I hurt my right brain stem, paralyzing my right side. I don’t remember anything about that day and the following six weeks. My sister Jeanee was at the competition and saw first hand my accident. As she skied down to me she saw me convulsing in the snow, spewing blood, and my eyes rolled back in my head.
How did your accident affect your life immediately after? -Jeanee
Immediately after I have no memory of it so I will let Jeanee talk about how it immediately affected her and the rest of my family.
After being in a coma for 10 days, waking up Jamie was like a new baby, she could only stay awake for a few hours at a time, she could not talk, eat, or even sit up without help. Gradually over the next five weeks, Jamie had to learn everything. For a while, Jamie thought she was about eight years old. She recognized her family members but didn’t know what was going on at all. We printed photos from her life and covered the walls with them. We also listened to a lot of Taylor Swift music, every time Jamie listened to her songs she would start remembering times in the past she listened to the song and who she was, and people she knew.
How were you able to overcome the difficulties that resulted from your accident? -Jamie
Many difficulties resulted from my accident at different times throughout my recovery. Initially, I had many struggles, I couldn’t walk, talk or swallow water. As someone who had been coached her entire life, I understood pushing my body. A tremendous help from the beginning of recovery from my coma was how much my mom, Mama MoCrazy scientifically understood how the brain works. She started taking action the moment she arrived at the hospital. The amount of exercises mama MoCrazy gave me, above and beyond what the hospital said created the recovery I had. For example, my right side was paralyzed due to brain stem damage. In the hospital after stimulators helped my right arm move slightly again, Mama MoCrazy taped down my strong side and made me use my weak arm to make breakfast. Mama MoCrazy understood neuroplasticity and knew using my weak side would create new synaptic connections allowing my brain pathways to fire on the right side of my body. In the hospital that day it took me an hour to make a very simple breakfast. I got mad at my mom and was frustrated and overwhelmed. My mom continued to tape down my strong arm at random intervals for around a year and a half after my accident. My right side, which was injured, is now back to being my dominant side and I have no lingering struggles due to mobility. I had many other similar struggles that I overcame due to Mama MoCrazy’s scientific knowledge about how the brain functions.
What was it like for you when you came out of the Coma? -Jamie
For about a month after I came out of the coma I have no memory. One of the first vague memories I have is when the nurses were asking me to state where I was to evaluate if I was ready to leave the hospital. The nurse would ask me where I was, and I would respond, “I am in a movie about a hospital! Obviously, I’m not actually in the hospital because old people and sick people go to a hospital, I’m not old or sick! And…when you poke me with the needles it doesn’t hurt! So it’s obviously fake!” After a TBI many patients believed false realities, I fully believed this false reality I created at the time, or maybe I was just seeing my future? After I would explain how I wasn’t in a hospital the nurses would have trouble explaining to their patient the reason she couldn’t feel the needs was because she was paralyzed!
Why is the role of caregivers so important to help those with severe injuries and potential disabilities?
After a brain injury, you have struggles with your memory and cognition. This makes it very challenging to live without the help of a caregiver. Neurology today states 50% of homeless individuals suffered a TBI that led to being homeless. This is a scary statistic, yet I know the truth is if I had not had such educated and influential caregivers in my life I would not have been able to heal into being a functioning adult. Those with severe injuries and disabilities cannot function on their own, in many cases, the unexpected act of being thrust into a caregiver role is overwhelming and depressing for the caregiver which is why Jeanee and Mama MoCrazy talk about the importance of taking care of yourself as the caregiver in the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah March campaign geared toward being a caregiver.
As the anniversary of your accident is approaching is there anything you would do differently looking back on your experiences? -Jamie
Honestly, there is not. That is why I am so passionate about sharing my recovery experience through MoCrazy Strong. Of course, there was lots of learning and struggles, yet the amount of educated caregiving I received made me very fortunate. I want to share the programs I did through MoCrazy Strong and allow others who have encountered unexpected trauma to create a more successful recovery than they thought was possible.
What challenges did you face throughout your recovery process? -Jamie
Every day I faced challenges. It went from failing Rosetta Stone in English my native language, unable to swallow water, to an inability to understand how to socialize with friends, and calling them 15 times in a row because they didn’t answer the phone was not ok. It took at least five years filled with different challenges to become who I am today.
How have you used your experiences to help others who have experienced similar situations? -Jamie
I help others who have experienced an unexpected trauma by the programs, events, and campaigns we run at MoCrazy Strong as well as by being a MoCrazy Strong motivational speaker telling my story and how the ways I overcame challenges can be repeatable with other individuals.
What were some of the most emotionally challenging things that you faced during and after your accident? -Jamie
My emotional challenges were much harder for me than my physical challenges. Everyone could see when I went from being in a wheelchair to walking on my own. No one knew about the days I would lie in bed staring at the ceiling wondering why to get up, or when I ran away my first Christmas after my accident because I was mad at my dad. From about months 6-24 after my accident, I would have triggers causing outbursts and would cry about five times a day. I started going to psychotherapy eight months after my accident for years and firmly believe it was one of the best things I did during my recovery. One of the most important things I learned throughout my healing was the power of your mindset, and your ability to create the outcomes you want, the decisions you make, and the habits you build. I also learned it is ok to be upset and feel sad. Accept your pain and sorrow, then figure out how to create the outcome you want. When a metaphorical avalanche slides you down the mountain of life, acknowledge you are at the bottom, then get up and start to climb your alternative peak.
Who are the people that helped you through it the most? -Jamie
The person who helped me through the most was Mama MoCrazy. She was followed by Jeanee MoCrazy who did every physical therapy workout with me amongst other things. Jeanee was followed by the rest of my family, like my oldest sister who is a doctor and became my primary care physician to be involved in my medical decisions. My next older sister who is a massage therapist and massaged me every day for three months after I left the hospital. Followed by the friends who stuck with me, and supporters I had from all over the world.
Can you tell us a little about your Brain Alliance Campaign that you’re working on in March?
The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah Campaign is a caregiver campaign. I had so much integrative medicine support on my team we feel it is important to educate caregivers who have been thrust into that role in the blink of an eye. There is much more the caregiver can do to help create the outcomes a survivor needs as well as keep the caregiver servicing.
What is the overall goal of the campaign and what does it consist of? -Jamie
The overall goal of the campaign is to educate caregivers on all the ways they can support and lead their loved one’s recovery so they too can have a thriving life. MoCrazy Strong hopes to have this campaign be only the beginning of many more like it. My recovery broke all the statistics and we want to help that be the norm all over the world.
What’s something people may not know about you and your family?
Mama MoCrazy who has her master’s in education and counseling psychology from Columbia University homeschooled Jeanee, myself, and our littlest sibling. I was homeschooled all the way through high school. Mama MoCrazy would take us skiing in the winter all morning and do school in the afternoon, or we would hike in the fall and spring to the top of the mountain and do our school work at the top. In the summer we would bring our books to the beach and stay there all day. We also spent our childhood with our Grandmother who lived in the same town as us and was a world cup ski racer in the 40s, she started a ski resort in New York State!