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CONCUSSION SERIES: ‘All we have is hope’: Antigonish women talk about life after head injuries

Richelle MacLaughlin
Richelle MacLaughlin - Corey LeBlanc

Challenges and change: The journey continues…

ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Richelle MacLaughlin now runs a small business, and “embraces where I am today.”

“I have grown so much because of that head injury – it is unbelievable. I have really come to appreciate my time. I value my health, I value time with others,” she said.

“I am still helping, I am still giving back to the community, which is a huge part for me, but I am doing it in different ways now.”

MacLaughlin described her continued involvement as a Strait Regional School Board member – even if she had to participate via conference call, from her bedroom – as “a lifeline.”

It is about finding a passion or, at least, adjusting an existing one.

“I was an avid reader – I would devour books, but I can’t read for extended periods of time now.” Instead, she listens to audio books.

“It is not that I am not doing what I want to do – I am just doing it differently now.”

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Vangie Babin had to make adjustments with her passion for crafts. Crocheting hurt her head too much; she started knitting. Her first mittens were fashioned during those “concussion days.”

A couple of years ago, she started painting. Her first creation was a dandelion pushing its way skyward through cement.

“That’s what I felt like; you need to focus, you need determination and you need to keep… have strength, to be able to do that,” Babin said.

Throughout their journeys, the unwavering support of family and friends has been constant. There’s also been faith.

“I don’t know what’s at the other end,” Babin said.

“Sometimes, that light at the end of the tunnel is pretty darn dim, but I guess that’s where you know you have your faith.”

Both accept their concussion journeys could very well continue for life, bringing more change and challenge.

“I don’t say ‘my new normal’ anymore – I was saying that for a long time,” MacLaughlin said.

“It is just ‘my normal.’”

Striving to do more, while accepting limits, is important for Babin.

“You need to recognize and appreciate what you can do, and say, ‘that’s OK, this is who I am.’

“Be gentle with yourself.

“No one can tell you what to do. Don’t let anyone push you to go faster than you can, because it is your journey,” she said.

“Never give up.

“It is like I say – all we have is hope.”

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