Bressman Law is pleased to announce Faelan O’Shaughnessy as the winner of its Traumatic Brain Injury Scholarship. O’Shaughnessy will receive $1,000 to use toward her aspirations of receiving a doctoral degree in occupational therapy at The Ohio State University (OSU).
O’Shaughnessy, 23, is a full-time doctoral student and survivor of a traumatic brain injury. At 16, she suffered a head injury in a car accident that left her “at the capacity of a fourth-grader.” She also was told several months later that she would not complete her junior year of high school and that she should redirect her plans to attend college.
“Give Up or Persevere”
Before the accident, she was an honor student and two-sport varsity athlete who had her eye on her applying to colleges. After the injury, life looked a lot different, and her future was uncertain.
“As I entered the second semester of my junior year, however, I could barely read or write,” O’Shaughnessy writes in her scholarship essay. “My cognitive processing, motor planning, and balance were severely diminished, but I was determined to remain a normal 16-year-old.”
She shares that she attended neurological rehabilitation sessions three times a week to receive occupational, speech, and physical therapy. The challenges remained, however. “Halfway through my rehabilitation, I plateaued; just as I was beginning to regain my hope, I was told by my rehab team that they did not expect me to recover any further, no matter how much more therapy I tried.”
At this point, she says she realized she had to decide how her life was going to go. “I saw the ephemeral glimpse of college fade right before my eyes, and it left me in one of the darkest places of my life. It wasn’t easy, but I realized that I had two choices: to give up or to persevere.
“I decided that no one could determine my future for me. Six months later, I made what my therapists still call a ‘miraculous recovery,” and I was even given the green light to return to school full-time.”
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O’Shaughnessy Marks Milestone with High School Graduation, Entering College
O’Shaughnessy moved forward with her studies, graduating from high school and then entering Carthage College. She graduated magna cum laude in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience. While a student at Carthage, she signed NCAA Papers and got back on the court to play Women’s Tennis. She says she kept her TBI to herself during her first year of college. That is, until she took her first neuroscience course.
“I learned about the underlying mechanisms of brain injury and regeneration. I started to see myself as a unique and capable individual, and the feelings of shame that once surrounded my TBI turned into pride for conquering such large adversity,” she says.
When she was not in class or on the tennis court, she pursued leadership, volunteering, and research opportunities. Through her occupational therapy program at OSU, she works as a caregiver for a woman who had a stroke. She also babysits, works at the OSU student success center, and plays tennis with a local league in her free time.
Support from Family, Educators, and Medical Staff Helps TBI Survivor Pursue Her Goals
O’Shaughnessy credits her support system for being there for her during her journey back to health and shares that they each affected her in different ways.
“My family are my biggest supporters and without their relentless love I wouldn’t be where I am today. My own neuro-rehab therapists taught me to never give up and without them I would have never found my future career field,” she writes in her scholarship essay.
“I’ve had amazing teachers, professors, and counselors who have also supported me and guided me in all my academic endeavors. My support system is so strong, and each individual involved inspires me in their own distinct way.”
TBI Injury Gives O’Shaughnessy a Unique Way to Connect with Future Patients
Now that O’Shaughnessy is a second-year occupational therapy student, she focuses on the work she wants to do upon receiving her doctorate and how she can help others. She wants to specialize in neurological rehabilitation and work with people who have a neurological injury or illness and face similar circumstances as she did. “I feel that I hold a very unique perspective of being both a patient and now a soon-to-be clinician,” she says.
Her TBI journey, she says, has given her a unique perspective that allows her to relate to and reach patients in ways other therapists can’t. She still has headaches, mental fatigue, memory issues, and an occasional slight stutter, “but these are only minor setbacks when compared to my bright future,” she says.
“I don’t wish to go back in time and change what happened to me; everything happens for a reason, and I’ve learned strength, empathy, and acceptance through my struggles. It took four years to fully accept my TBI and its lasting consequences, but through it, I found my purpose in life.”
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Bressman Law Traumatic Brain Injury Scholarship
Congratulations to Faelan O’Shaughnessy for winning Bressman Law’s sixth annual Traumatic Brain Injury Scholarship. The law firm created the scholarship to raise awareness of the challenges young people with TBIs face.
Eligible applicants must meet these criteria:
- Be currently enrolled at or accepted to an accredited U.S. college
- Have a cumulative minimum 3.0 GPA in either high school or undergraduate transcripts
- Proof of legal U.S. residency (birth certificate, passport, permanent resident card)
- Have a documented diagnosis given by a licensed healthcare professional
- Not have been a previous recipient of a Bressman Law scholarship
They also must complete a scholarship application form and submit an original, typed essay about their experiences with a traumatic brain injury. They must share how they received the injury, how their lives have changed since the injury, and the issues they’ve had to overcome.
For more information, see the Bressman Law Traumatic Brain Injury Scholarship page.