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When People See How Well I Snowboard After My Brain Injury

I don’t know why I snowboard better than I walk, but I do.

This picture was taken at The Hartford’s Ski Spectacular in Breckenridge, Colorado last November 2016. Disabled Sports USA helped me fly out there to race train with the National snowboard team (Paralympic snowboarders) and at the end of the week, there was a Diana Golden race where we competed against each other and put everything we learned that week into action.

It is my second season back on my snowboard and I have been wanting to do more and more. That can happen with brain injuries like the one I had. The doctors tell your family that you will probably won’t be able to function the way you used to, both physically and cognitively, and then once you start breaking barriers and proving doctors wrong, you may start thinking you can conquer the world — even though you can’t. It starts with the first step you take after your TBI. That’s a big accomplishment — and boom — you may feel like you can conquer the world.

A lot of people see me on my snowboard and they don’t realize I am disabled. I snowboard like any other snowboarder, although I do have some adaptions on my board to help out and I have to move my body differently than an able-bodied person to be able to maneuver my board.

People notice after I get off my board that I have ataxia and I lose my balance or fall for no apparent reason. Well, the reason is that my brain can’t tell where my body is in space. From there, I don’t know the whole reason why I lose my balance or fall, but the only reason I can think of is because then my brain knows where it is for sure — on the ground!

It can be frustrating when people say “You can snowboard, why can’t you do [insert activity here]?” That is a hard question to answer because I seriously don’t have a real answer to why. I just can’t coordinate my body to do certain things. Either my muscle tone acts up or I just can’t figure out how to tell my limbs what to do when I want them to. People don’t get this. It’s very frustrating. It’s not like I don’t want to be able to do certain things, it’s that I just haven’t figured out how to do it.

The people who see this picture don’t see the struggle and training it took to get here. They don’t see all the gnarly falls I’ve taken, the bruises, the frustration. They didn’t see the days after my injury when I was unaware of my surroundings and unable to speak. They don’t see my training days in the gym where I continue to push the boundaries.

I believe I exceed expectations because the words “no” and “can’t” are not in my vocabulary.

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