SEVEN YEARS (+ 2 days) during a moonlight rappel, I ended up falling 80-100 feet. That’s not a typo, yes, I FELL OVER 80 FEET and Cougar Cliff itself is over 250 feet. EVERY single day, month and year past March 12, 2012 is truly a miracle, a second chance and a gift because despite all reasoning & laws of physics - I survived. Not only did I survive, but I have gone on to fight, thrive and build a beautiful life.
There are always so many lessons I want to share, but this year I’ll just kept it simple:
SOMETIMES TRAGEDY, PAIN & TRAILS ARE THE CATALYSTS FOR GOOD THINGS TO COME.
This has been a year of LEARNING & LOTS OF LIFTING (my baby). I’ve been constantly adapting & figuring out how to best take care of my ever-growing baby boy. It has been exhausting, empowering, frustrating & JOYFUL - all at same time. This year, I finished another marathon sprinkled with some speaking engagements. But my main focus has been on motherhood and trying to keep up with all the lessons I’m continually learning.
It’s become a ritual the past three years to visit Cougar Cliff near my anniversary of my accident. Each time we visit, we've had a family prayer. This year as we visited the cliff, my emotions were very raw & so Trevor spoke the words I could not. It was such a beautiful moment to see what I had in my arms in that moment and reflect on these past seven years and what a blessing it is to have the opportunity to KEEP LIVING.
As with the past five years, I put some of my anniversary thoughts in a blog post [LINK IN BIO] because I refuse to get a business account where you can swipe up 😂. This isn’t a business, this is my life.
YEAR SIX: I learned an incredible lesson last year & wrote about it.
LINK TO THAT BLOG POST IN MY BIO.
⭐️APRIL: I completed another marathon in my mountain board. Trevor was wrapping up his master’s program while continuing to study for CPA exams.
⭐️MAY: Everyone was getting antsy for the end of the school year. Trevor graduated & we surprised our family with our little graduation present that I was pregnant with a baby boy.
⭐️JUNE: Trevor had a break from CPA exams & I finished teaching & we moved and then took off for summer adventures.
⭐️JULY: We continued to enjoy our summer together after such a busy year & conquered SE Asia. We were able to visit the people Trevor lived with, served, loved & taught during his LDS mission in Cambodia. By the end of the trip I was starting to look and feel pregnant. ⭐️AUGUST: Trevor started his grown-up job. I turned down a job offer and decided to just substitute teach until baby’s due date
⭐️SEPTEMBER: Filled with work, spoiling Cooper & I was still mountain boarding. Trevor passed all his CPA exams!
⭐️OCTOBER: We enjoyed fall & it was baby crunch time. I started to research and stress about how I was going to take care of a baby.
⭐️NOVEMBER: William Tobler Frank arrived & changed our world forever. Yes, I was able to deliver normally as a SCI. Recovery was different, my spasms intensified and added neuropathic pain/complications, but the pregnancy & birth were totally normal. We became very tired parents & the newborn holiday blur began.
⭐️DECEMBER: We continued to figure each other out and adapt. We spent time with our families to celebrate the holidays & Will started flashing his first smiles.
⭐️JANUARY: Started to get a grip on life & focused on my theme of BEING STILL with my sweet baby boy. And continually figuring out how to adapt to each other in my walker and wheelchair.
⭐️FEBRUARY: I continually had to remind myself that being present is being productive, that become my new mantra. Also Trevor & I were barely surviving his busy season with a newborn, but we did it!
⭐️MARCH: We traveled back to St. George for my brother’s wedding & Will was all about the smiles and family time.
YEAR FIVE: The year of Trevor
[BLOG POST IN BIO]
⭐️APRIL: Another Marathon. We knew we wanted to get married by our second date, the second time around. So really we were just waiting on my ring to make it official.
⭐️MAY: We traveled Europe with my family & learned a lot of good, hard, real lessons. The steep hills in Salzburg were not wheelchair friendly (as you’ll see in the video 😂).
⭐️JUNE: I moved into our first apartment & kept busy with wedding prep, meanwhile Trevor continued his Masters program and was busy with classes.
⭐️JULY: Wedding mania month♥️almost all of our favorite people in one place! #coopergotadad #brittanyandtrevorforever
⭐️AUGUST: We has a little play time before Trevor’s final school year started & I started teaching 2nd grade! ⭐️SEPTEMBER: We lived a normal, busy life. I didn’t do PT anymore. Mountain boarded with Cooper a lot after school, while Trevor continued his classes & started studying for his CPA exams.
⭐️OCTOBER: Trevor was swamped with school and CPA exams so I’d force him to take outdoors breaks on the weekend. While I continued to teach and mtn board with Cooper.
⭐️NOVEMBER: REPEAT of October.
⭐️DECEMBER: School, teaching, studying, Cooper & weekend adventures.
⭐️JANUARY: Had some SNOW DAYS & started XC ski and taking Cooper up the canyon after school.
⭐️FEBRUARY: Left Trevor to his studies & took a girls weekend and escaped all the snow.
⭐️MARCH: Took the day off for my accident. But continued living such a beautiful, normal, busy life with my boys 👱🏼♂️🐶
YEAR FOUR [blog post in bio]
I’m not cut out for posting every day. But man, WHAT AN INCREDIBLE ROLLERCOASTER YEAR!
⭐️APRIL: Became a dog-mom.
⭐️MAY: Continued to work, write, heal & swore off all boys, except Cooper.
⭐️JUNE: The summer of Cooper & outdoor adventures. After work wes go out on my mountain board, where Cooper would sit & ride, until he was old and big enough to run. Cont. writing, healing and CHOSE TO TRULY FORGIVE.
⭐️JULY: Summer of Cooper continued, meanwhile my parents when to dinner with Trevor, my ex-boyfriend and didn’t tell me.
⭐️AUGUST: Focused on my body and complications/pains I was having. This included MRIs/PT/ Doctor appts & another surgery. Before I left the pre-op room, my mom mentioned they had dinner with Trevor while he was in Chicago and encouraged me to reach out to him.
⭐️SEPTEMBER: I texted Trevor about meeting up, but canceled last minute. I just wasn’t ready and stayed busy with work, mountain boarding, writing, speaking & Cooper. ⭐️OCTOBER: Finished the St. George marathon in a hand-cycle and the Nike Women’s SF half-marathon on my board (most amazing race I’ve ever completed). More medical procedures and surgery consults.
⭐️NOVEMBER: Busy with work, Cooper & throwing my sister’s bridal showers & helping her with wedding prep. ⭐️DECEMBER: XC ski camp in Colorado. The night before my sister’s wedding, she talked to me about TREVOR. On Christmas day, I decided to send an EMAIL to him about meeting up when he moved down for his internship. ⭐️JANUARY: Raced at nationals, went to dinner with Trevor, sparks reignited & we started secretly dating. We didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want any outside pressure.
⭐️FEBRUARY: Still secretly dated, until we were sure it was the real deal. Everything fell back into place & better than before. So we decided to let our family in on the secret.
⭐️MARCH: My life-flight nurse, Jan, orchestrated an anniversary rappel at Cougar Cliff with my SAR(search & rescue) team, many from the night of my accident. It helped me close the door on that chapter in my life, claim & conquer my experience at that cliff and move forward with Trevor #teamtrevor
YEAR THREE: The year I found myself again, through therapy, writing & the outdoors. LINK IN BIO TO MY [first written] ANNIVERSARY POST about my 3rd anniversary.
After making a new life plan I moved back to Utah and restarted my life in a new town. (Also if you didn’t notice from the pictures, I started doing my hair😂)
It’s also the year I met Tanja & the TRAILS program and discovered mountain boarding and Xc skiing. This changed my life and helped fill the giant void that running had left. I still remember my first ride and the burning in my lungs that I’d missed so desperately.
Part of my new direction meant more school so I began attending class once a week at night and worked full-time. •
Meanwhile, I started volunteering at the children’s hospital. I met new friends and co-workers, who were so kind to me and didn’t know about the old me or what I’d just been through.
I worked so HARD AT UNDERSTANDING, PROCESSING AND OWNING MY GRIEF & ACCIDENT.
Writing again was HUGE and so therapeutic. I had lost a lot of strength during those dark months and so it took time to build back some muscles and endurance. But sharing my story and experience with grief empowered me and pushed me to write more and re-start my blog.
In January after one other time skiing on snow I skied in the Paralympic nationals…and crashed through a fence. Then only days later had appendicitis and many other adventures including a last minute drive to Mammoth Lakes, CA to ski for my 3rd anniversary.
But THIS was the year I took a hold of my injury, recovery & LIFE. I still had a long ways to go and there were a lot of good things just around the corner. But this was the start of my decision to CHOOSE JOY.
YEAR TWO: Was filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. LINK IN BIO FOR FULL VIDEO. But really I chose this photo first because life was a blur that year. It’s been an emotional day reliving some of those moments.
⭐️APRIL: Continued full-time teaching & PT. Walked a MILE in a marathon relay. Became official/exclusive with Trevor and he decided not to take a job in CA so we could keep dating.
⭐️MAY: I GRADUATED from college, on time & in 4 years, with a standing ovation, as I WALKED across the stage to receive my diploma (case).
⭐️JUNE: Traveled to Africa wheelchair & all with my family. We had to double check my wheelchair weight to make sure the tiny planes could hold the extra weight.
⭐️JULY: Enjoyed summer and focused all my energy on PT and seeing Trevor on weekends.
⭐️AUGUST: Trevor drove cross country with me back home to IL. Worked hard in PT and TOOK MY FIRST INDEPENDENT STEPS/learned to furniture surf.
⭐️SEPTEMBER: Still dating Trevor long-distance. Started slipping into depression, but I continued to go to PT & volunteer at a school.
⭐️OCTOBER: In DEEP in the darkness, I tried to OD. The next few months I have very few memories & pictures. I lost all confidence and couldn’t remember the simplest of things.
⭐️NOVEMBER: Continued to try and find a grief and trauma therapists, but I hated them all. But to be fair, I hated everything.
⭐️DECEMBER: Trevor came out to visit and we talked about our relationship. But I was still battling the darkness & so much loss and grief.
⭐️JANUARY: Depression & grief continued to cloud these months. I could barely eat and couldn’t write at all.
⭐️FEBRUARY: All I can remember is I cut my hair & tried to dye it dark.
⭐️MARCH: Trevor & I finally called it quits and I starting seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
WHEELCHAIR WEDNESDAY: How I use the restroom in public when I’m carrying Will on my lap. From 0-3 months I’d just keep him in the baby wrap or sling and transfer with him attached to me, but I never filmed that because I was always by myself. When he’s in his stroller we just needed a bathroom big enough for all our wheels. But from 3-15 months, when Will is just sitting on my lap (or I have to take him out of grocery or target cart), we encountered our first problem. ⭐️I waited to film this until I was in a decent bathroom & so of course Nordstrom has the little kid chairs in the background, which is so convenient, but in all reality most bathrooms don’t have those.
As with everything, we always find a way to take care of business 😂. First I slide to the front of my wheelchair and transfer Will off my lap and into my wheelchair. When he was younger and couldn’t sit up he’d just rest against my seat back. But as he got older and could sit on his own, I’d have to keep a close eye on him to make sure he didn’t try and escape. When it was time to transfer back, I’d transfer to the front little corner of my chair and pick Will up and transfer him back to my lap so there was actually room for me on my wheelchair.
#sharegoodness #wheelchairwednesday #walkerwednesday #paraparenting #scimom #paraplegic #paraplegicmom #capABLE #paraplegicparenthood #wheelchairmom #paralyzedmom #disabilityparenting #walkingparaplegic
YEAR ONE: The only way to get GLIMPSE into that first year is to watch the video my sister surprised me on my one year anniversary of my accident😭
[LINK IN BIO]
⭐️MARCH: After the rappelling accident, I was life-flighted to Las Vegas, surgery, ICU & transferred to inpatient care @craighospital
⭐️APRIL: Acute care with days full from 7:30 AM- 4:30/5:00 PM filled with PT, OT, classes, lots of pain, learning, healing & exhaustion.
⭐️MAY: Moved to my own room in the hospital & started to learn how to take care of myself. K-wires removed from my L foot so I had clearance to stand for the first time & started pool therapy. Learned how to self-cath, replaced my TLSO for a sleek Jewett brace!
⭐️JUNE: Started taking steps wearing leg braces & using handle bars or a walker. PEED for the first time on my own before being released to go HOME!
⭐️JULY: At home I continued intensive full-time PT @nextstepschicago
& finished all my school courses that I missed from spring semester!
⭐️AUGUST: Returned to school at USU. passed my drivers ed test with my new car with hand controls. Started student teaching + a few classes on campus, WHILE DRIVING 1.5 hours each way to PT 3x a week @neuroworx
⭐️SEPTEMBER: Continued to teach from my wheelchair & walker, attend class & PT 4-5x a week. Started learning how to walk with arm crutches.
⭐️OCTOBER: Broke up with my boyfriend from the accident. Put my blinders on and continued to push forward juggling school, teaching & PT. I was struggling, but kept pushing forward.
⭐️NOVEMBER: School, teaching, PT on repeat. I was so exhausted, I’d come home fall asleep & then finish hw & lesson plans.
⭐️DECEMBER: With my blinders still on, I finished the semester, had my first re-evaluation @craighospital
where we were able to see so much healing, growth & change in just 6 months!
⭐️JANUARY: Started my FINAL semester of college. Full-time student teacher, full-time PT patient 4-5 days a week with 2-3 days driving 3 hours to get to my specialists.
⭐️FEBRUARY: Went on my first date with Trevor♥️ Shared my story publicly for the first time.
⭐️MARCH: TEACHING & PT on repeat. Started dating Trevor. Celebrated one more year of being alive by skiing!
It’s March and with that the 7th anniversary of my accident is quickly approaching. I’m struggling to find the right words for this picture. But this is one of the last pictures of the “old Brittany” before my accident. I’ve grieved and still sometimes grieve for that girl, that body and my old legs - man I miss those calf & glute muscles.
As a 21 year-old junior and student-athlete at Utah State University, I was always on the go. When I wasn’t in class, you’d find me out running the roads and canyons of Cache Valley, rock climbing, and doing just about anything except sitting still. I NEVER did my hair and didn’t even own a curling iron or straightener. I lived in my running shorts, spandex & tie-dye tees. When I wasn’t in running shoes, you’d find me wearing Hawaiian sandals & socks or chacos. I loved life and it loved me right back♥️
During the next 7 days, I’ll be sharing videos & memories from the last 7 year of recovery & healing - from the milestones I’ve accomplished to lessons learned.
This is more of a therapeutic process and reflection for me, but maybe you can relate to lessons I’ve learned or learn something new about me. I can’t promise I’ll answer them all, but what would you want to know❓
Oh the difference a year can make. Different hats, different hair lengths, different snow gear, but the same people. Winter is hard, but these two and xc skiing are getting me through. I can’t believe we’ve been through every season with our little Boo Bear 🐻 and his snow suits😍 And this time around Will can actually keep his eyes open & stand up!
Is it an illusion, is it photoshop, is it a miracle? No, but THIS is the FIRST time I’ve held my baby on my hip standing on solid ground (while hanging onto Trevor for balance). I thought this would be such a special moment, but zoom in on my baby’s face & you can tell that he is not only unimpressed, but unhappy and just wants to get down. It made me realize, whether I’m standing with or without crutches, sitting in my wheelchair or on the ground - no matter what, I’m still his mom. This all also made me realize that my baby is not so baby anymore.😭😍
WHEELCHAIR WEDNESDAY: How we go for “walks”. When I first had my baby, I made it a goal to get outside every day. During the spring, summer & fall it’s easy, but winter is a whole different ball game. Now over 463 days later, we can say we’ve made it outside EVERY DAY.
We push & roll in the street because the streets are typically more clear of snow. When there is more snow I have to wear my big winter gloves & push my chair & the stroller through the lumpy, bumpy, snowy ground.
One year ago, I used my baby wrap and sling to keep my bitty baby snuggled in & protected from the cold. Now he’s such a big boy, I have ONE hand on the stroller & One hand on my wheelchair. Cooper’s leash is strapped to me or the stroller & We make our way to the “dog hill”, where we play with Cooper.
Many have asked about my accident & here it is; here is Cougar Cliff. THIS is where it happened. [These are pictures from an anniversary rappel, NOT from the night of my accident]
The past few days, my heart has been very anxious & I’ve found myself all over the place. From crying in Trevor’s arms to shutting down in silence all the way to my heart racing and hands shaking. I realized March is approaching & with that the 7th anniversary of my accident.
Here’s an excerpt from my blog post of a talk I gave in 2015:
“Very rarely, almost never, have I shared this publicly, and even then I do so very carefully and respectfully. From the first day of my accident, I owned my role and responsibility in the events that transpired, but my accident was a result of the negligence of another.”
I can’t nor do I want to go into all the details right here & now. I need to process my feelings and put them into words, and right now I need time. I wasn’t expecting to feel this way. Last year I felt such peace leading up to my anniversary. This morning I took some time to reread that blog post I wrote in 2015 [LINK IN BIO]. For those who have asked about my accident there are a few more details in this blog post. But today I needed this reminder about CHOOSING forgiveness & maybe you do too.
“I learned that forgiveness does not change or lessen the severity of the sin or wrong-doing, but it increases our faith in Christ’s Atonement.”
Pretty sure I already shared this first photo, but I had a very meaningful, even spiritual experience, when I first saw this photo. Lately, I’ve been relearning a lesson I learned in the hospital when fear & doubt overcame me for a moment. Then I was reminded of this quote:
“Choose faith over doubt,
choose faith over fear,
choose faith over the UNKOWN and the UNSEEN,
and choose faith over pessimism.”
Now if you know anything about me then you know I love the word CHOOSE. It’s not always easy to choose faith, joy etc. It’s been a very personal journey, but I decided to write and share it on the blog. ⭐️I may or may not have shared even MORE photos from our shoot with @mersadiolsonphoto
😘 in the post.
SPINAL CORD INJURY FUN FACT: Blurry low quality bathroom photo, but this picture captures a very important moment in my recovery(6•10•12). THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I PEED ON MY OWN AFTER MY ACCIDENT. I remember joking with my mom asking where my fruit snacks or potty training treats were. This photo strategically cut off my lower half & the toilet-seat, but you get the point. Just you’re average 21 year old in her giant Titanic night gown, big smile & double thumbs up 👍🏽👍🏽. Warning this may be TMI for some, but it is the DAILY REALITY for spinal cord injuries. When you are paralyzed that means EVERYTHING from the point of injury down. For me that was my t12 vertebrae so everything from the waist down. In the beginning that included sensory & motor (feeling & movement) as well as bowel & bladder function.
That meant early on I had an indwelling catheter & a nightly “program”, which meant bowel program, performed by one of my angelic hospital techs. If you want to lose your dignity fast, this is the best way I know.
As I began to heal, I started to learn how to take over my care, including my bowel & bladder program. For me this was a very traumatic process, but I finally learned to self-cath & didn’t have to wheel around with a bag of pee strapped to my leg. With time, I started to regain the sensation and pressure of when my bladder was full. So I started “potty training” again at 21 years old. I would sit on the toilet & try to go. I’d watch episodes of Modern Family, put my hand in warm water, turn on the sink - you name it we pulled out all the stops, but still no success. Then after 30+ minutes feeling defeated and discouraged, I’d cath & move on with my day.
This continued for over 3 months. Then one day it happened! I was sitting on the toilet trying, just as I had for the past 100 days, and HALLELUJAH it happened! Prayers had been answered. (At one point in the hospital I stopped praying for the ability to walk and started praying for the ability to pee.)
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that today I’m grateful for the ability to pee, even though I still have plenty of accidents. WHAT SIMPLE THINGS ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?