Miracles in Glenwood Springs
Post Independent Contributor
In 1991, a near-fatal car wreck on Four Mile Road put Carrie Fell-Miller into a coma. She suffered damage to her pelvis and internal organs. Part of her jaw was missing. And, her brain was damaged to the core. When she came out of the coma after seven weeks, at age 15 she had the mental capacity of a small child and was incapable of walking or talking.
Carrie, now 37, traveled the world in the mid-1990s with Up With People. She’s been married for 15 years and lives with her husband, Mike Miller, in West Glenwood Springs with their cats, Gomez and Morticia. “She’s amazing,” says her mother, Donna Fell, a local Realtor and owner of Creating Conscious Spaces. “She’s my inspiration every day of my life.”
Carrie is also the inspiration for Miracles, a Glenwood Springs support group for survivors of traumatic brain injury and their families and caregivers. In fact, Carrie will eagerly tell you it was her idea. “I had a dream that the reason I survived the crash was to put a group together to help people,” she said. Carrie added that she normally doesn’t dream. “Part of my injury is that I don’t have any dreams,” she explained. “Unless there’s a major, significant life change ahead of me.”
Miracles started in 2003 with three people. Now, a core group of 15 meets monthly in Glenwood Springs. Donna said close to 30 people have attended. Some come and go but the core group comes together the fourth Thursday of every month. “We believe that by surrounding yourself with people who support where you are without judgment, you find ways to continue to grow,” said Donna.
Each group begins with “the happy and gratefuls” as Carrie puts it. In other words, members talk about what they are most happy about and grateful for. And gratitude begets more things for which to be grateful. “All of our focus is on what is and not on what isn’t,” said Donna.
Both agree that acceptance of the present is the key to a positive attitude as well as physical improvement after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But it isn’t easy to get to that moment.
For Carrie, it came when she returned to high school after the accident. Before the crash, she said, she participated in several activities, including drill team. “So, I went to [drill team] practice fully dressed and ready to dance,” she recalled. But, because of her injuries and memory problems, she couldn’t do it anymore. ”I went from having everything,” she said. “And came back to the same school as a special-needs student.”
When Carrie emerged from the coma, she was a completely different person, Donna recalled. But longing for a way of life that existed before the TBI can get in the way of healing. “I had to finally let go of who she was and accept who she is.” Once that happened, she said, life began to move forward.
Miracles is all about moving on with acceptance and gratitude. At last week’s meeting, members discussed what the group has done for them and wrote down their thoughts to share with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. One observation sums it all up: “This group gave me the acceptance and courage to move forward, and we constantly challenge ourselves and support each other. Here we get hope and acceptance. In a group, there is power that doesn’t exist when you’re alone.”
The group is meant to be a positive, nurturing experience for everyone. Members’ injuries may be different, but TBI is their common bond. “We’re exactly alike only different,” said Carrie with her easy laugh. “I always leave [the group] in a great mood.”
Physicians make referrals to the group but, said Donna, most find out by word-of-mouth. The group hosts a summer fiesta and a Christmas party, and the members are getting ready to work on a project, funded by a small grant from the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado. “This is our first grant as a group,” said Donna. “It’s for a project that is in alignment with our goals.”
Donna said helping with Miracles is her gift to a community that helped her after her daughter was injured. “Glenwood Springs was my family,” she recalled. “I guess it’s my way of giving back.”
Miracles meets the fourth Thursday of every month in the U.S. Bank Building next to Safeway in Glenwood Springs. Contact Donna Fell at 379-4244 or Carrie Fell-Miller at 379-5693 for more information.
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