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Survivor Stories

Brain Injury Alliance New Mexico is home to a community of people thriving with brain injury and their families and caretakers. If you have been affected by brain injury in any capacity and would like to share your story, please email us at info@braininjurynm.org

 

Melanie, Brain Injury Survivor:

Melanie has worked for the University of New Mexico for 15 years. She received her undergraduate degrees in Communications and Spanish. As she was working at UNM, she went on summer vacation with her husband. One day, August 1st, 2009, she had a traumatic brain injury. She fell off of a mountain bike in Wisconsin, and was indeed wearing a helmet. No one knows what she hit, but she was found sprawled out in the middle of the trail. She was rushed to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI, and was placed in the ICU for 3 days. After that, she underwent physical, speech, and occupational therapy at St. Luke’s. She was there for about a month, as she was not well enough to fly home. Once home, she continued the three therapies with Lovelace Rehabilitation Center, and went back to work at UNM for 20 hours/week. She did this for a few months, before she went back full time.

She had been admitted to a master’s degree program while she was in the hospital, slated to begin that fall. Before her brain injury, she had registered for classes, then dropped them, just because she was lazy. After this, she had the mind-set that wouldn’t give up, with or without a brain injury. She did defer her admission to the following semester. She ended up beginning her degree in the spring of 2010 and ended up completing her M.S. degree in 2013. In April of 2016, she googled Brain Injury Associations in NM, as she’d never felt comfortable telling people ‘I have a brain injury…’ but, then, finally did.

“I realized that I have had amazing care and wanted to finally let people know about my injury and experiences, and try to pay it forward…or at least be an example for people who live with brain injury,” says Melanie. That brings us to her google search, and finding the Brain Injury Alliance New Mexico. She saw the One-Club Tournament posted on the website, held on April 2nd of 2016, and decided to show up. She does play golf, but wasn’t registered and her intent was not to play, but just to go see what it was all about. There, she met Delfy, Mark and Glenn (members of the BIANM) and told them her story.

Glen, Brain Injury Survivor:

I grew up living in the Western U.S. and small towns of Southwestern New Mexico. I earned my Bachelors of Science degree in Civil Engineering at New Mexico State University. I eventually landed a successful 20 year career with the U.S. Forest Service, ending in an upper level managerial and supervisory position as a Professional Engineer.

Through the years numerous family members, friends, and co-workers sustained serious brain injuries. I watched helplessly as they struggled. In recent years I have been a caregiver for 3 immediate family members living with brain injury.

Over 26 years ago, I sustained multiple “closed head traumas” in a single motor vehicle accident. The Doctors only diagnosed ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, clinical depression and the usual physical injuries. My head pain was “off the scale”. Memories were gone along with: language, mathematics, organizational and many other skills just vanished. At this point I lost my job, ability to have a career and almost everything that came with that career. It took several years, a Congressman and many letters to obtain proper diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and long term care for my condition: Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and the many symptoms. Five years after the accident we moved from a small rural area to Albuquerque, NM to seek out proper services and job opportunities for my wife.

In 1998, as part of my therapy I helped to establish and run a nonprofit, peer driven, community based Clubhouse [“High Desert Roads”] for People Living with Brain Injury. The Clubhouse provided social supports, life skills, vocational training and development here in New Mexico. Our membership grew to well over 60, to include Veterans, Native Americans and a very diverse group who loved to come, participate and move forward. In 2006 we had to close our doors due to lack of State supports.

As a volunteer: I have also provided one on one peer supports; guidance; and facilitation of support groups for Individuals and Caregivers experiencing brain injury. This has involved meeting with hundreds of individuals living with Brain Injury and/or their family members explaining what to expect, where they are going and what are their best options. Many of these are: one-on-one hospital visits; doctor, attorney, social support appointments; Court Hearings; phone or Internet communications with people all over New Mexico, the U.S. and even Internationally.

For over 10 years, with the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, I created and ran a consulting business to help people remodel homes and perform home inspections. If need be I performed accessibility evaluations and designs for retrofits.

As part of my advocacy I have lobbied for legislation intended for: prevention; better services; the first Medicaid Waiver for Brain Injury; School based Activity Concussion Protocols; other issues affecting New Mexicans as they relate to Brain Injury. Current lobby efforts are being made to clarify the State of New Mexico’s Insurance Codes to include proper diagnosis and treatment for Brain Injury “for as long as it takes”, both in the acute and post-acute settings, to dovetail with both Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

Through all of this I have remained married to Martha Ford RN, traveling near and far, maintaining a passion for photography, fixing up “this old house”, quiet reading, and volunteering for the Cumbres &Toltec Scenic RR in Northern New Mexico as a “Docent” (explaining the history, forest ecosystem, operations and safety) to passengers.

I am currently a member of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Mexico and serving on its Board of Directors.