Kindergarten teacher, brain injury survivor, and newly crowned Mrs. Michigan America 2018, Jodi Byers is using her pageant platform to help BIAMI raise awareness of brain injury and tell her dramatic story to the public and survivor community.

While working at a church camp following her sophomore year at Hope College, Jodi fell and hit her head twice, once on a counter during the fall and again on the concrete floor. Her initial reaction was that it was just a concussion, nothing of any real concern. She immediately returned to working at the camp and flew home a week later.

The extent of Jodi’s injury did not start to manifest until after she returned home and her condition then worsened to the point where she had to take a semester off from college. Jodi was unable to read beyond five minutes without her vision blurring and had difficulties with pattern recognition. Additionally, she had short-term memory loss, issues with perception, and daily migraines. Any single one of these ensured that collegiate study was impossible until she had recovered, and Jodi struggled with them all at once.

As a normally positive and upbeat young woman, Jodi’s physical, cognitive, and psychological challenges made that outlook almost impossible to maintain. “I had a month of falling into deep depression because I didn't think life would ever become the same. I have been blessed with an amazingly supportive family and if it weren't for them, I don't know what I would have done!” Her condition led to a reexamination of her life and goals, and during this period she realized she wanted nothing more than to help others become the best possible versions of themselves. It is what she felt she was meant to do. Through this realization, she found the strength and resolve to work toward recovery.

Six months later, Jodi was back in college. Since then, she graduated from Hope College, was married, competed and won the title of Mrs. Michigan America 2018, and will soon be competing for the national title of Mrs. America. Since her recovery, Jodi has been dedicated to raising awareness for brain injury. Even before competing for Mrs. Michigan America, she started an online concussion group through Facebook called “Maintain the Brain.” Best of all, today she no longer experiences lingering effects of her brain injury. When asked, Jodi recognizes how unique her recovery was. “I am blessed to have no reoccurring symptoms, but many survivors still do. Therefore, I urge people to be patient, be supportive, and offer grace to fellow brain injury survivors.”

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