The Pinky and Sarah love story


This is the story of how two BIST members – Pinky and Sarah – met  (spoiler alert: it was at a BIST community meeting) and found love. 


Sarah Briggs was 19-years-old in January of 1994, and competing at the provincial level in the seventh race of the season in a downhill skiing event at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que., when she suffered her brain injury.

Two other skiers had already lost control earlier in the competition in a very rough and steep area of the course, halfway down the hill. One had broken her leg.

As Sarah entered the section at a speed of more than 100 kilometres an hour, she lost one of her skis. She doesn’t remember much of the crash, only that she was trying to get up.

Sarah suffered severe facial injuries, lost two litres of blood and required 12 hours of surgery. She spent eight days in the hospital, five of which were in intensive care. Despite this, there was no mention that she might have acquired a brain injury.

Pinky’s real name is Michael Clouthier, but what he writes on his BIST name tag, and what he prefers to be called, is Pinky. He got his nickname in grade seven when his classmates noticed he liked to wear pink most of the time. Over the years, that part of Pinky’s style hasn’t changed. Spot the guy in pink at a community meeting, and it’s likely him.

Pinky says his brain injury is one of the best things that ever happened to him. That may sound strange to most people, but Pinky says nearly dying saved his life.

He says he was a ‘badass’ as a teenager, heading down a path that took him on the wrong side of the law with all the violence and danger that is involved. His mother and a friend each told him he would either be dead, or in prison, if not for a fateful day in October, 1991.

Pinky, then 18 years-old, was riding his mountain bicycle and on his way to a party to sing reggae songs at a friend’s place. He was listening to music on his headphones as he crossed a busy intersection in Scarborough. He never heard or saw the car as it quickly approached him on his right. By coincidence, a close friend happened to be getting off a TTC bus at the moment of his accident. That friend comforted and kept Pinky conscious until the ambulance arrived.

Doctors told Pinky they had to revive him three or four times. He was on life support for five weeks and spent 40 days in an induced coma. Pinky knew as soon as he became conscious that his life had changed. He spent the next year in hospital, learning how to walk and talk again.

Pinky hams it up during a Cougar Bait performance

Pinky says one of his mother’s friends came to visit him in the hospital. The man brought him a stuffed dog and they spoke, briefly, about religion. Their short conversation changed the course of Pinky’s life.

I thought … I went through all this and I’m still alive … (maybe God) has plans for me. God … I’m sorry I had to go through all this to be a believer. – Pinky

Pinky still has the stuffed dog from that fateful day in the hospital. He calls it CB, short for coma buddy, and still sleeps with it from time to time.

After recovering from their physical injuries, both Pinky and Sarah tried to rejoin the world they had known before. Sarah carried on with her life plan after her accident. She finished OAC and moved to Alberta to work on a Bachelor of Kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “To be a gym teacher,” she quipped.

Sarah seemed to be doing well, until she got into her fourth year. That’s when her workload changed and she noticed that everything became much harder. She also noticed she was not making good decisions in her personal life. She decided to move back to Toronto and re-enrol at the University of Toronto, closer to family and friends. It took her six years, in all, to finally finish her bachelor degree. The stress, however, was too much for her and Sarah suffered a mental breakdown.

Not one to give up, in 2000, Sarah enrolled in teachers college at Queens University. Her workload was even more intense than the fourth year of her bachelor’s degree. Things did not go well when, three weeks into school, Sarah began a teaching placement in Peterborough.

I was just trying to act like everything was normal. I didn’t know I had a brain injury. – Sarah

Sarah underwent a number of examinations and tests to try to determine what could be causing her problems. Finally, the doctors diagnosed her brain injury symptoms and told her she had probably suffered an acquired brain injury as a result of her skiing accident.


Sarah withdrew from teachers’ college. She says she had trouble, similar to other survivors, accepting her new reality and life. With her new diagnosis, Sarah entered the first stage of recovery, denial.

Sarah tried to go on, moving in with a sister and brother-in-law. She helped to care for their four children as a live-in nanny would. She worked part-time as a ski instructor in winter and at various odd jobs in the summer such as landscaping.

Pinky tried working at Walmart, but he had trouble keeping his interest in a job for very long. So he worked at almost every position in the store, except the cash register. After a year, he left.

At BIST community meetings, Pinky will often one of the first members to introduce himself to a newcomer. He’ll break the ice and calm first-timer nerves by showing off his rhyming-on-the-spot skills. (He can rhyme pretty much anything, except for the word ‘orange’, he says.) He enjoys music, sings and raps – even about his accident. When he and a partner decided to start a karaoke business the year after he left Walmart, Pinky thought his extraverted personality and love of music meant he was bound for success.


For three years, at least, there was success. Pinky found he had no patience dealing with drunken customers at various bars around the city. But the venture did give Pinky, an avid wrestling fan, the opportunity meet retired professional wrestler Reginald ‘Sweet Daddy’ Siki, who also happens to be in the karaoke business in Toronto. Siki sold Pinky some equipment for his business and he still attends karaoke the occasional Saturday afternoon at The Duke, where Sweet Daddy Siki continues to host.

One day in 2005, a friend told Sarah about an organization for people with brain injuries. Sarah’s friend had also suffered a brain injury after a car landed on her car from an overpass. This friend took Sarah to her first BIST meeting. Sarah says she noticed another survivor, Pinky, as she went to BIST events.

I was in awe, because I was so devastated by this thing (the brain injury) and I saw this guy. He was so positive and he was making people laugh. [His brain injury] hadn’t totally destroyed him. I thought that was so cool. – Sarah


Someone once asked Pinky how come he is so happy and he replied, “Like Tupac said, ‘keep your head up’…in all things.”

Pinky says he noticed Sarah too:

I thought she was a high-class woman. I (really) didn’t think she would be interested (in me). – Pinky

Both were in relationships with other people when they met, but they got to know each other as they went to more BIST meetings. Getting to know Pinky over the next three-years helped Sarah get to the point many survivors face, acceptance. “Well, this is new me, and I can live with that,” she said.

Sarah says she and Pinky eventually exchanged phone numbers, but Pinky didn’t call. Sarah later recalled being on a dinner date with someone, who happened to be friends with Pinky, and all she wanted to do was talk and ask questions about Pinky.

She was at a jazz festival in the summer of 2008, when Sarah decided to ‘take the initiative’ and call Pinky. He came by with a friend, in a car, and picked her up. The two started dating, and the “rest is history”.

Early in 2009, Pinky and Sarah were finishing a presentation about relationships after brain injury at BIST. Pinky asked Sarah to close her eyes. He told the crowd that he had to make ‘good’ on his words as he got down on one knee, pulled a small box from his pocket, opened it, and asked Sarah to marry him. They were married that summer.

Pinky has another reason to smile and another ‘best thing’ coming into his and Sarah’s life soon. They are expecting a baby this July. Pinky laughs when asked about his thoughts on becoming a father:

Daddy O…Daddy Pinky. What do you want Pinky Junior?

John Stevens is a former writer, journalist and television producer. He is a nine-year brain injury survivor and six-year member of BIST. This is his first feature since his injury.

The Mighty Pen


I am a writer who happens to have a brain injury.

I am an ABI Survivor who is also a writer.

I am both.

Overall, I am a creative person, but my niche is writing. I love playing the role of storyteller and unravelling a tale of the imagination. I have written two fictional books and there are many short stories to my credit. I love the idea of creating different worlds or putting a spin on this one, coming up with characters and developing their depths.

A few years ago I decided to build my skills by taking a creative writing program, and while learning about building themes and expanding upon plots, my natural flair for scripting inventive narrative lead me to obtaining a diploma with honors.

My writing, so it seems, has also become somewhat inspirational to others, specifically my offerings toward brain injury advocacy. I was once convinced to start my own blog and in doing so it has guided me toward contributing to others (such as this one right here for BIST). The written word has also helped me in areas of my employment, both past and present, and it’s assisted in building a network of colleagues. But even more so, writing makes a significant impact on my life.

Through writing I not only get to share my experiences with brain injury, I get to learn, understand and become more aware. It teaches me as much as it might teach others. Writing about my viral brain infection when I was younger, scripting the story of the day my mom had her accident and suffered a head trauma, helped me get through the initial surrounding drama, and continues to allow me to see things a little more clearly. Writing also allows me to do something I find very difficul: communicate. I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t for writing I’d never talk, that wouldn’t be true, but I would be somewhat lost in life.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 10.21.21 PM


Writing helps me deal with any depression I must face, as well as anxiety, frustration and even fear. It educates and motivates me on how stand up. I keep some of my writing to myself, some I share, some I write in story format (as I remember it) other stuff I scribble out in point form – in email, opinions, advice, in my journal, in a blog, in an article or a book.

Whether it is a pen in my hand, or more often a keyboard for my fingers, I have gained confidence and also found an outlet for my sanity. The mighty pen, for me, is a saving grace. It is my substitute for any needed medication or rehabilitation.

St. Valentine’s is the patron saint of epilepsy


Let’s face it. The month of February doesn’t have a lot going for it. Yes, the days are getting longer, but the weather remains cold and there are still several weeks to go before there’s any hint of spring. So it seems somewhat ironic that a day positioned exactly half-way through one of the bleakest months of the year should be set aside for a celebration of love and romance. Doesn’t it?

photo credit: Vintage Valentines Day Postcard via photopin (license)
photo credit: Vintage Valentines Day Postcard via photopin (license)

The history of Valentine’s Day

But February 14 wasn’t always about candy, flowers and professions of love toward a significant other. Instead, the history of Valentine’s Day is somewhat grim.

Valentine’s Day evolved as a celebration of Valentinus, a Christian priest and physician living in Rome during the third century A.D. There remains some confusion about Valentinus – and in fact it is thought he may have been two different people - but one story says that Valentinus was imprisoned for performing weddings of soldiers who were forbidden to marry. While in jail, he made friends with his jailer, Asterius, who had a visually-impaired daughter. Valentinus fell in love with her, and the feeling must have been mutual, for she continued to bring the doomed priest food and messages.

Through his faith, Valentinus was able to regain her sight and he convinced both her and her father to adopt Christianity. Shortly after, he was made to appear before Emperor Claudius. Impressed by his humility and dignity, the emperor offered him one more chance to revert to Paganism. But Valentinus refused to relent, and his attempts to convert the emperor to Christianity were unsuccessful. Shortly before his execution, he signed a farewell message to the jailer’s daughter, signing it ‘from your Valentine.’

Valentinus was beheaded on February 14, A.D. 270.

For centuries, the Romans had celebrated Lupercalia on February 15, a festival marking the return of spring and a celebration of fertility. Young men would draw names of young women who would be obligated to act as their ‘companions’ for the duration of a year. (Clearly, equality of the sexes had a long way to go!) Pope Gelasius eventually ended this pagan festival and instead of men drawing names of women, both sexes drew names of saints, with the idea that the person would have to emulate the ways of that particular saint over the next twelve months.

Valentinus himself was eventually made a patron saint, a sort of ‘spiritual overseer’ of the festival, replacing the pagan Lupercus as the patron saint of love.  In AD 496, Galasius declared February 14 to be the Feast Day of Saint Valentine. Soon young men began the custom of offering handwritten greetings of affection to women they wished to court.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t for another 1,000 years, during the High Middle Ages and the time of courtly love, that the celebration became more widely spread. One of the earliest Valentine cards was sent by the imprisoned Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415; the card is now preserved in the British Museum.

image of the oldest known Valentine's Day card
source: BBC

As a day celebrating love, February 14 had become firmly established by the 17th century and by then, it was customary to give greeting cards and “keys” to unlock the heart. The late 19th century brought the first commercial cards and the tradition continues to this day, with Valentine’s Day remaining one of the busiest times of year for card-sellers.

Valentine’s Day and Epilepsy

Epilepsy has been recognized for at least 4000 years. The ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Aztecs and Incas, considered it an affliction linked to the gods. Though there was never a rationale behind why some were affected by it, the disorder was long perceived as supernatural, an evil demon bestowed by the gods as a punishment inhabiting the body of an unfortunate soul. Christianity maintained this perception and there are several references to epilepsy in the New Testament.

But how does Saint Valentine fit in? For one thing, there is a phonetic similarity in the German language between the words ‘fallen’ (fall) and Valentine, and this led to epilepsy as being referred to as the ‘Saint Valentine’s illness.’ Yet in non-German speaking areas, the connection was naturally not as strong. For example, in France, it was generally to Saint Jean to whom people turned for help, while in Anglo-Saxon countries, it was most often Saint Paul.

Nevertheless, Saint Valentine was viewed as a performer of miracles, did he not regain the sight of a young blind woman? And it was claimed that he had freed a young woman named Serapia about to be married from an evil spirit – was it epilepsy?

Stories about his cures would have spread far and wide, thus enhancing his reputation and increasing the number of those appealing to him for help with epilepsy. It was thought by some that Valentinus himself may have had suffered from epilepsy.

In this way, he became the epilepsy’s patron saint.

In Italy, the connection is deemed to be so close that in 1988, Saint Valentine’s dual role as a patron of lovers and of epilepsy was depicted on a postage stamp. The saint is shown hovering over two lovers who are lying down while above them, brain waves from an EEG test stretch across the centre. Trust the Italian postal service – Poste Italiane – to show such imagination and creativity!

Valentine's and epilepsy

Whether or not you celebrate Valentine’s Day, try to approach it with an open mind and an open heart. If you are currently without a “significant other,” then reach out to family and friends, or perform random acts of kindness to strangers, not only on the 14th, but throughout the entire month. (You can also send a brain-o-gram   and spread brain injury awareness!)

Is this great world ever in desperate need of love! Was it really 50 years ago that Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned “What the World Needs Now (is love sweet love)” immortalized by Jackie de Shannon? The sentiment remains truer today than ever. There is still far too much conflict amongst us, and the need for love is greater than ever. The popular advice columnist Ann Landers once wrote:

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

To this reflection, I say Amen – and to everyone – a happy Valentine’s Day!

Source: +

This Valentine’s Day – fall in love with YOURSELF


After you’ve gone through a life changing event such as a brain injury, the person looking back at you in the mirror can be a stranger. The reflection may still look like you, but the mannerisms, the thinking and the constant feeling of ‘there’s something missing’ can be overwhelming. This disconnect can affect not only the relationship you have with yourself – how you take care of yourself, set boundaries and your self-confidence – but also the relationships you have with others.

To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.”- Robert Morely

Don't forget to fall in love with yourself - Carrie Bradshaw
One of the hardest challenges I faced during my recovery was learning to love myself, after the accident. As I wrote in Change Your Shoes; Change Your Life  for the Soulful Relationships – Adventures in Manifesting series:

As weeks turned to months and months turned to years, the pain and torment at the loss of me pre-accident did not lessen. At times, it seemed even more painful than the physical pain I dealt with every day. Everyone tried to assure me things would get better, but each time I looked in the mirror I saw a stranger in the reflection that looked back at me.”

BIST - Love Yourself FirstI’m not going to sugar coat things. Friends, learning to love yourself can be difficult, especially after a traumatic, life changing experience. Self-love is about total acceptance. It’s about deeply caring for yourself and your happiness. It’s about loving yourself at this very moment and every moment, unconditionally. With small steps you will move forward and start loving that fabulous person looking back at you in the mirror!

Here are 3 small steps to get you started:

Change Your Thoughts – Our thoughts are important, they create our reality. Start focusing on things that you can do, things that you want to happen in your life. The more positive energy you put out there the more positive things will start to materialize. When the doctors told me I would never wear high heels again, I kept telling myself I will wear heels. I visualized myself wearing heels and now,  over time, I am wearing heels. Maybe not for the length of time I once used to, but I am wearing heels!!!

think positive and positive things will happenStart a regular practice – meditation, yoga and gratitude journaling are three tools that I use. Not only do they provide “me time”, but these practices allow you to connect more deeply with yourself. The more you are able to connect with yourself the more self-healing continues to happen.

Treat yourself – take yourself out for a nice dinner, a day/afternoon at the spa, an afternoon cup of tea or do something that you really enjoy. The important thing is making time in your day to do something special for yourself and to focus on not feeling remotely guilty about putting your iPhone on silent and spending time on YOU.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, whether you have a sweetheart to share it with or are spending it solo, do something for yourself that encourages you to get to know yourself better, to take care of yourself and to fall in love with yourself again. After all, your happiness starts with the best LOVE AFFAIR you will have, the one with yourself.
self love jar
Make a self-love jar  
A self-love jar is a great project you can make for yourself to remind you of how wonderful you are, especially on days when you’re feeling  down. Fill it with positive self-love affirmations, positive things that people have said about you, things that you like about yourself or self-love quotes you have come across. What is important is that the words are positive, motivational and inspirational.

You will need

  • 5 recipe card size pieces of coloured paper
  • paper cutter (or scissors)
  • jar with lid
  • ribbon or decorative Elastic Bands
  • pen or marker

How to Make Self-Love Jar

How to make it

  • using paper cutter (or scissors) slice each recipe card into 5 strips (about ½” in thick)
  • write a positive message (quote, affirmation, something about you)
  • fold pieces of paper (you will have 25 pieces) with writing on the inside and place in jar
  • place either ribbon or decorative elastic band around jar and replace lid


Various Self-Love Jars

How to use it 

When you are feeling down pull out a piece of paper and read the message. It will remind you of something that is positive and/or amazing about you!!!  Place message back in jar for another time.


Celia Missios
Celia Missios

Celia Missios is a brain injury survivor who has embraced her new found strengths and created a life that fits who she is today. She shares her journey in hopes that it will help others who are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress and facing transition in their life successfully move away from fear, pain, and deflated attitude about life – step into the life they want. Celia is the founder of the blog High Heeled Life – inspiration for living a luxurious and balanced life; featured author in Adventures in Manifesting – Soulful Relationships; a Peer Mentor with BIST; a regular speaker for Canadian Blood Services – Speakers Bureau. To learn more about Celia and be inspired visit or

The slow and steady – reading rehab begins

Shireen Jeejeebhoy writes about her journey back to the love of reading. You can read the first post in this series here.


For most of my post-brain injury years, I’ve roared ahead at top speed trying to get my life back as quickly as possible. I worked hard to regain skills, the necessary ones and the ones which, are critical-to-me. I strived to become financially independant.

Then last year happened. It was tough. I learned you cannot control other people. Your health care and recovery are by necessity dependent on others, and when they don’t listen, you can either scream and stomp off, go with the flow and not heal much, or keep pushing. (And pushing and pushing while your PTSD hits the stratosphere as parts of your recovery slow to a crawl.)

close up of a woman reading a novel
photo credit: Goblet of Fire via photopin (license)

At some point, I stopped driving hard. It was almost a relief to move into the frozen lane. My neurodoc was probably relieved too.

That’s when reading books and long form articles halted altogether. That’s why my neurodoc said we are starting from zero with respect to my reading. Anything I do is an improvement, no matter how small.

And so we begin reading rehab with a few possible strategies.

After my neurodoc saw me read a portion of a Wall Street Journal article, he said the first thing I needed to do was relax and bring my anxiety under control. We discussed strategies I’m familiar with, but in a different way — with the encouragement from someone being alongside me – not as an expert telling me what to do.

shelves of books in a library
photo credit: Books at library via photopin (license)

First: I used my Mind Alive audiovisual entrainment device’s 15-minute alpha session to relax. Anxiety interferes with cognition and makes it harder to read. The key is to get rid of the anxiety, which will take awhile.

Next: I covered off the text, and used my fingers or a ruler to slow my reading down. Instead of using the Evelyn Wood method to speed up my reading, I used it to try and slow down so that my eyes worked at my processing and integration speed. The only thing is, I can’t use my fingers or ruler on an eReader or iDevice, so we will need to come up with a similar strategy for screens.

And finally: do a Toronto Sun-style summary of what I’d read. Let me tell you, when he had me summarize what I’d read to him as if it were for Toronto’s daily tabloid, it changed my task from being a university-level assignment to something do-able.

My neurodoc insisted I take home the WSJ article to trigger the things we discussed and to remind me I’m not alone.

He reminded me that the strategies we discussed this week are the barest beginning. I have a partner and someone doing the thinking, not as an expert in reading, but as an expert in listening and in me so as to come up with approaches to help me. Thank God for that.

You can read the full versions of Shireen’s posts on her blog HERE.

This February – Love your brain + send a brain-o-gram!

This February, BIST is spreading some brain love.

We’ve created an online brain-o-gram you can send to everyone in your life – we’re talking family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, those Twitter followers you don’t really have a clue about …

we love your brain brain--o-gram


It’s simple: go to


Write a personalized message about living with brain injury, prevention or awareness.

brain-o-gramIf you’re on Twitter – spread the word and add the hashtag #areyouaware. If you’re on Facebook – share the brain-o-gram site!

So what are you waiting for? Go on, send a brain-o-gram to everyone in your life!

Exploring the mind-body connection and ABI

It’s hard to imagine yoga and mindfulness instructor Krista Schilter doing anything half way. A year ago, BIST members had the opportunity to learn about Schilter’s unique approach to meditation as a four-time brain injury survivor. Now she found the time once again  in her busy schedule (among other things, Schilter teaches yoga, mindfulness and skating) to share some meditative wisdom. And it worked:  on a cold, dreary and all-round miserable January night, she made the room feel, better. Like bitter cold Monday nights in January are ok, something we can get through, if we just breathe.

Krista Schilter
Krista Schilter demonstrates alternative nostril breathing

Schilter lead the group through simple breathing excercises which she says have helped calm her persistent headaches and improve her sleeping. She says she uses meditation as a tool to help her be “the best version of herself” possible. She reminded us that though we are rarely mindful of it, breath is the one thing we all have in common as living beings, .

Schilter stressed that meditation is a practise. It’s about where you are at today, in this moment, in this body. She asked the room to make a commitment to practise one breathing exercise in the morning when we first wake up, or at night before we go to sleep. She asked us to think of meditation as something we do every day, a habit like brushing our teeth.

Schilter speaks from experience. She says when she gets “lazy” about her meditation, her headaches come back. She has, at times, felt resentful that these practices need to be a part of her life, that she has to wake up that much earlier every morning to do them. At the same time, she says, the benefits are enormous. It’s about mindfully accepting who the “after-ABI Krista” is, she said.

The first technique Schilter lead us through was alternate nostril breathing, which she says helps to re-wire neurotransmission and balance the hemispheres of the brain. You can find an example of alternate nostril breathing in the video below:

Alternate Nostril Breathing from Center Your Health on Vimeo.

Another breathing exercise Schilter taught was  Satali Pranayam. This practise can cool you when you are over-heated and Schilter says she also practises it whenever she feels a headache coming on, even if she’s out in public. To practise Satali Pranayam:

    • breathe in through your mouth like you’re sucking a straw
    • hold your breath
    • exhale softly through your nose

Schilter says that being mindful is learning how to respond to stress as opposed to reacting to it. “That’s the work,” she told us. “To realize and notice what’s going on at a point in time and to make a decision. … It’s hard work to be mindful and focus on the now.”

It is hard work, but Schilter makes us think anything is possible. And who knows? If Schilter comes back next year, maybe she’ll get us levitating.

If you’d like to contact Krista Schilter for more information on breathing exercises, you can email her at You can also look at her document on mindfulness and ABI here.

BIST’s next community meeting will be on Monday, February 23 from 6-8 p.m. (topic TBA) at the Northern District Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 2nd floor meeting room.