A nurse who nearly died in a two-vehicle collision near Ste. Anne insists that laughter is the best medicine, and it appears at least 200,000 other people agree.
On August 17 of last year, Mitchell resident Brianna Seewald was travelling down Highway 12 when she suddenly t-boned a vehicle attempting to cross Provincial Road 210. That was the incident that completely changed her life. Instead of nursing others back to help, Seewald has spent recent months in bed being helped first by medical professionals at the hospital and then by family and friends at her home. In dealing with the fractured neck, broken ribs, and partial paralysis that resulted from the crash, Seewald’s ongoing humour and positivity have been infectious to those attending to her needs as well as to thousands and thousands of others across the world. In the wake of her collision, Seewald has become a TikTok celebrity.
TikTok is a social media platform upon which users can post and view content in the form of short 15-60 second videos. Seewald, who has been using the service to document her recovery says she stumbled upon her newfound stardom quite unintentionally.
“I was on TikTok before my accident and I maybe had like 100 followers,” she describes. “Then I posted a story early on about my collision and it took off from there. When I came home and started documenting what my recovery looked like, so many people became invested, it became something I never would have imagined. One morning I woke up and had 100,000 followers.”
Right now, Seewald has more than 188 thousand followers and over 3.2 million likes.
“And it is just growing,” she adds. “Every day I wake up to hundreds of messages from people from around the world who have fallen in love with my story, are here for the recovery, and cannot wait to hear more. With almost 200,000 followers, I have received almost 200,000 messages of support and love and kindness.”
Seewald says the sheer volume of people paying attention to her day-to-day life did not fully hit her until companies began reaching out and offering sponsorships. “It’s crazy!” she exclaims. She credits her sudden mass following to her inherent funny-bone which, it seems, was not injured in the crash.
While her video stories honestly describe the challenging nature of her situation, they also outline the comedy. In one video Seewald demonstrates how one must wash their hair while wearing a titanium neck brace. In another, her entire piece of headgear is decorated with tinsel and Christmas ornaments.
She believes her humour is what draws people in and her genuineness is what captivates them.“I feel like I’ve created a space where it is okay to talk about the mental illness that comes with these kinds of accidents, I’ve created a space where it is okay to heal publicly, and it is okay to have bad days and it is also okay to have good days and to celebrate those moments,” she offers. “I am more than willing to share my story with anyone and tell them what I was able to do and how I was able to get through it.”
A significant number of Seewald’s followers are individuals who have, themselves, been severely injured in devastating accidents. Her sunny approach to life has been an encouragement and an inspiration to those coping with the loss of maneuverability and pain.
“Early on they told me that the fact that I survived with the injuries I sustained, and that I am as functional as I am was a miracle. How else do you live after knowing you’re a miracle?”
For Seewald, one of her most uncanny moments of fame occurred earlier this week. On Monday, she removed her neck brace for the first time since the incident. Seewald says celebrating that milestone alongside thousands of digital cheerleaders was surreal.
“100,000 people had been waiting for this halo to come off! I think social media can sometimes be a very dark place, but other times it can be so uplifting.”
Through all of her jokes, stories, and advice the young woman’s message remains the same... “You can be your own light in a terrible situation,” insists Seewald, who is living proof that it is possible.