White Coat, Black Art

After a tragic accident, a young Manitoba nurse offers inspiration through social media

After a horrible traffic accident almost killed Brianna Seewald, the young nurse used social media to turn her recovery into a series of inspiring moments that have touched hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

'Hopefully somebody else in a bad situation could laugh at my videos,' she says of TikTok success

Brianna Seewald has been documenting her recovery from a nearly fatal car crash last summer, gaining her a huge social media following. For this photo, Seewald decorated her halo brace with Christmas ornaments and tinsel. (rainetaylor19/Instagram)

This is a story from White Coat, Black Art's series called Prescription for Resilience: Coping with COVID on the many challenges people are facing during the pandemic, and what they're doing to find resilience.

A newly graduated nurse living in Mitchell, Man., Brianna Seewald was on her way home from a shift at the local hospital the night of Aug. 17, 2020, when a vehicle pulled out in front of her on the highway. 

She was almost killed in the high-speed collision. 

"I remember everything. I never once lost consciousness through the entire ordeal. Every excruciating moment that followed the accident, I know right down to the moment it happened," says the 27-year-old.

Seewald suffered a broken neck, as well as torn ligaments and a disconnected artery, both in her back, and now uses a wheelchair.

But the accident did not crush Seewald's spirit. In fact, she has been using the journey of her recovery to entertain and inspire hundreds of thousands of followers on the social media platform TikTok.

The Jan. 10 video of the medical team removing her halo — a device that is attached to the skull to immobilize neck and spinal injuries — has attracted more than 11.6 million views.

Before the accident, Seewald had posted cute and comic videos of herself on TikTok.

But after seeing the reactions to a series of pictures that her fiancé had taken of her in the hospital, she understood the platform's true potential.

"When I realized that there was this world behind me, supporting my recovery, that's the moment I realized that I could really help somebody else," she says.

"I could bring awareness to road safety, how quickly these accidents can happen. Hopefully somebody else in a bad situation could laugh at my videos or learn from my videos."

Seewald's social media followers have been waiting to see the removal of the halo device. (Submitted by Brianna Seewald)

The safety protocols and restrictions related to COVID-19 have made her recovery more complicated. When she was in the hospital, she could only have her fiancé, not any other members of her family, by her side. 

"My fiancé was an amazing support system to me and my family. He helped me FaceTime because I couldn't really hold my phone at that point," she says.

Small victories, support from loved ones also critical

Typically a very social person, Seewald found life in the hospital isolating. Being able to move home was an improvement — but also boring. Making TikTok videos has helped her pass the time, though she's conscious of the false impressions social media can create.

"Everyone sees my videos and thinks that I'm always sunshine and rainbows. But there are definitely days where I find it very hard to get up, and I get very frustrated with my situation," she says.

"On those days, I really reach out to my family, to my friends. On those days we just look for small things to be grateful for."

One of the things she's relied on during the pandemic, which others might find useful was something she  learned during her nursing studies. "Smart goals" are ambitions that are attainable in a short amount of time and that can be measured.

"For instance, getting in my wheelchair and doing it by myself, that was one of my smart goals," she says, explaining how she savours small achievements.

"Every moment is precious and special. It goes far beyond just being able to go to the store, or getting to go and do activities again."


Written by Paul Gallant. Produced by Sujata Berry

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