Tulsa strong: Defying the odds

Chis Lieberman (BS ’91) thrives on entertainment and fun. As the creator, founder and former executive director of the Williams Route 66 Marathon and the Center of the Universe Festival.

He is also the co-founder of Amazing Events which consults with several large events around the country. He is immensely proud of Amazing Events being the entertainment director for Tulsa Oktoberfest that created the idea for the Euro Disco,  Amazing Events, LLC has generated amusement in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for all ages.

Behind every Tulsa event, Lieberman works to make it perfect. When managing the Route 66 Marathon that attracts thousands to the area, he made sure the 26.2-mile race went through The University of Tulsa’s campus. Over 15,000 participants from around the world travel to Tulsa each year where they get a unique street level tour of his hometown.

“I wanted to show runners Tulsa and what makes Tulsa more than TU,” he explained.

A freak accident and a close call

Lieberman in a coma
Lieberman in a coma

On March 8, 2016, like any other day, Lieberman was working at his event warehouse when he fell 10 feet from a ladder onto a concrete floor and suffered a traumatic brain injury. While healing in a three-week coma, he was surrounded by a team of doctors, friends, family and a community who supported him through the recovery process. His girlfriend, Kim Hann, and two daughters stayed by his side through countless surgeries and travels, advocating for his life and health. Lieberman’s doctors explained that he had a low chance of recovering and advised Hann to move him to a nursing home and move on with her life, but she stayed by his side through it all. “Looking back, I had no idea I had that many friends. Hospitals had to turn people away from seeing me there were so many people,” he said. With a lack of neurological hospitals and treatment centers in Oklahoma, his family was forced to raise funds to pursue medical care out of state.

Lieberman's first written words "I feel so lucky"
Lieberman’s first written words “I feel so lucky”

The brain is most used to communicate with the rest of the body to move, but it can do so much more, like control everyday thoughts, memory and speech and the function of many organs within the body. Any damage to it can lead to life-threatening complications. Lieberman sought acute in-patient medical care from Sheppard Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and TIRR Hermann Memorial in Houston, Texas. He also received in-patient rehabilitation at Pate Rehab in Texas, and once he was finally discharged, he began out-patient rehab in Tulsa. After 3 years and still needing more therapy, the couple then started driving to REACT in Dallas, Texas, which is an Activity-Based Therapy (ABT) Center. Lieberman was then able to start walking independently again.

TU taught me the importance of using my education to make the world a better place and that has always been my goal,” he said.

Bringing it back on Tulsa Time

Lieberman walking with Hann and a nurse
Lieberman walking with Hann and a nurse

In a remarkable state of recovery, Lieberman proved doctors wrong. He and Hann became the founders and ambassadors of Tulsa’s Brain Injury Recovery Foundation, which, with help from generous donors, provides patients with free services with the goal to someday offer free rehabilitation services as well. “It was time to do something new. I wanted to build Tulsa an activities-based therapy center and give people hope,” he said. Lieberman also travels across the city to meet with patients who have been impacted by traumatic brain injuries and shares his personal story of survival.

“We don’t want other families to have to go through the same struggles that we did.” Lieberman explained. After his traumatic experience, he wanted to be able to support families with awareness, education, support, empathy and encouragement while they helped their loved ones through such trying times.

A triumphant return

Now standing, eating, talking and walking on his own, Lieberman brings his energetic personality and bright smile to others across the city of Tulsa. Four years after an accident that almost took his life, he is preparing for his comeback tour and plans to walk the Tulsa Run, the Cowtown Half Marathon in Fort Wort, Texas, and the Chicago Marathon.

“Being confident and having the support of my friends is the reason I survived,” Lieberman said. Even after his accident, he is still working to promote the foundation. The Quarter Marathon, a virtual race where participants can walk, run, roll or ride will benefit the Brain Injury Recovery Foundation. Between it’s unique distances- a race distance for all levels; specialized playlist narrated by running legend Bart Yasso; and multiple ways to participate, it’s sure to be a big hit and bring a lot of awareness to their foundation. Registration opens June 17. “I would do anything for this foundation and help make a positive impact of the lives of individuals that are so desperate for our services,” Lieberman stated.