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Woman stands by husband's side after traumatic brain injury

Turning tragedy into triumph
Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 14, 2022

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Olivia and John Kerchner met at Delano High.

“So we’ve been together for over 30 years,” said Olivia.

Today, they live in Bakersfield and have two sons in their early 20s. But life hasn’t been like the movies for these high school sweethearts.

“Our whole life’s been upside down for 22 years now,” said Olivia.

John was a marine for seven years. In December of 1999, he was coming home from a field operation on his motorcycle when a car crashed into him. He had a traumatic brain injury and doctors said he had a 0% chance of living.

After almost four months of being in a coma, John did wake up and returned home, but his injury made him confused and combative.

“Me being a new mom of two children under the age of three, it was just a challenge to also be a caregiver,” said Olivia.

In 2005, John fell and his injury got worse. He couldn’t walk and he went to the Centre for Neuro Skills. Through his rehabilitation, John was able to get the anger and aggression under control, and he regained mobility.

“It was just amazing to watch and all these years later, he’s able to be home now with family,” said Olivia.

John was back home with his wife who never left his side.

“We've been together for so long. He’s my family and [when] I married him, you know, some people look back on those vows, like better or for worse, and I just never thought twice,” said Olivia.

Olivia was amazed by the work CNS does. In 2011, she went back to school, got her bachelor’s in psychology, and became an Aftercare Coordinator at the center. She still works there today.

“It's just been the most rewarding position. It’s more than a job to me because I’m connecting with families that are living my life,” she said.

Today, John and Olivia are living happily together. Olivia said some days are still hard and she’s looking forward to John doing even more therapy to further improve his balance and mobility.

For couples facing challenges like them, Olivia said it’s important to appreciate the little things and enjoy your time together.

“Take it day by day,” she said. “Live in the moment because tomorrow’s not promised.”