This is the second profile in our series of four for Brain Injury Awareness Month. In partnership with the Brain Injury Association of America  (BIAA), Nutcase is donating $2 of every helmet sold on nutcasehelmets.com this month to BIAA’s ongoing efforts to enlighten and educate people on brain injury and brain health. We’re also matching donations from you (up to $1,000) at bit.ly/biadonation.

On December 16, 2011, Marley Robertson’s life changed drastically when her car crashed on Interstate 81 in Roanoke, Virginia. Marley suffered a subdural hematoma and needed immediate surgery.

Though she worked hard to progress and recover from this traumatic brain injury (TBI), the road to feeling normal has been long, Marley says, much longer than she expected.

Prior to the crash, Marley had been studying at the Baptist Theological Seminary in the Master of Divinity program.

MarleyGotLuck

Marley ice skating.

“I thought I’d be back in school at the end of January [2012],” she said. “My class was going to be Greek II, and I was a little crazy thinking that I could do it. There was just no way I could have returned.”

Acceptance of a new reality seems to be one of the key experiences people with TBIs share. Marley was a very social, hard-working, and active student before her brain injury. While she remains hard working, she said she is a different person now.

“I was in a drug-induced coma for five days, and after waking up, I had to relearn my basic activities like showering, dressing, walking, talking and swallowing. I had to regain memory and cognitive skills, and had to have speech therapy.”

Marley says she is less patient than she was prior to the accident, but happily, she is more optimistic.

“If there’s a bad day or something negative happens, I am much more quickly able to notice something positive,” she said. “And that’s good and has been very helpful as it keeps me moving forward.”

Before her accident Marley never really thought about wearing a helmet. Now she keeps her Nutcase Got Luck? helmet in her car and uses it for activities – ice skating and sledding, for example – that she says she wouldn’t try without the helmet.

Eventually Marley was able to start driving again, and could consider returning to school. She decided to pursue a new goal, and enrolled in the occupational therapy assistant program at Northern Virginia Community College. Though she still is taking classes required to get her Master of Divinity degree, Marley felt called to occupational therapy.

Marley measures occupational therapy classmate Grace Hendrick.

Marley measures occupational therapy classmate Grace Hetrick.

“This has been one of my biggest milestones,” Marley says, about getting back to school. “Partly for me it was a way to get back to independence and to support myself, and I also feel that having been on the other side, I can really relate to what people are going through.”

Now that her beautiful auburn hair has grown out and she’s back in school, people who knew her or new acquaintances may not be aware of her brain injury.

“‘You look so great, you seem so normal,’ people say. Because of athletes’ TBIs, there is more awareness of brain injury these days but it still can be the invisible injury,” she says.

“Sometimes I do wish there was a way to tell people – if I don’t react how you think I should, that may be my brain injury and not me.”

Marley is a committed advocate for the Brain Injury Association of America, which she said helped her many times with information and referrals. (Check out BIA’s “Not Alone” campaign here.) She earned $1,500 for the BIAA through the Bowling for Brains campaign last year.

Marley, who keeps her Got Luck? helmet always available, said she really does feel lucky, as well as thankful.

“I wonder if I am a certified Nutcase now?”

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