Special Report: Overcoming the Odds


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Imagine waking up in the hospital and having no memory of the last month of your life. It happened to a Norfolk woman after her family was involved in a car crash.  

Helena Ausink is sharing her ongoing recovery journey, hoping it might help someone else.

In July 2018, Ausink and her family were involved in a car accident in North Carolina. 

“Apparently the car hydroplaned,” Ausink said. 

Her husband and three young daughters were fine, but she was not.

Ausink said, “I had major trauma in my brain.”  

She spent four days sedated, intubated and unable to speak. Doctors diagnosed her with a traumatic brain injury. It took nearly a month for her to remember anything.

“My husband would tell me, he would look at me and I kind of looked like a blank page, like there wasn’t much there,” Ausink said.

She was moved from the hospital to Riverside Rehab in Newport News.  Her therapy there wasn’t easy, but she was eventually discharged.  Ausink called her Alma Mater, Old Dominion University, and started at Monarch Physical Therapy. 

“When I run, it feels like I have a lead leg, so I’m moving it forward, but I can’t feel it really and it feels heavy and weird,” said Ausink.

She’s now working with Ashely Massart, a speech language pathologist and certified brain injury specialist. 

“I always like to challenge that system where something is taking away her attention, whether it’s Rhema, or whether it’s me or whether it’s the task in front of her, card sorting,” said Massart.  “I think one thing that she still struggles with is that divided attention, which pretty much her life will always have divided attention especially as a mother of three kids.”

Massart says Ausink’s spirit and determination radiate throughout the clinic. 

“I think she’s been very resilient and she’s definitely, I think she’s handled it very well,” Massart said.  “You know a lot of people can become depressed, they focus on what they can’t do anymore.  She’s had a very positive, upbeat attitude.”

It’s something that inspires the other people who walk through their doors.

Ausink said, “Being okay with the process is so crucial and so I just want, I just tell people that it’s going to be okay and we just have to trust the people that are around us that want to see us get better and want good in our lives.”

That’s why she’s sharing her story, reminding others that it’s possible to overcome the odds.

“Here’s what I learned through it all,” Ausink said. “Don’t give up, don’t be impatient.  Be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Never lose hope.”

Ausink ran the Big Blue 5k at the beginning of the month, less than a year after her accident. She and her husband are expecting their fourth child in September. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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