Tag Archives: brain injury association of massachusetts

Hope – Mommy of a Miracle

Since Isabella’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I have found hope to be crucial on this journey.  Hope that against all odds it would somehow work out.  Hope that things would turn around.  Hope that I was doing the right thing.  Hope that this medication or therapy or doctor etc.  would be just what is needed to move forward.  Without hope what is there left?  I always try to encourage others to sustain realistic hope.  As I watched Isabella continuing to regress and decline, I started to lose hope that we could turn this around.  Although every time I looked at Isabella I knew I had to continue fighting on.  She hadn’t given up hope so neither would I.

As I embarked on a path to raise twenty two thousand dollars for Isabella to have her own Hyperbaric Oxygen chamber at home I found the hope start to build.  I heard the doubt in others voices and I knew it was a lot of money, but I knew that we would raise the money somehow some way.  My husband and I reached out to anyone and everyone asking for their help.  We had our family, friends, my amazing support group and complete strangers helping us figure out a way to make it happen. The outpouring of love and support was incredible.  I spent my nights researching ways to raise money knowing full well that any fundraiser that was set I couldn’t physically be there.  I continued on because I knew HBOT provided hope that we could turn this around for Isabella.  I had hope that we could do this for her.

As the end of September approached, so did the fifth anniversary of my Nana’s death.  I truly believe she is always watching out for us.  That week things started to come together.  That hope that I had struggled to find again was starting to rebuild.  It is often said that it only takes one person to make a difference but I truly believe it is a lot of people doing what they can together.

With each person or company I reached out to it led us one step closer.  As Isabella’s story was shared, I received the most amazing email on the anniversary of my Nana’s death.  Guardian Angel Motorsports heard about Isabella.  After speaking with the founder, they agreed to donate the rest of the money needed to get Isabella her HBOT chamber.  It has been a few days and yet I am still in shock that this has really happened.  Isabella’s HBOT chamber has been ordered and it is in transit to us. I truly believe that my Nana placed this Earth Angel in our path because she saw that I kept pushing through knowing that for Isabella I would do anything.  My hope may have wavered but it was never truly lost.  What I want others to know is that when things seem impossible and the odds seemed stacked against you, remember to keep pushing forward.  “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible” – Christopher Reeves

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGuest Blogger, Kristin Olliney-Apruzzese, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

College Bound – Wishing our Ambassadors an Amazing Experience !

We have been so fortunate to know Sean Rowell and Madeline Uretsky at the BIA-MA. They are both amazing people and have been wonderful additions to our Ambassador Program. If you have not heard about our Ambassador Program it is comprised of  volunteer speakers who have either sustained a brain injury or have a loved one with a brain injury. The speakers vary in age and experience, but all share a desire to tell their stories to help others avoid this devastating tragedy. Sean and Madeline have both been part of our are program after they sustained their injuries.

If you would like to become an Ambassador please contact us at 508-475-0032 and ask to speak with our Ambassador Program Coordinator !

Sean Rowell_SlopesCongrats Sean Rowell !!

This spring Ambassador Sean Rowell graduated from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury and will be attending Georgetown University.  Sean began speaking for our program in August of 2010.  Sean suffered his brain injury from a snowboarding accident at Loon Mountain.

Sean has made a number of speeches as an Ambassador.  This year, Sean was a panel presenter at our Annual Conference.  He has spoken to numerous clubs and organizations throughout the state, including,  the Worcester Rotary Club, Millis High School, Wilmington Rotary Club, Marlborough Rotary Club, Chelmsford Rotary Club, Stow Parent Teacher Organization and Fitchburg Rotary Club. The Wilmington Rotary Club invited Sean to also present to their High School Interact Program.

After his accident, Sean became certified to teach for the New England Disabled Sports Program at Loon Mountain.  As a coach, Sean guides guests in the snow sport of their choice on the mountain.   Through his assistance, Sean enables the students to experience the thrills and independence of skiing.

BIA-MA would like to sincerely thank Sean for all his accomplishments and association with our organization.  We wish him the best of luck in his studies and would like him to continue to be a friend of the BIA-MA.

Madeline

Congrats Madeline Uretsky !!

This spring, Ambassador, Madeline Uretsky, graduated from Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody and will be attending Simmons College.  Madeline became an Ambassador for BIA-MA in April of 2012.  Madeline’s brain injury happened from a car collision and then five months later a severe concussion while playing soccer.

Madeline has made numerous presentations for the Ambassador Program.  In April, she was a panel member at the Whitehead Institute’s 2014 Spring Lecture Series for High School Students.  She has also made numerous presentations at many Rotary Clubs across the state including; Lynn, Billerica, Swampscott, Billerica, Tyngsboro/Dunstable, and Manchester/ Essex.   Madeline has also presented at our Pediatric Conference and was a speaker at the 10th annual Boston Acquired Brain Injury Support (BABIS) Walk.

In 2013, Madeline’s story was featured in the Boston Globe in an article on concussions and her story is also featured in many internet sites focused on concussions.  Madeline also wrote a chapter in the book, Concussed! Sports-Related Head Injuries: Prevention.

BIA-MA would like to sincerely thank Madeline for all her accomplishments and her dedication to our organization.  We wish her the best of luck in her studies and would like her to continue to be a friend of the BIA-MA !

Grieving – Mommy of a Miracle

As a parent to a child with a brain injury, I can tell you that this journey is an emotional roller coaster from hell.  The truth is we grieve and most people on the outside just don’t get it because after all our child is still here.  This is my attempt to explain something that is hard to “get” unless you live it.

When someone you are close to passes away, there is a wake followed by a funeral and then the grieving cycle begins.  Generally the grieving cycle consists of shock and denial, followed by anger, then sadness, bargaining and finally acceptance.  When your child suffers a brain injury most  times you have a child who looks like they did before but they are an altogether different child.  Almost like a stranger was placed in their physical body.  We not only go through the grief cycle but are often times left with what has been called chronic sorrow.  Chronic sorrow is defined as the presence of recurring intense feelings of grief in the lives of parents or caregivers with children who have chronic health conditions*.

Shock and denial is the first step of grieving.  According to the Head Injury Center every 5 minutes in the United States a brain injury leaves someone permanently disabled.  When that brain injury happens to your child, shock sets in fast.  I remember looking at Isabella hooked up to all these machines, tubes and IVs everywhere, thinking is this really happening or is this a horrible nightmare that I will wake up from? I mean after all Isabella was fine all Thanksgiving Day, how did things go so terribly wrong so fast?  I was physically going through the motions but I was in complete shock.  There are chunks of time that I just don’t remember.  Denial is something that I never experienced and for that I am eternally grateful.  I think the fact that I was a single parent helped me a lot.  I couldn’t fall apart or deny what was happening because I was the one having to make major decisions that could lead to life or death.

Anger is the second step of grieving. For me anger is such a foreign emotion.  I am not an angry person.  I can only remember two times in my life where I was angry.  Yes I get mad or upset like everyone else but anger well that was not an emotion I was used to.  I was angry that my child was robbed of the life she was supposed to have.  Isabella was a 4.5 year old little girl who had the world waiting for her.  She was this happy-go-lucky, social, smart little girl who met friends everywhere we went.  She was in preschool and she was playing on a soccer team – the one thing she had talked about since for as long as I can remember.  Yet my baby girl was hooked up to machines galore and fighting for her life.  I was angry and I have my moments were I still am.  It is ok to have those moments as long as you are able to move forward.

Sadness is the third step of grieving.  It is when the reality of your child having a brain injury actually starts to set in.  I was sad that the child I had for 4.5 years was gone.  Isabella looked exactly the same yet was replaced by what seemed to be a stranger.  I was sad that Isabella had to go through and endure everything from therapy to tests to doctor’s appointments etc.  I was sad that things Isabella had mastered before her ABI were now so challenging or gone such as walking, writing, coloring, sitting up etc.  Watching Isabella struggle with not only the heartache of not being able to do what she once did but also seeing the  frustration she felt because she knew she could once do it.  I was sad and I still have my moments were I am very sad.  I allow myself those moments because I am human and I know that I will keep moving forward.

Bargaining is the fourth step of grieving.  It is when you try to find the reason or explanation as to why.  It is asking “what if”, “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” etc.  Often times bargaining is people thinking that they are paying for past mistakes.  I am fortunate that this is not something I went through.  Quite frankly I believe that sometimes bad things just happen.  There is not a rhyme or reason, it just is what it is.  I knew that I did everything that I possibly could to save my child.

Acceptance is the final step of grieving.  It occurs when you have come to the realization that what was is no longer and you start your new normal.  Acceptance doesn’t mean that what happened is ok.  It quite simply means that you are living in reality and have an understanding that life is different.  I will never be ok with what happened to Isabella.  She was robbed of her life.  I have come to the realization that the path Isabella was on prior to her ABI will not be.  However that doesn’t mean that Isabella can’t have a life.  Will it be the same as she was set to prior, no, probably not but at the end of the day, all I want is for Isabella to be happy and live to the best of their ability.  Acceptance doesn’t mean that all is ok it just helps you to keep moving forward.

Chronic sorrow is how best to explain life with a child who has a brain injury.  You are repeatedly faced with a child who in most cases looks exactly like their old self.  However, they are completely different. I miss the Isabella I had for 4.5 years. She was so happy-go-lucky with not a care in the world.  When I have those small glimmers of my old Isabella (however brief and far between they maybe) I take advantage of it.  What I have found is that I love my new Isabella more than I ever loved the prior one.  It is hard to imagine that possible.  The Isabella I have now has become my hero.  I admire her courage to face each day no matter how difficult it maybe.  I admire her determination and I hope she never loses that fight.

“The only people who think there’s a time limit for grief, have never lost a piece of their heart.  Take all the time you need.”  unknown

*taken from www.chronicsorrow.org

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGuest Blogger, Kristin Olliney-Apruzzese, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

Introducing our Newest Guest Blogger Tessa Venell

You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike

tvenell riding bikeFor Mother’s Day, my brother and I went home for the weekend to see my parents who live in Acton, a rural town in Southern Maine where I grew up. When I awoke on that Saturday, I went for a run around the three-mile loop I used to do when I was in high school, but had only run once since graduating from college. The loop starts on a dirt road at the end of my parent’s driveway and winds through the woods and past a hill overlooking the lake that I swam in as child.

After I ran, I had lunch and got in the car with my parents, my brother, and his girlfriend to drive to a trailhead nearby to go for a short hike. My mom wanted to go for a hike for Mother’s Day, continuing a tradition that started when I was in grade school. As I was hiking, I felt surer of my footing than I had during the first few hikes I had attempted, and I relied less on my dad’s arm for support. Jazzed up after the hike, I asked mom if she’d spot me on the bike. For the first time in eight years, I rode a bike all the way up and back down the hill.

It wasn’t the first time I had tried to ride my bike since suffering a traumatic brain injury eight years ago. In 2006, I was involved in a car accident that had left me in a coma and unresponsive for 3 weeks before being admitted to the “Slow to Recover” program for 100 days at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital. However, it was the first time I actually enjoyed riding a bike since before the accident.

I had tried riding a bike a couple of times before, but my attempts always ended in frustration that boiled over and quickly led to yelling and hurt feelings for the person that was trying to help me. Those first attempts at riding a bike left a bad taste in my mouth and I didn’t think I would do it again. Riding a bike was not the most important activity to me, if I had to lose something; I was fine with this being the thing.

Those initial attempts at riding a bike were a stark reminder of the limitations I still face. At the time, I was just starting to get more confident, feeling like I could finally start to grasp my recovery and better manage my life with TBI. I didn’t like to be reminded of my limitations and not being able to successfully ride a bike left me feeling frustrated, and I didn’t like remembering what it felt like to have those limits. Memories of my recovery after the accident started to come flooding back, and the various obstacles I faced during the time I spent in three different hospitals over the course of nearly a year.

But that Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, was the first time I had considered riding a bike for fun, even after running and hiking. Both the running and hiking felt easier that day and finally I was looking to be challenged again. Even after failing to ride a bike multiple times, I was feeling confident enough in my balance and strength to try again. And even though I had yelled in frustration during my first tries, on my way back down the hill my mom was waiting there for me, like she had been waiting to support me through my whole recovery.

My neurologist at Braintree, Dr. Douglas Katz, once told me that I would continue seeing changes in my recovery even five to six years after the accident. At the time, I looked at this with disappointment: I wanted to be recovered now, not in six years. Gradually, I began to see things from his perspective, and still notice even small changes with my memory, balance, and emotions. That progress, no matter how small, excited me, and propelled me to new stages in my recovery. Even eight years later, the confidence I was starting to feel with my body while running and hiking motivated me to get back on my bike.

And though I had questioned this initially, I found the old adage to be true: You never forget how to ride a bike. Sometimes you just need patience to remember.

Venell Beijing headshot

Guest Blogger, Tessa Venell, is an independent journalist and documentarian. Currently a grant writer at The Ivy Street School, she is writing a book about her recovery from a brain injury that she sustained when a severe car accident left her in a coma. You can see more of her work at tessavenell.com.


Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

kristine & isabellaLast year I started an online support group on Facebook called “Parents of Children with Brain Injuries”.  For the first time since Isabella’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I no longer felt alone.  I have other parents that can relate to how I feel, what is going on with Isabella and they quite simply just “get it”.  As a parent to a child with a brain injury we are often misunderstood.  We are seen as people who only talk about brain injuries, we are seen as ungrateful, we are seen as overprotective, we are seen as mean for having our child go to therapy etc.  Below are 12 things we want you to know about us:

1.)    We want you to know brain injuries are an invisible disability.  While our child may look “fine” or even as they did before their brain injury, they are no longer the same child they once were.  Their brain injury has forever changed them.  Brain injuries can cause behavioral changes, emotional instability, impaired cognition, poor judgment and a slew of other things.  Trust me, no matter how “great” they look, they are not “fine”.

2.)    We want you to know there is no cure for a brain injury.  Not all the therapy, medication, doctors, sweat, love and tears will cure their brain injury or bring them back to how they once were.  However, we do all that we can to give our child the best possible outcome.

3.)    We want you to know we are no longer the same person we were before our child’s brain injury.  Some of us have literally watched our child die before our eyes.  We have witnessed horrible things and we have also seen some amazing miracles.  We can’t be who we once were no matter how hard we try.  Our lives are forever changed and as a result so are we.

4.)    We want you to know that if our child manages to briefly hold it together when we see you that doesn’t mean that they are “fine” or that we exaggerate.  An often time our child is so overwhelmed that the fall out is long after you have gone.    That pent up anxiety quickly turns to aggression, crying, panic attacks, anger, and many other emotions.

5.)    We want you to know that when you see our child having a tantrum, please don’t judge us or them.  Our child doesn’t need to “learn respect”, “get beat or get a whooping” or need to “stay busy to stay out of trouble”.  Our child needs love, respect, compassion and understanding.  Their brain injury leaves them with little control over their own body and mind.  When you judge us it only makes it harder.  Trust me we don’t enjoy the tantrum and neither do they.

6.)    We want you to know that we can’t just “get over it”.  We would love to move on in life as if our child didn’t have a brain injury.  We would love to go back to that carefree attitude, a life where this horrible nightmare never happened.  Unfortunately this is our reality.  Our entire world revolves around brain injury.  We talk about it in hopes that you will never have to go through what we have.

7.)    We want you to know that sometimes the things you say to make us feel better only make us feel worse.   Please don’t say “God only gives us what we can handle”, “I don’t know how you do it”, “I could never do that”, “pray harder”, “everything happens for a reason” or anything along those lines.  We have to believe that it is not God’s will to allow our child to suffer from a brain injury.  We have to believe that sometimes bad things just happen.  Along the same lines, if you were in our shoes you would find a way to make it work too.  We have no choice and neither would you.  It’s ok if you don’t know what to say to us.  We appreciate the honesty.  If you want to encourage us, let us know we are doing a good job.  It will mean more than anything else you could say.

8.)    We want you to know that we grieve.  We grieve the loss of the child we once had, we grieve for the future they could have had, we grieve for the innocence they lost, we grieve for the future we had planned for ourselves, we grieve for the impact it has on our family etc.  There is no set timeline on how fast or how slow we grieve.  Grieving doesn’t make us any less grateful that our child survived.  Believe me, we are grateful beyond words.  Grieving is yet another part of this journey.

9.)    We want you to know that we feel isolated.  When the rest of the world has moved on, we are still here stuck at what seems like a standstill. When our child’s brain injury first happened, everyone rallied behind us during this time of crisis.  As time goes on they fall to the wayside one by one.  Some fall away because we are not able to put in the same effort on the relationship.  Some fall away because that common ground is lost.  Some fall away because they don’t know how to deal with what has happened etc.  We may not be able to socialize like we once were; however, we do like to feel important and as though we haven’t been forgotten.

10.) We want you to know that we refuse to settle for our child even when medical professionals are asking us to.  Doctors, nurses, therapists, surgeons and alike can offer their medical opinion but that doesn’t mean that we have to agree.  Remember, at one point we were told our child wouldn’t make it and they did.  We were told that our child would never walk, talk, eat etc and most of our children do.   So when we are being asking to settle for our child, we just won’t.  If we settled in the first place, our child most likely wouldn’t be here or be where they are today.  We want our child to have the best life possible within their capacity.

11.) We want you to know we worry A LOT.  Will my child wake up/talk/walk/eat?  Will they die overnight in their sleep from a seizure because I was sleeping?  Will medical insurance approve or deny the treatment/therapy/medication that our child needs?  What will happen to our child when we die?  How do we fight the school system so our child gets the appropriate education with the right accommodations?  How to I protect my child from the cruel world who wants to judge them at every opportunity?  How do I keep my child from being bullied?  How can I get family/friends to understand that I want to be who I was but I am no longer that person and neither is my child?

12.) We want you to know that we often feel guilty.  Guilty for missing out on our other children’s lives.  Guilty for mourning the loss of our pre-injury child.  Guilty that we are jealous of other children without a brain injury.  Guilty for wanting or needing a break.  Guilty for not doing more.  Guilty that our child has a brain injury.  Guilty when they are in pain and we can’t fix it.

These are just some of the things that we, parents of a child with a brain injury, want you to know about us.  Our child is a survivor of a brain injury.  As their parent we are a survivor too.  We have seen things that no parent should ever see.  We have heard things that haunt us daily.  In a world that has only just started talking about brain injuries, we are sadly misunderstood as is our child.   We hope that you never have to experience watching your child suffer from a brain injury but should it happen, know that there are other parents just like you.

What would you want others to know about being a parent to a child with a brain injury?

Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

 

Mommy of a Miracle – Faith

kristine & isabellaIn order to survive this journey through brain injury I think you need to have some sort of faith.  Faith is a very personal thing and yet when brain injury occurs it is often questioned more than ever.  Most people question their faith after a brain injury, but for me, it was quite the opposite.  You see before my daughter, Isabella, got sick with sudden acute encephalitis, I already had doubts about my faith.

The two years prior to Isabella’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I had helped care for my Nana who was dying from ALS.  I watched the woman that I called my Nana, who was more like a mother and best friend to me, suffer for about two years.  It was heartbreaking and it made me question my faith.   My Nana was one who always had a strong faith yet she was suffering.  At the same time that my Nana was dying, one of my best friends, Jillana, was losing her battle to an inoperable brain tumor.  Once again my faith was being questioned.  Jillana was a young athletic amazing person and yet she was suffering from this horrible brain tumor.  My Nana died Sept 2009 and Jillana died March 2010.  Within 6 months I had suffered two substantial losses.  I was angry and upset that two great people suffered and died.  I was questioning my faith; I was questioning everything that I had ever believed in.   I found myself searching for a reason to have faith because I no longer believed.  I didn’t believe in prayer because I prayed so much for them both.  I did not believe in people that claimed to have experienced miracles.  In my mind, people that claimed to have miracles were not telling the whole story and clearly something else played a hand in that “miracle”.

When Isabella got sick everything changed.  I found myself in the PICU watching my child dying before my eyes.  I was praying to anyone that was listening to please save my baby.  In that room I didn’t know what else to do so I prayed.  There was family, friends, acquaintances and strangers from all around the country praying for Isabella.  Then in the words of her doctors, a miracle happened.  Prayers were answered.  Not only did Isabella survive but she defied the odds.  Hearing doctors say that there is no medical explanation for her survival and that it is a miracle she is here, well, that gave me something to think about.  I had watched a miracle with my own eyes and there wasn’t more to the story as I had often suspected with others who claimed miracles.

As the hours turned to days then months and eventually years I could feel that my faith was returning.  I had faith to understand that the power of prayer really does work and miracles really do happen.  Not all prayers are answered how I want them to be but I now have faith that somehow some way things will work out.    Ironically that was something that my Nana had told me my whole life that I didn’t understand until Isabella got sick.

On this journey my faith has been tested over and over.  What I have found is that faith comes in all kinds of packages.  There is faith in the power of prayer, and faith in miracles.   I have faith that Nana and Jillana are our guardian angels, both never far from us.  Faith can also be found in doctors, therapists, friends, family, strangers and support groups.  Faith isn’t always this thing that is right in front of you; sometimes you have to really look for it.  Most importantly I have faith in Isabella and myself.  I know that together we can conquer any battle big or small.  After all faith helped us survive the unimaginable.

Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

Announcement of “Chicken Soup for the Soul Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries” written by Sandra Madden.

LPS-0720

BIA-MA Staff & CSS Authors (Left to Right) Barbara Webster, Helen Stewart, Kelly Buttiglieri, Sandra Madden, and Suzanne D.K. Doswell

 

 

The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA) is proud to announce that stories written by five of our staff members, as well as several Massachusetts residents affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI), were selected for inclusion in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul (CSS) book slated to hit bookstores nationwide on June 24th.  This new book is entitled Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries: 101 Stories of Hope, Healing and Hard Work.

Our Executive Director Nicole Godaire beamed with pride when presented with this new book.  “I am proud of my staff, having the courage to tell their stories to the world. I believe this book will become a valuable resource for families dealing with recovery from traumatic brain injury.”

The following are excerpts from our CSS Authors:

“This book is the quintessential book for those who want to step into the world of brain injury and is now a primary resource in the BIA-MA Western Regional office library.  It is easy to read, full of dynamic personal stories and exactly what we have needed as we attempt to explain brain injury to the medical world and general public.  Some readers will shed a few tears as they realize the life altering significance of TBI and others may finally be able to address their patient and client needs with a clearer sense of this silent epidemic from the voices of those who know.” ~ Suzanne Doswell, Western Regional Manager

“I am so very grateful to be a part of this book.  After reading most of the stories, I truly believe that this is the most powerful textbook about Brain Injury ever written.  It has so many different voices in chorus.  The harmony blends survivors, family members, caregivers and professionals into one song.   It is not merely academic jargon, but relates the experience and impact of brain injury through the heart.  It bridges the gap between words and experience.  I do not believe that one can read these stories and not gain a deeper understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury and have more compassion toward the people who live with it, in any capacity, on a daily basis.” ~ Helen Stewart, Western Region Information & Resources Outreach Coordinator

“It takes a long time to heal and rehabilitate from a brain injury, typically continuing long after your insurance coverage has ended.  It is the hardest work I have ever done but it led me to the most fulfilling work I have ever done, working with other survivors.  My mission is to let other survivors know they are not alone in their struggles and to encourage them to think about “How” they can do something instead of “I can’t”.   It is a journey, not a destination.  Never give up hope.” ~ Barbara Webster, Support Group Leader Liaison

“A few years after my accident, I ran into my neurologist on a plane, we were both going to St. Lucia for a vacation. I felt such pride and satisfaction in telling her I had graduated law school and was practicing law. I wanted her to know she should encourage patients to take small steps to accomplish their former, pre-TBI goals. She initially discouraged me from pursuing mine.” ~ Kelly Buttiglieri, Ambassador Program Coordinator

“Keeping a positive outlook has been key (for me) to not succumbing to the frustrating and painful consequences of TBI. Many amazing and inspirational people have come into my life since my accidents and I keep focus on this, the comfort and joy of these relationships.” ~ Sandra Madden, Administrative Assistant

Chicken Soup for the Soul was named by USA Today in 2007 as “one of the five most memorable books in the last quarter-century” and after 21 years of publishing, have sold over 100 million books in the United States and Canada alone. You now have the opportunity to bump that number past 100 million books by purchasing your copy of Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries: 101 Stories of Hope, Healing and Hard Work directly from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts. We are selling the book for $12.50 (this is lower than the retail price and includes the cost of shipping and handling) and proceeds from the sale of each book will help support our mission: to create a better future for brain injury survivors and their families through brain injury prevention, education, advocacy and support.

To order online, visit www.biama.org. If you are unable to order online, please contact our offices and speak to Sandra Madden, she can be reached at (508) 475-0032 or toll-free (in state) at (800) 242-0030.

When you receive your book, look for BIA-MA colleagues’ stories on pages 64, 86, 177, 310, and 361.  Stories written by other Massachusetts residents affected by TBI appear on pages 15, 80, 128, 195, 212 and 307.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

Mommy of a Miracle – What I wish I knew

kristine & isabellaWhen Isabella was discharged from inpatient rehab we left on such a high.  I was thinking that the worst was behind us.  I was told that in six weeks life would be back to “normal”.  While I didn’t not fully believe that in six weeks all would be fine, I definitely did not imagine us to be over three years out and still so far away from the life we once had.  I didn’t fully understand that this journey was really just beginning.  Here are the top five things that I wish I knew when we left inpatient rehab:

1.)    This journey of recovering from a brain injury is just that, a journey.  It is not a race or a marathon because that implies that there is an end in sight.  With brain injury there isn’t a finish line where you can cheer that you made it to the end.  Brain injuries are lifelong injuries that forever change not only the survivor but it will also change you.

2.)    Many of us are told that recovering from a brain injury only happens in the first 12 months.  We are told that after 12 months you are stuck in that state for life.  This is absolutely false.  Isabella made the most recovery AFTER the 12 month mark.  There is no time limit or expiration on how long any survivor can improve.

3.)    There are so many great alternative treatments to look into.  I will admit that I never believed in alternative medicine.   That was until Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment changed Isabella’s life.   It greatly improved her sleep, seizures, quality of life and much more.  Keep an open mind and know that you have options outside of traditional medicine.

4.)    It is ok to change medical providers and therapists.  As you go along this journey, you may find that your goals and those of a medical provider/therapist may not match.  Changing care is absolutely ok to do.  I actually encourage you to change therapists from time to time.  I have found that when Isabella plateau’s with one therapist that changing can make all the difference.

5.)    Find a support group that can help YOU through this journey.  In the beginning family and friends promise to stand by you.  As time goes on they will slowly fall to the wayside.  While our life has come to a screeching halt other’s lives move on and we lose that common ground.  Having support from a group of other’s on this journey is invaluable.

There are times on this journey where you can feel so alone.  Know that you are not alone.  There are many others just like you on this same journey.  To help those just beginning, what would you add to my list?

Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

Mommy of a Miracle – Regression

kristine & isabellaIsabella’s brain injury journey began over three years ago. I have learned that recovering from a brain injury is not the steady climb forward as often found with other illness or injury.  This journey is a series of really high highs and really low lows.  In our experience it is filled with one step forward and three steps back.  Regression is the hardest part.

Regression often times has a trigger.  That trigger could be a sudden change in care, medication side effects or an additional stressor such as work or school.  Regression with a known trigger is stressful enough but regression without a known trigger is terrifying.  Isabella has been regressing for quite some time.  Initially, the regression was triggered by the start of public school.  Isabella has since begun home school; however, she never recovered from that initial set back.  Our silver lining is how well Isabella has done academically since the start of home school.  That said, every single part of Isabella is starting to be affected by this regression; physically, emotionally, behaviorally, cognitively, psychiatrically, etc.  Isabella’s migraines and headaches have dramatically increased to every single day.  Her tics and anxiety have also increased significantly.  The regression continues.  It really accelerated once HyperBaric Oxygen Treatment stopped. HyperBaric Oxygen Treatment is the medical use of oxygen in a pressurized chamber.  I hope that someday Isabella can return to that treatment.

As Isabella’s symptoms worsen and more skills are lost, further medical tests are performed.  With each test result I find myself in a catch 22.  I don’t want a test to reveal anything new is wrong and yet not having answers on how to stop this regression is terrifying.  I think about the parents I know whose child with a brain injury regressed (due to varying reasons) and their child still hasn’t regained what they lost.  My biggest fear is losing the Isabella that I do have.  I have recently started taking some video of Isabella laughing and talking just so I have it.  It is devastating to think that without answers anything is possible, will she continue to regress and eventually stop talking or laughing?  Will she lose her physical ability to walk?  Will she….?  At this point, I have more questions than I do answers.

The other day, Isabella fell asleep in the car right before we got home.  I decided to sit in the car and let her sleep for a bit.   As I sat there watching Isabella sleep so peacefully, I just started crying.  I am not a crier and yet here I was crying my eyes out.   As a parent to a child with a brain injury, this journey has been one of the most rewarding yet most devastating experiences I have ever had.  It is heart breaking and gut wrenching watching your child make progress only to regress without reason.  Isabella has worked so hard to get where she is and to watch that slip away is devastating.  I am her Mommy.  I am supposed to be able to make it better and I can’t.

As I wait for an MRI, I pray not for a specific outcome but instead I pray that somehow some way things work out so that we can best help Isabella.  In the meantime, I continue to cherish every laugh and every smile.   When I see glimpses of my Isabella, she reminds me that she is in there and she is fighting like hell to get out.  That helps me fight like hell for her.

“Nobody said it’d be easy they just promised it would be worth it” Anonymous

Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 8-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.

Legal Statement: The information contained in this blog does not reflect the specific views of BIA-MA. This blog is published for informational purposes only. BIA-MA is not providing medical, legal or other professional advice with its publication.

“I should not be alive today to tell you my story”

Bryan “BJ” Williams

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My name is Bryan “BJ” Williams and I am a  survivor of a traumatic brain injury and the path my life has taken has been more rewarding than I could have imagined.

At 21 years old my dream to become a professional hockey player came to a halt one hot summer day in 2005.  I was a passenger traveling home with a friend from a long day at work when he lost control of the vehicle and because I was not wearing a seatbelt, on impact I was ejected from the vehicle and landed on the side of the highway. Two days later I woke up in a hospital and was told about the accident.  I had no idea what a brain injury was and now realized my life would not be the same. I began experiencing many emotional and physical changes, I could no longer do the things I love, or every day tasks as simple as tying my shoes without falling over. I sustained five skull fractures and received four skin grafts and my brain will never completely heal. I have frequent migraines and I have never regained my sense of smell, taste and I am deaf in my right ear. It not only changes your hopes and dreams; it changes families’ lives forever.

I felt alone – I thought I was the only one with a brain injury. That’s when I learned about the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts. I immediately felt like part of their family, like I was no longer alone. They gave me hope that I could one day get back to doing the things I love. They not only inspired me, but provided me with the support and resources to help improve my balance, memory and most importantly, they helped me heal!

Thanks to you, the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts has touched the lives of thousands- whether they are facing an urgent need, are looking for support from others facing similar issues or are seeking to improve the quality of life for their family member. Your donation will help the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts fulfill its mission, because our staff has a passion for what they do.  With your support, you help us to help the next survivor – someone like me.

We give survivors like BJ the chance to connect with others as well as an outlet to share his story and journey. Your contribution helps us provide BJ the support he needed after his accident and the ability to help other survivors, caregivers and their families. As our Manager of Prevention, BJ fights to ensure no other children and families have to give up their dreams.

 Every 18.5 seconds someone is admitted to the emergency department with a brain injury. A brain injury can derail your life. The life you envisioned for yourself before your brain injury may not be the life you have after you recover from the immediate trauma.  The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts provides the prevention, support, education and advocacy needed to assist brain injury survivors and their families navigating through the process of grieving the life they had pre-brain injury and accepting the new reality they face now post-brain injury.

  Our Prevention programs exist to help people make better, more informed choices and raise awareness of TBI in order to prevent fatalities and serious injury on Massachusetts’ roads.

  In this holiday season, we know that you are being asked to give money to many deserving causes. A donation of any size is extremely important, because it provides the resources that make an immediate impact. Your gift of $50, $75, $100, $200 or $500 can make all the difference to our Caregivers, Survivors, Support Group Leaders, Ambassadors and to our support staff- to everyone here who works to serve you. You may also make your gift to BIA-MA to honor a family member, friend or loved one.     In Massachusetts alone, there are 64,000 new brain injuries reported each year and we’re committed to providing the resources you need for your loved ones and every person in your community. Please help make this possible with your contribution.

   With your help, BJ is now able to tell his story and prevent someone else from having to give up their dreams. Your donation will help the next survivor, their family or their caregiver. Your gift will also help us to prevent brain injury, advocate for  increased funding for services, offer resources and raise awareness perhaps for someone you know or love.

Sincerely,

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Nicole M. Godaire Executive Director

P.S.  To see how wisely we have invested your dollars, please   visit our website to view our full 2013 Annual Report. You may mail your gift in the  enclosed envelope or make a secure gift online at:   http://www.biama.org/donate.html