Chances are that at some point in your life, you or someone you love will experience trauma, be confronted by something devastating — something totally unexpected that will put you to the test. How you face it, move forward from it, and ultimately grow as a result of it can determine how you approach the rest of your life.
There is much to be learned from people who have gone through it. Their hopes, fears and fighting spirit serve both as a cautionary tale and a powerful dose of inspiration for anyone dealing with a life-changing event. That’s why we are so moved by the story of Jennifer Field and her courageous, relentless and ongoing quest to regain the life she nearly lost. Hers is an incredible story of resilience, bravery and regrowth.
It was Tuesday, November 17, 1992. Field, 17, was driving home from high school in Dublin, New Hampshire when she hit a patch of ice, lost control of her car and slammed into an oncoming tractor-trailer. She suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), which left her in a coma for more than a month. When she regained consciousness, she could not walk or talk, and doctors said she probably never would. But they didn’t really know Jennifer.
Before the accident Field was an elite equestrian, one of the best in the world and hoping to prove it in the Olympics. She was relentless, doggedly determined, and driven to succeed. She applied those same qualities to her recovery even though doctors offered little hope. Thanks to the unflagging support of an equally tenacious mother, Field fought back. If her recovery was not miraculous, it was very close to it.
“I’m still recovering,” she said. “No one can believe how much I’ve improved in my speech and my movements. The brain is constantly recovering. The doctors don’t know. They just don’t know. No one knows about the brain.”
Unable to resume her equestrian pursuits she latched onto a greater purpose in life, using herself as inspiration for others facing grim circumstances. She wrote a book, From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue: A Girl’s Courage, Her Mother’s Love, A Miracle Recovery. She created the J. Field Foundation dedicated to helping others find hope in recovering from severe head injuries, and she traveled the country as a public speaker, telling her story and offering her unique perspective.
“Because I feel that not only does telling my story help others which I want to do so much, it’s a constant rehabilitation for myself,” she explained. “Every time I tell my story a little piece of my trauma leaves. It’s like I’m healing myself.”
Instead of spending her energy looking back and regretting what happened to her, she has embraced it. She’s proud of who she is today and how much she has grown as a person.
“Way back in the beginning I said, ‘You know, I wish I could just wake up from this nightmare and have a normal life again,’” she remembers. “But now since I’ve gotten better, I realize that I am actually grateful for my accident and the traumatic brain injury, too, because the whole experience has given me an entirely new appreciation and love of life. It’s given me so much.”
Field is convinced she can help not only those who’ve suffered traumatic brain injury, but anyone facing difficult challenges. She can be reached through her website, JenniferField.org.
“The bottom line is that no matter what we face in life — injury, illness, trauma or pain — we are capable of growth, of regrowth. Like a tree that’s been cut back, we can emerge again, stronger and better than ever. That’s my message: once you are willing to embrace the new you the most wonderful things can happen.”
This article is featured in the September 2022 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.