Welcome to REDEFYNE. Our names are Jessie Rising and Sean O'Rourke. We are both full time students, Jessie is a senior student athlete at Manhattan College, and the sister of Michael, the strongest warrior. Sean is a senior business major at Stockton University. After an accident that nearly took my brother away from us last year, now more than ever, we realize that health is a lot more than visits to the emergency room. This site is dedicated to helping people struggling physically and emotionally as a way to share Michael's story. While Michael was recovering, many people reached out to us to share their story with such hope and courage despite the burden they were carrying. It was so inspirational to us because they truly found a way to redefine a tough season in their life and find the positive in it. That's when REDEFYNE was born. This is inspired by the Rising Strong story. We're so glad you're here.
THE RISING STRONG STORY
Michael was a Sportsman race car driver for Team Outlaw for three years. It had always been his dream, and we have always been involved with racing, having raced quarter midgets when we were kids. As the amazing person he is, he put his love of racing on the back burner to watch me chase my dreams of playing Division I softball. Endless traveling for travel games in the putrid heat, long days, and busy nights, we simply could not do both. Once I achieved my goal of playing softball, Michael bought himself a car, and began pursuing his dream. He absolutely loved being behind the wheel of a car. He was obsessed with getting better, and so eager to be an inspiration to young kids that were watching from the stands. The 2020 race season was cancelled due to COVID-19, but Michael was counting down the days until the race track reopened and he could get back out on that racetrack.
Until July 5th, 2020, Michael was involved in an accident that left him in critical condition for nearly 2 months. He sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, which required a craniotomy and two fractured hands. One second Michael was a normal athlete, counting down the days until his season began, and the next, he was fighting for his life. Since then, we have been given devastating diagnoses, unfathomable odds, and scary statistics, but Michael continues to defy the odds. Brain injury is such a complicated injury, and it is, in most cases not visible from the outside. Brain injury survivors appear to be healthy and normal, but does not invalidate their injury. A TBI can span from common sports injury concussions, up to severe TBI’s, like Michael’s. Each brain is different, no injury is the same, and each recovery is unique.
Sean and I were not harmed in Michael’s accident, but we were present. My brother is my best friend, and I can’t really put into words just how shattered my world became that night. I remember just praying to God to just let him talk to me one more time. We prayed breath by breath, and we just asked God each night to keep him alive until the next day.
For me, when I had to return to New York for my season, and leave Michael and my family, I realized that even though I wasn’t physically hurt, mentally I was severely injured. Being home, I could focus on Michael, I could see his progress, see his smile, and hug him when I got overwhelmed. But when I was alone, the trauma caught up to me. This is when I started exploring the reality of mental health, specifically in athletes. Even when I woke up and was feeling awful, my injury was not visible, and I had to find a way to wake up and take on my classes, weight training and practice everyday. Despite how real my injury was, it did not matter in the grand scheme of my responsibilities. Being able to deal with my problems was hard, because I literally had no time. I remember just trying to keep myself going to keep myself from thinking about anything, but the trauma demanded to be felt anyway, and it came as nightmares. I distinctly remember one morning after a shower, I just looked at myself in the mirror, and I told myself out loud, that me running from how I was feeling was not going to make me better, and that if I wanted to get better, I was going to have to intentionally make time to be alone with my thoughts. After experiencing something like this, and sitting in class speaking to people, thinking about how many people had no idea what I was going through, or what I was dealing with. Mental health is not always black and white, and it doesn’t always come with a diagnosis. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
By my side through the entire thing, was my boyfriend, Sean O'Rourke. Although not related by blood, he has become a member of our family over the last four years. Prior to the accident, he frequently told me that he would never go into the medical field like me, because of the gore. In fact, he wasn't completely sure where his career was going to take him at that point in his life. However, the night of the accident, Sean was, quite literally, superman. He went back and forth between me and my brother, told people where to go, called both 911 and my parents, and never once hesitated. As the person he is, he would never let on all the trauma that he had experienced, because he was so worried about being there for my family and I. But, he too, has bouts of PTSD, nightmares, and the like. This accident, and his desire to have done more in the situation, although he was not capable of doing more in that moment, is what made him pursue law enforcement as a career.
Mental health, especially after an injury, physical or emotional, is something that is frequently overlooked. All of these injuries are valid injuries, but neither are always visible from the outside. REDEFYNE was something that we prayed about for a long time. We prayed about how we could use Michael’s story to reach other people who have lost hope, feel alone, or simply don’t know what comes next. This word (and it’s spelling), woke me out of a sound sleep.
Life is unpredictable, and we are given some burdens that feel too heavy to hold. However the Bible says, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” -- Isaiah 42:9
God is the ultimate redefiner. He takes things meant for evil and turns them for good. He takes your greatest setback, which the devil meant to destroy you with, and redefines it. But he doesn’t do this silently. Through your greatest setback, you will defy all odds. You can do what feels impossible, you can silence the thoughts, you can start again, you can get through, you can REDEFYNE your story.