Brian’s first heard about the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) during his 1990 stay at Sojourners Transitional Living in Grand Rapids. Not only was that the start of a new decade, but the start of a new life for Brian. In 1989, he suffered a brain aneurysm that necessitated an early retirement from the Fire Marshall Division of the Michigan State Police. One day at Sojourners, Brian noticed an event calendar with the heading “BIA Mary Free Bed.” Asking a staff member what the event was about, Brian was informed that it referred to a meeting for brain injury survivors held at a major area rehabilitation facility. In turn, that single question would lead to over two decades of Brian’s involvement, membership and leadership roles within the BIAMI.
Eventually moving from Grand Rapids to Lansing, Brian participated in that area’s BIAMI chapter. After several years of regular attendance and involvement, he was asked if he was interested in becoming chapter president. Other chapter members had come to recognize and value the leadership and problem-solving skills he had gained during his years of service in the Navy and the State Police. Brian also had a unique perspective on brain injury as he was the only chapter member to have sustained his brain injury due to an aneurysm.
The difference in perspective, as well as his wide range of abilities, helped make him a highly successful chapter leader for many years. Brian self-effacingly jokes, “If you’re the last person to show up to a meeting, they make you president!” Brain has served twice as Lansing Chapter President (no term limits here): from 1995-1996 and from 2000 to the present. The chapter recently changed its name – now officially the Capital Area Chapter – and continues to help brain injury survivors in the greater Lansing area.
As with most things related to brain injury, there have been ups and downs during Brian’s time as the Lansing chapter leader. One challenge has been in finding a consistent meeting place, a challenge shared by many BIAMI chapters. The Capital Area chapter now meets at Peckham Inc., and Brian hopes this will become their regular meeting place.
Regardless of the venue, Brian and the Capital Area Chapter have been able to offer a safe place for survivors to share their thoughts with individuals who have undergone a similar experience. Going forward, his plans include a focus on increasing attendance, community outreach and education. Brian’s hope is that people will take the time to learn and become educated about brain injuries because “the more you learn, the more you can help.”
Although Brian’s injury is not auto related, he also vows to help the BIAMI protect Michigan’s Auto No-Fault system. Survivors reliant on Auto No-Fault benefits, he explains, are “not a bunch of gold diggers,” but people in serious need of resources and care. When asked what he would like the public to understand about those living with brain injuries, Brian replies “It’s not something you get over quickly. It can be life long and often there’s no cure, which is why he encourages survivors and caregivers to “use the resources in Michigan and just hang in there!”