On the morning of November 13, I remember thinking to myself that the streets of Portsmouth were unusually quiet. I was the only person walking down Hanover as I wandered into work and there were very few cars on the road.

I looked both ways before crossing the street at the intersection of Market, Hanover, and Bow in downtown Portsmouth. It’s a route I take daily to get to the Stout Heart office and one I love because we are so lucky to do business in a town as special (and beautiful) as this one. My memory gets dodgy from here but my brain still holds a few snippets: a quarter of the way across the street I watched the fender of an SUV hit my knee, I slammed onto its hood, and then my head quickly hit the pavement. Hard.

I was rushed to the hospital, put in a medically-induced coma, and, when I came to in the ICU at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, was told my 34-year-old body was not how I last remembered it. I’ll spare you the details of the insane list of diagnoses I was given- some knee, neck, and brain-related- but the most important one to know about is that I had an acute subdural hematoma- bleeding between the skull and the brain- and, had it been a hair worse, they would have had to open my skull for neurosurgery. I was monitored in the hospital for a week as they watched to make sure that my brain was still operating my muscles properly, allowing my senses to work, facilitating speech normally, and recalling memories. The headaches were brutal.

Fast forward to today. I have been told now by many doctors, with raised eyebrows as they scan my charts, that: a) I’m lucky to be alive and b) it’s a miracle that I am functioning like a relatively normal human being so soon after the accident.

I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a business owner. It has taken many weeks to even begin to process the accident (and will take many, many more) but, looking at my life and how close I was to slipping away lends serious perspective. Since you’re forced to limit screen time when recovering from a brain injury, I’ve had a lot of time to think and often my mind settles on Stout Heart.

Those of you who know the Stouthearted and, especially if you have worked with us, are aware that the reason that I started the agency is that in the world of marketing, relationships are often neglected. That is often true both under the roof of a marketing agency and outside of it. I have worked in account service for my entire advertising career, so I have been the person to pick up the phone when an angry client calls more often than I would have liked. Now that Stout Heart is nearing four years in business, I can say honestly that I know that type of phone call is avoidable if you prioritize kinship, respect, and communication with your clients, if you make your team as much a part of theirs as possible, and if you focus on doing good in business and the world.

When forced to look at the life of Stout Heart in the big picture, it makes me incredibly proud. We are achieving what I initially set out for and, though this will always evolve, it is truly unbelievable to look at our work and know that its quality is a direct result of a theory that dawned on me so long ago. Relationships are the foundation for so much good.

The most important piece of that, for me, has been the Stouthearted. So many businesses claim that their team is like a family. We actually are. Our team’s official motto is “don’t let the team down” but, in reality, our culture goes far beyond that. Life is too short to work a job that you don’t enjoy with people who you don’t like. Nothing drives that point home like watching your coworkers take over for you when you’re suffering from a life-threatening brain injury. During my time out of the office, the Stouthearted stepped up and allowed me to focus on my recovery without anxiety or fear about how the business would function without me. For that, I will forever be grateful.

If I’ve learned anything over the course of this process, it’s the importance of friends and family, and the incredible support that the Seacoast community musters when someone is in need. Thank you to all those partners and clients who dropped off meals, sent cards and flowers, mailed us care packages, called to check in and get recovery updates, and kept the good vibes flowing. It has meant so much.

If I leave you with anything, it’s this. Hug your loved ones close as often as you can. You truly never know what’s around the corner waiting for you. But you can’t live with fear. You have turn it around and live life as fully as you are capable with goodness at your core. And I say that from the bottom of my (still beating) stout heart.