Brain Injury Awareness Month 2020

What is a Brain Injury?

June is Brain Injury Awareness (BIA) Month. We invite you to take some time to read and learn about brain injury because it can happen to anyone. In fact, you probably know someone in your circle who has experienced or lives with a brain injury. Here is a great place to start, with a short resource that covers the basics of brain injury (information drawn from Brain Injury Canada, “Brain Injury Can Happen to Anyone: The Basics”).

An “Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or a degenerative disease” (Brain Injury Canada). There are two types of ABIs that occur: 

Non-Traumatic Brain Injury: which are brain injuries caused by something that happens inside the body or a substance is introduced into the body that damages brain tissues (Brain Injury Canada).

Traumatic brain injuries: which are caused by something that comes from outside the body, such as a blow, bump, or jolt. It can result in temporary injury, or more serious, long-term damage to the brain (Brain Injury Canada).

If you’d like to continue learning about ABIs, click here to access the resource.

Recognizing Brain Injury Awareness

We will be recognizing BIA month this year by sharing written works from individuals who live with brain injuries and receive our services. Cota is so inspired by the clients who have submitted and bravely shared their personal stories with us. We are going to be sharing these works over the next couple of weeks.

Our first story was written by Everado, an individual who attends the Acquired Brain Injury Adult Day Service Program (ABI ADS).

Framed diverse hands resting on top of each other

My Inspirational Story: Finding Purpose After a Traumatic Brain Injury

When you feel like there is no hope, just think of me, Everardo. I believe I can be a huge inspiration because I experienced death.

My story began on June 4, 2001. I suffered a cartographic injury as my best friend and I were crossing the crosswalk in front of my high school to go home after school. An 85-year-old lady was driving when she hit us both. Trying to save us, my buddy thrusted his body to save mine, but clipped his legs as I flew several meters landing on the pavement headfirst.

While still conscious and given an oxygen mask to breathe, I was rushed to Sick Children’s hospital and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. At Sick Kids, I spent five weeks in a coma and was then transferred to Bloorview Macmillan Children’s rehabilitation hospital, where I was faced with even greater challenges. As the fifth week approached from my admission to Bloorview McMillan from Sick Kids, I woke up from my coma saying my first few words to my mother in Spanish, “I want to get up.”

I was a born-again teenager.

While at Bloorview, I had many types of therapies: physio, speech, recreation and occupational therapies. Every Monday morning a group of six or seven teenagers including myself would talk in a group setting with a facilitator. When I received physiotherapy, the pain of my muscles stretching was so excruciating that every time they would stretch my body, whether it was my arms or legs, the pain was unbearable and it felt like they were trying to pull my body apart. Just trying to sit up, the pain was gut wrenching and each day that I had speech therapy, my throat and tongue would get so soar trying to reactivate my mouth muscles, that I was convinced I could live a life without speaking. To ease the tension of the gruelling therapies, I had art therapy which was very relaxing when you compare it to my other therapies

Framed graphic of a man going through physiotherapy with a therapist
Framed graphic of a man in a swimming underwater

As the months carried on at Bloorview, I started to become happier. My days had many pockets of happiness. Swimming once a week was one of the activities that made me happy. My social life started to improve because every Monday evening, I would play monopoly against other patients and volunteers. Tuesday night’s where happy nights for me, as well as for other patients because it was pet therapy night and we got to see many different animals, with the majority of those animals being dogs. While at Bloorview I also experienced my first hockey game at the ACC as I got the chance to sit in Mat Sundin’s privet box. Shortly after, I was able to go home for the weekends before being fully discharged from Bloorview in April.

Framed graphics of two therapy dogs
Frame graphic of a group of young adults playing monopoly

My life after my discharge from hospital was a challenge, both at home and at school. At home, the corners and edges of the walls would be chipped away or scraped by my wheelchair. My school embraced me with open arms giving me all the accommodations I needed: a reduced course load, extra time for test and assignments, a private room, my own personal rehab coach who helped me with schoolwork and was also somewhat a tutor. Even though my school made school life easier, it got less enjoyable as I only attended school for half the day missing out on every social opportunity while I still received therapies in the other half. It got lonely because I did not have the time for clubs or hanging out with friends by either working together or just hanging out after school because of my ongoing therapies. As I continued with my high school life, watching my own grade and the grade below me graduate was difficult because I ended up graduating with unknown classmates.

Life after my completion of high school can be described as a rocky journey.  After attending high school for five years, I registered to attend Seneca College the following September. My time at Seneca was short because the commute was too much to handle, epically for an adult who suffered a severe trauma to the brain.

After only attending Seneca for one semester, I dropped out. Life was not fun. I was at home most of the time. Thankfully I completed a high school co-op placement at Humber College in the past. I phoned the professor, who gave me the placement and he accepted my request to attend Humber the following September

Framed graphic of a College degree and diploma with a graduation hat
Framed group of diverse people

After my acceptance and completion at Humber College I was again, stuck again with nowhere to go. I then got help from my mom and aunt and we connected with what I think was a third-party administrator but could also have been the Cota head office. Anyways, they mentioned Cota at Providence in Scarborough. After my acceptance to Cota, I was again happy because I was able to connect with other adults with brain injuries. My commute this time to Cota was a long train ride from Kipling to Warden Station, but a long train ride will always better than a three-hour commute to Seneca and back home by bus.

Right now, my time at Cota is a happy one – even after I’ve been in and out of the program, I think it’s twice or three times – because they accept me with open arms. I am grateful to have Cota in my life now because Cota has given not just me, but other adults as well, a reason to live and be happy.

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