A Leesburg Family’s Journey with Traumatic Brain Injury: ‘The Miracle Child’ Releases Aug. 15

In 2001, Kelly and Michael Lang’s world turned upside down when their daughter, Olivia, experienced a traumatic brain injury after a devastating car crash.

Two decades later, the Lang’s have published a memoir of their parenting journey. Their new book, “The Miracle Child: Traumatic Brain Injury and Me,” is slated for release Aug. 15.

With Olivia’s blessing, the Lang’s share their experiences as parents and individuals with brutal honesty and a roller coaster of emotions: despair and hope, guilt and gratitude.

“I really wanted people to see what the real story was,” Kelly Lang said. “I didn’t want to sugar coat it. I didn’t want it to look like she just woke up and she was fine. That’s not reality. It’s not like on TV. … Those were my true feelings–I didn’t want to hide them.”

After keeping detailed notes and journals for 20 years, the Lang’s decided the time was right to share their story and support two nonprofits. Partial proceeds from book sales will go to the Brain Injury Association of Virginia and the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad, whose members the Lang’s credit with saving Olivia’s life. 

“The Miracle Child” starts with what began as a normal day in November 2001, when an SUV hit Kelly’s minivan on the way to their older daughter Hannah’s “Nutcracker” rehearsal near their Leesburg home. With chapters shifting perspective between the two authors, the book details grueling first days and weeks, as the Lang’s anxiously worked to support Olivia through hospitalization and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the couple struggled to be present for Hannah, who had just started kindergarten and was uninjured in the accident.

“The Miracle Child” draws heavily from the journals both Michael and Kelly kept as a way to stay sane–but also to support each other, as they took turns moving from Olivia’s hospital and rehab to being home with Hannah. 

“We felt the need early on to put some notes together,” Michael said. “During that time, we tried to have an accounting of some sort for each other.”

The Lang’s say their common goal of supporting Olivia–and writing the book–has brought them closer as a couple. 

“Any time there’s any type of crisis, a lot of times the couple does not make it,” Kelly said. “We kind of tag-teamed without actually talking to each other throughout the whole thing. That’s what helped us. We had the goal of getting Olivia to a better place.”

The book itself is a tag-team experience of sorts, with chapters shifting perspective between Michael and Kelly. “The Miracle Child” dives deep into the early days after the accident. The Lang’s are brutally honest about their feelings as they re-entered their community shortly after the crash. They describe a school holiday party in the following weeks–with a new kindergartener at a brand new school and fellow parents who didn’t know about the accident. And sometimes, both Michael and Kelly say, that meant putting on brave faces while supporting each other as they struggled under the surface. 

The book follows the family through Olivia’s high school graduation in 2017, documenting triumphs large and small and struggles with finding the right academic path and battles for accommodations and services with an invisible disability. Olivia was called “the miracle child” by a pediatric neurologist who had seen children with less severe injuries who were more limited in their abilities. But she still faced academic challenges and bullying in school.

“The Miracle Child” is also full of triumphs and joys, including the family’s welcoming third daughter Anya in 2008 when her sisters were 9 and 11. Olivia’s good-humored resistance to becoming a middle child like her dad melted away with love for her new sibling. 

Educating readers about TBI, which is often an “invisible” disability, was a big reason the couple decided to share their family’s story, Michael said.

“We thought there was a story to tell. …At that time 20 years ago, there weren’t many resources for traumatic brain injury. I think it has improved somewhat, but it still is a challenge. We thought people could gain something from this,” Michael said.

The book was also an emotional outlet detailing an ongoing healing process–for Olivia and her family.

“It was cathartic to get the words down,” Kelly said. She began speaking through Northern Virginia’s Brain Injury Services organization two years after the accident, and audience members routinely told her she should write a book. With Olivia now a young adult, the time was right.

The Lang’s gave Olivia sections of the book to review. And for Olivia, now 23, it was an eye-opening experience to view her younger years from her parents’ perspective.

“I didn’t really know what my parents were going through. I also didn’t know certain specifics of other things that were going on,” she said.

For Olivia, getting involved with A Place to Be, an acclaimed Loudoun-based music therapy program, as a high school freshman was a turning point. She is still involved with the organization and has shared her story in several touring performances. Kelly remembers Olivia returning home from her hirst APTB summer camp. 

“She came home exhausted but exhilarated to be around people who got it,” Kelly said. “They gave her that self-confidence. When I watched her get up on stage and tell her story, to see the self-confidence was such a gift to us and to her. It empowered her.”

For the Lang’s, opening up and sharing their story–the good, the bad and the ugly–was scary but necessary. 

“For a long time, I really didn’t discuss it. To open myself up like that was daunting,” Michael said. 

And Olivia wholeheartedly supports her parents’ decision to tell her family’s story.

“I’m very open about what happened. Through A Place to Be, I ended up becoming very accepting of what happened,” Olivia said. “I think it’s really important to share the story with other people.”

“Miracle Child” is available on Amazon.com and other online platforms with an official release date of Aug. 15.

Kelly and Michael Lang have scheduled a book signing Sunday, Aug. 21 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Congregation Sha’are Shalom, 19357 Evergreen Mills Road, Leesburg. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, go to themiraclechild.org.

One thought on “A Leesburg Family’s Journey with Traumatic Brain Injury: ‘The Miracle Child’ Releases Aug. 15

  • 2022-08-04 at 3:32 pm
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    I’m very glad to read about Olivia Lang’s recovery from devastating head injuries. What a gallant young lady. All of the Langs have my deep admiration. I hope everyone has an opportunity to read the book. I see a bright future for young Olivia. Best wishes!

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