CHICAGO (CBS) — Baby cows, fun rides, and yummy funnel cake; fairs bring up fond memories for many of us. For a select few, a trip to the Indiana State Fair changed everything a decade ago this summer.
CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside a Midlothian woman’s journey from anguish to peace.
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To understand the phoenix tattooed on Alisha Brennon, symbolizing her rebirth, you have to rewind almost 10 years.
“We were going to see the Sugarland concert. It was my favorite country band,” she said.
She was at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011.
“We were front row, hands on the stage, leaning against the stage,” she said.
A strong storm blew in and that stage collapsed.
“I had a depressed skull fracture and traumatic brain injury. I fractured my back in six spots. I had broken my leg in half,” Brennon said.
But she was one of the lucky ones. Brennon’s wife, Christina Santiago, didn’t make it.
“I went through a very, very dark time,” Brennon said.
The light finally began to shine about five years later.
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“I had to do something to give back. I had to do something to carry on Christina’s legacy,” she said.
After she gave up a career in foreclosures, the Iowa native and Chicago transplant found the Orthotics and Prosthetics Program at Joliet Junior College.
“I basically make legs and arms for patients who have either lost some from disease, or from traumatic injury,” Brennon said.
An internship in Bolivia led to a position at Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago. What’s her favorite part of the job?
“Seeing a patient walk for the first time since losing their limb, in something that you’ve created for them,” she said.
Passion and something else blossomed inside the downtown hospital. Brennon found love again, remarrying last fall.
“She is the greatest support,” Brennon said.
The couple talks about Christina often.
“You can still find someone that really meshes with you in a different kind of way that’s just as good. So it’s been … it’s been a great couple of years,” Brennon said.
Like her tattoo, she’s rising from the ashes.
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Brennon received a large share of a $50 million settlement in 2014 related to her wife’s death and her own permanent injuries. She lives with a metal plate in her head and says she still suffers from headaches.