Alisha Brennon can’t hide her joy behind the face mask required in the lab during the pandemic. Her warm eyes and her personality will put you at ease.
Alisha is starting a new job at Joliet Junior College in suburban Chicago. She’ll be teaching how to make prosthetics to students at her alma mater where she graduated in May 2018. After several years, the road to get to this place was difficult especially following the Indiana State Fair Collapse on August 13, 2011.
Alisha came to the Fair with her then-wife Christina Santiago. They came for the Sugarland concert at the Grandstand. The couple like many others was in the so-called “Sugar Pit,” the area closest to the stage. When the rigging collapsed, Christina was killed and Alisha suffered a severe head injury.
"After the accident, I had nurses, PTs, OTs everybody helping me out. Friends, family, and their desire to help someone in need is what drove me to do the same thing."
Recovery would several years.
Alisha got a tattoo of the Phoenix Rising on her chest as a symbol of her survival.
"The ashes obviously, the accident. Those will be with me but they're behind me. I realize that can't continue anymore," said Alisha.
She added "It takes time to heal with whatever you’re going through for sure. You have to be in the right mindset to wait to move forward but eventually, that day will come."
Alisha had previously worked with a company that handled foreclosures.
She wanted more out of life and found her place and purpose at Joliet Junior College where she fell in love with the prosthetics program.
“This is where my life turned around for me for the better. This is the ultimate of helping someone."
She learned how to make limbs for pets and people and in the end, bring hope and comfort to their lives.
“I love what I do. I enjoy it so much."
The love for her craft is deeply rooted in her personal drive to give people a second chance to regain their personal freedom and movement with a new limb.
“These people have most likely been told at some point down the line --that they will not be able to do A, B, C. I've been, done that and I won't let that happen to somebody else if I have the power to do so.”
In order to could graduate from Joliet, she had to do an internship.
She decided to enroll in one in the country of Bolivia in South America.
While she did not speak Spanish, she let her heart and skills do all the talking and it worked.
Many of the people that came to clinics in Bolivia had a limb amputated because they were unable to afford healthcare to treat an illness.
Bolivians traveled for miles with dreams of regaining their mobility.
She says the smiles were well worth the long hours and she recalls one woman who left quite an impression after receiving her new limb.
"That's the image I'll never get out of my head. She had the biggest smile on her that I have ever seen."
Back at home, she's also dedicated to making prosthetics for animals by molding, casting, and fitting those animals in need like Mercy and Woodie the Wonder Dogs.
This is more than a pet project - it's a personal labor of love.
"The sky is the limit from here."
She believes that people given a chance can make profound and positive change and while yesterday may have been difficult, tomorrow can be better,
“It's a good life now. I get to help people every single day. I get to help animals in my free time. Knowing how short life is probably the biggest motivator for me.”
Alisha has also found love again.
In October, she and her wife Gina will mark their wedding anniversary.