A True Renaissance Woman
Amanda studied archaeology at Boston University and University of Madrid, was a rescue swimmer in the U.S. Navy, obtained her culinary degree at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu and received her master’s degree at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. She then moved to Paris and studied wine and has gone on to turn down dozens of “normal jobs.” Normal does not apply.
As a speaker and on-screen, Amanda is known for her humor, relatability, expressive nature and unrelenting curiosity and enthusiasm about culture, travel, food and drink, and body hacks. She’s motivated thousands by being knocked down repeatedly only to get back up smiling and stronger. After fifteen surgeries, and with many an artificial body part – plates, screws, discs, anchors and reconstructions – she’s bionic.
Amanda loves being outside and physical exertion. Her athletic focus has shifted slightly after the procedures on her left foot and right hip; a little more climbing and a little less running. She learned technical skills at Alaska Mountaineering School and summited Kilimanjaro. She has upcoming plans for Mt. Elbrus in Russia and spending late fall and winter in the Denver area climbing as many mountains as possible.
Other interests include cooking and wine pairing, cuddling dogs, and testing gear and wines. Licenses and certifications include skydiving, SCUBA, motorcycle, WSET and ServSafe. She’s of Vietnamese-American descent and grew up covered in dirt in the woods of Maine, navigating the forest, playing “G.I Joe,” collecting rocks and animal bones and defacing her dolls.
Things took a turn when, for a reason unknown to her at the time, she couldn’t read without a splitting headache, much less comprehend the words. She had to adapt.
Many of her notable achievements – Ironman and half Ironman triathlons, 18 marathons, magazine covers, athletic sponsorship, hosting a series, two national lifestyle columns, Ivy League master’s degree – came after her first and/or second brain injuries but before she had a proper diagnosis, much less treatment. Her doctors estimate she operated at 40-60% for fourteen years.
She is currently undergoing treatment for post-concussion syndrome related to two moderate traumatic brain injuries and five mild ones. Physical damage to her cervical spine greatly reduced range of motion, drastically altering her swim and bike form. Her vision was greatly reduced, resulting in the worst case of convergence insufficiency some of her providers had ever seen, vestibular function rocked, spine compressed, dexterity limited and the right side of her body, as a whole, weakened. Damage to her left temporal lobe led to word loss, aphasia and trouble communicating on several levels. When listening, the inability to find spaces between words left her reading people’s’ body language, expression and intent to figure out situations; what she refers to as her “superpowers.” Another happy byproduct of all these injuries is an improved sense of taste and smell.
Given the circumstances of her own brain, understandably she’s taken great interest in human performance and neuroscience. If there are some parts she can’t rewire or get back, breakthroughs in the neuroplasticity field can help.
Amanda unknowingly defied the odds by virtue of her unmatched resilience and deeply motivating grit. Aware that she is in a rare position – as someone who rebuilt many of her own neural connections well enough that she eluded proper diagnosis for well over a decade – she’s decided to speak out about it in an unprecedented and honest way, even before she completes treatment. “Looking so normal” led to a long road of struggle and so advocating for unseen, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed issues like brain injury, post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety is a priority in her life.
Amanda is proof that no diagnosis can stop the show.