Local brain aneurysm survivor turns injury to influence through dance

For most, August is an ordinary month like any other. But for Tarja Huuskonen, August marks a new beginning of her life; one filled with challenges and disadvantages, but also hope and newfound gratitude for everything precious this life has to offer.

Three years ago, on a beautiful August morning, Tarja suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while kayaking in the Ventura Harbor. The traumatic injury happened without warning, and suddenly the perfect summer day turned into a fight for her life.

Thanks to fast action by her friend and CMH Emergency Room staff, Tarja was transported to the Stroke and Neurovascular Center at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital where she underwent emergency brain surgery. After surgery, her outlook was uncertain, as her spirit waned while her body dealt with the aftermath of a serious brain hemorrhage. When she left the hospital, it seemed the worst of the ordeal was over. She survived. But this was only the beginning of a long, winding road to recovery.

There is no shortcut for recovering from a brain injury. Coming to terms with the physical, emotional and social limitations and challenges can be painful and isolating. Online support groups connect survivors but often lack professional guidance to key questions and challenges. In Tarja’s case, she invented her own support system, consisting of online groups, medical advisors, and a social network of dancers. She credits dance as a key therapy that has allowed her to gain balance and physical strength while rediscovering joy and connection to others.

Today, Tarja has a clear mission: to help other brain aneurysm patients and survivors on their journey to recovery. She is launching her own website and blog about brain health, and has joined The Lisa Foundation in building national awareness and education about brain aneurysms. One in 20 people in the United States will develop a brain aneurysm in their lifetime, and women are at a 50% higher risk. Most people don’t know the symptoms that could save lives.

To celebrate her third anniversary, Tarja has organized the Harbor of Life Benefit to engage our local community in learning the signs and symptoms of brain aneurysms while having a great night of social dancing, music, food and fun. The ability to move with the music, to hear the strum of a guitar, and to laugh with friends and family are gifts of life that can be lost at any time. So most importantly, this special celebration is about the connections and everyday triumphs that keep us going, while recognizing the resilience of broken brains and the recoveries made possible through the generosity of the human spirit.

The event will take place at The Greek restaurant at the Ventura Harbor on Saturday, August 17th from 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm. To reserve your tickets to this event, and to learn more about her story, visit Tarja’s website: iamtarja.com.

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