LOCAL AUTHOR AND CHEF RELATES PERSONAL STORY OF CHALLENGES, SETBACKS AND TRIUMPHS IN DEALING WITH TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
January 14, 2014 -- On March 19, 2010, 22 year old Catherine DiGiovanni's car was struck by a drunk driver as she drove to Sea Cliff to visit her parents. The injuries suffered by Ms. DiGiovvani were so severe that doctors gave her only a 5% chance of surviving the next 72 hours. After emergency surgery, she pulled through, but the expectation was that she would never walk or talk again.
On Saturday afternoon Ms. DiGiovanni, who had attended Sea Cliff School as a child and graduated from Lutheran High School in 2005, stood before an audience in the upstairs meeting room at the Sea Cliff Village Library and spoke about her recently published book Mise en Place of Life, and the challenges she has faced in dealing with a traumatic brain injury and other injuries from the 2010 accident.
Ms. DiGiovanni, a talented pastry chef and highly regarded graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), had had plans of becoming an executive Chef and one day having her own restaurant. The injuries she suffered however entirely took away her sense of smell, caused her to completely lose vision in one eye and 50% of her sight in the other, and greatly limited the use of one or her arms. With cooking being so central to her life since she was a young child, the loss of smell, she said on Saturday, is what she misses most, and the injury that has had the most detrimental impact on her quality of life and the opportunity to follow her chosen career path.
In Mise en Place of Life Ms. Giovanni tells the story or her recovery through journal entries, poems, photographs, and recipes - from the moments in the hospital when she learns of what had happened to her, to her treatment at the Burke Rehabilitation Center, and through her return to baking and cooking, which becomes a central part of her self administered therapy.
The theme that emerged from Ms. DiGiovanni's talk on Saturday was the importance of support systems for the victims of traumatic brain injuries and their families. She emphasized in particular the role her father played in coming to her side through emotionally difficult times, as well as others such as Kevin McIlroy, the East Norwich EMT who was there at the accident scene in 2010 to administer life saving treatment and who to this day continues to offer his support and friendship.
The story Ms. Giovanni told on Saturday not only gave the audience a better understanding of the challenges facing those who have suffered traumatic brain injury, but also offered a powerful lesson in the importance of individual perseverance and support from others in overcoming life's greatest challenges.
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