BY: MARK KONING
There are few things greater than being referred to as a hero.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I do not advocate for brain injury for that purpose. I do not talk about what I have gone through, and still go through, as a Survivor of ABI (acquired brain injury) for fame and applause, though they are nice to hear. They are especially nice to hear because brain injuries are usually invisble, seldomly understood and rarely acknowledged. Survivors’ struggles are mostly overlooked and/or given little sympathy.
I talk about brain injury to bring about awareness, to help others with ABI know that they are not alone, and to get things off my chest. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I want nothing but to help others and the cause in general. But the hero thing, yeah, it sounds and feels good.
So where do I hear these awesome ‘hero’ words? The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) offers a Brain Basics course that I participate in every so often. The ones I have been involved with have been put together with the help of the Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST).
Brain Basics is designed to provide health care workers, caregivers and others with an introduction to the world of brain injury. The goal of this two-day workshop is to help participants understand the structure and function of the brain, to appreciate the consequences of an ABI and to gain some strategies to work effectively with people living with this injury.
However, the brain is complex, and so too is a brain injury. Almost every brain injury will impact a Survivor in different ways. So this is where I come in, usually along with four or five other Survivors, and maybe family members.
We all sit on a panel and are asked various questions about living with an ABI. These questions range from the date and type of the injury, to the hardship and personal impact which have resulted from it.
The facilitator is very gentle with the questions and there is no pressure to answer, because after all, real life experiences can be difficult and emotional. And not just for panel members, for our audience as well. I have seen quite a few eyes tear up after hearing our stories.
When the facilitator is done with the Q&A (and we are asked to keep our answers to a minimum so we don’t go on and on, which we probably could) participants have the opporunity to ask us questions. The purpose of this part of the program is for the panel members, conducted by the facilitator, to tell and share stories that the modules don’t teach.
The only real cure for brain injury is for everyone to develop a basic understanding and then work together to create awareness and inclusion. That’s what this program and advocating for brain injury is all about.
According to OBIA, more than 2400 people have taken the program. Those who successfully complete the examination are awarded a certificate from OBIA.