‘You can get through this’: Mount Prospect woman’s book shines light on invisible injury

  Katianne Olson wrote a book for children about traumatic brain injury after her husband Chase was injured in a fall from a roof. She sits under pictures of her family in their Mount Prospect home. John Starks/
  Katianne Olson, left, wrote a book for children about traumatic brain injury after her husband, Chase, was injured in a fall from a roof. They pose in their Mount Prospect home with their children, Piper, 7, and Caden, 4. John Starks/

High school sweethearts Chase and Katianne Olson were raising a family in Mount Prospect when their lives changed in an instant on May 18, 2020.

Chase was doing maintenance on a home when he fell more than 25 feet from the roof, suffering multiple skull fractures and a traumatic brain injury.

He would spend the next 11 days in intensive care at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, but it was just the start of a long road to recovery not only for Chase and Katianne, but their children, Piper, now 7, and Caden, now 4.

“There was nothing out there for me to help guide me in my conversation with this, and I'm a special-education teacher, so I am very well versed in disabilities,” Katianne said. “But when you're in that moment, I was just looking for something to help me.”

Now, nearly four years later, she hopes others in similar circumstances will find that help through her new children’s book, “The Resilient Brain.”

The book draws on the Olsons’ experiences dealing with Chase’s traumatic brain injury and his recovery. It describes how such injuries can affect a person, the feelings one may experience seeing a loved one go through it, and what the rehabilitation process may look like.

Katianne has launched an online Kickstarter campaign at to raise money to fund the book’s printing and get it distributed to rehabilitation centers, brain injury units, hospitals, homes, libraries and schools.

For Chase, the rehabilitation included 11 days of inpatient treatment at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago after he was released from the hospital. Those days featured seemingly endless rounds of physical, speech and occupational therapy.

At times, he said, it was frustrating when he saw pictures he recognized but couldn’t find the words to match.

He returned home after those 11 days, but continued therapy for months at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab facilities in Wheeling and Arlington Heights.

Chase now is back at work as a firefighter and enjoying his family, but memories of those early weeks after his injury inspired Katianne to write the book. Although aimed at children, she believes it also contains valuable lessons for adults.

“I think the biggest thing is that this injury is such an invisible injury,” she said.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, which marks Brain Injury Awareness Month every March, invisible symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can include post-traumatic stress disorder, speech difficulties, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, cognitive impairments, light sensitivity and memory loss.

According to the association, more than 5.3 million Americans are living with a traumatic brain injury.

“I would say almost everyone knows someone who may have had a brain injury,” said Sangeeta Driver, chief of brain injury medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

Motor vehicle accidents traditionally have been the number one cause of traumatic brain injury, but because of an aging population, falls now are the predominant cause in the U.S.

Those who experience the injuries often feel isolated and suffer in silence, Driver added.

While about 6% of those who experience a traumatic brain injury suffer long-term disability, most can go on to a full recovery.

“The more we learn about the brain, the more we're understanding that its ability to heal and form new connections is much longer than we originally thought,” Driver said.

Katianne credits the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and her “village” — family, friends and co-workers — for Chase’s recovery.

She hopes her book can be part of that village for others.

“You can get through this,” is the message she hopes readers take from the book. “The brain is resilient (and) you are resilient as a person.”

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