Lauren Brasure is no stranger to hard work. The 2014 Rockford High School graduate was an all-conference and all-state runner named “Ms. Cross Country” by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association. Her tremendous talent led to a scholarship to compete for the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, where she’s also seen success for the Division I Gators.
Her athleticism and exemplary work ethic have positively impacted the 20-year-old’s recovery from injuries she sustained in a Dec. 9 accident on the UF campus. Lauren was crossing the street with a group of friends when she was struck by a car traveling about 35 mph, throwing her onto the hood before she landed on the pavement.
Lauren was rushed to University of Florida Health Shands Hospital, where she underwent emergency surgery to remove a blood clot on the right side of her brain. The significant brain injury was compounded by two broken clavicles that were repaired during later surgeries.
After two weeks of intensive care at UF Shands, Lauren went to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, a rehabilitation hospital that specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries. She spent a week there for inpatient therapy before heading home to Michigan for outpatient therapy at Mary Free Bed.
“I don’t remember the stay in the hospital or most of the stay at Shepherd,” Lauren said. “But I’m so thankful and lucky for how well I was cared for, and I’m so thankful for the support I’ve had at Mary Free Bed and from my family and friends.”
Since Lauren began outpatient therapy at Mary Free Bed on Jan. 7, she has progressed well, said Alicia Savage, her occupational therapist.
“She is always motivated and always curious,” Alicia said. “She has done a great job of naturally challenging herself at a good pace.”
Lauren’s therapy has focused on preparing her to transition back to independent living and college-level education, she said. That includes tasks that range from simple cooking exercises to simulated school assignments, as well as exposure therapy to crowded areas and managing sensory overstimulation.
Speech therapist Danielle Arnold said therapy efforts have helped Lauren with organization, reasoning, memory and attention skills necessary to be independent in an academic environment.
“She is progressing wonderfully,” Danielle said. “She always asks for more homework at the end of every session. Her gains and remarkable recovery can be attributed to her dedication and hard work. So awesome.”
Lauren is expected to graduate from outpatient therapy in March and has been cleared to begin driver’s rehabilitation. She’s also been cleared to run.
“I love to run,” said Lauren, who also has been working out at the Mary Free Bed YMCA. “Any physical activity gives me energy, lets me release energy and channel any frustrations. But as far as getting back to the running of an athlete … I’m just taking it day by day.”
Lauren suffered a lower back injury during the fall cross country season and had been working with one of her coaches to stay strong and return to competition. She was just two days away from running again when the accident happened.
“I think maintaining my strength is what helped save my life,” said Lauren, who remains optimistic she’ll make a full recovery despite being unsure of what her future holds. She is adamant about running competitively again, but knows that involves patience.
“Since the accident, I’ve learned I have to be a lot more patient and be confident in knowing that I have the rest of my life to figure things out, and that’s OK,” she said. “I’m feeling like myself again – I feel really good, but there are moments. I get exhausted more easily than I used to, especially in groups of people. It’s getting better every day though. My pain and overall brain function has gotten so much better since I’ve been here.”
She’s been so impressed by her therapists and the work they do that she’s even considering changing her major from hospitality management to speech or occupational therapy.
“Sometimes things happen for a reason, and being able to help people in similar situations might be my calling,” she said. “I love Mary Free Bed. It’s a big reason I’m strongly thinking about going into therapy. They’ve really helped me come a long way in a short amount of time.”