In May, StoryCorps Atlanta Facilitator, Katrina Singh and I spent a day at the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse. The clubhouse, in Stone Mountain, GA, is a place where people living with the lifelong effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are respected and valued as contributing community members. Members practice life skills such as cooking, counting money and answering the phone.
Members and their caretakers recorded their stories Although the members can’t remember the details of their accidents, they clearly remembered their lives before the accident.
Husband and wife Bisi and Deborah Alabi immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria. They were on the way back from a family friend’s college graduation, when they skidded on ice. After the crash, Deborah, a nurse, could tell that her husband was alive, though badly injured. Now years later, they talked about how happy they are. Bisi can’t work due to his traumatic brain injury, but that seems quite alright with his wife. Before the accident, he worked three jobs as a pharmacist (a day job, a night job and one on the weekends). Now he spends more time at home with his family. Since he volunteers in the kitchen at Side by Side, he’s started helping his wife out in their kitchen (something he never did before the accident). And every day he Skypes with his grandchildren in Las Vegas.
Doctors did not think that Marc Baxley, now 35, would ever walk or talk again after his motorcycle accident. But his mother, Cathy Dinning, never gave up on him. She brought him home and took charge of his recovery. Today, if you met Marc, you wouldn’t guess that he suffers from a traumatic brain injury. He recently moved into his own apartment and has a job at a local gym, where he feels he can inspire people with his story. Marc is an avid cook and is frustrated because ever since his accident, he hasn’t been able to remember the secret to his marinara sauce.
Frank Ford was a typical college student. He was social chair of his fraternity and had a 4.0 GPA. However, everything changed when his immediate family was in a car accident in 1987. Frank suffered from subdural hematoma and his parents have been taking care of him ever since. In his conversation with his mother Claudia, they talked about the impact his injury has had on both of their lives. They also talked about some of his favorite hobbies. An excerpt of their story was edited by WABE and aired during Morning Edition and City Cafe on June 29, 2010. Listen to that broadcast at www.wabe.org/storycorps.
Despite the traumatic injury that changed the lives of these StoryCorps Alumni forever, everyone exuded joy. They were all thankful that they were alive and grateful for their loved ones. I’m grateful we had an opportunity to hear and record their stories.