March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. BIANJ is raising awareness and funds throughout the month in recognition of the people whose lives are impacted and in celebration of their perseverance and strength. Donations received will help support programs like our care management program and Camp TREK-critical programs that exist only through support from people like you. Each day we will share stories that inspire hope, spark understanding and drive support. Check back daily for the latest #ReasonToGive!

 

If you would like to share your story in honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, contact us.

 

DAY EIGHTEEN – RACHAEL AND DARREN

 

Darren McIntyre, “Is, was & always will be the Love of my life”! We had known each other since 1988 when I was 16 years old and he was 19. He was not only my best friend, he was my soulmate. He was also the best father any child could have. He loved sports & spending time with family. A huge New York Giants fan & New York Yankee fan. He was just a wonderful & fun person to be around. He was a very loyal and honest person who had a heart of gold. ❤️
 
Darren had injured himself on the job and had to go in for a lumbar spinal fusion surgery on 9/16/03. This was a 6 hour surgery he came out of just fine. Three days later he was home to recuperate and go to physical therapy 3 times per week. Eight weeks later he went back to his orthopedic surgeon because he was in excruciating pain. More pain than he was in prior to the surgery. The surgeon took x-ray’s only to find out that the disc wedge he placed in Darren’s back was now backing out of it’s space and hitting his sciatic nerve causing him extreme pain.
 
We were mortified when we heard this as prior to the original surgery date in September we were given a choice of a lumbar fusion or a disc wedge. We were never given a choice to have both done. We chose the lumbar fusion as it seemed more permanent. So when we found out that the surgeon placed this disc wedge we were completely stunned to say the least! Now Darren had to go back in for surgery to have this wedge removed. If surgery would’ve just been done the way we originally planned the first time he would NEVER have had to go back in for a second time!
 
So just one week before Thanksgiving on 11/18/03 we went in for this wedge removal. This became what turned out to be the worst day of our lives!! 45 minutes into the procedure his heart rate rapidly declined. Darren Lost oxygen to his brain while in the operating room on the table. We later found out through lawyer depositions that Darren was over Anesthetized. He suffered oxygen loss to his brain causing an Anoxic brain injury.
 
We were in the intensive care unit at the hospital in Monmouth County for eight weeks. His Glasgow coma score was extremely low. They wanted to send him to a geriatric nursing home. Darren was only 34 years old. I could not see him going to a geriatric facility to spend his days from bed to chair. I wouldn’t nor couldn’t allow that as he was so young and deserved more. We had our son Chris, just 12 years old at the time & Darren and I had just finally legally got married a few weeks prior to his surgery. So we wanted him to get the best care possible in hopes that he would be able to come home to us eventually even if he was never 100% back to the way he was prior.
 
I did tons of online research while in the ICU and found that in 2003 there was only 16 TBI facilities in the United States. Two of them being in the state of New Jersey. One was Kessler Institute the other JFK. I called both and asked them to please come down and evaluate Darren. Just a few weeks later JFK accepted him and we transferred him to the brain trauma unit January 16, 2004.
 
Darren we knew would never be 100% his old self like he was prior to that surgery. However we prayed he would regain some independence be able to communicate and eventually come home. With very intensive therapies PT/OT/Speech, Darren started to make some strides. However he wound up with not one but two episodes of a very bad pneumonia within a 12 week period. He was never the same after that unfortunately!
 
He wound up living the rest of his life there at Hartwyck at Oak tree. He was considered to be minimally conscious. Myself, my sister Sue, and his mother Joan with my son Chris we’re with him every day so he was never alone or without company. We did shifts each day so someone was always with him. Darren was a resident there for 15 years. We never thought anything like this would happen to our family. We never thought he would be a resident at a long-term care facility with a brain injury for 15 years. Darren passed away this past June 18, 2018 at JFK hospital. We Love & Miss him so very much!
 
Thank you so much to the Brain injury Alliance of New Jersey for all you do on a daily basis for not only brain injured patients but their families as well. They do so many things and so much for the community ranging from educating people on living with TBI, to helping get the necessary medical equipment that insurance will not cover. They are a nonprofit organization near and dear to my heart. They rely solely on fundraising so they can continue to help patients with brain injury and their families. Thank you so much for all you do!”

DAY SEVENTEEN – GRIEF AND DISABILITY

Even in Grief, I Still Have Pride: https://nyti.ms/2Cy63Gi

If you or someone you know is struggling with the impacts of brain injury please contact our Helpline at 1-800-669-4323, or by visiting bianj.org to chat with a specialist.

 


DAY SIXTEEN – STEVEN

 

Our Board President, Steven Benvenisti, shared his story in honor of his 30-year injury anniversary and #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth:  As you may know, I was almost killed on March 20, 1989, when I was 21 and walking with my fellow Theta Chi Fraternity brothers on Spring Break in Daytona Beach, Florida.

My family was asked to consent for my organ donation. After being in a coma for almost 2 weeks, 5 months of hospitalization and 15 surgeries, I was blessed with a full recovery. Reflecting upon my near-death experience, I would not change a thing, because it brought me to where I am today.

Every March 20th, I donate $1 in YOUR honor and on behalf of the thousands of people on my email and Facebook friends’ list, to either The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey or Mothers Against Drunk Driving (if you have a preference, please let me know which of these 2 charities you prefer). These 2 amazing charities have saved countless lives and have dramatically improved the quality of lives of so many individuals and families.

Please know that with BIANJ there is a direct connection between financial support and lives being saved and improved. If you would like to make a personal contribution, please visit www.bianj.org .

To learn more about my story, please visit www.dsslaw.com/stevens-story.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised for these charities thanks your response(s) to this email, the above programs, along with book sale proceeds (honorariums and book sale proceeds are waived by me and donated directly to the above wonderful charities)

Thank you for being a part of my life. It’s great to be alive. 

To honor his experience and Brain Injury Awareness Month, click here.


DAY FIFTEEN – CAMP TREK

Here’s a little refresher on why Camp TREK is so special:

2019 camper applications are now live at bianj.org/trek.

To donate in honor of #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth, and to support programs like Camp TREK, visit bianj.org/31reasonstogive.#31ReasonsToGive

 


DAY FOURTEEN – TEEN DRIVING SAFETY

 

Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury in teens? BIANJ created the Champion Schools Program as a way to reach teens throughout the state. It is an opportunity for students and staff of New Jersey high schools to develop campaigns to address teen driving safety. Each school develops its own project based on a topic pertaining to teen driving safety. The program has been proven to positively impact teen driving behavior! #31ReasonsToGive

 

 


DAY THIRTEEN – JR

 

JR is a scholar athlete, and was playing collegiate soccer when he injured himself in April 2018. He is majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Rochester, and was doing research in their laser laboratory when he developed devastating symptoms following his most recent concussion.

The injury derailed his collegiate endeavors. He has been unable to return to his college studies for almost a year due to persistent cognitive impairment. He has difficulty focusing, concentrating and retaining new information. He also has recurrent headaches, eye pain, instability and bouts of vertigo.

He has been especially troubled by severe anxiety and depressive feelings due to his inability to return to college, perform his research, or play his favorite sports. JR told us, “I never thought I would ever be able to return to the things I love doing.” Fortunately, he has had some recovery over the past 6 months through aggressive rehabilitation.

He now recognizes the seriousness of a concussion, especially after experiencing multiple minor impacts while playing collegiate soccer. He is hopeful to return to college studies, and his research, for the fall semester.

To donate in honor of #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth, so that our programs and services can continue to support people like JR, visit bianj.org/31reasonstogive#31ReasonsToGive


DAY TWELVE – KAT

During my sophomore year at Princeton, I received a concussion at fencing practice via a fluke accident. When I got hit, I blacked in and out in rapid succession, but it was the end of practice so I just kind of shook myself off and finished up. As we were walking up to dinner as a team, I began to veer off in a different direction than everybody else. My teammates called me back over and I began babbling nonsensically at them. Alarmed, they immediately took me to University Health Services (UHS). UHS ran me through a quick concussion battery and determined that I needed to be sent to Athletic Medicine for a more thorough evaluation the next day. Since fencing is, ironically, deemed to be a non-contact sport, at the time, there was no baseline concussion testing for the fencing team. Thus, when Athletic Medicine ran me through a more intensive concussion battery, they had nothing to compare my results to so they had to send them off to a neurologist for interpretation, a process that took three days. Unfortunately, during this time, I had to sit for my organic chemistry final. The molecules on the exam paper swam before my eyes. I could barely see them, let alone focus enough on them to draw the required mechanisms. Needless to say, the final did not go well (luckily the professor was quite understanding!). 
Although Athletic Medicine deemed me to neuropsychologically back to normal at two weeks post injury, I felt like it actually was more like two months before I was completely back to normal. I kept forgetting what I wanted to say by the time I got to the end of sentences and found myself sometimes unable to remember basic things. It also greatly affected my coursework at the beginning of my spring semester, especially in organic chemistry, where, over the course of several months, the molecules slowly began to halt their un-choreographed dance across the page and sit still so I could work with them. While my injury had a clear negative impact on my academics, in an ironic twist of fate, it pushed me in a direction that has defined much of my academic life since. In many ways, I am actually grateful for my injury, for I do not know exactly where I would be today without it. 
Perplexed and bothered by how my brain and mind could have been so altered, I sought to understand more about the nature of the concussive injury. The idea to study concussions had literally gotten knocked into me, so I eagerly sought out Dr. Annegret Dettwiler at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute who had been conducting concussion research at the university in conjunction with Athletic Medicine. I worked with Dr. Dettwiler on an independent research project examining the potential neuro-protective effects of progesterone on sports related concussion. I loved the personal relevance of my research – trying to understand what had happened to my own brain after my injury – and, in my own small way, helping alleviate the pain and shorten the recovery of future athletes side-lined because of concussions. I continued to work in Dr. Dettwiler’s lab during the remainder of my time at Princeton and, upon graduating, joined her lab officially as a research assistant. I am currently helping Dr. Dettwiler with her research has I train for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.


DAY ELEVEN – SHANGO

 

Shango was an energetic and creative 22 year-old student at Montclair State University studying illustration when he was involved in a motor vehicle crash on his way home from work.

After the crash, he spent six months in an acute rehab, then was transferred to a long-term nursing facility. While he has made some progress in his therapies, he remains in a minimally conscious state, unable to walk, talk or care for himself.

Shango’s family reached out to BIANJ CARES seeking support and assistance for their beloved son. Among their many concerns, they felt that the facility was not familiar with how to care for young people with brain injury, and they did not have the necessary equipment to get him out of bed. BIANJ met with the family and organized an in-service to train the staff which resulted in more appropriate, understanding care.

Through the efforts of BIANJ CARES, Shango was finally able to leave his hospital room and go outside—and that day happened to be his 23rd birthday, where family and friends visited to celebrate. Though he had exhausted his insurance benefits for physical, occupational and speech therapies, BIANJ CARES was able to identify private funding for him to continue these services his family so badly desires.

Shango, and so many others, need BIANJ CARES to support and advocate for them. You can ensure that we can continue to help people like Shango by donating in honor of #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth. #31ReasonsToGive

 

 

 

 


DAY TEN – SENIORS AND FALLS

 

Falls are a leading cause of brain injury, especially for those 65 and older. It’s important for seniors to keep their strength, balance, and confidence up in order to decrease the chance of falling. BIANJ visits centers throughout New Jersey to educate communities and work towards preventing brain injury. This is our most recent graduating class!

 


DAY NINE – TBI FACTS

 

According to the CDC, over 2.8 million TBIs occur in the United States each year. Among TBI-related deaths in 2013, falls were the leading cause for individuals over 65, while motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause for individuals 5-24. Assaults were the leading cause of death in ages 0-4. Among non fatal TBI-related injuries, falls and motor vehicle crashes are leading causes. The Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey’s work will never be done, and that’s why we need your support. Through support, outreach, advocacy, education and prevention, we are working to improve the lives of those impacted by brain injury.

 


DAY EIGHT – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

 

These are just a few of the women who work hard to improve the quality of life people experience after brain injury. In celebration of Brain Injury Awareness Month and International Women’s Day, you can donate now towards our vital programs and services. 


DAY SEVEN – MARIE

 

I am honored to serve on the BIANJ board with a group of individuals who make a difference in the lives of so many. As a classroom teacher of students who received special education services I know the impact of a brain injury on a family and a community. However, I also know the impact with all come together and build on what we CAN do to move forward. Education concerning prevention and resources to address those in need is key. I am very happy to represent New Jersey Education Association as we help to facilitate the knowledge and support systems available through this wonderful organization (BIANJ).


DAY SIX – JESSICA

 

When I started at BIANJ 4 years ago and was asked to help run Camp TREK, I immediately said yes. I had no idea what to expect but I worked at camps when I was younger and figured it would fun and a nice change from an office environment. I read every single application and felt like I knew all of the campers by the time our camp week rolled around. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect during that week but it was life changing. Our campers come from all walks of life and all have their own story. The week of Camp TREK is one of the only vacations during the year for many of our campers. It is a week when every single camper feels like they are part of a community, they come to camp knowing that every other camper has gone through something similar and that there is always someone to lean on and lend a listening ear.  

I was brand new but that was not a problem for a single one of our 35 campers, they all welcomed me like they had known me forever. I think that is one of the main reasons I love Camp TREK so much- it feels like one giant family, even if we are only together for 1 week every summer. Every year I can count on our campers to make me laugh until my stomach hurts, remind me to always be myself and not take life to seriously. One of the best things I have ever heard from one of our campers came from a young lady, who has been coming to camp for years, she said “ Camp TREK is better than Christmas!” and you know- I cannot agree more. I am so glad I said yes on a whim 4 years ago and that I get to spend an amazing week with our even more amazing campers every summer!


DAY FIVE – THE HELPLINE

 

After BIANJ was founded in 1981 by a group of concerned parents of children with brain injury, the Helpline was the first program created. Today, the Helpline remains central to the services we provide, fielding over 1,000 calls per year. Callers reach out to us with questions about the impact of brain injury. The Helpline is open Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm, and is staffed by Helpline Specialists that are trained to provide the latest resources and information available. In 2018, we added an online live chat Helpline option to improve accessibility.

 
Without the Helpline, there would be over 1,000 individuals, families, professionals and friends who wouldn’t have the answers they need. If you or someone you know has a question about brain injury, contact the Helpline at 1-800-669-4323.

DAY FOUR – ADOPT A FAMILY DRIVE

 

Today’s #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth #ReasonToGive is about a very special program, Adopt-A-Family. BIANJ runs the gift drive every holiday season to benefit families impacted by brain injury. For the first time in 2018, BIANJ hosted a family holiday party for the participants. What started as an idea to offer an opportunity to families to socialize and retrieve their donated gifts, turned into an inspirational and fun-filled event. A special thank you to Board Member, Richard Anderson, for playing Santa and bringing smiles to all the families and CHIC members. As one mom told us her son “hasn’t smiled in a year and without BIANJ, there would have been no Christmas.” #31ReasonsToGive


DAY THREE – AMAZON SMILE

 

For the first Sunday of #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth, we’re highlighting Amazon Smile! Did you know that by using the service, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase to BIANJ at no extra cost to you? It’s an incredibly simple way to give back. To get started, visit smile.amazon.com😁


DAY TWO – PEDIATRIC BRAIN INJURY

 

The Support Services Committee, a group of BIANJ staff and board members dedicated to improving services for people impacted by brain injury, recognized a widespread lack of online pediatric brain injury resources. To address the problem and offer information that is otherwise difficult to find, the committee created a section of the BIANJ website, Pediatric Brain Injury. Throughout the pages parents, clinicians and educators can find information to help students with their education, identify supports and programs, and review prevention strategies. 

 


DAY ONE – LAMYRA

 

7 years ago, I was having a wonderful time on the final night of an executive management conference at the National Harbor Gaylord. My fellow cohorts and I had enjoyed a black tie event, Donna Brazile was the keynote speaker, and by this time, we were at the rooftop lounge overlooking the nation’s capital. Little did any of us know that in the next hour or so, my life would forever change.

On February 11, 2012 after midnight, I was dancing before I went back to my hotel room to book a flight to Jacksonville for February 13th right before I was scheduled to travel to Dallas on February 15th. Changes to my work schedule like that were  normal and how I was accustomed to living my life. All was right with the world, or so I thought. on my way downstairs, I stopped to dance to the Cupid Shuffle line dance. It was then I felt my neck pop, face start to tingle, and legs go numb. That very moment, my life changed. I had a ruptured cerebral aneurysm (subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). By 1:00 a.m., I had been transported from the Gaylord to Fort Washington Hospital. Only for Fort Washington to transfer me to Washington Hospital Center in DC. As the minutes passed, I became more critical and was clinging to life and my survival rate was diminishing. But God was not through with me yet.

For the remainder of February, I was in and out of consciousness. I barely remember February 2012. Additionally, I was paralyzed from the waist down, and struggled to find the words to make a coherent sentence. Through physical therapy, I had to learn to walk again.

Through God’s grace and mercy, look at me today! I am beyond blessed. My life will never be what it was prior to that infamous Friday night. That person is no longer. Sometimes, I miss that Lamyra. But then I quickly remind myself that I am blessed and that person had to leave so that I could become the person that I am today. I am still alive and can be a blessing to others. There is life afterwards. I have a new normal, but there is life. I believe I was left here to be a witness for others to learn from my experience. For me to make sure that others know the risks, signs, and when to get help. And to show that if you are blessed and fortunate enough to survive an aneurysm there is life afterwards. Others must benefit from my unfortunate experience.
I am grateful that God had me in the right place. Grateful for my family and friends that encouraged, supported, and prayed for me. It is still a struggle sometimes, but I believe that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. Praise God! I am blessed, better than blessed… I refer to February 11th as my “Life-versary.” Please join me in celebrating 7 years of life. Miracles do happen!!!

“There is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes. Ruptured brain aneurysms are fatal in about 40% of cases. Of those who survive, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit. Approximately 15% of patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) die before reaching the hospital.”