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Happy New Year

Weekly Thoughts From Erika

 

Starting the New Year right?

 

How many of you have been asked over the last few days what your New Years resolution is? Do you struggle to pick one and feel pressure to make sure that it’s “good?”

 

I strongly dislike resolutions. My feeling is this…why do you need a specific day to better yourself and make commitments to yourself and/or others? If you want to make a change in your life or attitude, you don’t need a holiday to prompt you when to start, start when you feel ready.

 

Two nights ago, someone I was close to a few years ago and that became a HUGE source of encouragement throughout my recovery while he was continuing his fight against cancer that was draining so much from him passed away. My heart immediately broke and I could not stop crying.

 

Josh Mentzer was an incredibly caring, fun-loving, generous and carefree soul that always had a smile on his face every time he came to drop off the Boars Head delivery at the Graul’s Market. He had such a kind soul, was incredibly giving and had a fire for life and love like I had never seen. He made everyone’s life better by his shear presence.

 

Josh, I’m so happy that you are now out of pain, but your lack presence here on Earth will be hard for a large amount of people to try to overcome. You will never leave our hearts and we will never forget the impact that you made in our lives. Thank you for everything you have done in my life, as well as, the lessons of determination and fighting through hardships you taught me.

 

My challenge for you all is to make one, if you feel you want to, that deals with your heart, mind and soul rather than your physical appearance. Being healthy and losing weight is a wonderful goal; why not make that a secondary goal. Make a resolution to take more time appreciating the small things. To pay attention to your loved ones needs and how you can make a difference in their lives.

 

My resolution has nothing to do with me. I never make resolutions because they seem so selfish every time I make one. My resolution is to think about how my life can impact others and help them. I want to help someone else achieve their goal and encourage the change that they want to make in their life. Just as Josh Mentzer helped me achieve my goals and keep me focused on the help I wanted to give to others to make their changes.

 

Happy New Year and I love you all very much.

Erika

Countering Violent Extremism Website—-Check it out please

I’m so honored and grateful to have been asked to be a part of this wonderful project through the FBI. Such a powerful message and great way to educate today’s youth on what to look out for and how to handle if they are trying to be recruited to harm others. Please check out the website and share.

https://cve.fbi.gov/home.html

New Book Released

Check out the interview I did on The Norris & Davis Show to help promote this amazing book I’m honored to be included in. Others features in the book are Cal Ripken Jr., Dr. Ben Carson, Jim Craig, Lance Armstrong and Dennis McCormack- one of the original Navy Seals. A third of the royalties go to benefit The Navy Seals Foundation. Get your copy now!!!

http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2015/08/11/author-doug-strouse-and-boston-marathon-survivor-erika-brannock-live-in-studio/

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http://www.strongerresilience.com/index.html

Praying For My City

Watching the events in Baltimore from today has given me a mixture of emotions. While I can have respect for the frustration for what the community of Baltimore City feels (because I not part of a minority I cannot truly understand what they are feeling) the way that this is being handled saddens me and breaks my heart.

 

Innocent people have been hurt and harmed due to the violence a group of people decided was the appropriate way to react. Did the young man sitting at the bus stop they beat have anything to do with Freddie Gray’s death? Did the employees at CVS have anything to do with Mr. Gray’s arrest? Did the people who would have benefited from the senior center that was burned to the ground play a part in his tragic death?

 

My mind is swimming trying to figure out what goes through someone’s head when they cut the fire hose that is trying to put a fire out in a CVS store that could spread and take down their city. Destroying your own home does not solve anything.

 

Seeing the group marching with the clergy through the city and how it grew gave me a small piece of hope that inside people still know how to do the right thing and think on their own from their friends.

Making Progress

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Many times in our journey through something difficult we have setbacks, this is normal. So many times these setbacks discourage us. I have had these moments in my own recovery and have become discouraged myself. It took me awhile to understand that even though I was going through this setback, I was still making progress. It wasn’t always the progress I wanted to be making, but my sister; also seriously injured in the bombing, told me to “Trust The Process.” This has become my motivation and encouragement through my long recovery.

I am a very stubborn person if you can believe it or not :-). I am the most patient with children and the least patient with myself. I have tried to push my body beyond what it was capable of and paid the price for that on more than one occasion even well before losing my leg.

In today’s world everyone is trying to get somewhere the fastest way possible. Find the quickest way to get to our end goal. Why? What do we gain by getting through a traffic light just to be stopped two lights down from that? What do we gain from driving 15 miles over the speed limit on a major highway and passing other cars? Or getting in line at Starbucks ahead of someone talking on their phone not paying attention?

Think about what you are trying to rush through in your life. Are you missing a lesson you could have learned? Are you missing a opportunity to make a new relationship or make someone’s day better?

There is a process to everything we do no matter how small. Trust your process and take a moment to look around at who you could be benefiting or how you could be improving yourself.

 

With love,

Erika

 

Weekly Thoughts From Erika

My hope is to help others navigate through difficult times and gain strength through my journey. If you have questions I can help with, I would love to help you move through your difficult time.

Everyone has their own struggle that they are going through. We don’t always feel that our struggle is as significant as others but that is simply not true. The struggle you face is significant if it make you faultier and stop you from moving forward.

My hope through this weekly blog is to encourage everyone to find a way to move through their struggle and find the light on the other side. If you have questions please ask, I’ve never claimed to be an expert but I feel like I’ve been through enough in my life that can help me help others.

I would love to go on your journey with you, you have all helped me through my journey.

 

With love,

Erika

Erika Brannock – 1 year later: on Anderson Cooper 360

Anderson Cooper follows up with Erika and Amanda North, the woman who helped her just moments after the Marathon Bombing.  The two now share an unbreakable bond. Catch up with both women to see how this past year has changed them and made them stronger.

 Click here to watch the story

Erika & Amanda

Boston Marathon Victim Erika Brannock On The 1-Year Anniversary

Erika Brannock, Boston Marathon survivor and preschool teacher Towson returns to Boston for the first anniversary of the marathon. Brannock was in Boston watching her mom, Carol Downing, at the marathon finish line when the bomb went off.

Brannock’s mom is competing in the race again this year. Everyone that hadn’t finished the race was given the chance to come back.

“It’s what we need to do to get closure,” Brannock said

To here the entire Interview on 105.7 The Fan – click Here.

Brannock started walking and doing stairs in October. Then in January she found out had a soft tissue and bone infection.  She was put on two antibiotics for 8 weeks and couldn’t walk for two months.Doctors were able to get all the bacteria out and was back walking within two weeks.

Brannock is now back to teaching her preschool students. She taught her first solo lesson in almost a year in March. She is also finishing up classes for grad school and getting ready for student teaching.

On Monday April 21st, Brannock will be at the finish line watching her mom finish the rac

Erika Brannock crosses the finish line of Boston Marathon on One Year Anniversary of bombing

BOSTON (AP) – Survivors, first responders and family members of those killed came together Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing with solemn ceremonies.

  • Marathon survivor Erika Brannock, a teacher from Maryland, uses a walker as she prepares to cross the finish line following a tribute in honor of the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in Boston

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Link to the full Fox11 article HERE

Still Standing A year after the bombing, Boston Marathon survivor Erika Brannock talks about her recovery.

Still Standing

A year after the bombing, Boston Marathon survivor Erika Brannock talks about her recovery.

By Jane Marion

Carol Downing parks her silver Honda on Allegheny Avenue in the heart of Towson, but at this particular spot, a tree leaves little space for the passenger to open the door and get out. “I guess this wasn’t the best spot,” she says, turning to her daughter, Erika Brannock. “I’ll deal with it,” says Brannock, as she gets out of the car and, with the help of a walker, heads for the sidewalk with a slow but steady stride. “Dealing with it” has become a mantra of sorts for Brannock as she works to get back on her feet—no easy task given that one of them is a prosthetic. Last year, on April 15, two pressure-cooker bombs filled with metal, nails, and ball bearings exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died and an estimated 264 people were wounded, 16 of whom lost their legs. Brannock was there with her sister, Nicole Gross (who also sustained severe leg injuries), and her brother-in-law, Michael (who suffered burns and lacerations), to cheer their mother across the finish line.

 

 

Erika Brannock has moved in with mom Carol Downing as she heals. –Photography by David Colwell

Erika Brannock has moved in with mom Carol Downing as she heals. –Photography by David Colwell

 

“Given how close I was to it, I’ve always felt lucky,” says Brannock over a Caesar salad and grilled calamari at Cafe Troia. “Jeff Bauman [who lost both legs] was eight inches from my head, and Krystle Campbell, who died, was right in front of me.”

 

Even so, recovery has been far from easy. To date, Brannock has endured 18 surgeries, including the amputation of her left leg above the knee and multiple surgeries to repair extensive bone and soft-tissue injuries to her right leg, which she also almost lost. In the wake of the tragedy, the 30-year-old with the arresting blue-green eyes has emerged as a symbol of strength and survival. “I had such a quiet life before,” says Brannock, her mother sitting by her side. “I was just a preschool teacher getting her master’s, enjoying the single life, and hanging out with my mom and my sister and friends. I was always the kind of person who liked doing things for other people and being in the background.”

 

Since Boston, however, Brannock has come to the foreground as a face of the race, serving as a starter at the Baltimore Running Festival as well as appearing on The View, where, when she introduced herself to Barbara Walters backstage, the veteran journalist told her she needed no introduction. Recalls Brannock, “She said, ‘I know who you are.’”

 

Despite all the attention, the spotlight has left Brannock unfazed. “I feel like I’m the same person as before,” she says. “When people come up to me, I just feel like me. Pardon my frankness, but it’s weird to be known for getting blown up. I didn’t die—I accomplished that.”

 

Downing looks lovingly at Brannock and interjects, “But people are in awe of your attitude.”

 

Though she has tried to get back to the life she once knew—juggling school and work—Brannock has not shied away from sharing her story. In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, the outpouring overwhelmed her as the local community—from Graul’s Market and Trinity Episcopal Church (both former employers) to her current employer Davenport Preschool—rushed to support her, establishing the Erika Brannock Fund, which has raised money to help defray staggering lifelong medical expenses. (Her state-of-the-art prosthetic alone—which will need replacing in five to seven years—costs at least $50,000.) Strangers rose to the challenge as well, sending handmade quilts and shawls, cards, and flowers from Baltimore to her Boston hospital room.

 

“We had so much support when we were up in Boston,” says Brannock, the last of the wounded to be discharged from the hospital. “It was important to come home and thank people. I don’t think we would have felt right about coming home and hiding.”

 

With her can-do attitude and sharp sense of humor (she’s been known to make half-price pedicure jokes), Brannock, a graduate student pursuing a master’s of art in early childhood education at Towson University and part-time administrative assistant at Davenport Preschool, has been a pillar of strength, something she says she learned from watching her mom go through tough times.

 

“My parents got divorced when I was a freshman in high school,” she says. “Through the divorce, I saw how strong she was. She was like, ‘This happened. It’s crappy, but I have to get up. I have two kids to take care of. I have to keep going.’”

 

Even on this mid-January evening, the night before yet another surgery—the first of two to repair her perforated eardrums blown out by the blast—Brannock is willing to talk about the worst day of her life. “It was hard talking about it at first,” she says, “but now it’s helpful, though there may come a time when I don’t want to tell it anymore.”

 

On race day, Brannock and her sister and brother-in-law went to mile marker 26—a symbolic spot honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting—to participate in a moment of silence. Brannock wanted to stand there to cheer on their mom, while her sister wanted to stand at the finish line. “Michael and my sister went ahead to find a spot, and then she texted me, ‘We found a good spot.’ We got there, and there were all these people, and I was like, ‘That’s not a good spot,’ and she patted me on the back and gave me a little nudge forward, and then I heard this big ‘whomp,’ and it was like everything went silent. I could feel myself falling backward, but I don’t remember hitting the ground,” says Brannock in a continuous stream of sentences. When she came to, she says she wondered, “‘Why am I on my back?’ I could feel that someone was laying on my legs, and I felt like my left knee was twisted,” she recounts. “I thought, ‘Damn, I broke my leg. I’m going to be out of work.’”

 

But when Brannock tried to stand, she fell back on Boylston Street. “My legs felt like Jell-O. I felt flesh, and warm, and sting, and I just put my hand back up, and it was covered in blood,” she says. “I was like, ‘This is really bad, and I started to feel this weird pull—when people have a near-death experience, they see this flash before their eyes and the bright light and the pull, and I felt all that stuff.” On the ground, she fought to stay alive. “I was like, ‘No, this is not happening,’ and I closed my eyes. I had a conversation with God, and I said, ‘You are not taking me yet. I’m not done. I’m not leaving.’”

 

For her part, Downing, who was tending to Gross in another area hospital several blocks away, had no idea her other daughter had been gravely injured. “I thought, ‘We’ll find her—no big deal. She’s lost and wandering around.’” When authorities finally contacted Downing and took her to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the doctors told her she would need to identify Brannock before they could disclose her injuries. “She was all puffy from the fluid they had given her,” Downing says. “She had a breathing tube in and her hair was all singed, and I just kept looking at her, and I’m like, ‘Hmm, I don’t know whether that’s her or not.’ I didn’t want it to be her. Finally, I said, ‘It’s her,’ and I just stayed with her in my running clothes for two days.”

 

Since returning home from the hospital last June, Brannock’s challenges are far from over. On any given week, she requires a phalanx of medical personnel, including orthopedists, plastic surgeons, acupuncturists, ear-nose-throat doctors, physical therapists, physiatrists, prosethetists, and a counselor (to help her cope with the traumatic experience).

 

Along the way, there’ve been good days and bad ones. On the bad days, Brannock, who had to move back to Monkton with her mother and step-father, gives herself permission to grieve for her old life and even has a “Dammit Doll” she can bang against the wall to vent frustration. “For the longest time, I’d say, ‘I’m okay,’ but once everything started to die down, and people were going back to their lives, I was like, ‘Now it’s just me with my thoughts,’” she says. “There were no more distractions, and going out in public and smiling, and people telling me I’m such an inspiration.”

 

Downing is equally honest. “There are some days when she’s really crying or I’m sitting upstairs with my husband crying. And then the next day is okay.” For Downing, the finality of Brannock’s injury can hit hard in unexpected ways as well. “Erika loves shoes,” she says. “I remember one day when she was still in Boston, I was taking a walk and going past shoe stores, and I thought, ‘She’d love these shoes.’ It’s very painful for me to go to shoe stores. I realize how much I can’t really do my own healing because I’m so involved in theirs.’”

 

And for every day of progress, there have been serious setbacks. In late January, Brannock’s right ankle became infected, necessitating nearly back-to back surgeries at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Medical Center at the University of Maryland. But the optimist maintained her trademark sense of humor. Just minutes before she was wheeled into surgery, Brannock was asked if she had any final words. “Live long and prosper,” she cracked, a reference to Spock’s famous saying from Star Trek.

 

While Brannock has not yet gone back to teaching, some of her best medicine comes from working as a part-time administrative assistant and classroom assistant at Davenport Preschool. “You can’t help but smile when you’re around two-, three-, and four-year-olds,” says Davenport director Liz Harlan. “Even if you’re missing one leg.”

 

Brannock has even turned her injuries into a lesson. “My kids kept asking me what’s going to happen to you? And I kept saying, ‘I’m going to get a new leg,’ so they honestly thought that my leg was going to grow back,” says Brannock. “I hadn’t gotten my prosthetic yet, but the prosthetist came in and told them what she does. They got to touch different legs, and they totally got it—they had so much fun with it.”

 

Her “kids,” as she calls them, have also factored into her decision to go back to Boston this month to watch her mother complete the race she came within a mile of finishing before the blast. “If I don’t ever go back to a race, what’s that teaching them?” asks Brannock, who plans to walk the 5K with her sister and brother-in-law. “This is the last step to be able to fully move forward and put the past behind me.”

 

As she looks to the future, the tragedy has given her a new perspective.

 

“Ultimately, I want to find a way to help others cope with a variety of situations in their lives,” she says. “Helping the kids I teach to be accepting of people with disabilities will be a larger part of my teaching than before. I’m still unsure of what my ultimate goal will be through all of this, but I don’t think my ‘race’ will ever be finished—there will just be checkpoints along the way.”

 

to see the whole article, click HERE 

 

 

 

 

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