Brain Health

Survivor Highlight: Albert Chan

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Hello there. My name is Albert J. Chan, and I am a hemorrhagic bleed, or stroke survivor. During a Business Ethics lecture 4.5 years ago, I suffered a splitting headache in the middle of class. Fortunately, my students called 911, and saved my life. However, I lost my teaching position and its concomitant health benefits; but my wife providentially received a call from her former employer, offering her to resume her role as a rehabilitation nurse, and myself as a patient for a nominal fee. It was a no-brainer to return to Southern California, especially as I didn’t have much of a brain left. Our family then began the long road of recovery, which coincided with our finding Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network (B.R.A.I.N.) in Cypress, CA. An out-of-town friend and I saw B.R.A.I.N.’s Founder/President, Sue Rueb, on the cover of Biola University’s alumni magazine and he told me that, “he would not leave Los Angeles” until he got me in contact with this support group. I met Sue and Angela, and many other friends of traumatic brain injury, and have not stopped coming since. B.R.A.I.N. provides so many rehabilitative therapies and services long after insurance runs out. This year my assigned Brain Cell Connector, Jerry, takes me on a weekly basis to work out at a disability gym. Jerry was a special-needs teacher, and I am a special-needs adult, so we are a good fit; we both like sports and reading. I help him with his speaking; and he assists me with my writing, so that you can understand this newsletter piece. B.R.A.I.N. also had a chef, Colt Munchoff, for the Cooking with Colt classes, who taught us how to make chorizo chili a few months back. I’ve already taught my wife how to make it, and will soon provide the dish for a friend and his two sons, so they can have a “boys movie-night in,” and his spouse can take a “ladies night out.” Our weekly Friends of Brain Injury (F.B.I.) meetings are so packed because the volunteers usually outnumber the head injury survivors. The former are so inspiring to me that they have encouraged me, in turn, to give back to the community. A local hospital has created a position for me, as a stroke survivor volunteer, to help those with head injuries establish goals and find resources to get better… essentially to do individually what B.R.A.I.N. seeks to do as a network and community. Thank you for your support! Albert Chan...

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Volunteer Highlight: Christina Dovico

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“My B.R.A.I.N. Story” It begins in the Fall of 2011, I was a Speech & Language Pathology student of our one and only, Angela Mandas, at California State University, Long Beach. Angela had already crossed paths with our founder, Sue Rueb, and they began to collaborate. Angela shared with her students about this exciting new nonprofit she was working with and asked if any of her students would be interested in volunteering. Growing up with my mom’s challenges stemming from her various traumatic brain injuries and having a deep passion not only for the field of Speech & Language Pathology but more importantly a deep passion for serving the needs of others and giving with a glad heart, this seemed like a win-win. Boy oh boy was I right! From my very first F.B.I. meeting in the overflow sanctuary room at Cornerstone Church in Long Beach I was captivated and so very inspired by every single one of our survivors and by the overall feeling of being a part of a family unit. I knew that at some point I needed to find a way to get my mom involved in this inspiring family. Two years of my sharing stories and my experiences of being a constant volunteer with B.R.A.I.N. paid off. My sweet mom, Jennie Dovico, attended F.B.I.’s 2013 Christmas Party and she has been attending F.B.I. on Tuesday nights, the Cognitive Therapy class, Yoga classes, and other various B.R.A.I.N. events ever since. Since then my dad, Keith Dovico, has also joined our B.R.A.I.N. family as a volunteer and supporter of B.R.A.I.N. and loves the organization just as passionately as my mom and I do. One of the first of many inspiring survivors I met when I first started to volunteer at B.R.A.I.N. was a gentleman by the name of Ray Hillard. Ray had one of the brightest smiles and such a joyful spirit. He was also the very first survivor that my mom met on her first visit to B.R.A.I.N. and made her feel immediately comfortable. Ray was also the first of many incredible survivors to capture my heart with his inspiring and courageous stories of his traumatic brain injuries. I continue to be so very honored and humbled by each story shared where each survivor is paving a new road to regaining their sense of independence, self-love, drive, joy, and acceptance. To witness a survivor who couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasure of eating their favorite food or drink because their swallowing muscles were compromised in their brain injury, to being able to safely chew, swallow and thoroughly enjoy eating and drinking or to witness a survivor who for years lost the ability to engage in a conversation, be able to not only engage but truly contribute to and carry on a conversation…these were very inspiring events. Witnessing these incredible achievements along with the endless opportunities to learn from and grow with our survivors whether it be creating a new memory at one of our various outings (Long Beach Aquarium, Santa Ana Zoo, OC Fair, to name a few) or seeing how far they have come in the various types of therapies they are receiving at B.R.A.I.N., are some of the simple joys that continue to fill my love tank and keep me coming back to B.R.A.I.N. Everyone at B.R.A.I.N. is such an integral part of what makes everything run. Our Founder & President, Sue, whose vision will continue to keep us moving forward; our F.B.I. Facilitator and Speech Therapist, Angela who helps us come out of our comfort zone; our Speech Therapist, Lynn whose patience is...

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Angela’s May 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, The month of May has brought many new people to B.R.A.I.N.  Some seek information about their loved one with a brain injury, some need someone to talk to, and some need to be somewhere where they are known.  On any given day, the nonprofit is buzzing with energy.  It kicks off Monday morning with Yoga for the Brain, and then neurons fire with the Cognitive Fitness Class that follows.  This leads to individual and group therapies.  On Tuesday night, people gather at B.R.A.I.N. for Friends of Brain Injury (F.B.I.) where collectively 80-130 people welcome each other, practice conversation skills, challenge themselves in mind blowing exercises, and feel supported.  The continued theme for this Spring has been “Happy People….” Two specific weeks stand out for me as the F.B.I. Group Facilitator.  The 3rd Tuesday’s theme was, “Happy People Accept Others.”  Curriculum was based on the premise that healthy brains require accepting themselves and others despite differences.  Discussion ensued about a quote I used from Steve Maraboli, PhD., an author and coach who quipped, “stop expecting others to show you respect when you don’t show that respect to yourself.”  Some folks shared that it is easier to accept others, but loving yourself for something like riding a motorcycle and crashing is difficult.  Loving others is based on the Ten Commandments and it can be lip service for those who alienate themselves from attending church or following these laws of life.  The 4th week of FBI was on “Happy People Look to Their Future with Hope.”  Hope is the opposite of fear.  Hope is aligning yourself with the belief that good things will happen, baby steps in continued recovery will occur, and life has meaning and richness.  A video was shown about a young Italian woman who became ill with meningitis causing her to lose her four limbs.  Her inner drive at age 14 and her belief that she could continue sports such as her passion for fencing, drove her to winning the gold in the Rio Paralympics.  Her inner spirit, her family support, and her ability to hope for a better tomorrow provided her with the impetus for success. In the room after the video, there was an applause for this young athlete. There was a moment in which the word, “Hero” was suggested.  The Everyday Heroes were in the room and they had an opportunity to discuss their plans for their future, and regardless of the time it may take them to achieve the goal they brought forward, the audience cheered each person on as if they already accomplished their goals.  Wow! You should have been there! In closing, Rick Warren, pastor and author has said, “other people are going to find healing in your wounds.  Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”  Please support us financially, pray for everyone who enters B.R.A.I.N., and witness for yourself on Tuesday night, Hope. Sincerely, Angela Mandas, CCC-SLP Speech Language Pathologist F.B.I. Group...

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Sue’s April 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, Think Tank 2017 was a success.  Not only was cutting edge information given, but the manner in which all speakers delivered their messages was laced with grace and hospitality. The day started with Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist who is keenly curious about how the brain directs behavior, what factors help heal the brain and how each brain is wired individually. Dr. Medina’s talk was much like trying to drink from a fire hose, but his engaging and enthusiastic style kept the crowd riveted throughout the hour. The main take away from Dr. Medina’s session was the fact that moderate physical exercise is the single most important positive factor in gaining cognitive improvement after sustaining a brain injury. When I see various survivors come into our facility to work out with our strength and balance trainer, Kevin Jung, I am thrilled that they are putting their effort into true rehabilitation. Since moving into our present facility in 2012, my role at B.R.A.I.N. has taken on a different slant than when we first began the organization in 2008. Back then, I was studying all I could about the brain and learning everything that would help me communicate with the various doctors and therapists. Then, when therapists went to work here, my role switched to business, leadership subjects, and communicating with potential donors. I was going through the files in my own brain, naming the parts of the brain and their functions. When I thought of the “gear shifter of the brain”, I was shocked that I could not recall its name. I struggled for a few days trying to remember. Then, I jumped on the treadmill and put the speed up to 4, which was fast enough that I couldn’t sing and after 5 minutes, the name “Anterior Cingulate Gyrus” popped into my pea brain. Thanks for the tip, Dr. Medina! Dr. Mary Kennedy, Professor of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Chapman University gave her talk on coaching the brain injury survivor in a way that enables them to move forward by working hard and making their own decisions on task procedures. The various therapists in attendance gained a lot for their practices. B.R.A.I.N. is grateful that we can use Dr. Kennedy’s procedures in our therapy. John Kelley, CEO of CereScan, was happy to give current information about the importance of getting a clear diagnosis for the brain. CereScan is not just a brain scanning company, but also a medical information capturing company to include a wide variety of areas to be considered. Birth process, medical history, medications taken and several different brain tests such as scans and QEEG evaluations are all taken into the scope to evaluate the individual’s brain. Dr. Dee Gaines is a rare and interesting PhD (Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology) who regularly gives help to the veterans at the VA in different locations. She works with various cases of criminality that involves brains that are impacted. She has spent time in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Israel, and English is her second language but speaks it with ease. Some of her unique processes are being used all over the Los Angeles basin. Last, but certainly not least was Julie Doan, wife of Andrew Doan MD, Naval Officer and Eye Surgeon. Their passion is about the overuse of digital media. The data were only eclipsed by their own private story of how digital media almost destroyed their family life and careers. Julie is a Registered Nurse (RN) and is a strong advocate for getting the word out about digital drugs. One only needs...

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MY UNEXPECTED CHALLENGE

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By Kimberly Okabayashi My name is Kimberly Okabayashi. I came to B.R.A.I.N. last June to teach yoga. Sue  asked me to write about my feelings, faith and trust in God for the last few months. I have heard stories from survivors about their traumatic brain injuries. It has been a sobering thought that we could be living life to the fullest, climbing a mountain, riding a bike or driving a car, get into an accident, and in that split second, our life changes forever. For the past five years, I have made it a priority to take care of my body. I would make a kale smoothie for breakfast, buy farm fresh or organic vegetables, cut carbs and cleanse every six months. I would get a physical, and a check-up from my OBGYN once a year. Most years, my doctor would say, “no news is good news, all is well, I’ll call if there is anything unusual.” Last fall, I got a phone call after the OBGYN check-up. More tests were done. On October 13, 2016 I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. While I did not have any symptoms, I felt like my body had been hijacked. I had heard of the word anxiety, yet I had no idea the extent of consumption it would take. Sure, everyone has some anxiety about taking a test, or moving, or anything that is new. This emotion was like a foreign being that came into my mind and took over. I had met and now lived with anxiety day and night. Anxiety was like an unwelcome guest that wouldn’t leave. Following surgery in November, my cancer treatment would include 35 treatments of radiation. I had to wait until January to begin radiation. Apparently, doctors like to take time off with their families over the holidays. In the meantime, a physicist would gather all of my lab results and come up with a computerized program designed to pin point any remaining cancer cells and kill them. In the month prior to radiation, I thought I would get a tattoo in order to share my faith and put a scripture on my arm so that each health professional could see it when they treated me. When I went in to the Cancer Treatment Center at Long Beach Memorial for a walk-through explaining the process, my wish came true with four tiny dots (tattoos) for the set-up of radiation. The four dots were so painful, that ended any thought of a scripture on my arm. My biggest fear of radiation was being in a room made with cement walls, laying on a table by myself, with a round giant sun beam moving around me, with the ten inch thick door closed, for three minutes. There is also a red light outside the door so that no one walks into the room during the treatment. I still don’t understand how radiation is good for me, but no one else. There would be a camera so the radiologist could see me, and audio so we could talk during the treatment. Once the door was closed, I had to stay still and it would be me and anxiety for three long minutes. During the first treatment, I asked if I needed to remove any jewelry? The technician said no, the beam would only go to the designated area. I asked if I could hold something in my hand in the future. He said yes. I had received a box in the mail from my brother who is ten years my senior –...

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Angela’s February 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, My heart is full of joy as I write this letter to you. Every day, I get up hoping to make a difference in someone’s life. As a speech language pathologist, I have the opportunity to work with those that cannot speak for many reasons. I am present when a child gets to utter “Mama” for the first time, “I love you” to the spouse who relentlessly advocates and supports her husband. I get to witness love through eye glances, smiles, body language and through words when I attend Friends of Brain injury (F.B.I.) every Tuesday night. You see, love happens at F.B.I. in many different ways. It is felt when you walk in the door to sign in and you are greeted by a smiling face. You are recognized by a volunteer, as you might be someone who could be isolated all week long. You enter the multi-purpose room and you feel the excitement from friends, survivors, family and volunteers. Love is all around! The F.B.I. theme for the month was, “Love.” We discussed what we love, what we cannot do without and created a recipe for love. (See newsletter recipe below). My husband and I, along with Maybelle and Arnie Schroeder, reviewed The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It was interesting as this was the first time that the 4 of us had spoken at F.B.I., and it was exciting to talk to the survivors about understanding love and what that means to each other. F.B.I. is a place of sharing and celebrating life events. We laugh with those who are joyful, and we carry each other’s burdens when they are down. For two hours, many things get pushed aside so we can focus on laughing, sharing, hugging, making the new F.B.I. hand signal and cheering on each other for little accomplishments. Love is all around us and it carries us to the next week when we get our emotional tanks refilled. Thank you for your monthly physical and monetary support of our programs. Hope to see you on a Tuesday night. With gratitude for leading F.B.I., Angela Mandas, MA CCC-SLP Speech Language Pathologist F.B.I. Group Facilitator...

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