August 25, 2022, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
This news story made us all happy. The good work done by these home-grown Kitchener women was covered in the Record.
Lasting effects of concussions inspire Waterloo university grads to create traumatic brain injury foundation Keep Your Head Up Foundation offers workshops, resources for those coping with invisible illness
By Bill JacksonReporter Mon., Aug. 15, 2022
Allie Harrison and Felicia Corrado were a year apart and mere acquaintances during the majority of their time in high school at Resurrection Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener.
It wasn’t until Harrison suffered persistent symptoms from a concussion on the rugby pitch in Grade 12 that she reached out for help.
Corrado, who was hit from behind into the boards while playing ringette a year earlier, had developed symptoms that included chronic headaches, nausea, light sensitivity and ringing in her ears.
“Felicia was the only person I knew that was also not getting better,” said Harrison, who was forced to modify her university course load, faced with exhaustion and challenging tasks she used to accomplish without thinking.
“As athletes who were really driven academically, it was really hard to suddenly not feel like who we were anymore and not really know why we weren’t still able to do and all those things,” Harrison said. “We both faced really prolonged, challenging recoveries that really impacted our mental health and physical health.”
Navigating what they refer to as an “invisible illness,” they faced social isolation and doubters who said they were faking it. They often didn’t know where to turn in the health-care system for support, and they both made a commitment to make things better for others in the same situation in the future.
While more than 10 years have gone by — both went on to attain degrees in public health at the University of Waterloo — their recoveries continue to this day.
“It’s been a long journey,” Corrado said, noting that while she and Harrison still live with the effects of concussions, they’ve developed a tool box together to lead productive lives.A couple of years back, they got together for coffee and rekindled plans to establish a grass-roots organization to support to individuals with traumatic brain injuries, including concussions.
“We both whipped out our laptops and sat there for like five hours and Keep Your Head Up was born,” said Harrison.
Not wanting to duplicate what other services providers were already offering, Corrado said she identified gaps in the community.
With startup funding from the Ontario Brain Institute, City of Kitchener and lululemon's Here to Be grant program, Mindful Moments programming was rolled out during the pandemic, providing hands-on, modified mindfulness and movement workshops to hundreds of clients from most provinces across Canada.
The free online workshops, run by instructors each Wednesdays, provide activities ranging from light breathing and gentle yoga to clay, macramé and various therapeutic art activities, with kits mailed out to people ahead of time.
“Someone struggling with a brain injury can't go to just any yoga class and benefit because there's just a lot of different stimulation,” said Harrison.
“One of the things that we hear a lot is that it's so refreshing to be one of many people in the so-called room with a brain injury, rather than the only person who is having to modify everything themselves and figure things out.”
With a grant from the Rotary Club of Waterloo, the programs will soon be offered in-person to individuals in Waterloo. Funding from the City of Waterloo will be used to launch a community education program for youth about the impact of concussions and what they can do to help themselves and others.
“We're a small, emerging organization, but our hope is to be the go-to for people who are struggling,” Corrado said.
“What Keep Your Head Up does is we go beyond the science and the symptoms of what a concussion is and kind of talk about that mental health side of stuff that gets swept under the rug and how all areas of your well-being can be really impacted by brain injury.”
Corrado and Harrison have started to receive clinician referrals and the Keep Your Head Up Foundation became a registered charity in July, now with its own line of apparel.
People can visit the website www.keepyourheadup.ca for more information on volunteer opportunities and how to donate.