By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by DAVID YAMAMOTO/Ventura County Star

Brain injury survivor to be honored

at fundraiser

CAMARILLO, Calif. - Jenna Prewitt wasn't expected to live through the night after she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a car accident at age 16.

Now 28, Prewitt will graduate in the spring from CSU Channel Islands with bachelor of arts in communications with an emphasis in health.

"When I finally accepted my disability, I really started loving and living life," said Prewitt, of Camarillo, who uses a wheelchair and is impaired on the left side of her body. "I hope to use my brain injury and my story ... to give other people hope."

Prewitt will share her story and receive the Above and Beyond Award at the Brain Injury Center of Ventura County's annual fundraiser at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Oxnard on Saturday.

Tom and Priscilla Van Gundy, second-generation owners of Van Gundy Jewelers, also will be honored.

"The Brain Injury Center ... has provided a safe place for survivors to vent where we are not judged," said Prewitt, an intern at the center. "It's a place that can help those with brain injuries become productive members of their communities."

On campus, Prewitt is admired for her strength and perseverance, said Vivian Laubacher Henchy, a lecturer in the communications program at CSUCI.

"Her contributions in health communication were invaluable," Henchy said. "She could talk openly about being disabled in class, all within the context of a course dealing with health topics and effective communication strategies."

Most of the time, Prewitt tries to find the positive, even in the most horrific circumstances, said her mother, Linda Prewitt.

"She missed her senior year in high school. She missed playing sports. She missed going away to college," Linda Prewitt said. "It's even difficult for her to hold her new nephew because she only has the use of one arm and hand.

"She missed having the life of a normal teenager and young adult, yet ... for the most part, she is upbeat and positive."

The accident occurred on a summer day about 20 minutes after Jenna Prewitt received a phone call from a college track coach interested in her high-jump skills.

Returning home from buying burritos in Somis, she was broadsided by a truck.

"My dream of high-jumping in college came to an abrupt end," she said.

She was airlifted to Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, where machines kept her alive.

"My parents were told I might not live through the night," Prewitt said. "But I did live through the night. And then I made it through the next night."

Looking back, she admits her initial struggle.

"I was very sad. I was not upbeat. All my smiles were fake," she said.

Around age 20, she realized her life would go nowhere if she gave up.

"I finally realized that I'm alive for a reason; I need to find that reason and keep working my ass off in school," Prewitt said.

She added that she wouldn't be the person she is today if not for the love and support of her parents and older sister, her friends, high school and college teachers and the Brain Injury Center.

"Even though I won't be high-jumping ... I have learned that other dreams are possible and can come true," she said.

Learn more: Call 482-1312 or visit www.braininjurycenter.org for more information on Saturday's event and the Brain Injury Center.





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