“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” - Fred “Mr.” Rogers
For those who are not currently freaking out over traveling the highways and byways of America in blizzard-like conditions, waiting in long lines at the TSA while airport administrators try and restore power, or wondering if the turkey they bought will actually feed every one coming over to the house, we reflect on the meaning on season and the things for which we are truly thankful.
This past year has been truly remarkable in the life of BIAM. We started our fourth decade of service after celebrating our 30th Anniversary last year. We began working intently on our BIAMobile Initiative to convert our phones, databases, email, word processing, and social media into cloud based systems. This has allowed us to take all of our communications and resources on the road. We've remained open and answering our phones and emails during what would previously have been snow days, and allowed us to incorporate telecommuting into our work plan with no loss of efficiency. Complicated questions don't only come in on sunny days when your in the office or when you have all of your resources in a file folder. Now, we can respond more quickly and provide more personalized information tailored for everyone's specific situation.
But all of the technological advances in the world mean nothing without a person to answer, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or a smile to share.
And so we turn to Mr. Rogers' opening quote, "look for the helpers". There we find what never ceases to surprise and humble us year after year, event after event, week after week - the generous spirit and enthusiasm of those special "helpers" around us. They appear just when needed, and, often, not a minute before. Whether stuffing envelopes with thank you letters, directing parking in dark and freezing cold with a smile and an orange flag, making sure the correct signs are on the doors of every conference session, coordinating registration at a biking event, or showing up to Board meetings month after month, they are there.
Look for the helpers.
Our association was founded in tragedy and has survived for three decades on the generousity, dedication and love of those individuals who continue to be affected by brain injury and its aftermath. Show me someone making their way in the world after brain injury, and we will show you dozens of people who stepped up, answered the call, and helped that individual along their way.
Look for the helpers.
Most do not seek the spotlight, nor are they comfortable with it when it is shown on them. It was their calling, it was their duty, it was their mission in life, they were just doing their job. Without them, those brain injury survivors and their families would be nowhere near as far along as they are today.
Look for the helpers.
Back to normal? Not often. But further along in their recovery because the doctor took extra time to make sure the medications were working correctly? Because the nurse made sure the family understood what to do when they got home? Because the therapist didn't take her well deserved break to make sure a gait was correct and without pain? Because the social worker made that last minute call to ensure the home healthcare was ready to go? Because the Mom always sang when she was there or the wife set up a visitation schedule so the room was never empty? Absolutely.
Without them, the journey, already fraught with pain, discouragement and doubt, would have been insurmountable. With them, we are able to carry on, with hope.
Look for the helpers.
As a non-profit working day after day to meet the needs of an ever increasing group of individuals on a limited budget, it is so very easy to get caught up in the numbers or metrics we can measure. How many were helped? How much money did we raise? What can we cut to be even more efficient? What will it cost to put on that event?
But the real work, the real reason we are here and have been here for over thirty years, has very little to do with numbers. The metrics we deal in are about hearts healed, hope restored, and love returned. We are able to meet those metrics daily because of our volunteers, our helpers.
So when we reflect on the true meaning of Thanksgiving, and make a conscious effort to pause and give thanks, we need do not need a committee or a focus group or social media strategy to figure out who to thank or what we are truly grateful for. We already know.
We look for the helpers.
-Bryan Thomas Pugh - 11/25/2014
Rose F. Neuben
I figured out in the last few weeks that I need to replace my car because my current car sits too low to the ground. The height causes back strain when I get in and out of it. Because of problems with my back, I have only been using my current car once or twice a week. I have been doing most of my errands and appointments in Arlene’s (my health tech’s) minivan because the seats are higher which seems to eliminate the back strain I get from using my car.
I finally figured out I need to replace my car when one of my sisters was visiting me. During her visit, I used my car 3 days in a row. On the third day, I had extremely bad back pain. That lasted for a few days, and severely restricted what I could do because it was easily aggravated.
I have been looking at and researching SUVs because they have higher seats, and some have cargo space I can use for a scooter. (I want a scooter because things that require a lot of walking are too exhausting for me [an example is a shopping mall], and a scooter would make that easier.)
Arlene suggested I finance the SUV with a credit union. My research on credit unions shows that most of them require employment, and I have not been employed since my brain injury. Arlene recommended SECU, a state credit union; she thinks anyone can join it. I’ll have to see if they will accept me as a member without employment, but I think they will. I was able to refinance my condo, so I will hopefully be able to finance an SUV with a credit union, as well.
In addition to my research, Arlene and I are looking at lots of SUVs while we are out. One that was at the top of my list was a Scion because they have modified models that would be ideal for a scooter. You don’t see many of them on the road, but I did see one in a parking lot last week. Arlene managed to get her minivan right next to it so I could get out and look at it without having to use my walker. I could see the seats are too low, so that rules out Scion. I also ruled out the Kia Soul because the seats are too low.
The seats can also be too high. For Arlene’s minivan and some SUVs I have been in, I have to pull myself up into the seat. I thought it might be hard to find a model with seats that aren’t too high, but found out from my dental hygienist last week that there are three models she knows of that have seats that are a little lower than most SUVs, but higher than they are in a sedan. The next step in my research for SUVs is to look at those models.
Dealing with back issues is part of my new normal, and that is making me replace my car.
Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas on what SUV's I should be investigating?
Rose F. Neuben
Because of my TBI, I have ataxia (for people not familiar with that, it is an inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements that is symptomatic of some central nervous system disorders and injuries). The ataxia makes it much easier for me to lose my balance, and that puts me at risk for falls. I also deal with fatigue issues, so I use a rollator walker. It is easier to get up from a fall with the walker, and I can sit on the seat to rest when experiencing fatigue.
I can’t carry an umbrella when it rains; I need both hands to drive the walker because of my balance issues. That means the walker, everything on it (I usually have my bag on it, and any packages I need to take to the car or bring back to the condo), and I are all going to get wet. I avoid going out in rain because of that, and plan my activities around it if I can. Sometimes I have to change plans because of the forecast, and have had to reschedule appointments or miss a day of volunteering at BIAM because of rain.
Snow and ice are also an issue for me, so I do not go out if there is any snow or ice on the sidewalk or parking lot. Walking on snow or ice is practically an invitation to fall for me, so I don’t do it. Being stuck in the house is not usually a problem that causes cabin fever, but it was in 2010 when we had three blizzards in a row (Snowmageddon!). I was stuck in the house for 11 days, and got a serious case of cabin fever!
I always watch the news during the week so I can see what the forecast for the next day is, and monitor it closely on weekends. I watch a DC station (Channel 7), and sometimes they guess and get it wrong. Other times they get it exactly right, but big storms or weather events usually cause me to also check other stations to monitor updates—Channels 9, 11, 13, and the Weather Channel.
In the last year, we have had some unusual weather events, and a couple of them became a big deal for everyone: the earthquake and the hurricane. The earthquake caused a lot of my neighbors to come out so we could talk about it since none of us had ever experienced anything like that, and the hurricane made my building lose power for a week. I was the only person who did not lose any power. Some of my neighbors lost some power, but had it in some places, and others lost it completely. The biggest issue for me that week was getting in and out of the building, so my health tech or a neighbor had to help me. I live on the second floor; I can get up and down the stairs, but I need help getting my walker downstairs to go out, and back upstairs after I return.
Dealing with weather has become a routine part of my new normal.