Professional skier, Jamie Crane-Mauzy, known to friends and fans as Jamie “MoCrazy” considered her entire identity to be based on that of a professional athlete. She was at the top of her game, having won gold at the junior championships and representing the United States in freestyle skiing before it all came to a halt in 2015.
Tragically, a serious fall on the slopes left her with a brain injury at 22 and her life was completely turned upside down. Fortunately, with the support of his loving mother (Grace) and sister (Jeanee), and with the help of the medical community, Jamie not only survived, but went on to make an incredible recovery.
While she is no longer destined for competition, she puts on skis again to prove that where there is a will, there is a way. Recently a documentary was released detailing his accident, his recovery and his desire to get better. The film follows her as she struggles with depression and finds hope in the face of adversity.
M&F spoke with this inspirational figure to find out what she’s learned along the way and how Jamie Crane-Mauzy’s journey helps others.
Why did you want to create the short documentary “#MoCrazyStrong”?
I wanted to show a dynamic story that changes the narrative of women and family involvement around TCC [traumatic brain injury] recovery. I have waited throughout my journey of recovery to show the arc of ascending to an alternate peak and rebuilding an identity after trauma. I had to wait until I got back to the ski resort of Whistler to marry the love of my life, on top of the mountain that almost cost me my life!
Do you think a lot of viewers will be reassured that it’s okay to feel down even after a perceived “recovery”?
It’s okay to feel depressed and overwhelmed after experiencing a trauma, but don’t get stuck at the bottom. After a metaphorical avalanche slips you down the mountain of life, you can still climb an alternate peak! Your abilities may have changed permanently, but you can still build a life you love.
You had to accept losing the peaks you felt through ski racing. To put that into context, what is it like to fly through the air and land a 90 foot jump?
Spinning in the air provides a moment of exhilaration that makes sense of all the hours of work it took to learn that perfect trick.
When the accident happened, did it deter you from skiing again?
No, the exact opposite happened. I was in a coma for 10 days. Then I had severe amnesia for six weeks after waking up from a coma. During the amnesia I knew I was a pro skier and wanted to get back to pro skiing. When I decided I was going to come back, I couldn’t even climb stairs independently.
The first winter, I mentally attributed my TBI to other ski injuries like broken bones or torn ligaments. I had intended to take time off this winter from competition and then return to the world circuit, but I knew I had to relearn how to ski and do all my tricks. In the end, I decided I didn’t want to risk death, so I decided not to return to competition and had to build a new identity for myself as a TBI defender.
How did you handle this important decision in the beginning?
When I began to realize that my old identity as a pro skier had been ripped away, I began to suffer severe dips in happiness. One day, while still living in my mother’s house in Park City, UT, I remember lying in bed and thinking “who would care if I got up?” That first winter, my mother told me that a company from which I was a beneficiary of a grant; High Fives Foundation had already paid for me to go to mental therapy. I didn’t think I needed therapy. I felt like I was supposed to be happy because I was alive, but then I started crying 3-5 times a day. Going to therapy was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I go back to therapy whenever I need outside help to balance the traumas I’m feeling.
How did you manage to fill the extra time you now had after skiing?
I started attending school a year after my TBI. It was so helpful for me to have purpose, to set goals, and to be able to feel that I had structure. I would recommend anyone recovering from a life-altering trauma to find something to put some positive energy into with a group. It could be music lessons, joining a book club…I recently met a TBI survivor who started the Montana Puzzle Club as a way to bring survivors together!
How did you regain your mobility?
There is a lot of physical work that was necessary to regain my mobility. I understood the concept of pushing beyond your abilities, having participated in sports all my life. For example, when I was released from the hospital, I did yoga with my mother three days a week. I had very poor balance at the time, so it was very rudimentary yoga. A big part of yoga was sitting down and moving your hands, or lying on the floor moving your legs. My mom also realized as I rewired my brain that it was important to relearn how to slow my brain down with Shavasana (a relaxing aspect of yoga). These small fitness steps are essential to rebuilding your life. Most people can do physical activity even if they think they can’t. You just need to be creative and break it down into what you can currently accomplish.
How essential was it to have a support group like your family around you?
It is very important to have a support group when recovering from a serious accident. While family was very important to me due to my mother’s upbringing on brain development, I understand that not everyone has a supportive family. There is also a big difference between being a pampering family and being a supportive family. Very often a family thinks they are supportive when in reality they are limiting the ability of a brain injury survivor to regain independence. There was a time when I couldn’t hold a glass without spilling the liquid. It would have been very easy for my mother to believe that she was supporting me by forcing me to hold the glass in my strong hand. Instead, she taped my strong hand and forced me to hold water in the cup with my weak hand. This allowed my brain to rebuild synaptic pathways and connections, which allowed me to regain full mobility.
How active are you now?
I need exercise to stay sane! I enjoy activities, like hiking and skiing, Pilates, yoga, and barre classes. I try to do at least a short walk or stretch every day, and I need a class or a long physical activity at least 3 days a week. Last week I was at a film festival, at home for four days, then I went to another film festival. Before I even got home, I signed up for 3 yoga and toning classes to reset myself.
What is your relationship with skiing today?
I started skiing again in December 2015, nine months after my TCC. When I came back, I was very excited and happy! It didn’t faze me that I had to learn to ski again and I was back on the bunny slope. As an athlete, you are used to calming down after an ACL tear. What hit me emotionally was when I realized I wasn’t coming back to competition. I had to realize that I would never again have this feeling of hovering in the air, of weightlessness and freedom.
For those who may feel like a major accident means they have to give up what they love. What would you tell them?
Again; you can climb an alternate summit. Normalize struggles and depression. It’s normal to feel bad, overwhelmed, and confused about why this happened to you. But don’t stay there. Get the help you need, such as a therapist, physical trainer, contact your state’s TBI association, or call the Brain Injury Association of America for more information at 1-800-444-6443. Science has evolved into the belief that you can recover from traumatic brain injury, so now we need to communicate and educate this to policy makers, trauma centers and the general public. These aspects are all part of our #MoCrazyStrong campaign.
How can the “Muscle & Fitness” audience watch #MoCrazyStrong?
For 2023, we are hosting a film festival across North America. We also host private screenings for brain injury survivors, family caregivers, therapists and support staff, medical students and educators. If you would like to organize a screening, please contact us via the website.