I have been trying to search for myself for years now. My life almost came to an end six years ago. 12.29 am, April 28th 2010. I was filming for a short ski movie named HELLO! in Ylläs, Lapland and it was the last day of the filming session. I was the last one to go, one more try, this time I’ll stomp it… The trick I was doing was a switch double cork 1080, a quite hard trick, but I had landed it many times before. This was going to be the last jump of the long season, I had just finished my high school (quite excellently!) and now my dream begin. This was the last trick of the season, the last season I would ski as an amateur.
I was riding the lift up and said to my photographer friend: “This is going to be the last one”
I went to the top of the in-run, started approaching the jump backwards, but all of a sudden, a strong blast of wind came out of nowhere. It grabbed me, making me overshoot the whole landing area. Instead of landing on the proper spot, I just flew up in the air, over rotated my trick and landed sideways. The wind took me past the landing, and onto flat ground.
My dream always, was to become the best skier in the World. In a blink of an eye, I was fighting for my life.
I sank into a coma, was diagnosed and the next few years, were a new beginning. The beginning of my new life. I was rehabilitating myself quite vigorously, almost every day. If getting back on my feet was up to me, I would do everything in my power.
When I woke up and started to understand things (communicate with other people), I didn’t really understand how seriously I had injured myself. I thought I was going to be able to continue my career as a professional freeskier like nothing had happened. Then the summer came to an end, a bitter end. I couldn’t ski, for God’s sakes, I couldn’t even walk! I decided to go to the doctor at the rehabilitation center with my questions.
My doctor told me that, it was really unsure if I’d ever be able to ski again and seemed almost offended by the fact I would to still do the same thing, which almost killed me. I sank into depression for a short time. It was only a week or so, but it felt like an eternity. The week crawled by, after which I somehow got up. Luckily I was still at the rehabilitation facility, because when I woke up, I needed to get to work and I was in a perfect facility for physiotherapy. From that moment on, I decided to go all out with this new opportunity I had been presented with!
I got home and started to work, especially on my physical condition. I decided to get back on my skis this year. People laughed at me, behind my back, but my mother only had one condition, I would need to be able to put my ski boots on, independently. Sounds easy, but when the back right lobe of your brain gets smashed into your skull and leaves the left side of your body paralysed, it’s easier said than done. I kept working on it until I managed to do it 7 months after the injury and at the end of it all it took me a total of 11 months to get to that point!
During the Spring of 2012, I went to Austria. I was skiing, but I felt like I had skied the best slopes of my time… for the week at Austrian Freeski Open, my job was to film the competitors living their dream. My employer for the week was a German gentleman named Florian, who had heard of my story. He had also heard the story of the former BMX professional Stephen Murray, who had suffered an injury which left him completely paralysed and about the brand which was founded for his rehabilitation costs, Stay Strong. I wasn’t paralysed, my arms and feet were moving a bit unstably, but I wanted to rehabilitate myself. We came up with a name for the brand, Fight Back.
FightBack was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted to rehabilitate myself back to the best possible condition, and this meant that I had to fight. I now had myself a goal, I would just have to use the attitude I was given at birth and work hard.
Some people started noticing my mind-set in Finland, and when I was on live TV, my FightBack went big. I thought that athletes are the most respected human-beings, and since extreme sports were really risky for me, I wanted to be in the top of my physical performance again. I thought that finishing a Marathon would mean, that my physical performance is top notch. I started to train running, even though my running was really un-ergonomic and hard… I thought it was only a matter of willpower.
Willpower was needed already, when I started my journey on the 6th of September 2014. I started it with the FightBack Run no.1 , 2,6km. It was really rough. I couldn’t run economically at all, I wasted so much energy. After all, I finished the 2,6km, vomited and I had a fever. I thought to myself, I was running, but it was more like “galloping…” at its best. I stuck with my decision, though, I will finish a marathon, galloping… or however. It’s only a matter of willpower.
In winter 2015, I travelled to Miami. I thought my holiday-life was perfect then, waking up early, going for a morning jog and holidaying all day afterwards… Then a guy named Markku changed it all.
Markku said, “have you ever heard of this rehabilitation method, called the VASA Concept?…” He told me some of his own survival story, how he had suffered a stroke in 2012 and laid for two years in a quadriplegic condition, before his assistant heard about the VASA Concept. They decided to give it a try and now Markku’s life was different. He guided me to http://www.brainstrokes.com and even gave me the founder’s email.
I logged in to VASA Concept and immediately sent her an email. To my huge surprise, she replied almost instantly and after emailing back and forth, we exchanged Skype ID’s. Then, it was GO time. First I filmed everything she needed to evaluate me and next, she gave me my first set of exercises. They were for the first three months at first, to make sure that the VASA Concept was working for me.
The movements she gave me were simple, you could do them anywhere, almost anytime. That’s the reason why this works, in the VASA Concept YOU are the one doing all the WORK. It’s rough, exhausting at times, but since it is you, YOURSELF, getting all the benefits, I was ready to go all in.
Even though I was exhausted after the first month or so, I felt like I was for sure getting some of those benefits. I decided to go for it and invited Rajul Vasa to Finland the next summer. At first she said “maybe, if it fits to my schedule” and since she’s the genius she is, I didn’t really have my hopes up… But I had mentioned to Markku (the one who got me involved in the first place) about my plan to invite Rajul to Finland, and immediately Markku proceeded. He harassed Rajul as long, as it took for her to agree and come to Finland! This meant that, I would need to organize a space to exercise in, hotel and flights for Rajul, and then we’d be good. This gave me a chance to call to the headmaster of my old upper secondary school, and negotiate the use of the gym hall during the summer.
He was really stoked that I called him and we agreed on the day we’d start the rehab. Rajul arrived on Monday 29.06 and from Tuesday morning on, it was rehab time. Rajul was really straight forward and honest with me, and I needed to quit many things really dear to me. Running and cycling were not beneficial for me. I loved being outside and cycling with my recumbent bike, but she just needed to tell me to quit, I obeyed instantly.
The Turku period lasted for three weeks, after which she was going to Uppsala, Sweden. I hesitated to ask her if I could join her in Sweden, but I did. And she was excited!? I asked fif Jenna, the student who was assisting me in Turku to join us and she said yes! I booked our flights and my first VASA Concept session lasted for over a month.
In the plane flying to Sweden, we discussed about how I wanted to help my fellow TBI survivors. I was quite hesitant to suggest any co-operation between FightBack and VASA Concept, but it just came out… “how about, we find a space in Turku, and next summer you will come to Turku and we can exercise at the ‘FightBack with VASA Concept Space’!?”
She surprised me once again, by getting really excited about this idea. I love having goals, and I had just got maybe the main goal of my life. First, we would put up the space in Turku and from then on, five Towns in Finland, followed by five Continents! This sounded HUGE!
We ended the Sweden period dancing like this!
We worked for two more weeks in Uppsala, said “bye bye” to Rajul, and returned home to both roll on the grass and work my ass off with the VASA Concept, and search for the space. The team, which has my back, called Team FightBack was helping me in finding the space and we eventually found one. It was not ideal, it was a space filled with tiny office rooms, but we had a vision. Open space, no walls, nothing. Just a solid floor and lots of light.
Next Fall was really full of interesting events for me. I continued spreading my story by giving presentations, I was invited to the most highly respected Independence day celebration in Finland and the Finnish press went crazy. After the celebration, I went to the Canary Islands to be able to concentrate on important things.
Rajul came to Finland, to Åland once again in January and I travelled there. During which time, the team was renovating the new location. Guess how awesome was it, to leave to Åland leaving a labyrinth of walls behind and to return to a wide, light, open space, in which I knew we could start making miracles?!
It was awesome!
In few weeks the Team cleaned it up and even during the cleaning, I could start exercising! We cleaned up, purchased some electrics we needed and even got a lot of equipment for free! When you have a good purpose, almost everyone is willing to get involved. On the 8th of March 2016, we held the opening ceremony of the new center. Rajul was present via Internet on the back wall of the center and she had invited some highly respected Indian politicians to join the opening ceremony with her. We had invited the Mayor of Turku to cut the ribbon of the main area, and now the center is open! Another one of my dreams came true.
Now we are open. I spend my days exercising as often as possible. I travel around Finland sharing my story, at different events almost weekly, but our facilities aren’t empty anymore, even when I’m elsewhere. Next Fall Jenna will finish her physiotherapy studies and will be present full-time!
I feel that in the past year, I’ve really taken a huge step into finding my purpose in this life. Before I thought it was to be the best skier out there. To inspire kids, get sponsors and to make a lot of money. Easy, huh?
When that didn’t work out, I have found another set of dreams, multiple! I’ve really had to think a bit, what can I do now? Now I have found my dream and decided that, this is what I’m DOING. This dream is definitely way bigger and even a lot harder to accomplish, but it’s not just for myself. I’m still trying to inspire the kids, too, but my main goal now, is to inspire everyone. I’m trying to serve the World and Human kind. Brain injury- and Stroke patients are the first ones served, but that’s only natural I guess, since I’ve got a TBI myself.
Here are two videos of me doing duckwalk, the first one is from a year ago, the second is few weeks ago. I feel I’m on the right path, and I wanna rock! And on top of the physical improvement, I’m speaking more fluently and I feel like anything is possible again!
The ultimate goal, however, is to spread positivity and inspiration across the World. Today is the six year anniversary of the crash, which changed my life, started the FightBack and started this chain reaction. It made me want to write my message to You.
I’m also spreading my message by giving speeches and presentations of my story and the FightBack movement. I held my first presentation just a bit over two years since the injury, which changed my life. Now, it’s my job and I feel like I’m getting pretty good at it. I even feel like, this is what I’m meant to do.
Yesterday I was chosen the speaker of the year, at the Evento Awards in Helsinki! I’m deeply grateful for this honor and also very stoked, as this will help me to spread my message of FightBack and positivity even wider.
Thank you so much for taking your time to read this, if you liked what you read, please help me spread this movement, by sharing my message in the social media.
Ps. Here’s how I walked a few weeks ago!
PPS. I’m not going to stop here! I’ll do everything in my power to spread the FightBack all over world.