Running To Renewal
GoodSport had the honor of spending time with United States Navy veteran Amanda Burrill, an incredible woman who returned to her first love, running, to aid recovery from traumatic brain injury.
In 2002, Amanda Burrill began her service as a combat systems officer, rescue swimmer and communications officer. Shortly after joining the navy, she suffered her first Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) slipping and falling down a hatch while aboard the USS Dubuque. Burrill reported symptoms of difficulty reading, poor balance and head and neck aches. As commonly happens, since TBI and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms overlap, she was wrongly misdiagnosed with PTSD.
Burrill moved to New York City in 2013 to attend graduate school but was still unable to receive the medical care she needed despite appealing to multiple doctors. Walking back to her apartment one day, she tripped and fell down some stairs causing, incredibly, a second traumatic brain injury. This time, doctors fully re-examined her medical records and gained a deeper understanding of her pre-existing head injuries to give her a proper diagnosis. Finally, her concerns were validated, and she had the opportunity to receive the medical care she needed.
Her passion for running serves as a catalyst for her rehabilitation journey. She has completed dozens of marathons, many relays, and two Ironman triathlons. She even did the 12-hour Relay for Heroes race for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit organization that builds treatment centers for veterans with TBI and PTSD.
“I get emotional when I talk about running because even after my first brain injury, my gait was horrible, but I kept running and I kept racing and it gave me something to focus on when I didn’t have much focus otherwise.”
Burrill said her difficult experience has motivated her to become an advocate for female veterans with TBI and to collaborate with veterans’ organizations. She believes women who served have to employ self-advocacy in cases of injury and continue to persevere until they get the critical diagnosis.
“What I can say from the bottom of my heart is to never give up and to always know that there’s somebody who’s willing to listen and to advocate for yourself tirelessly. I’ve been there and, no matter where you are post injury, you can get better. Maybe not all the way better, but there’s always hope. So keep, keep pushing.”