BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Pennie Hunt Practices and Preaches a Life of Gratitude

The title of Pennie Hunt’s book also lays out her life’s credo – “Love Your Life – No Matter What!” But this isn’t just some cutesy saying stitched on a throw pillow— it’s how Pennie lives her life.

It would have been easy for her to give up and blame her circumstances on tragedies, but something inside compelled her to focus on the positive and live with courage and compassion. Her mission is to convey this message to others who have endured life struggles.

“We all need to change our mindset to accept that there are lessons in everything, and we must stop blaming ourselves and others.”

Pennie Hunt Practices and Preaches a Life of Gratitude

The title of Pennie Hunt’s book also lays out her life’s credo – “Love Your Life – No Matter What!” But this isn’t just some cutesy saying stitched on a throw pillow— it’s how Pennie lives her life.

It would have been easy for her to give up and blame her circumstances on tragedies, but something inside compelled her to focus on the positive and live with courage and compassion. Her mission is to convey this message to others who have endured life struggles.

“We all need to change our mindset to accept that there are lessons in everything, and we must stop blaming ourselves and others.”

Over 20 years ago, Pennie fainted from a heart condition and fell in a restaurant ladies’ room. Hitting both the front and back of her head, she sustained a concussion. But that was only a precursor to a series of potentially devastating events.

In 2007, Pennie’s 22-year-old son died of an opioid overdose. “People didn’t discuss the opioid crisis back then due to the unfair stigma,” she notes. “It took me some time before I knew I had to accept what had happened and use this experience to help others.”

Then, in 2018, while driving from Denver to her hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming, she was hit by a distracted driver. As Pennie tells it, “Cars had stopped in a construction zone. In my rear-view mirror, I saw a car quickly coming up behind me and it hit me at a speed of 65- 75MPH. When my car was hit, I was pushed into a concrete barricade and then flew about 35 yards before my car flipped and landed. I was left upside down, hanging by a seat belt, and crushed into a small area surrounded by glass, and mangled metal.”  

Untangling Pennie from the debris of the crash turned out to be no easy feat. “A paramedic crawled in through the broken glass as close as possible to keep me calm and conscious during the 45 minutes it took to cut my car apart and get me out. The paramedics, firemen, highway patrol, and even the ER physicians couldn’t believe I survived.”

Pennie had two full-body scans to assess the effects of the collision. Bruising, soft tissue damage, whiplash, damage to an optic nerve causing partial vision loss in one eye, and yet another concussion was some of the physical ramifications of the accident.

“I still have pain in my neck and back, especially when I get tired, plus issues with balance,” Pennie recounts. “The nightmares were the worst, as I would relive the accident with people trying to kill me, saying things like, ‘YOU should be dead.’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is real!”

Since her vision was affected—she describes it as trying to look through a fishbowl—she couldn’t write or read, two of the main components in how she earned a living. Her depth perception was off, and she struggled with constant headaches. “Because of the crash, I aged 10 years in a second,” she says. “Nothing felt the same in my body. The crash took a year of my life as I spent it in physical therapy and doctor appointments to recover from my injuries.”

Her situation was particularly enlightening for her, as people around couldn’t see the physical symptoms of her brain injury. “I understood how frustrating it is for others with this invisible disability,” she shares. “It can be quite difficult to convey the struggles they’re going through. No one could feel my inner pain or see my concussion.”

It was during this recovery period that she added more conviction to her mission of helping others to live a happy life no matter what has happened to them.  Everyone can choose how to live their lives. As Pennie sees it, “I could either feel like a victim or make the best of my life and still be happy.”

In choosing the latter, Pennie created a blog promoting tips and techniques to teach others how to live in love, gratitude, and happiness. “I realized that every person will at some point experience a life crisis, but many don’t know how to overcome it. We all have the choice to live in love or fear, regardless of what life throws us.”

Pennie continued building on her own experience from there and wrote two books to help guide others toward a path of hope. At the core of both her Love Your Life No Matter What books (Tips to Journey Through Grief and Loss and Tips to Live Life with Love and Gratitude) are three rules for happiness and success:

  1. The ability to accept and adapt to change
  2. The ability to believe that you are good enough to love and be loved
  3. The ability to express gratitude

“The message is easy to process,” says Pennie. “We all need to change our mindset to accept that there are lessons in everything, and we must stop blaming ourselves and others.”

Today, she spreads this message of hope through motivational speaking, writing workshops, and her weekly blog, Writings from the Corner of Spirit and Brave.

Carrie Collins-Fadell, CEO of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona, invited Pennie to speak at this year at the Alliance’s Finding Your Spark After COVID virtual workshop. Her topic was “Journaling to Navigate and Manage Your Feelings after COVID.”

“Pennie is awesome,” Carrie enthuses. “Not only is she a great writer and entertaining speaker, but she easily connects with others because she is so honest about her own life. It’s as though she has all these things she wants to accomplish and does not have time to put on a persona. Pennie is one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.”

Additionally, Carrie was impressed with how well Pennie conveyed the importance of journaling to the event attendees. “For many survivors, establishing daily routines is important,” she points out. “Pennie explained how writing daily helps crystalize feelings as well as seeing progress over the long haul.”

Pennie was all-too-happy to speak with fellow survivors. “We may not have control of what happens to us, but we all have control of how we live our lives,” she emphasizes. “I choose positivity, love, kindness, and gratitude. I urge my fellow survivors to do the same.”

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Workgroup
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Neuro Info-Line: 888-500-9165

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