Brain Health

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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Sue’s February 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, Truth is harder to find these days, it seems. Here is something I know that is true and I want to share it with you: Today, I am thankful for our Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network. We work with people of integrity and truth. We listen to survivors and their families tell their important and truthful stories. Some are incredibly sad. Other stories are inspiring and positive, able to help others. We are all together. Last week at FBI, the multi-purpose room was full of joy as we had Mandy Mykitta come and teach us all some dance steps. Wheel chairs were spinning and hearts were beating faster as the music put smiles on all of our faces. We loved it. Stay tuned as we hope that Mandy will be able to add Dance as a therapy in the future. What makes me smile? Survivors making good decisions. When a survivor of a stroke or TBI comes to B.R.A.I.N., finding a comfortable place to share life with many friends with similar challenges, they are happy and so am I. Please spread the news to your friends and interested acquaintances about B.R.A.I.N. and what it has to offer. Therapies, classes, social activities and resources are all available here. The key component is self-motivation. I applaud anyone who accepts the hand we extend to help them improve. Whether it is taking speech therapy, enrolling in a literacy class or working out with Kevin Jung, our fitness trainer, a survivor has many choices that they can make to move their rehabilitation forward. I realize more than ever now after 5 years of being in our Cypress facility, the survivor’s mindset is the most important agent to make B.R.A.I.N. successful in helping people to improve. We accept everyone and their thoughts, and we have basically one rule that we subscribe to: Kindness.  It is always inspiring to see kindness flow around the room at our weekly FBI meetings. Kind therapists invite kind survivors to partner with them for one purpose: to help survivors move forward to get their lives back after a brain injury. It is an amazing partnership. What keeps me awake at night and makes me sad? I think about the survivors that we want to help in some way and for a variety of reasons, they do not choose to make the necessary changes for their own health. I’m including myself here, as well. How effective will any of us be to others if we don’t take care of our own health and well-being? So, let’s all take a fresh look at ourselves. What is our part in helping ourselves achieve greater health? Our Yoga Class continues to be a healthy choice for me and I thank Kimberly for her leadership. Who knows? Maybe I will answer my cell phone less, exercise more, drink more green juices and eat more vegetables. Okay, I said, “maybe.” Practice making one good decision today with a goal you can achieve. It’s funny how one decision sets you up for another. Decisions build on one another and it is important to set your mind in the positive direction. I’m going to go eat some carrots. How about you? Warmly, Sue Rueb...

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Buy a Valentine’s Day gift on Amazon and donate to B.R.A.I.N.

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Buy a Valentine’s Day gift on Amazon and donate to B.R.A.I.N.

CLICK HERE to visit Amazon and shop for your Valentine’s Day gift while also giving to B.R.A.I.N.

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Volunteer Highlight Garrett Okita

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“My B.R.A.I.N. story” begins a number of years back. If I can recall, I actually started coming to B.R.A.I.N. because of my wonderful girlfriend, little Mai. She would come back from Tuesday night F.B.I. meetings and tell me elaborate, interesting life stories of survivors, inspiring information from guest speakers, and even salsa dance lessons.  These stories peaked my interest as she volunteered every week and made new friends at B.R.A.I.N.  So I showed up to B.R.A.I.N. to observe and volunteer as my schedule permitted (at the time, I was working Tuesday nights). As my schedule freed up, I began attending more frequently. I started looking forward to F.B.I. when I met a guy named Scott Sefcik, who is a cool, funny, and interesting brain injury survivor. He was one of the reasons I enjoyed F.B.I. As I kept coming to more events, F.B.I., and meeting new people, B.R.A.I.N. began to feel more and more like a family. Everyone here is amazing, from Sue, “the big Boss,” Angela, Lynn, actually everyone, even Pearl.  I love how Angela amazingly has a new theme every week (minus the summers), that’s about 44 different PRESENTATIONS filled with silly games, creative brain exercising activities, important information on health and well-being, etc. – not an easy task!  The heart and dedication of everyone at B.R.A.I.N. is part of why I keep coming back. The B.R.A.I.N. trust (board members) are receptive to ideas and changes suggested by the Brainiacs (volunteers).  This is another thing I love about this organization. It can be easy for organizations to fall into the same routine, but this organization is definitely not stagnant and are truly receptive to suggestions to improve B.R.A.I.N in all aspects. This seems small but B.R.A.I.N allows the volunteers to buy in to what they do.  I love how this creates an environment that allows everyone to feel involved and constantly think of ways to make B.R.A.I.N. the best it can be. I love the atmosphere of B.R.A.I.N. It’s a fun-loving, socially-awkward, place to be yourself, as funny as that sounds.  B.R.A.I.N. is unique in how it allows me to just be me. These are just some of reasons why I keep coming back, but what really keeps me coming back each and every week to F.B.I. and to the amazing outings, are the survivors.  The love, non-judgement, positivity, encouraging stories, and, most of all, the resilience. B.R.A.I.N. has changed my perspective on life and what it means to live, love, and be happy. Let’s always remember to enjoy our time together. Please, please, please introduce yourselves to me, every week if need be, because I am horrible with names, and if you know me, I am extremely shy and an introvert. See you all at F.B.I.!...

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Sue’s January 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, A new year and new vision are on the horizon! 2017 is starting out with a bang.  My daughter, Jana, declared her love for her man and became Mrs. Jeffrey Warren on January 14th.  A fairy tale wedding at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu was the setting and they enjoyed a honeymoon on the Island of Kauai. How wonderful that the B.R.A.I.N. facility was their first glimpse of each other.  We love you both, Jeff and Jana. We are now full throttle looking to the future for even greater impact and rehabilitation for the brain injury community.  We have struck a new team to brainstorm and share the vision for a larger campus where diagnosis and treatment can merge and support even more survivors.  Take a look on the wall as you enter our Cypress Facility and you will see a vision of what will be in the years to come.  Stay tuned for more information about our Building Program. Think Tank 2017 is right around the corner.  Dr. John Medina, neuroscientist and author will be our keynote speaker this year.  We are partnering with Chapman University as they are hosting our conference this year on the Irvine campus.  The date is April 8, 2017 and we believe it is the perfect time to bring many Medical professionals together with Educators and Rehabilitation Experts.  We all have grown to appreciate Dr. Medina as we often use his book, Brain Rules for our F.B.I. curriculum.  I have looked forward to having Dr. Medina speak to us for years.  Please invite your doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors to this event.  They will learn and be happy you invited them. The rehab therapies are all working to capacity.  The Choir is sounding terrific and each member is improving in their own way.  Strength and Fitness has become a favorite of many survivors.  Thank you to our trainer, Kevin! We are a place of acceptance and partnership.  We all need one another to be able to move forward in our lives.  F.B.I. continues to be a center for fun and fellowship.  Think of making a New Year’s Resolution by taking a new class at B.R.A.I.N. like Yoga or Reading and Writing or Strength Training.  The Cognitive Class is a must for all survivors.  Let’s fill the room and work our brains to help it function even better! Colt Munchoff is here once again to teach his adaptive cooking class.  Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. starting January 21st to February 25th.  We hope to see many of you here for the fun! May God bless you and your families as we start 2017!...

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