Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado Understands TBI
Audrey McNeely of Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC)
photo by Annie Uyehara
photo by Annie Uyehara
Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado Understands TBIs
By Annie Uyehara
It may be absurd to wear a stickie note on your forehead explaining your behaviour, but some with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often wish they could do just that.
"We can't see a brain injury," says Audrey McNeely, Navigator and Advisor at Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC). "If people can't see it, how can they reconcile with it? If survivors could wear a sign saying, 'I have a brain injury,' people might treat them with more respect and leniency."
At BIAC, McNeely sees a myriad of brain injuries. No particular injury dominates our high risk sports enthusiasts population. McNeely sees TBI caused by accidents, strokes, suicide attempts, and domestic violence. But there's two things in common among TBI survivors: They need resources and they want to be understood.
BIAC is a resource for survivors, families, and providers. Its goal is to have survivors thrive in their community through guidance, resources, support groups and education by engaging with TBI survivors in lifelong growth.
"We offer programs to connect people to resources in their communities like neurophysiological evaluations, or refer clients to the who's-who experts in brain injury."
As a navigator, McNeely describes herself as a concierge of sorts. "I know the mountain area well, so I can help people with TBIs stay in their community, so community becomes family. It's so important to create relationships and circles of support."
McNeely also meets individually with clients to work on identified goals. "We meet for about six months and work on organizing, and memory strategies to get back a semblance of normal life. It's like putting more tools in their toolbox."
The biggest challenge for TBI survivors is to be understood by friends, family, and the community. McNeely tells of an unfortunate result of the community not understanding TBI. "A client was continually being kicked off the public bus because the drive and passengers thought they were drunk. Not so. So we created a TBI survivor card saying to the effect, 'Pardon my behavior, I have a sustained brain injury.' It's a tiny moment of understanding. A card might not be enough, but it's a step in the right direction."
McNeely hopes communities strive to better understand those with TBI. "If you see someone struggling, step up and offer to help. Have some common courtesy, be non-judgmental and patient." She adds, "Those with TBIs don't necessarily want to be cared for but they want to be cared about. Listen, be there."
BIAC is having a fundraiser, The Pikes Peak Challenge, on September 11.
Contact the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado at 303.355.9969 or BIAColorado.org
WHAT BRAIN INJURY SURVIVORS WANT YOU TO KNOW:
Brain injury rehabilitation takes a very long time; it's usually measure in years. It continues long after formal rehabilitation has ended. Please resist expecting me to be who I was, even though I look better.
If we're talking and I tell you I need to stop, I need to stop NOW! It's not because I'm avoiding the subject, it's just that I need to process our discussion and "take a break" from all the thinking. Later I will be able to rejoin the conversation and really be present for the subject and for you.
We need cheerleaders now as we start over, just like children do when they are growing up. Please help me and encourage all efforts.
Patience is the best gift you can give me. It allows me to work deliberately and at my own pace, allowing me to rebuild pathways in my brain. Rushing and multi-tasking inhibit congnition.