Faces of Brain Injury

This year alone over 136,000 Floridians survived a traumatic brain injury. Of that number, 9,000 individuals, from the very young to the very old, now face life changing disabilities and at least 3,000 family members will be forced to give up their own dreams in order to care for their loved one. Recovery often depends on the family and the community, and families depend on BIAF to be by their side.

Each mask was handmade by a survivor of brain injury or caregiver at BIAF’s Camp TBI- “The Best Imagined!” art workshop. Click on a mask to read its owner's story of resilience, recovery and hope after brain injury and why BIAF’s promise, By Your Side® is so important.

Job at time of Injury:
Lobbyist

Cause of Injury:
Car Crash

Job at time of Injury:
Trooper

Cause of Injury:
Car Crash

Job at time of Injury:
Student

Cause of Injury:
Car Crash

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Laurel

The Sun Sentinel headline "Savvy lobbyist hit by car in '88 struggles to carry on" summarizes the horrendous circumstances facing Laurel and her family in the journey toward recovery.

Laurel was a sharp, talented lobbyist with a job that paid $72,500 a year. She was a diver, an airplane pilot and an executive for a high-profile developer in the Ft. Lauderdale area. At age 35, she was engaged to be married. The park was rented, the rabbi was paid, and Laurel had an engagement ring on her finger when she walked out of her bridal boutique holding her wedding gown high. Then she stepped into the path of a speeding car. That was November 17, 1988.

Today, at age 61, she lives with her brain injury as a simple woman who volunteers five days per week at a local hospital and at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. The woman, who once had secretaries, now has guardians. Her parents, now deceased, made sure that Laurel would have the support that she needed- her sister as guardian and a separate administrator for her finances.

None of this deters Laurel, a survivor of brain injury for almost half of her life. Laurel says that although her fiancée broke off the engagement early on and she only has one set of friends who knew her before and after the accident, her life is enriched by volunteerism and the ongoing support from BIAF and their local support group. "My parents had no idea what to do after my brain injury. BIAF gave them the resources and encouragement they needed to find the financial resources necessary to secure my future. For me, there is nowhere else where I can go that understands if I am repeating myself. At BIAF and our local support group, they just accept me for who I am."

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Mark

Florida Today headline “Former trooper rebuilding life after highway wreck” briefly describes the lifelong journey facing Mark and his wife, Brenda, after his traumatic brain injury.

Mark worked for the Florida Highway Patrol for over 20 years. He was part of a security detail for Governor Jeb Bush, and co-owner of a property management company. He was the pillar of strength for his family and community. On September 27, 2002 Trooper Mark’s life took a 180 degree turn.

He was on his way to work when an intoxicated driver struck his vehicle, causing it to flip nine times.

Mark, who dedicated himself to the needs of others as a police officer, was now fighting for his own needs- the need to survive a traumatic brain injury. Mark was in a coma for two months and it was many more months of intensive rehab before he could come home.

It has been almost 13 years since and Mark has worked hard to become proficient with computers. He volunteers at his church and is recognized for his accomplishments at the Heads Together Brain Injury Support group in Melbourne.

A true love story, Brenda his wife of close to 20 years and 2006 Florida teacher of the year, remained by Mark’s side no matter where their journey took them. She continues to teach, lead their Melbourne support group and maintain the “circle of care” she and Mark have created with friends and family.

“We are grateful for BIAF every day with the guidance and support you provide to us in the community and at Camp TBI “The Best Imagined!”. BIAF helps us feel as normal as possible after such incredible tragedy. Thank you to BIAF for leading us to the Hope we all so need to survive”.

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Phil

It was Mother’s Day in 1983 when mom, Lester, received the call. Her 18 year old son had been in a terrible car crash. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his friend. Ejected from the vehicle he landed on his head and was in a coma for over 5 months. From that day forward the future seemed bleak.

The driver was uninsured and Phil was only eligible for nominal social security benefits. Medicaid was the only alternative, but Medicaid didn’t cover the brain specialists Phil needed. For 17 years Phil’s mom struggled to get the care her son needed. Because of Phil’s short term memory problems and emotional outbursts he ended up in the mental health care system on medications mom later learned weren’t appropriate for a traumatized brain. At one point Phil was so overmedicated that he was hospitalized at least five different times.

At wit’s end mom finally found Brain Injury Association of Florida whose knowledge about TBI and advocacy efforts, helped her work with the State of Florida to find the right residential facility to care for her son.

It’s now 32 years later and Phil celebrated his 50th birthday bash at his home- a residential facility in Miami who understands and manages his daily challenges from TBI. “My son finally has a good, safe environment where he’s happy and thrives every day. With BIAF by our side throughout our journey, we’ve sustained our resilient spirit- something we all deserve after a terrible tragedy.”