Ballston Spa woman to receive award from Brain Injury Association of New York State

Ballston Spa village sign

AnneMarie Todd was in four car accidents from ages 19-30. As a result, she was left with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). However, she hasn’t let that slow her down. Next weekend, she’ll receive the Brain Injury Association of New York State’s (BIANYS) Silent Angel Award.

Todd has been a photographer since she was a teen, describing her camera as “her third kidney.”  Since getting involved with BIANYS, she has used her knack for capturing the moment to share stories of her fellow survivors. It’s this dedication to both the organization, and her own creative well-being, that nabbed Todd the prestigious award.

Todd got involved with BIANYS in 2002, after receiving care at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady.

Following a rough patch in life, her parents helped her get started at Sunnyview.

“I was repeatedly making all kinds of mistakes, my decision-making was really scattered,” she said.

After years of ups and downs, she finally received her TBI diagnosis.

“I did not receive it very well,” she admitted.

However, once she adjusted to the program and met with her occupational therapists, she was able to see the light.

“I kind of emerged from the dark,” Todd said. “It wasn’t a matter of physical reawakening, but a mental starting over”

Her first crash as a teen was the worst one. The following crashes further exacerbated her injuries. At one point, she experienced what’s called contrecoup. This is what occurs when your brain is rattled, hitting both the front and back of your skull.

Upon receiving care for her TBIs, she was also diagnosed with a form of clinical depression called dysthymia, an extra persistent version of the disorder.

“My emotional meter was swinging from one end of the other,” she said. “I was a stranger. I didn’t recognize myself.”

So, she was prescribed antidepressants. After mulling over it for about a month she decided to try them to see if they’d actually help. It took about another month for the medication to infiltrate her system and start to kick in.

“Wow, did that stabilize me,” she said.

Her team at Sunnyview, and later her peers at BIANYS, made the lifelong ordeal seem more manageable.

“It opened up an entirely new world of resources and friends and community,” Todd said. “One year I thought I’m gonna photograph to remember, and submit them to staff”

And so began her contributions to BIANYS.

“It kind of turned into being the official volunteer photographer for them,” Todd said. “I take it seriously. I’m documenting everything.”

Photography is more than just a job or hobby to Todd, it’s instrumental in her family life too.

Todd’s father was a hobby photographer, and she learned a lot from watching him tinker with his own camera as she and her siblings grew up.

“He had a camera from the time I was born,” Todd said. “He was documenting all of us kids’ lives.”

Todd’s first camera was a Kodak Instamatic given to her for Christmas by her parents. Once, on a plane, she and her father both attempted to capture the sky on their respective devices. Despite her dad’s camera being of professional quality, Todd’s prints came back crystal clear and her dad’s, grainy.

“I still have those little square prints,” she said.

Today, she continues what her dad started, and documents the lives of her nieces and nephews. Whether it be videoing a school recital or snapping pictures on the holidays, Todd doesn’t fail to capture those precious moments.

Additionally, Todd has done some photo and video work for her high school reunion. For their 30th reunion, the planning committee tracked her down to document the night, citing memories of her camera constantly being by her side in school.

“That was my legacy to my classmates,” Todd said with fondness.

Todd made a video with the photos from the reunion and shared them on Facebook. Her classmates’ responses showed her once again why she does what she does.

“I was crying because I was overwhelmed with gratitude.” she said.

After years of such dedication to both her craft and BIANYS as a whole, Todd is eager to receive the award.

“It’s just amazing and humbling,” she said. “I’m thrilled they’re acknowledging what I’ve been doing.”

The BIANYS conference will occur at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs June 7-9. Todd will receive her award Thursday. Also on Thursday will be the keynote speaker’s address. This year, the speaker is retired Sgt. Maj. Gretchen Evans, who sustained a TBI while leading others to safety while stationed overseas. 

Contact reporter Ameara Ditsche at [email protected]. Keep up with her on Twitter @amearaisawriter.

Categories: News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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