Meet Armenian-American triathlete and mom Kristin Abello, who, while on a training run in Houston in preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon, was struck by a car and sustained major trauma.
As a result, she sustained a traumatic brain injury and other physical traumas. The initial consensus was that she wasn’t going to survive, but she did and the road to recovery was
extremely difficult for this young wife and mom. Now, she’s giving back, as an advocate, philanthropist and author on a mission to help others with TBI.
As a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor and a mother of 2 healthy sons, I would like to share
my up close and personal thoughts about surviving motherhood. We can all agree that
motherhood can be one of the most important and most demanding responsibilities women
have. Our children are our future.
We just want our kids to be happy
As moms, we desire for our kids to be happy, healthy, and academically sound. My mom would
repeat this to me in her angelic voice as I was growing up. Now, as a mother myself, I know
why. Each one of us wholeheartedly desires the best for our kids. Sometimes, it’s said that a
mom is as happy as her saddest child. Does this have to be true? No, it does not have to be like
that. Regardless of your circumstance, a positive outcome can happen.
Life is a Journey
Life is a journey for all of us, right? We all have our own highway to heaven. In my personal life
the tough got going when I was struck by a car on a marathon training run, and it nearly took my
life. The doctor’s consensus was grim and it was unknown if my survival was even in the cards.
Months later, I had survived a coma, a TBI, multiple broken bones, and was finally able to go
home, wheelchair bound. The impossible was made possible by my faith in God, amazing
medical care, support from family/friends and self-care.
Take care of Me
Traumatic circumstances took over and I was not fully aware at the time but innately, I knew, it
was up to me to improve my well-being. I had to take care of myself first to be great for my only
son, at the time. My smile was not taken from me, and my inner glow was still there.
Use it, I said to myself.
I had to do this for my child.
Was it hard? Yes.
Did I get tired? Yes.
Were naps uncontrollably necessary? Yes.
My cerebellum was neatly sliced in half. The portion of the brain that controls balance. The
occipital lobe was also injured, which controls vision. Lastly, the temporal lobe, responsible for
processing auditory information was impacted. This does not include the 6 broken bones I was
My son would ask me,
“Mom, do you have a boo boo?”
“Yes,” I would whisper, smiling down at him in our family room filled with sunshine.
“All is okay now, and it will be.”
My toddler went back to playing with his Gymboree stick figure.
Looking to the Future Past the Trauma
Looking forward is what I did then, and I still do to this day. I never look back and play the “poor
me” card. What good does that do? Only adds more stress and frustration in your life. I had to
do my best and exemplify to my toddler that hard work, determination, and practice pays off.
Juggling motherhood and recovering was always dependent on the help I had. Whether it was
my husband, mom, sister, friends, neighbors, or caregivers, it was help. And the help was a gift.
I needed it and it made a tremendous impact on my recovery. Having this help allowed me to
move forward, especially in balancing parenthood while recovering from trauma. As I went
through physical therapy sessions at home or at an outpatient facility, yoga, walking, and using
the recumbent bike for short bits of time, I always had the constant support of my “coach” or my
husband. They would encourage me to head to the high school track and practice my walking.
One foot in front of the other. My walks started with one step. Slowly it progressed to 3, then 6
steps. Every step forward marked movement to improvement. I became like my toddler who
learned to walk at 9 months, except I was 28 years old.
Whether recovering from trauma or not, goals, both short-term and long-term are always good
to have. Looking forward to something is very uplifting to the soul. Before the accident, I had the
lavish goal of completing the San Francisco ½ marathon, and I did it! Short-term and long-term
goals helped me become me again, which encouraged me to be present for my son. Three
years later I gave birth to our second child, Colin. Unbelievable after what I’d been through!
As the years progressed everything got easier and easier to manage between juggling
motherhood and recovery. However, a trauma is a trauma. Anyone going through one needs to
stay ahead of the game. Meaning, keep up with your personal needs. As time progressed, less
and less help was needed in my recovery. This meant more time to enjoy and be present for my
children. Today, my sons are 18 and 22. Both are successful and studying at their respective
Tips to Help YOU Thrive Post TBI or Other Trauma :
● Join a prayer and/or trauma support group
● Set short-term and long-term goals
● Create and stick to a schedule
● Take care of you! Best you=Being present for your littles… which in turn is ALWAYS a
● Get your quiet time, rest, and take naps
● Make sure to be in the sunlight for 10 minutes a day (at least)
● Breathe in fresh air
● Eat organically healthy foods. Especially fruits and greens and take your necessary
● Last but not least, hire a driver to take you to your necessary appointments and fun stuff
you have arranged for your kids. Not in the budget? All good, ask a friend, a neighbor or
someone you trust in the community. People love to help.
Always remember, you do not have to do everything! Pace yourself, take breaks and sit back
when necessary. Do not be hard on yourself. Juggling children and recovering from trauma is
not easy. It’s a marathon and not a sprint. One step at a time. Be easy on YOU.
You are a mom, the most important and valuable person in your child’s life.
Kristin Abello is a wife, mom, TBI survivor, advocate, philanthropist and author on a
mission to help others with TBI. Her book, Sunrise: Life After Traumatic Brain Injury: A
Healing Journey in Surviving TBI, is available wherever books are sold.