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Iditarod legend DeeDee Jonrowe stars in new PSA to help those struggling after brain injury
(WILLOW, Alaska) – Iditarod legend DeeDee Jonrowe is sharing details for the first time about her struggles with concussions, hoping her story will motivate fellow Alaskans to seek help if they are struggling with the effects of brain injuries.
“Suffering a brain injury can be scary, isolating, and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be,” Jonrowe said in a new Public Service Announcement for the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) HelpLine, which is funded in part by the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
In 2022, Jonrowe experienced a concussion after falling backward from a counter and hitting her head on the kitchen floor. As she recovered, she learned more about her persistent symptoms, which included blurred vision, headaches, and trouble with concentration. Jonrowe understood not only were these symptoms connected to her brain injury, but this was not her first concussion.
Jonrowe realized her crash into a tree during the 2014 Iditarod, coming down the notorious Dalzell Gorge, likely resulted in a concussion. She rejoined her team on the trail, but later withdrew from the race due to the headaches and fatigue caused by her brain injury.
“I can be hard-headed, and I blew off medical attention,” Jonrowe said. “I didn’t know exactly what was wrong and didn’t feel like I was able to explain it to anyone.”
According to a state-by-state analysis by the Centers for Disease Control, Alaska had the highest rate of deaths related to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) from 2016-2018. Other studies have shown TBI survivors in rural areas are more likely to experience worse functional outcomes compared to their urban counterparts. Jonrowe said she does not want any Alaskan to feel lonely or lost like she did during her recovery process.
During Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, Jonrowe is encouraging anyone struggling with brain injury symptoms in Alaska to reach out to the Concussion Legacy Foundation HelpLine, a free service offering personalized recommendations for local providers, peer support connections, and resources and information about symptoms and treatments.
“Symptoms of concussions and TBIs are treatable and there are ways to feel better, with the appropriate care,” CLF CEO Dr. Chris Nowinski said. “We know finding resources on your own can be difficult. That’s why we created the CLF HelpLine. Nobody should have to navigate recovery on their own.”
To view the PSA featuring DeeDee Jonrowe, click here.