Brain Health Nonprofit Announces First-Ever “Woman of Courage” Award

PHOTO CREDIT  Jennica Maes

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona announced the recipient of their first-ever Woman of Courage award. Kathy Laurinaitis, a Valley business leader who regularly appears on the E! reality series Total Bellas, will accept the award on January 14, 2022, at the inaugural Brainiac Bash…a Soiree to Support Brain Health.

This award is announced on Kathy’s one-year survivor anniversary where she underwent extensive surgery to remove a mass on her brain stem, after a misdiagnosis of Bell’s Palsy.

While 2020 was a difficult year and many struggled to maintain their brain health, Kathy and her family found themselves in a scary situation leading up to the surgery, she endured months of frustrating neurological challenges and brain health issues, without a clear diagnosis and path forward. 

At the time Kathy’s twin daughters, Nicole and Brianna, were both weeks away from each giving birth. This should have been a time of great joy for the family, who includes her husband John, son JJ and stepchildren, Maya and Zack.

Kathy, and her family, found themselves in a frightening situation, navigating uncharted territory after her brain mass diagnosis and then recovery after a fourteen-hour surgery.

No one would have blamed her if she wanted to keep her health struggles private, as there is so much stigma around brain health and injury, but instead she actively chose to be an open book and went through her process on national television. 

She has been incredibly open about her cognitive challenges and the immense hard work of recovery, in the process becoming a voice for so many others.

Carrie Collins-Fadell, director of the statewide nonprofit, Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona

Kathy had this to say about being the first recipient of the Brain Injury Alliance’s Woman of Courage Award:

I am honored and humbled to be this year’s recipient of the Woman of Courage.  This has been a challenging year for my family, and I want to do what I can to help other families navigate through their trauma, as well.  I am someone who has never slowed down, and my condition truly rocked my world. 

I am happy to say that with the help of my great physicians and medical team, and the support and love from my family, I can resume most of my daily routine.  I am happy that there is an organization like the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona for families that may not have had the resources I did to meet their needs.

Kathy Laurinaitis

While thousands of Arizonans will be seen in an emergency room due to brain injury this year, and over 5.3 million people in the U.S. living with a permanent brain injury-related disability, brain injury tragically remains misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and rarely talked about.

Kathy is really shining a light on brain health challenges and paving the way for others to take charge of their brain health.

This is a complex issue, and we want there to be more resources, support, and education for every family facing cognitive challenges.  

Julie Rake, Board Chair for the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona

Dr. Dina Shacknai, the 2021 Chair of the Brain Health Advisory Council that is spearheading the Brainiac Bash, urges everyone to dust off their dancing shoes because the group is aiming for a fun night, honoring Kathy.

COVID-19 was really tough on human service nonprofits. The Brain Injury Alliance rose to the challenge and served even more families, now it’s time to thank our advocates like Kathy and celebrate. 

Dr. Dina Shacknai, the 2021 Chair of the Brain Health Advisory Council
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