TMJ 4 Television News Special “Jenny Crain’s Journey of Hope”

Follow this LINK and click on VIDEO to view a wonderful television news piece by Milwaukee’s TMJ reporter Courtny Gerrish.

Runners World Article

Runners World magazine did a feature article on Jenny in their November 2009 issue. If you are following Jenny’s story and have not read this article please do so HERE.

Jenny’s throwing a party, and she wants you to help her ‘Make It Happen’!

January 3, 2010

Jenny and her family want to thank Milwaukee and the running community for all the love and support along the route of her marathon to recovery.

As a result (a P.R. result at that), we will be taking over the Whiskey Bar, 788 N Jackson St for the evening of Thursday, February 4th 2010.  There will be two awesome bands for your entertainment.  The opening band will be an all Northwestern Mutual employee rock band, and headlining will be the most awesome Modern Giants

There will be a silent auction with great running products and apparel. You can also view and bid on these wonderful auction items online HERE.

Doors open at 4:00, and there is no cover charge for the event.  Donations, however, will not be refused.

If you would like to download a copy of the official event poster, you can do so HERE

Jenny Progresses: Slow and Steady

April 1, 2009

We begin this update, as always, with our thanks for your support, love and continued interest in Jenny.  Ten months have passed since our last entry, and while Jenny continues to heal at a slow pace, she does “Make it Happen” every day.  The letters, emails, cards, and well wishes, which continue to arrive daily, offer Jenny much needed encouragement.  Your thoughts and prayers provide both direction and motivation for Jenny as she endures this long and challenging recovery.  

Over the last ten months, Jenny’s family and close friends have come to understand a new set of expectations for the recovery of injuries such as Jenny’s.  Whereas, recovery from a physical accident is typically well defined, with traumatic brain injury, degrees of healing are unique and unpredictable.  Given the time that has passed (nineteen months since the accident), Jenny and her family have learned that the small wins and minor changes are indeed the big wins on a day-to-day basis.  Only time will provide us the knowledge of how those small wins will add up.  Thus, Jenny’s routine of daily physical and occupational therapy continue to be hugely important with the major areas of focus being:

  • Speech:  While her voice remains monotone, Jenny’s ability to communicate has dramatically improved.  Her large vocabulary is evident along with her sizeable repertoire of songs from the past few decades!
  • Mobility:  In our last update, we referenced the restructuring of Jenny’s basic body mechanics.  Presently, with the help of a walker and two therapists, Jenny is back to walking on a daily basis.  Her progress is no longer measured in distance walked, but rather in being able to maintain proper balance and posture. Her therapists have indicated that they fully expect Jenny to walk, with the help of a walker only, within the next six months. 
  • Left hand and arm:  As many of you know, Jenny is a lefty.  Due to the significant damage to the right side of her brain, Jenny’s ability to use her dominant left hand and arm have been severely limited.  Through therapy, she has made great strides in using her left hand and arm with her most significant challenges being range of motion and strength. She has compensated well with her right hand displaying a great ability to be more ambidextrous than previously apparent.
  • Head and neck movement:  While there continues to be small improvement in Jenny’s flexibility related to head and neck rotation, Jenny will always have significant limitations in this area due to the fusing of vertebrae near the base of her skull.
  • Vision:  Through routine physical exams, it was discovered that Jenny lost sight in her right eye as a result of the accident.  This hasn’t been daunting for Jenny, again, proving her ability to compensate as needed.
  • Personal care:  Personal care has proven to be one of Jenny’s most challenging issues as it relates heavily on so many aspects of her physical recovery.  Currently, it is difficult for Jenny to perform routine tasks such as showering, toileting, combing hair, brushing teeth and so forth without the help of another person.  As with other facets of her recovery, achieving independence in this area is expected over time by her care team.
  • Comprehension:  Jenny continues to struggle with her short-term memory, however, she does show progress in many of her therapies indicating slow and steady improvement.
  • Mental health:  Over the past year, Jenny has struggled with perseveration as a result of the injuries to her brain.  Her inclination to dwell on perceived aspects of her life, including paranoia tendencies, cause distraction for therapy and sometimes present a challenging environment for visitors.  Like many of her physical challenges, this too is something her care team believes is an impediment Jenny will overcome in time.  

Jenny’s next big step in recovery is becoming ready for a community living environment.  Just as she finished the acute brain injury rehab program at Sacred Heart, she is reaching the end of her time at Mount Carmel’s skilled brain injury program.  These facilities and programs have served Jenny so critically since her accident, and we have every hope and confidence that the next phase in her journey to recovery will do the same. 

When leaving an out-patient therapy session this week, one of the care team members mentioned to Jenny that she saw something during the week that reminded her of Jenny.  When she asked Jenny what she thought that might have been, Jenny said, “you saw a beautiful woman?”  While Jenny meant it to be humorous, it could not be truer – indeed, Jenny is a beautiful woman in all regards! Jenny and her family again say thank you, because it can never be said enough, and we wish you all a beautiful, warm and hopeful spring.

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Continued Improvement Holds Hope For The Future

June 29, 2008


We start this update with a profound thank you to all of Jenny’s friends and supporters.  It has been 10 months since Jenny’s accident, and the continued interest in her recovery as demonstrated by well wishes, cards, and inquiries along with ongoing donations to Jenny’s Make It Happen Fund still feels humbling to our family.  Jenny has certainly been and continues to be a wonderful gift in all our lives, and we are grateful on her behalf for your ongoing love, support, and prayers.  We extend a special thank you to Alison Wade who compiled and edited “The Runner’s Cookbook, Winning Recipes from Some of the World’s Best Athletes” this past spring.   The book is on sale through, and the proceeds are being split evenly between Jenny’s Make It Happen Fund and the Ryan Shay Memorial Fund.  Ryan Shay, an All-American runner, died suddenly during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s Marathon last November.  It is an honor for Jenny to be supported along with the Ryan Shay Memorial Fund through this special project.  Jenny and her family are appreciative to all the athletes who donated their favorite recipes for all to enjoy.  We also extend a special thank you to the Badgerland Striders who donated one dollar from every entry from the June 25th Superun to the Make It Happen Fund.  The running community has been and continues to be some of Jenny’s biggest supporters as she works on her recovery. Our heartfelt thanks to all the people involved in these special projects and events and to all who continue to be concerned about Jenny and her recovery.  


In the past few months, Jenny has made great strides in many of her therapies. At the same time, she has experienced minor medical setbacks, due to infections and dealing with both mental and physical challenges.  


In our February update, we indicated that Jenny was walking distances of up to 150 feet while still at Sacred Heart Brain Rehab Facility.  Distances now are much reduced, due to a focus on proper body mechanics.  When Jenny first arrived at Mount Carmel BIR Center, her physical therapy team evaluated her flexibility, muscle tone, and general physical condition.  They came to the conclusion that because of her many months of inactivity, Jenny’s muscles and tendons needed to be stretched and reshaped.  As a result of their plan of action, Jenny was removed from a walking regimen and placed in a series of leg and foot casts.  After 60 days of rigorous stretching exercises combined with leg and foot casting, Jenny’s muscle tone is much improved.  She is now at the point where she is taking her first steps without the help of a walker, but still with the assistance of two physical therapists.  Her steps are more controlled and her form is greatly improved.  She continues to have challenges with the left side of her body, which makes it difficult for her to coordinate her steps.   Jenny’s care team continues to work with her left arm and hand, which have severe mobility limitations.  Jenny’s posture is much improved, thus her care team is now focused on increasing her ability to turn her head.  While some of these issues center around Jenny’s neck injury, most have to do with muscle inactivity.  Overall, Jenny’s physical abilities are lagging slightly behind her care team’s expectations, however, the team does feels that Jenny has made great strides in her physical recovery.  

With regard to Jenny’s mental acuteness, she continues to battle short-term memory problems.  She has, however, demonstrated an incredible ability to recall events and general knowledge from her past.  Her “Jeopardy” like memory is extremely sharp with her ability to name bands from the 80’s and political candidates from the late 90’s.  However, her ability to remember visits from friends and family on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis can be challenging.  Jenny’s cognitive skills have shown improvement, including her ability to read paragraphs and short stories and demonstrate reading comprehension with questions asked by her speech therapists.  Jenny’s emotional state continues to be slightly detached, whereas she appears to understand her situation, however, is somewhat disconnected from the overall ramifications of her injuries and her long-term prognosis.  While this is troubling on some fronts, one advantage is that there is currently less risk of depression and anxiety.  The flip side of this, however, is that Jenny does not demonstrate an emotional drive to recover from her physical and mental injuries.  While this is difficult to understand, we are told again and again that the brain is a mysterious and not completely understood area of medical science.  Thus, many patients over time will heal emotionally – it’s just not easy to predict when or if that will happen.  


Two aspects of Jenny’s recovery that are somewhat humorous include her eating habits and recreational time.  While Jenny has always been fond of a variety of different foods, since her recovery began she has developed an affinity for “any” food including the institutional variety she now receives.  Because of her challenges with swallowing, Jenny is currently eating a pureed version of the meals served at Mount Carmel.  She does not seem bothered by this, rather it seems like three meals a day is not nearly enough; asking when her next meal will be has become a predictable question for the staff!


During recreational time with other patients, Jenny often plays simple card games.  These games help reinforce various aspects of Jenny’s occupational recovery.  As many of you know, Jenny has always had a take-charge personality.  This aspect of her character is magnified during card games as she will often tell the other patients which cards to play and in some cases will play their cards for them.  While this is an encouraging sign in Jenny’s recovery, it is a challenge for the staff because many of the other patients are very willing to let Jenny make their decisions for them!


Other challenging aspects of Jenny’s recovery include dealing with incontinence, dental work, and the needed reconstruction of her jaw.  While we anticipated additional plastic surgery to occur by this time, the extent of Jenny’s injuries in her jaw area have proven severe.  Until Jenny regains a full range of motion and is able to open her mouth wider, her oral and plastic surgeons cannot begin reconstruction work which will be followed by numerous trips to the dentist.  


While some of Jenny’s challenges are daunting, we continue to have great hope for her future.  It is evident that she continues to make progress in her recovery, and we hope and pray for improvements to continue over the next few years with Jenny’s ability to regain much of what she lost 10 months ago.  


With the summer weather, there has been an opportunity for Jenny to venture out and enjoy the warmth of the sun and some fresh air.  We hope you are able to do the same – we wish you all a happy, safe and relaxing summer.


Jenny Moves To A New Home

March 27, 2008


On Monday, March 17th, Jenny was moved from the Sacred Heart Brain Rehab Facility at Columbia St. Mary Hospital to the Mount Carmel Brain Injury Rehab Center of Milwaukee. This move had been postponed many times, as Jenny achieved great advances in her therapy at the same time struggling with minor infections and most recently a blood clot in her left leg. After a week of evaluation and program transition at Mount Carmel, Jenny has been placed on a very rigorous schedule.


This schedule includes recreational therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, breakfast, lunch, dinner, (which she feeds to herself) and structured recreational time. This last item, structured recreation, is a key addition for Jenny as it adds a socialization aspect to her recovery. Up to this point, her therapy has been very individualized. Needless to say, Jenny’s day is packed with activities and she is typically exhausted soon after dinner. A full day of therapy and recreational activities is a very demanding schedule for Jenny.


In addition to her normal schedule, Jenny will soon start dental reconstruction work, have her feeding tube removed (Wednesday, April 2nd), have her lower legs and feet placed in casts to help with walking, and revisit her plastic surgeon.  


Jenny’s “outcome goal” as established by her care team is “supported/assisted apartment living by late December of 2008″. This is a very aggressive goal and will depend greatly on Jenny’s ability to progress at a measured pace and avoid complications. With that said, we all know given Jenny’s experience at Sacred Heart that these dates are never written in stone. This is simply an exercise in goal setting, a concept Jenny is very familiar with.


Jenny’s visitation schedule continues to be limited to her family and close friends.


Continued thanks for your support and love for Jenny…have a wonderful Spring!

Jenny Continues To Improve

February 9, 2008

We are pleased to report that Jenny continues to improve on many fronts. She has recently surpassed the 150 foot point for walking with the help of her therapists. Jenny is experiencing great mobility with the right side of her body, and her left side is beginning to gain strength as well. Her ability to communicate is extraordinary, with her voice now low and strong. Jenny does struggle with her short term memory. She also has brief episodes of memory flashbacks, such as trying to remove a retainer from her mouth which is something she hasn’t had since high school. While Jenny remains on a feeding tube, this past week she ate a complete cup of Malt-O-Meal cereal! Jenny’s therapists are enjoying her spirit and dry sense of humor. Jenny is now sitting in on her care meetings every Thursday where she listens intently and thanks the team members as each speaks on their area of expertise.

Jenny will complete her Acute Brain Injury program at Sacred Heart Rehab Center on February 25th. She will be moving to Mount Carmel Brain Injury Rehab Center, which is a long term brain injury recovery facility. Jenny’s visitation schedule continues to be limited to family and close personal friends as she deals with the rigors of her recovery regimen.

With Jenny’s big 40th birthday (February 12th) and Valentine’s Day upon us, Jenny and her family want to take a moment to “thank you” for your personal contributions to Jenny’s Make It Happen Fund. These gifts play an important role in deferring costs related to Jenny’s medical expenses. While we haven’t been able to personally thank the many people who have donated to the fund, please know that we are truly appreciative of your generosity and support.

Happy Birthday to Jenny and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Jenny Takes More Steps

January 20, 2008

Since the last update on January 1st, Jenny continues to progress in all her therapies.  She is currently spending roughly an hour in speech therapy each day,  and her ability and interest in talking is improving.  Although Jenny has indicated talking is exhausting, she continues to chat a great deal which is clearly the Jenny we all know and love!   Her audible volume continues to be fairly light at this time.  Jenny’s progress in physical therapy includes the ability to take a few more steps, still with the help of her physical therapists.  The focus of Jenny’s physical therapies is centered around muscle tone and improving her flexibility.  Jenny still has her feeding tube and will continue to have one until she can relearn how to eat….that process is happening very slowly.

Jenny experienced her first trip out of the rehab center on January 10th, with a drive along the lake front and time spent with family.  While this was a difficult trip for Jenny from a physical standpoint, she seemed to enjoy getting out and seeing her old training route along Lake Michigan.

On another note, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with the Benefit Concert for Jenny at the Milwaukee Ale House this past Thursday.  A special thanks to Mike Miller, Dwight Larkin, John McCabe and the band, Say Vandelay, for “making this happen!”  The benefit raised over $12,000 for her Make It Happen Fund which is being used toward Jenny’s medical expenses.   We appreciate the many media outlets that helped promote this event which helped to draw more than 500 people!  Many thanks to all who came on such a cold, January night.

Jenny Benefit Event (Update)

Updated information: Band start time and Band web site!

A benefit event will be held for Jenny in Milwaukee this month. Please join Jenny’s friends and family for this special event.

What: Say Van Delay (The All-Northwestern Mutual Band)
Date: Thursday, January 17th, 2008
Where: Milwaukee Ale House
Ale House Web Site:
Band Web Site: (see link to event poster)
Time: Doors open at 5 pm   Band starts at 6 pm
Cost: $10 cover charge All proceeds will go to the Jenny Crain – Make It Happen Fund

Together, we can “Make It Happen” for Jenny!