As a long distance runner, Kristin Abello knows that it takes commitment and perseverance to reach her goals. In 2002, she was training for a marathon near her home in Sugar Land, Texas, when she was hit by a car and suffered a severe brain injury. Her journey back to health was long, and she documented her experience in a book to inspire others facing an uncertain future.
After the accident, Kristin was taken via helicopter to Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, where she remained for about a week. Once she was determined to be medically stable, she was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann.
“I don’t remember much about my stay in acute care, so my first memories after the accident were of being at TIRR Memorial Hermann,” said Kristin. “When I got to TIRR Memorial Hermann, I couldn’t do anything. I had to re-learn how to walk, talk and speak again.”
Dr. Gerard Francisco, professor and chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and chief medical officer at TIRR Memorial Hermann, was Kristin’s physician at that time and managed her care throughout her stay at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
“Kristin was severely impaired when she arrived here, but fortunately prior to her accident she was young and healthy,” said Dr. Francisco. “Her family was so supportive and really participated in her rehabilitation. All of these factors were a great predictor for success in her case.”
While at TIRR Memorial Hermann, Kristin had speech, physical and occupational therapy.
“I remember working on my balance,” said Kristin. “The therapists eventually got me walking again and I was even climbing stairs. I used an exercise bike as well. My ultimate goals were to get back to running and to be home with my family. I wanted my life back, and I was willing to work hard for as long as it took. My son was 18 months old at that time and my husband and I had been married less than 2 years.”
After 3 weeks, she was discharged from inpatient care at TIRR Memorial Hermann. At that point she was walking with assistance and she could write, speak, and do self-care activities such as taking a shower.
She then participated in TIRR Memorial Hermann’s Challenge Program. The Challenge Program provides a comprehensive range of services to help brain injury survivors maximize their potential. Specialized services focus on the community integration skills that are critical for the transition to independent living, school, work, or volunteer activities following brain injury.
“Our goal at TIRR Memorial Hermann is not just to make our patients better, but to also reintroduce them into the community and get them back to doing the activities they enjoy,” said Dr. Francisco. “Kristin was persistent in her recovery and makes quite a success story.”
Today, Kristin is running again – including competing in half marathons. She was able to raise her two sons – her older son is now in college and after the accident she and her husband had another son, who is in high school. Once her kids were older, she decided to share her story in hopes to inspire other people.
“Writing the book was a long process,” said Kristin. “The entire project – from writing to publishing – was about 2 years.”
Titled Sunrise, Kristin’s book is intended to share that a positive perspective can change even the bleakest of experiences.
“TIRR Memorial Hermann really brought me back to life--they helped me get to this point,” said Kristin.
For the 33rd consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 2 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.Learn More