Brain Health

Angela’s September 2017 Letter

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Dear Friends, Can we live without technology? Technology enables the brain injury survivor to express thoughts not heard as words that cannot be uttered due to decreased breath support. We need technology.  We need it in hospitals, businesses and offices. We rely on the speed of computers to send messages to family across the continent. We need it to contact people quickly. We respond to Facebook when someone announces a pregnancy or a milestone birthday. However we become dependent on using technology instead of standing up and walking over to the office mate down the hall. Text messaging has replaced phone calls. Daily relationships are sometimes built around texting as a convenience. Conversation and the art of sitting with someone to get to know them has gone by the wayside.   However, at F.B.I., we are “Disconnecting to Reconnect.” We agree to turn off the cell phone while we talk, share, support and laugh. No LOL here! We have been focusing on listening and not interrupting, hearing without judging, and building up without breaking down each other’s confidence and pride. There is a sense of family at F.B.I. in which we develop ground rules for respect when someone is sharing and when someone speaks. Along with these rules, an agreement has been established with each person who attends the weekly meeting to set measurable and attainable goals. Being a spectator at F.B.I. is allowed, but being an active participator is highly preferred. We all need to set measurable and attainable goals from wanting to clean out the garage to wanting to strengthen the body. We move forward in life. It’s not easy to determine a realistic goal but even reducing computer game time can be measured. We build, we grow and we do life together at B.R.A.I.N.   Hope to see you at our weekly sessions; remember to turn off your phone and connect with others.   Sincerely, Angela Mandas, M.A. CCC-SLP F.B.I. Group Facilitator —————————————————————   Ideas for Unplugging Taken from Unplug Every Day; 2014 Chronicle Books 1. Wear a watch instead of relying on your phone. 2. Learn to recite a poem from memory. 3. Use a wall calendar to keep track of appointments. 4. Send a thank you note and mail it using a stamp. 5. Find a cafe without wifi and talk to someone next to you. 6. Make something with your hands; Allow yourself to learn and fail and don’t seek the answers on the internet. 7. Organize a closet, drawer or your bedroom instead of your work space. 8. People watch at a coffee shop or on a park bench. 9. Take a walk and turn your phone off. 10. Call a friend, just to catch...

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Therapist Highlight: Lynn Gallandt, M.S. CCC-SLP

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I have a long time friend who has posed the question to my family and me over the years : “So what do you want to do when you grow up?” While we laugh about this, it’s also his way of encouraging us to reach for the next step in life. About 5 years ago, after 20+ years as an educator for elementary-aged bilingual students, students with special needs, university supervisor for student teachers and teaching adults learning English as a second language, I finally had the answer to his question: I want to serve a community of adults who have sustained a brain injury. My involvement with B.R.A.I.N. began in August, 2012 at the 2nd annual picnic. I learned about the organization through Angela and Mindi (former volunteer), whom I had met earlier that month. Their enthusiasm for this organization was palpable – I knew I had to visit this new place. My husband, Bob, joined me at the picnic, and like most people who come to B.R.A.I.N. for the first time, I was somewhat nervous about the unknown. My anxiety quickly evaporated as we were welcomed by Sue and many survivors who openly shared their stories. At this time, B.R.A.I.N. was experiencing a need for volunteers and I was looking for an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. We found each other at the right time! I started my work as a volunteer making phone calls to survivors and assisting with FBI. After a few weeks, I saw a ‘wish list ‘ of new programs Sue and Joan wanted to start at B.R.A.I.N. I offered to take one on and several months later, we had the inaugural B.R.A.I.N. Angels, a program for our caregivers. My own experiences with caregiving for my mother and other family members provided a glimpse into the lives of our families here at B.R.A.I.N. My active volunteering was put on hold for two years while I attended graduate school to become a Speech Language Pathologist at Chapman University. Following the completion of school in July 2015, I immediately returned to B.R.A.I.N. as a Speech Pathologist to replace Libby who was moving out of state. Again, the timing was divine intervention! I am grateful to be part of B.R.A.I.N. Professionally, I have had the opportunity to put my program ideas into place for our survivors and caregivers such as the the B.R.A.I.N. Angels, Stroke group, Let’s Talk, and the B.R.A.I.N. Choir. Personally, I believe I learn more from our survivors about life than perhaps I offer them. They teach me, daily, what it looks like to overcome challenges, face fear, manage anxiety, refuse stagnation, and embrace joy in living. I look forward to this next year of growing and learning...

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Survivor Highlight: Kamri Whitehead

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1. TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. My name is Kamri like Toyota Camry. I’m 23 years old and and I am an army veteran. I was 19 when my accident happened on my plane to Korea. I’m just a pretty normal young adult, anything you can think of I can do too just modified. But I still live a productive life with my boyfriend, Marcus, and my family and friends. 2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT B.R.A.I.N.?  I’ve been at B.R.A.I.N. for about a year now and it’s seriously changed my life for the better. When I first came to B.R.A.I.N. I was more shy and quiet but now it’s like I’m the celebrity everyone waits for because I’ve made so much progress within a year. 3. WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK? Honestly what keeps me coming back is that family mentality everyone has for one another. It’s like a safe haven because you can be yourself since you’re around people who are or who have been in your situation. And it makes me feel better for the rest of the week. 4. HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT B.R.A.I.N.? I found B.R.A.I.N. online because I was at that point where I needed to find something to keep my mood better than what it was. 5. WHAT CLASSES/THERAPY DO YOU TAKE AT B.R.A.I.N.? At B.R.A.I.N. right now I have individual speech therapy with Lynn every Thursday at 4 pm. It has helped me so much. Two years ago I was unable to speak at all and now I’m speaking in full sentences for a long period of time. I think back like, “Wow this is truly amazing.” 6. TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES SPEAKING TO GRADUATE STUDENTS AT CHAPMAN UNIVERSITY LAST MONTH. My speech at Chapman University was about patient rights. I was speaking to graduate students and I was super nervous but I actually did really amazing for my first time doing a project all on my own. Basically I explained to them certain rights as a patient that I felt they needed to know. I never thought I’d be doing something like that and it definitely opened up new doors for me....

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Volunteer Highlight: Bethany Cardenas

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My name is Bethany Christine Cardenas and I live in Cypress, California. I am 24 years old and I am currently a college student studying at Biola. I am from a small town from Central Valley California called Turlock, and came to southern CA for college. I am one of six children in my family and am also a twin. I am passionate about helping people, reading, my tiny-toy poodle named Klaus, and spending time with friends and family. My biggest upcoming challenge or project will be applying for and gaining entry into graduate school-wish me luck! Career Aspirations: I am an undergrad student at Biola University studying communications sciences and disorders to one day become a speech language pathologist. I originally became interested in the profession when I was working as a CNA or Certified Nurse’s Assistant at an intensive care hospital. Many of the patients there had suffered from stroke or T.B.I. and I experienced what an impact it made on their ability to speak and perform daily tasks. I want to specialize in this area as an SLP and hope to work in the hospital setting in the future. B.R.A.I.N Volunteer: I have been volunteering for B.R.A.I.N for a little over a year now and have been involved in the Cognitive Fitness Class and B.R.A.I.N Cells program. I was the instructor for the cognitive fitness course for around 4-5 months, which was supervised by Angela Mandas, CCC-SLP of B.R.A.I.N. This was an amazing experience where I constructed and lead activities that would improve cognitive skills and memory. I believe I learned more from those I worked with than they learned from me. Quick shout out to this awesome group! I am currently still part of the brain cells program where survivors are matched with connector volunteers to provide friendship and guidance in pursuing their personal goals. The survivor I was paired with was Kamri and there is little wonder why! We have a lot in common: we both have large and loud families, we are both strong willed, and we are around the same age. Her main goal was to get into college and I am currently in college so that is the task we have been working on. We have become friends in the process. Her incident was tough on her both mentally and physically but she is the strongest person I know. She is resilient. Being a part of her journey and watching her improve has been an honor. She has recently been improving a lot in her ability to speak, a direct result of working so hard in speech therapy. I am very proud of her and her innate ability to give one-hundred percent in all that she does. She is an inspiration for all, and the bottom line is that I am glad we were matched together in the B.R.A.I.N Cell...

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Survivor Highlight: Bill Copple

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Hello there, to those who may not have seen me at B.R.A.I.N. sessions, my name is Bill Copple. I have had a very interesting life but I am still going. I started at B.R.A.I.N. with the intent to offer assistance to other survivors and be an example that you can continue on. My first introduction to the B.R.A.I.N. program was by attending an alumni session at the traumatic head injury get together at my community college that I had attended. They mentioned that B.R.A.I.N. was going to hold a session and I wanted to meet other individuals that had survived a head injury and be a model to those people about surviving on to live a functional life. This was about 17 or 18 years after my first head injury. I went to that first seminar and then they started the F.B.I. program at Cypress. At that time I was still doing pretty well, I hadn’t started riding a motorcycle again quite yet but I did end up letting Sue know that I had the desire to write a book about the first injury I had. I started going to B.R.A.I.N. and kept up with my goal setting and doing what I had to do to keep going. I wrote my book which I have a sold a few copies to other participants at our meetings and I still had the desire to assist others, so B.R.A.I.N. continued to be a good place to keep myself going.  I kept my job at the time but I still had the desire to offer myself up as an example for others who might be having difficulties adjusting or even just coming to terms with their own head injury so B.R.A.I.N. was where I stayed. I seemed to be getting past the statistical phenomena that I was going to have any more head injuries but then I turned 38, and my second injury happened. I had my first injury 4 days before turning 19 years old and then, about six months after I turned 38, I had my second injury. It was on a bicycle this time, still two wheels but not quite as fast as a motorcycle, so I didn’t have the severeness of falling over a cliff this time but it still had some disastrous effects. My brain did develop a bleed but I was only in the hospital for about a month this time, vs. the 3 month coma of my first incident. I had to relearn how to walk again and function but I kept going. I starting to attend at F.B.I. again after the summer break was over. That second accident wasn’t nearly as drastic as my first one but it did have a little bit of a lasting effect. I had my third head injury about eight months later. It wasn’t nearly as bad physically speaking as my first two but I have been unable to work again and things have just gotten progressively worse mentally speaking but I am still involved with B.R.A.I.N. I still have the goal of being an inspiration for others and seeing what I can do to continue on. It ain’t easy but I am living proof that life won’t deliver more than you can TRULY...

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Volunteer Highlight: Jane Hong

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On my first day at B.R.A.I.N. attending the F.B.I. meeting, I told myself I wasn’t going to come back. I was overwhelmed, unaccustomed to the cultural difference, shy- I was a fish out of water. I was completely out of my element as the infamous mic on a cord was placed into my hand for an introduction. I thought to myself, “I am so uncomfortable. I don’t think this is it. I am definitely not coming back.”  That day, Angela had chosen the topic of “grieving”, which is quite a dreary way to start out the new year, but I quietly sat and listened. Sitting and listening soon turned into soaking in every moment from there on out. My dog of 7 years had died 2 weeks before and I was still in the process of grieving. We began to learn that it’s okay to grieve and to go through a whirlpool of emotions. I began to feel comfortable and accepted in an odd way, as I learned to grieve alongside others who were grieving for reasons of their own. I shed some tears that night, in front of a group of strangers whom I was convinced that I would not invest in. Yet, I somehow found myself back at B.R.A.I.N. the following week, and the week after that, and so on. Soon enough, I began to realize that it wasn’t so much about how can I give, but almost selfishly, what will I get out of B.R.A.I.N. today? Because really, it’s what B.R.A.I.N. does for me. From the personal testimonies of your everyday fighters to the time spent with survivors, clinicians, peers, there’s so much to soak in from the people at B.R.A.I.N. Now you’ll probably see me bouncing around the room, talking nonstop to all my friends.  You can find me talking to a girlfriend about her cute new shoes or cracking a joke with a buddy who still carries his strong sense of humor, or catching up on the latest football (or just Notre Dame) news. The people at B.R.A.I.N. are so worthy of having their stories heard and shared that it really is my honor to be alongside them as they do so. I mean, how can you not fall in love with a group of people who have seen darker days but still choose joy? People who share laughter to those who are in need of it and speak truth to those searching for it? How can one resist that and say that’s uncomfortable and that they would never come back? Surely, not...

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