Melissa Cronin graduated from Boston University’s School of Nursing in 1988. During her schooling, she grew to enjoy working with children, and began what would become a successful pediatric career at The Children’s Hospital of Boston.
1988 – 2003
In 1996, Melissa left her home state of Massachusetts behind for Nevada, where she started her career as a neonatal intensive care nurse, and spent her free time backcountry skiing or mountain biking. Eventually she made her way east to Philadelphia to tend to critically ill newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She missed skiing and mountain biking, so settled in Vermont, where she developed a love for running. Her feet carried her for miles through backcountry roads, and the steep hills of Montpelier’s neighborhoods. She remained committed to nursing ill babies, and worked in the neonatal intensive care nurse at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Many of the newborns she cared for during her career had little chance of growing into toddlers, yet they outlived the odds. Melissa saw the unimaginable become the imaginable.
July 16, 2003
Melissa’s running feet came to a halt and her life work shattered, when she was visiting the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market in July 2003. Eighty-six-year-old George Russell Weller confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the market, striking 73 people, including Melissa. She sustained life-threatening injuries. Ten pedestrians died.
2003 – 2013
In the years following the accident, she attempted working in various nursing settings. But the traumatic brain injury (TBI) she sustained in the crash, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder made it difficult for her to multi-task in the fast paced environments she once navigated with vigor and confidence.
With the hopes for a return to nursing work diminished, but determined to find a purpose, she participated in a writing class and joined a writing group. Inspired by her writing mentors, Melissa enrolled in an MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts in December 2010. She graduated with an MFA in creative nonfiction in January 2013.
Cotton Wool: A Meditation on Writing as Weaving ~ Hunger Mountain Journal ~ 8/2012
Five years after Russell Weller struck Melissa, ironically, she found a niche as a wellness nurse for an older population. A committed writer, she filled pads of paper with telling phrases shared by her clients. Her essay, “Cotton Wool: A Meditation on Writing as Weaving,” both a sophisticated and poignant account of how Melissa “finds stories in the narrowest cracks and folds of [her] life,” was published in Hunger Mountain Journal in August 2012.
Review of Darin Strauss’s ‘Half a Life’ ~ Brevity ~ 10/2012
In Darin Strauss’s tragic memoir, Half a Life, he writes about his struggle to come to terms with his changed life after he killed a classmate who swerved on her bicycle into his car. Melissa’s book review of Strauss’s memoir can be found in the October 2012 issue of the online journal Brevity.
Translating Trauma into Memoir ~ Writerland ~ 4/2013
In April 2013, Meghan Ward, a memoirist and award-winning writer, invited Melissa to contribute a craft essay to her blog, Writerland. In “Translating Trauma into Memoir,” Melissa talks about how she learned to mine the metaphors embedded in her writing and, according to Megan, that has helped her to create a “valuable piece of art.”
Invisible Bruise ~ Chicken Soup for the Soul ~ 6/2014
Mild traumatic brain injuries are the most prevalent of TBIs, yet they often go undiagnosed until years after the injury occurred. Mild TBIs can also result in long-term cognitive difficulties. Because both scenarios were the case for Melissa, she wanted to increase awareness of this often misunderstood injury. In June 2014, her personal story, “Invisible Bruise,” appeared in Chicken Soup For the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.
Code 309.81 ~ Preservation Foundation ~ 2014
A few months after the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market crash, a psychologist diagnosed Melissa with post-traumatic stress disorder. “Code 309.81,” is a cinematic portrayal of how PTSD has changed the way she views the world around her. The essay received “Honorable Mention” in the 2014 story contest held by The Preservation Foundation. To read the essay go to: Story House.
Bananas ~ River Teeth Journal ~ 2/2015
In very few yet precise words, Melissa finds insight amidst the challenges of her father’s dementia in “Bananas,” published in River Teeth.
Faded Scar with Palpable Edges ~ Humanthology ~ 9/2015
After decades living with her secret struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, Melissa courageously shared her story, “A Faded Scar with Palpable Edges,” on Humanthology, a website devoted to real life chronicles connecting writers and readers to causes they embrace. The founder and CEO, Valerie McCarthy, calls Melissa’s story “rich,” and “honest.” She says it is “the model of the authentic, insightful personal story that we aspire to collect.” The essay also appeared in the fall 2015 issue of The Medical Literary Messenger, an on-line journal dedicated to the healing arts.
Right Foot Left Foot ~ Under the Gum Tree ~ 10/2015
Melissa’s hope to connect with others who have suffered life-changing trauma inspired her to write “Right Foot, Left Foot,” an imagistic narrative, is about her determination to walk after nearly four months in a wheelchair. Her essay received “Special Mention” By Dinty W. Moore in the 2013 creative nonfiction contest held by Hunger Mountain Journal. In October 2015 Right Foot, Left Foot was published in Under the Gum Tree, an independent and reader supported literary micro-magazine.
Reaching for the Key ~ Saranac Review ~ 10/2015
Melissa’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease less than a decade after eighty-six-year-old Russell Weller confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. In “Reaching for the Keys,” she writes with emotional authenticity about her anger toward Russell Weller’s family for not taking the car keys away from him before he stepped on the gas pedal. Yet, when she is compelled to take the keys away for her own father, she learns that it’s not as easy as snatching them from the key rack in the kitchen. “Reaching for the Keys,” was published in October 2015 in issue eleven of Saranac Review.
Vehicles are Weapons Too ~ Jerusalem Post ~ 1/2017
Melissa speaks out about vehicles as weapons of mass destruction in her op-ed piece published in The Jerusalem Post.
After a freak car crash, I thought I was too broken to find love ~ The Washington Post ~ 8/2017
To learn how Melissa came to terms with her scars after sustaining life-threatenting injuries in the 2003 Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Crash, she invites you to read her essay at The Washington Post.
When My Abusive Father Got Alzheimer’s, Spoon-Feeding Him Helped Me Forgive ~ Narratively Magazine ~ 8/14/2017
Melissa didn’t think she’d ever be able to face her father without fear, but in his docile, vulnerable state, they forged a new dynamic. To read her story please visit: Narratively Magazine.
After ~ Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine ~ 10/2017
As a neonatal intensive care nurse, Melissa once cared for a set of con-joined twins prior to and after their surgical separation. She writes about her experience in the fall 2017 issue of Intima.
Melissa writes human interest stories for The Other Paper in South Burlington, Vermont, where she lives with her husband, John, and their stuffed animal (a lamb) named Hawk. Her work has also appeared in the Vermont based newspaper The Burlington Free Press, part of the USA Today Network.
Increasing awareness about TBI and PTSD-related issues is paramount for Melissa. In 2012, she worked with the Burlington Fire Department, the city’s farmers’ market steering committee, and other city officials to ensure that pedestrians and vendors are kept safe from moving motor vehicles. In place of tape draped across both ends of the street on which the market takes place each Saturday, large trucks now block the road. Please visit Melissa on the blog to offer insightful feedback and ask questions, to debate and dream, to share your voice and speak out about trauma, identity, body image, mortality, forgiveness, music, writing, anything that speaks to the human condition.
When she is not writing or reading, Melissa plays her Irish fiddle, practices yoga and meditation, and volunteers for United Way of Northwest Vermont.
For more information about Melissa’s writing, and her memoir in progress, please contact her here.