By nature, Leigh Koechner is openly raw and honest but also blessed with a lightness of being. She’s funny and quirky, too. A mother of five—with husband actor David Koechner—she does stand up, creates a variety of videos, and is the parenting expert for Jiyo, a personal well-being app. ABILITY’s Chet Cooper and Lia Martirosyan joined the Kansas-native at her family home in Los Angeles, where she discussed her mission in life, the miraculous birth of her youngest, and how she’s choosing to share her gifts with the world.
Chet Cooper: Your routine is funny. Is it true you had a head trauma?
Leigh Koechner: I did—I fell off a cliff when I was 13 years old. We were mountain climbing and rappelling down a mountain at a summer camp, and as we came back down the mountain, the trail was thin, and I kept grabbing daddy long-leg spiders and throwing them at my girlfriend’s back, because she hated them and we teased her constantly. I turned back around the other way and literally slipped off the side by goofballin’ it. I fell 10 feet and landed on my head. There was a 250-foot drop after that, so it was great I landed there. But the way I hit my head knocked me unconscious. They had to rappel down to me and then run three miles to get some board to put me on to bring me down. I guess when you have head trauma you throw up quite a bit. I wasn’t aware of it, but I was throwing up and screaming and saying wild things, and then I’d black out.
I woke up about 48 hours later in Boone County, Arkansas, in intensive care. I remember I couldn’t move my head. I had no idea where I was. There was some really drunk man chained to his bed, like handcuffed, who had been in an accident, screaming. I was like, “Where am I?” And then I looked, and I saw the owner of the camp and he said, “Hey, darlin’! You’re injured. You banged your head up pretty good.” And then I didn’t cry or anything. I was 13, and I was just lying there. But then the second I heard my dad’s voice—they put the phone to my ear—and I said, “Daaaad!” He said, “I’m on my way, baby!” He was a doctor. He took a life flight from Kansas City to come and get me. I was in intensive care for a little bit, and then in a room for about a week.
What we have found is that it jarred my short-term memory. How I describe it is, I have a little staircase in my brain. When you say, “How was last night?” I run up and look, and it’s blank. And somebody will say, “Remember? We were at Marion’s.” And I say, “Oh, my gosh, it was a blast!” There’s a little prompting that has to be done.
Lia Martirosyan: What a good illustration.
Koechner: Yeah! When I was trying to decide how to describe it, people were like, “Were you drunk last night?” I used to be a pretty big partier, and I would say, “Yes.” So sometimes I thought it was because I was drinking, and I had one drink too many. And then when I quit drinking for a while, it was still happening. That’s how we found out. It got a little bounced around up there.
Martirosyan: Daddy long-legs.
Koechner: It was the daddy long-legs’ fault.
Cooper: So how do you feel about them now?
Koechner: I just enjoy them. I have a collection of them in my bedroom.
Cooper: What kind of a physician was your dad?
Koechner: He was a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in Kansas City. Here it would be considered more plastic, but there it’s more reconstructive. When people got in car accidents, he’d put their faces back together or remove cancers.
Martirosyan: So you’ve always been in a medical
Koechner: Yes. I used to go to the emergency room with my father. He would let me put on gloves and hand him stuff. I went to the operating room and got to observe, and I loved it. I thought I would do pre-med until I got into college, but I liked partying and cocktailing way more than studying, so I went from pre-med to recreation and leisure.