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At the age of 26, Jamie Crane-Mauzy has already experienced more tragedy and triumph than most will experience in a life time. Less than a year after suffering a traumatic brain injury while competing in ski slopestyle, Jamie was back on snow and back in the classroom. We are honoured to have her speak at Multiplicity in just a few weeks, so we sat down to get to know her before the talk.-ML
Welcome, Jamie! Tell us about yourself.
I’m known as Jamie Mo Crazy. I’m 26 years old and I’m based out of Park City, Utah. I grew up on the East Coast and was a ski racer until I was convinced to try freestyle. I fell in love with it right away and when I went to my first water ramping camp, the first day I learned how to do a front flip, the third day I could do a backflip, and by the fifth day I was recruited to be on the U.S. aerials team. From there my freestyle career blossomed. I won junior world championships, I competed in X-Games and Dew Tour, and I was the first woman to land a double flip in competition in 2013.
What happened next?
On April 11, 2015 I was competing in the Whistler Ski And Snowboard Festival which was the world tour finals that year. I was competing in slopestyle and the first run I ended up in 4th place. That was not good enough for me. I’m extremely ambitious—4th place is not on the podium, and no one remembers 4th place. So, I changed my run from a flat 3 to a double flat 7. On that trick I landed on my feet, but I caught my edge and whiplashed my head onto the snow in such a way that my brain started bleeding in eight spots. I hurt my right brain stem which completely paralyzed my right side and I automatically went into a coma. I was in a coma for 10 days and had serious amnesia for a month and a half. I still have no memory of that time.
Wow. Well, we’re happy you are here now. Can you tell us about the road back?
A year after my injury I went back to college at Westminster in Salt Lake City, Utah. About 8 months after, I went back to skiing with the National Ability Center in Park City. I had to re-learn everything—how to walk, how to talk, and of course I had to re-learn how to ski. I was all the way back to green circle, basic runs. Every time I re-learned things it was much faster, but I still had to re-learn.
What’s the first thing you remember after your injury?
After my injury my mind came back sporadically. I vaguely remember stimulators put on my arm to make it move for the first time. As my mind came back, something kind of humorous happened. I refused to believe I was in a hospital. Every morning the doctor would ask me where I was and I would tell them I was in a movie about a hospital. I had a hammock in my room and I would tell them that hospital rooms don’t normally have hammocks, so it must be a movie. I told them that since I couldn’t feel it when they were poking me with needles, so it must be a movie because they wanted it to be realistic but I couldn’t actually feel it.
Was that a result of you being subconsciously stubborn? Or just because of your injury?
I think that my stubborn attitude played a huge role. When I was in the hospital the first time I walked up a flight of stairs it took me an hour. I couldn’t do it by myself—I had to have help from my therapist, my mom, and more. It was really difficult. But I practiced every single day wth my sister and my mom because I was so stubborn. When I left the hospital, I could get up the stairs in three minutes and twenty seconds. That was all because I was so stubborn and wanted to get back to the way I was before.
How did your mother and sister being around help in your recovery?
A lot. I think it’s very important to have support in your life after an injury, and your family is the first line of support and they are essential. For the first eight days after my injury I was in the Vancouver hospital, and then I was airlifted in a jet back to the Salt Lake hospital. At the Vancouver Hospital, I was actually the first person to receive the type of oxygen and pressure analyzing brain bolt that they had just learned about in Cambridge England one month before my injury.
Back to the family involvement, my family was very present. My older sister is actually an anesthesiologist in Connecticut, but she became my primary care physician which is unusual for family members to do. My mom and dad signed her off to become my primary care physician so she had the rights to go on the different rounds and talk to different doctors and hear about my situation. Luckily, when the doctors we’re making rounds, family didn’t have to leave because my mom made my sister my primary care physician so she could stay, and then she allowed my mom to stay and hear about my situation, and help with the decision making.
That actually prompted Vancouver General Hospital to make a change in their policies so that instead of making it so that family members were not involved, they now make it mandatory that family members are involved unless the family members opt out. That was a pretty big change regarding family involvement. The doctors know a ton about the patients, but so do the families, so they made that change. I could not have lived without the doctors and I could not have come back to where I am now without my family and the doctors and my family working together. I owe a ton to my doctors, my therapists, and my family.
What was that first day on snow like?
It was at Park city, Utah. It was the December after my injury—I was so excited. I could not stop smiling, and my eyes kept tearing up. I started out just past a snow plow, but every run I took I could feel the rust coming off and feel myself improving. It came back much faster, but I still had to re-learn it. Every run I could just feel it coming back and I was so excited about it. My mom was there, my sisters were there, and It was a big event. I was ecstatic.
Maybe even more impressive is that you made it back to school just a year after your injury. What was it like overcoming the mental hurdles?
I didn’t realize how serious my injury was. When I went back to Whistler after one year and got to meet my first responders, I heard them tell me they wrote up my fatality report. Then I met one of the doctors who was in charge of my neuro care. He was in a meeting when we went to the ICU and he came out of the meeting and started tearing up. He basically said “Look, I’m an ICU Neurologist—and I see people die all the time. Your recovery is miraculous.”
That was when I began to realize it was a big event, and it was really intense. I began to realize I had the opportunity to share, and that’s why I became a speaker. That is also around when I started to realize I wasn’t going to compete again.
I hadn’t graduated college, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have anything. I actually had a friend who was like “Oh you’re so lucky, you don’t to work, you can just go shred!” And I began to realize that’s fun for a week, but it’s not fun forever. So I was getting quite stressed, and I started seeing a psychologist. I was having a lot of emotional struggles.
In around May of 2016 I was at a rally and I met a lot of Westminster kids and they were awesome. My mom suggested that I should just go tour, and I really liked it so I applied and got accepted to start the summer of 2016. That made me feel like a I had a purpose again. It gave me structure, a time to wake up and people who cared about my presence. That was really the reason I went back, was to have structure in my life.
Are there any lingering effects you notice? What happens if you hit your head again?
They don’t know exactly what would happen, but that is one of the reasons I decided to quit competing. Because if I hit my head they think it would be likely that there would be bad repercussions. If you are a professional skier, you fall a lot I didn’t want to put myself at risk for getting another concussion, so that’s why I take only calculated risks. If there’s a chance of me hitting my head, I stay away from it.
So what next? What does the future hold after school?
My public speaking is taking over and growing, so that is something I would like to keep up. I still can adventure—I take calculated risks, but I still can adventure and do lots of things. I am a talk show host on the Brain Injury Radio Network, and I commentate at different action sports events. I was hired to go up to a jamboree in Powder Mountain and commentate on the rail jam and then I gave a talk as well. Once I graduate I do not have a definite plan of what to do, but I am working with a producer of a few different documentaries and we are going to make a ski movie talking about women’s influence and liberation in the world.
Can you give us a sneak peak of what your talk will be all about?
I’ll be sharing my story, talking about neuroplasticity and about self-love. You always want a good day—but sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes you wake up to a day that will change your life. I experienced a full recovery from my injury with a belief in neuroplasticity, setting attainable goals, and self-love during the whole process and I want to share that story with everyone.
Amazing. Thanks for chatting Jamie and we can’t wait to hear your story in a few weeks! -ML