Healing Heads Foundation
Born and raised in Colorado I had the privilege of going to the mountains often. The Rocky Mountains are beautiful but as you stand on the high mountain top where the air is thin, the soil rocky and the temperature is cold, you quickly realize moving down into the valley is where life is sustained and abundant. Our lives are like that mountain top experience, it’s in the valley we grow.
Five years ago our family started on a journey into a valley after our son, then 15, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, causing a massive stroke. Prior to this journey I did not have much experience with brain injuries or strokes and the life that comes with them.
I have learned that the brain is an amazing organ and that through LOTS of repetition of movement, new pathways can be made to perform functions lost to brain injury. Therapy sessions for speech and occupational and physical therapies have helped my son tremendously.
My desire to help others get what they need to continue to progress after a brain injury is the reason I have committed to take part in the Healing Heads Foundation.
I am a Speech-Language Pathologist and Brain Injury Specialist for Brain Links, a TN grant-based program supporting professionals who work with people with brain injuries. I am board certified by the ANCDS in neurologic communication disorders and sciences. I was the Clinical Service Supervisor for JFK Johnson’s Center for Head Injuries’ Cognitive Rehabilitation Department where I worked with people with brain injuries for twenty years. Part of a national group that developed practice guidelines for TBI and stroke, I also authored a book of group treatment activities and a cognitive-linguistic assessment battery for mild and moderate TBI.
I love teaching, so I became an adjunct faculty member at Kean University, developing and teaching their first class on traumatic brain injury. I have served in many leadership roles, including President of the NJ Speech Language Hearing Association, and ultimately received their Honors of the Association Award for distinguished service.
My interest in helping people with brain injuries started a long time ago. In high school, I was thrown out of a car and sustained a significant concussion along with some injuries that caused me pain for decades. I was lucky not to have any long term cognitive issues and the experience triggered a desire to help others with brain injuries and sparked a fascination with the brain that lasts to this day. I am currently studying to become a Certified Brain Health Coach and hope to share that information with the Healing Heads community soon.
I joined Healing Heads two years ago as a clinical advisor and believed in its mission so much that I joined the board in 2019.
My name is Denise Harris, and I am a board member for Healing Heads Foundation. I was a Spanish teacher from 1985 until 2013 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I completed chemotherapy and was just starting radiation treatment when my husband, Mike, suffered an ischemic stroke following sinus surgery. From that moment on, my role changed from that of a teacher and breast cancer survivor to that of an advocate, caretaker and researcher.
The stroke my husband suffered was massive — devastating the entire right side of his brain. There were irregularities on the left side as well. He was wheelchair bound, and the prognosis was discouraging. The prevailing thought at that time was that almost all progress is made within the first year following the stroke — with little improvement expected after that amount of time. Refusing to accept that mind set, I researched and studied about neural plasticity — the brain’s ability to change throughout a person’s lifetime to the extent that even a specific function can be transferred to a different part of the brain. Intensive therapy, water therapy, acupuncture, and alternative therapies all played into my husband’s recovery — almost all of which occurred long after the 12 month timeline.
Today, he can walk with the help of a cane and his mental acuity is remarkable. His neurologist shakes his head when he sees him. “I see patients that have half the damage your husband has, that can’t do half of what he can do.”
My husband and I were lucky — we had the financial ability to pay for therapy when insurance would no longer pay. It is my firm belief that everybody should have this opportunity regardless of their financial situation. For this reason, HHF was founded. For this reason, I am proud to serve on the board of HHF.
My name is Karen Dedman and I am a life-long resident of Wilson County. Lebanon TN has always been home. I was raised, and shown by example, to contribute to your community and help others. For this reason when friends Dr. Mike and Denise Harris asked if I would be a Board member of Healing Heads, I agreed wholeheartedly. I have 15 years experience in the banking industry. For this reason, I accepted the nomination of Treasurer for the Board.
Past experience of working with special needs trusts gave me a further understanding when someone needs continued medical services, specifically continued intensive therapy.
I am currently employed with the Wilson County Clerk and Master’s office which serves the Chancery court.
Serving as a Board member and Secretary for the Wilson County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board also gives me the opportunity to help our community. And to help give animals a voice, I currently serve as a Board member for the Mount Juliet Tennessee Animal Care and Control Center.
In my spare time I enjoy family, jogging and photography.
In July 2012, I was just starting my adult life. I was newly engaged, and had gotten a job in my field straight out of college. The future was looking bright. One night my fiancé called me to tell me goodnight, and the next day I received a call that he was in a coma. I arrived at the hospital and heard the words “brain injury”, “swelling”, “minute to minute”, and “quality of life”. All words I had never thought about before, or truly understood. Doctors and nurses told us to “pull the plug”, but we said no. We believed he would fight.
After 40 days in a medically induced coma, the medication was lifted and he slowly woke up. Like most others, we were told that if he did not progress in the first 1-2 years, that would be it. He would be the way he was forever. Again, we pushed forward. He spent 30 days in an inpatient rehabilitation center, and then years of outpatient therapies in which we constantly “ran out of visits” from Medicare. Even still, we pushed forward.
We are entering year 8 post brain injury, and still seeing GREAT progress. The key is to find the right therapies and have the funds to be able to do them. Knowing so many people have gone through the same issues without being able to afford the care and the opportunity to try different therapies, my now husband and I were excited to be asked to be part of a board that helps people in this way.
My responsibility on the board is to manage the social media pages. Currently, we are working on increasing our presence, bringing awareness to our cause, and increasing fundraising opportunities.
My name is Larry Nall, and I am a board member for the
Healing Heads Foundation. My wife and two daughters and I
moved to Franklin, TN in 1996. I started my career in hospital
finance and spent the last 25 years with Cigna, United
Healthcare and lastly was the SVP of BlueCross BlueShield
of Tennessee Network Management before retiring in May of
In November, 2019, at only 58, I had a massive brain stem
stroke leaving my left side compromised. After spending 2
weeks in the Trauma ICU at Erlanger Hospital in
Chattanooga, I was transferred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta
where I spent 2 months of inpatient rehab, where I was one of
the oldest there. Although I was around healthcare my entire
career, I found out that I knew very little about strokes as I
thought you had to be old and that you could not recover.
Wrong and wrong.
I had just started going to their outpatient clinic (Pathways)
when Covid hit. Because I was considered high risk, due to
my tracheotomy and feeding tube we were sent back to
Franklin, TN in March of 2020.
Ironically, both of our daughters are Pediatric Therapists for
kids with special needs. Keely is an OT and Katee is an SLP.
They took the lead on researching Neuro Providers in Middle
Tennessee. While my wife Julee, started researching Neuro
Plasticity in addition to becoming my full time caregiver. She
made sure I got therapy 6 days a week.
I am fortunate I did not have my memory or vision impacted.
Now, I am able to drive after a year of rehab. I am excited to
be on the board and hope to use the platform to help others
and share my journey. I look forward to giving back.