The South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society is a non-profit organization that offers programs and support to people who have suffered a brain injury or stroke.
A Summerland woman, who wishes to be known only as Marlene, describes herself as being “extremely grateful” to this society.
“I acquired a brain injury when I fainted in a parking lot and hit my head on a cement curb, three years ago,” she explained. “I connected with the Brain Injury Society. I actually went in saying, ‘Help!’”
People who contact the Society are interviewed by a case manager, who will determine what kind of help may be needed. They are given individual support as well as being offered educational and recreational support groups.
One of the main educational groups offered is called Brain Injury 101.
“It was probably the most beneficial for me because it told me how the brain works and I’ve been able to relate my deficits to the part of the brain that was injured,” said Marlene. “Now I am able to work more on that. With brain injured people, most of us are very fatigued because we are working so hard mentally to create new pathways (in the brain). It’s totally exhausting.”
Case Manager and Support Worker, Annemarie de Jong explained why the program is so beneficial.
“Understanding what is going on helps with the process of accepting things,” she said. “People often blame themselves for the difficulties they are experiencing and once they find out that it is part of their brain injury, then I think the process of accepting it and coping with it starts.”
Kim Greenhow was in a car accident one year ago. The car rolled down a 46-metre embankment and landed in Okanagan Lake.
“When I rolled there was a lot of shaking and I hit the side of my head,” she explained. “Brain Injury 101 was a huge wake-up call as to what damage I do have. It explained things to me.”
Greenhow has learned that the part of her brain that was injured was responsible for understanding and using language. Reading, writing and finding the right words became difficult for her.
She also took advantage of a group the Society offered called Writing Out Loud. It has helped her to rebuild her language skills.
The group members write about different topics and then if they wish they can read what they have written out loud to the others.
Filling out forms was another thing that had become too much of a challenge for Greenhow to do on her own. Her case manager has helped her fill out necessary forms and applications.
Friendship, understanding and support are also found within the Society.
“I found that a lot of my friends acted like I was making this up,” said Greenhow.
“In the Brain Injury Society everybody gets it. Everyone has something going on, so they understand.”
Marlene explained that there are many losses that come with having a brain injury, which can be emotionally draining.
“I think the emotional part for me was the loss,” she said. “The loss of income, the loss of doing what I used to be able to do and the loss of my independence. A lot of relationships are lost. I lost some really good friends.”
Something that is often found after a brain injury, Marlene said, is a sense of creativity. She has enjoyed the creative art group that the society offers, where she has discovered that she can paint pictures.
Recently she has been instrumental in starting a knitting group. In a very short time a group of about 10 knitters have created a collection of toques and scarves.
Angela Chenier, who knits with the group said, “It gets my mind off of things that I should not be thinking about. The knitting really helps. I love it!”
The knitted items have been donated to the Summerland Food Bank and Resource Centre. “We chose Summerland because there is funding that comes from Summerland Organizations to the Brain Injury Society,” said Marlene. It’s kind of a give back to the community.”
If you have suffered a brain injury and wish to contact SOSBIS, call 250-490-0613 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or view the website at www.sosbis.com.
If you know a positive story about someone in our community, contact Carla McLeod at email@example.com or contact the Summerland Review newsroom at 250-494-5406.