It was July 21, 2011 when Tommy not only lost his independence, but also found himself much like a newborn child dependent on his parents and others for his personal and physical needs. Tommy had been working for 10 years for a trucking company doing welding, when he fell off the top of a trailer. He sustained a severe traumatic brain injury.
Since that date his dad became his full-time caregiver. Two years ago, his dad found AHIF while searching the internet and he and Tommy came to the Mobile weekly support group meeting. Initially, it was a challenge moving from the isolation of home to the social situation of a support group.
As he has become more comfortable in this setting, Tommy has expanded his interests and joined Planet Fitness to improve his balance and muscle strength. He admits he was at first hesitant to join in group activities but now enjoys sitting at the table with others. He is striving to become less dependent on his dad, and appreciates the support and encouragement he receives at support group on this journey.
At the Montgomery AHIF support group meeting in November 2017, a new client attended who sustained his traumatic brain injury serving in the military. His grandmother had contacted AHIF earlier in the day to inquire about the support group. She explained that her grandson, 25, had sustained his injury in an automobile accident while on active duty in the Middle East. Jason had been rushed to Walter Reed Medical Center in Arlington, Virginia and had recently been sent home to Prattville, Alabama. As a result of his TBI, Jason still struggles with his speech and has been working on standing independently and learning to eat and chew again.
Jason, his grandmother and his aunt attended that support group meeting. It was our Thanksgiving celebration, so many people brought their favorite dish to share and were encouraged to share things they were thankful for. As his grandmother fixed his plate and other clients began to speak, Jason began to weep. When it came around the room for him to speak, without hesitation, he slowly and carefully rose to his feet and supported himself on his chair. He slowly introduced himself, spoke of his service in the army and time at Walter Reed Medical Center. While this took a very long time, you could have heard a pin drop at the meeting.
Jason shared that while he was thankful for his life, he was most thankful for his time in the service and being able to serve his country. He also stated that he was thankful someone brought sweet potato pie. Soon after he shared, group members began to thank him for his service to our country and Jason slowly brought his hand up to his forehead in an effort to salute.
His grandmother thanked AHIF for having a support group in which he could now attend and thanked us for "being a blessing". However, we know it was Jason that blessed us that evening.
Graci is a competitive cheerleader living in the Birmingham area. On January 31, 2012, she was practicing a stunt with her fellow cheerleaders where she was the flyer. At the height of this stunt, she was ten feet in the air, when a base supporter did not catch her foot, and she fell to the floor. She immediately lost consciousness. When she woke, she was nauseated, dizzy and had a severe headache. She went to the ER, where they did an MRI. The physician said she could return to practice the next week, but her symptoms persisted. Her mother took her to a pediatrician, who referred her to a neurologist, and she was told she had a traumatic brain injury. For nearly four months, she saw a neuropsychologist every Friday, and was finally able to return to cheering. Today, Graci is a varsity cheerleader, and has adopted traumatic brain injury as her platform competing in the Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen Organization. She is thankful for where she is today, for the recovery she experienced, even though she still has some consequences from her injury. She is thankful to Alabama Head Injury Foundation for the work they do to help her and others like her across our state.
From Nearly Dead to
Bokeem is age 23 and in 2017 he was in a MVC and sustained a brain injury which left him non responsive and dependent on a trach, feeding tube and medical professionals for his daily care. After about 4 months he began to respond and follow simple commands. The hospital began to make plans for his discharge but his mother was at a loss over what to do as her income was the only income for the family and she had to work. She knew he was too young for a nursing home and wanted him home. She was fortunate to have an employer who worked with her to allow her to work shifts while his older brothers and an aunt rearranged their lives to help.
Bokeem began to improve physically with his trach and feeding tube removed. He is wheelchair bound still but he is talking. His mother has worried over his inappropriate remarks but this has improved with time and opportunities for socialization. After much patience and referrals and advocacy efforts, he is now on SSID and a Medicaid waiver and has his aunt as his full time caregiver while mom works. Day programs have been looked into but nothing found yet that is affordable or covered by his insurance.
Some months ago Bokeem began coming to our support group each week and he now sits with others playing board games and enjoying others helping him with the games. He is always smiling and is a pleasure to know. His aunt has made her way into our caregiver group and appreciates the positive support of other caregivers!
For those of you reading this, you know it is hard to share my story in just a few words. In January 2011, I was traveling between customers when I lost control of my truck and hit a tree. I was left with broken bones, partially paralyzed and a traumatic brain injury.
I went to Shepherd Center in Atlanta for five months to continue my recovery, and was walking when I returned to Troy, AL to live with my parents, as my marriage had ended during my recovery. I began to deal with depression and faced many legal issues I didn't know how to handle. I needed an external advocate to help me, and I found Alabama Head Injury Foundation. The local Resource Coordinators, Terrie Causey and now Cindy Woodcox, helped me to own my situation instead of letting it own me. Just a phone call away was someone who would not be patronizing, was empathetic to my situation, and could help me find ANSWERS.
Susan & Ellen's Story
In northeast Alabama’s rural Jackson County, AHIF serves two sisters living together. The older sister sustained a traumatic brain injury in 2005 in a car accident, and the younger sister sustained multiple brain injuries following an abusive relationship in her past. Car accidents and domestic violence are among the top five causes of traumatic brain injury in Alabama each year.
These two sisters called AHIF about services in July 2016, specifically mentioning the need for a new ramp for their house, and some safety modifications for their bathroom. AHIF was able to work with other nonprofit agencies in Jackson County to get the home modifications that Susan and Ellen needed.
However, in July 2017, the bathtub in the modified bathroom cracked and needed replacement. It was not one of the items that was modified to meet the specific needs of these two brain injury survivors. AHIF staff worked with the sisters to find a bathtub specifically designed with an entry door to help minimize the fall risks for individuals with disabilities or difficulty walking. We were able to find such a produce, but it was far outside their price range.
Due to the generosity of donors to AHIF, we were able to provide a bathtub to the sisters, and they called to say thank you and that they were blessed to have AHIF as part of their family.
Jaden is a bright, shy 16 year-old boy who, up until last November, was going to high school and having fun as a normal teenager. On November 30th, he was involved in a horrific car accident, which has left him and his family dealing with a new way of life. Jaden sustained a traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed with only moderate use of his arms. Jaden’s family is his support network, and although they have down days, they have not given up nor allowed themselves to become isolated from society. Jaden has recently returned to high school, and passes his time drawing. He uses his pencil to bring beauty into the world, and to express himself in a very special way. Jaden’s injury changed his thoughts for the future. He wants to be a counselor for people who are going through the same things he did after his accident. He has seen firsthand how a compassionate, warm counselor can help survivors and their families in dealing with catastrophic circumstances. For now, as he begins this new journey in life, he and his family are getting through each day, living their “new normal” and being strong for each other.
Kearria & Chanteal's Story
Kearria was 20 years old and attending college in Huntsville. On March 28th, 2015, she was at a social gathering in Panama City where a man on drugs began shooting into the crowd, shooting Kearria in her head. Kearria received inpatient rehab at Shepherd Center but returned home bed and wheelchair bound when she AHIF began working with her. Her mom became her full time caregiver. Nearly 18 months later, Kearria is looking into college classes and with other in home resources her mom has returned to work.