By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  There’s growing awareness and concern about traumatic brain injuries, 1.7 million a year in the United States. On Friday, patients, families and doctors gathered in Philadelphia at Penn Medicine.

Traumatic Brain Injuries, we hear about them all the time with athletes and concussions. They can cause devastating lifelong problems.  One Chester County woman, who’s had a remarkable recovery, is now working to help others.

Candace Gantt is back to training for triathlons, swimming, running and biking.  It was on a routine ride in Chester County 10 years ago, where she was in an accident that left her with a severe traumatic brain injury. Candace says, “They had very little hope that I was going to recover.”

Her family was told – if she lived, she’d probably have severe limitations. Penn Medicine Neurosurgeon Dr. M. Sean Grady, who treated Candace says quick treatment gets part of the credit. But he adds, “We don’t know, to be honest with you, why she had such a dramatic recovery and others have not.”

Dr. Grady says while there are still many unknowns with the brain, research has lead to a number of important advances.  Many were shared at the “Mind Your Brain” conference at Penn Medicine, which was coordinated by Candace.  She says, “It’s a real mission and passion for me to be able to connect resources with brain injury survivors. There’s a gap between in patient care and the ability to get help in the outside environment.”  Candace says after the initial treatment, she had trouble finding help with things like memory.  The conference is aimed at making those connections.  Dr. Grady says, “Quite frankly it’s for us to hear what we can do better.”

Having beat incredibly bad odds, Candace who’s 57-years-old now, is still competing in races.  She says she feels lucky, and “I feel blessed that I have a second chance.”

Candace says recovering from her traumatic brain injury was a long and difficult journey, but she wants people to know there is hope and help for patients struggling with neurological issues.

Links:

Mind Your Brain Symposium: https://socialfundraising.apps.upenn.edu/socialFundraising/jsp/fast.do?&fastStart=customTemplateByNameOrId&customApplicationNameOrId=mindyourbrain

Penn Center for Brain Injury and Repair: https://www.med.upenn.edu/cbir/

Penn Medicine Neurology and Neurosurgery: http://www.pennmedicine.org/neurosurgery/