My Story of Recovery After TBI

Kristi discusses her treatment and recovery after experiencing traumatic brain injury (TBI).

When the PMA asked me to write about my TBI less than six months after it occurred I was concerned I wouldn’t have the ability to do so, but also eager because I wanted to share my story. I vacillated between terror at the vulnerability and sheer effort it would require (EVERYTHING is harder to do with a brain injury) and the desire to do something. I worked on my first draft and shared it with the people closest to me and the response I got, all from love and protection I'm sure, was a combination of “do you really want to do this,” “it sounds really angry” and "wow, you can really tell a story." I’ll be clear. I’m still not sure I really want to do this – but that ship has obviously sailed – and let’s be even more clear, I’m angry at least some of the time. You might be angry too. Anger for me is a direction to take that is a bit more positive in the momentum arena than depressed and hopeless. Sharing my anger, the humor I find in it all (at times) and my fears are part of how I believe I’m going to heal from this. And in spite of where I am today in the healing process and my fear of being labeled broken, judged as less, or never getting any better, I decided I was willing to share my story, the good, the bad and the angry.

So if you’ve already read the PMA article, here’s the rest of the story…

The Forensic Files

Hyperbaric Chamber

I have no memory of the fall, just the sound of my head hitting wood. I remember just before and once I regained consciousness, but it wasn’t until about 24-hours later while lying in a hyperbaric chamber that I started to question how I fell. I knew my head hit the ground first. I had told coworkers I fell off the Rebounder because that seemed logical, but I also knew I wasn’t using it and that I didn’t faint. I sat up from a completely limp position but had no idea how I got there. I was able to forensically piece the event back together when it was pointed out to me during a shiatsu massage (after the “chamber”) that I had a deep bruise on my left hip and low back in the shape of part of a ring. In the previous 24-hours, I hadn’t thought once to look for other impact points on my body. The bruise was the exact shape of the rim on my rebounder. But, I wasn’t using the rebounder! I still know I was dancing on the carpet all 26 minutes. I now believe that in a moment of movement glee, on what would be the last song of the night, in any case, I made the potentially fatal mistake of leaping up to the trampoline while I was still wearing socks. I lead with my right foot and know that is true when I get on to the rebounder too. Based on that, where I woke up in relationship to the rebounder, the shape and depth of my bruise, years of teaching Pilates and too many episodes of “Forensic Files,” I believe my right foot slipped out from under me (to the right side) before my left foot ever landed and my hip hitting the rim of the trampoline served only to increase the velocity for which my head hit the floor.

My accident was an accident. It was also, to my mind (mind for me is different from brain), something I did to myself by dancing with socks on and hopping onto the rebounder. Blame is right up there with “the plan the Universe has” when it comes to being subjective and tricky. If this happened to you, I would tell you it was ridiculous to blame yourself. We all have those moments where we are spontaneous and but for the grace of…let’s call it The Universe, we avoid catastrophe. But allowing myself to forgive myself for one small transgression in my otherwise good judgment is tougher on some days than others.

No sane person would ever suggest that a TBI is just desserts for doing what I love most, for dancing in my own home. A TBI can make you question your sanity and sometimes the anger and frustration has to be directed somewhere.

Back to The Universe’s Plan

I’ve already mentioned how much I’ve never liked that sentiment. I’ll repeat it for impact. There is nothing helpful in suggesting to anyone who is suffering (mentally/physically/emotionally) that their pain is all part of A PLAN. I don’t believe that any creature in the Universe can’t get from here to there without suffering. Or that suffering is a good thing. Suffering is just suffering. I want to believe that if that better place I’m supposed to get to or that greater good I’m supposed to do was spelled out for me pre-TBI, given the option, I could figure out how to go there or do that without diving skull first into my living room floor. When I’m mad, I think, “F--k the Universe. I’m not following its plan unless it gives me a few more f--king clues to go on.”

Clearly, I have a long way to go to find the silver linings or understand the lesson(s) for which presumably, I was spared to learn. But I’m also a bit of a Pollyanna by nature. So here I am and this is what I’m dealing with and it is impossible for me to not make a bit of lemonade from the lemons crushed under my body as it dove from the rebounder on November 16.

I'm not the same person I was on November 15th. I'm not sure it’s possible to ever be that person again. Honestly, there are parts of "her" I won’t miss if they don't return, but I need her innate joy back. I cannot live without the hope of joy, no matter who I am now or who I become. What was innate (though sometimes buried) in me before, is now a choice I must make. The quest for joy, even pleasure (yeah, I said it) is the only thing I can come up with for being here in the first place. To have a TBI and being here makes me believe finding joy and pleasure is nothing short of imperative. So I continue to search...

There is a part of whoever I am now that knows I must accept the loss that happened in that moment. I don't know how to accept it, yet. In fact, I don't know who or what I won't accept anymore, until I don’t. What I do know, however, is the effort it takes to sort out what works for me and what doesn't has been like a knife sharpener for my needs and desires. I may not hear, see, understand or speak as well as I did on November 15th, but I can still observe and that lets me "see." So far, I see me becoming something else in the midst of everybody else's "same." 

I'm not happy, yet. I'm in pain now, and almost always. I try very hard, every day, just to get through it without massive judgment from myself or from what I perceive others believe I should be capable of.

So as it turns out, this is not “the rest of the story”…this is a place to join me as this story evolves. And perhaps to share some of your own stories so that the next time someone falls on their head after daring to dance with joy for a few minutes in their own home searches for answers and a story like theirs to give them a roadmap or some hope or even a few minutes of less isolation.

Who knows? Maybe that was the Universes’ plan all along? Maybe.

Kristi Cooper
About the Author

Kristi Cooper

Kristi Cooper is a Co-founder of Pilates Anytime and a seasoned Pilates professional. Her approach to Pilates maintains that the exercises practiced in the Pilates method are the vehicle which drive us towards increased awareness, balance, and vitality.


There are no words, to sum up, all the thoughts and feelings going through me right now. First, thank you for being so vulnerable to share this. Thank you for letting us all in. Thank you for showing up every day as you are and I thank God and the Universe that you are alive. That you continue to do your thing. So much love for you. xx~LL
Thank you Lesley Logan.
Christine P
Thank you, Kristi Cooper , for being so brave to share your story and for finding the courage to keep dancing. I hear you on being angry with the universe at times - heck I was there just last week as a matter of fact! Sending you a huge hug, xoxo
Sherri Betz
Dear Kristi,
I had no idea what you were/are going through. My heart goes out to you. I can't imagine going through life everyday with head pain. I have migraines periodically and thank god they do go away. I am sending thoughts of love and healing to you-thank you for sharing and for all that you have brought to all of us who love Pilates and love you! Let me know if there is anything you need. I am happy to help.
Thank you Sherri Betz and Christine Pieton. I finally believe I will get to a place where I can predictably trust my abilities and know to rest when I should. That said, it was only yesterday when I was surprised once again...
Most days I'd rather no one know how hard it has been for me. So many people seem to move through a concussion easier and much quicker than I have managed to, that even I sometimes question the reality of how I feel and what is happening in my brain. Then, I find a forum, or one story that isn't like mine, but close enough to mine that lets me know I am not alone. I want someone else to know they are not alone too. I will call on you Sherri if/when I need to. Thank you, so much.
Christine, even in my angriest moments directed at the Universe, I somehow fall back on knowing that I am of it, part of the whole of the Universe. Then I remember that fact means the Universe can't be in opposition to me. It literally cannot be against me. And, I still loathe people telling me "The universe must have a plan for you." I'll expand on that later...
Sherri Betz
Kristi Cooper I am glad to see that you received hyperbaric O2 treatment. I recently treated a surfer after a cervical fracture who had a concussion/TBI and he received the hyperbaric chamber treatment and he reported that it helped a great deal.
3 people like this.
Kristi Cooper Thank you for sharing your story here and in the PMA newsletter. Let me just say that I am sorry for your fall and the pain. I respect and honor that you face new challenges everyday. I encourage you to continue to be patient with yourself. It is so hard to go from version 1.0 of yourself to version 2.0. This I understand! My circumstances and experience are different from yours. But I feel you are traveling a path I've journeyed. I learned to keep being honest with myself, to keep an open mind and heart and to be patient in the process that is one step forward and a couple of steps back. Just as 1.0 took time to become 1.0, 2.0 will take time to become 2.0. Don't limit 2.0 to a slightly different version of 1.0! Stay open to all possibilities and truths as you patiently move forward. Part 1 of 3.
7 people like this.
Kristi Cooper It seems like a great time to tell you how Pilates Anytime has impacted my life. I am a former triathlete and triathlete coach. Through a couple of accidents and injury I found myself unable to swim, bike or run. I ended up not even being able to vacuum our little house. I wasn't who I was and took a long journey to become my 2.0. Pilates Anytime played a huge role in this. I took a sabbatical from work and we lived on one income. I couldn't afford pilates lessons and I needed private. I was too big a mess for even a duo. So, I decided that since I have a background in understanding the body and NO ONE could tell me my problem Dr.'s, mir's, etc). I would begin to study how to heal myself. I watched videos over and over again and taught myself Pilates (the best you can at home by yourself) with nearly no prior Pilates experience. This was in 2012 I believe. part 2 of 3
6 people like this.
Part 3 of 4. Now, it is 2017 and I am never going to be who I was as an athlete but I am pain free and getting stronger as I continue to practice Pilates. I am now a Pilates teacher and I am now able to take private lessons. Because of my journey from 1.0 to 2.0, I have found that God has improved on 1.0! As I've traveled the path, prayed and sought to understand...I am now able to seen new purposes, influence and Impact I can have to help others that I wouldn't be able to do in version 1.0. the journey is long and difficult and I wouldn't begin to tell you "I understand"...
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