As a videographer, a big part of what I do is capture moments and create experiences out of those moments through storytelling. As I build a story through editing, it’s crucial to carefully listen to each interview in its entirety to put together the most cohesive final product. Often times during my editing process, I cannot help but immerse myself into the story being told by that individual. Prior to each interview with the brain injury survivors, I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but what I learned is that you can overcome any adversity with great support and the desire to keep moving forward in spite of.
I was informed during many of the interviews that brain injuries are sometimes undetectable to the average onlooker. Through the testimonies of these survivors, I’ve witnessed the obligations they have to reinforce to others that, even after their unfortunate causes and situations, they are still human beings who are capable of joy, love, and deserving of happiness.
This project was special to me because it opened my eyes to a situation that is poorly represented and discussed. However, I am excited that these survivors have a platform such as the Brain Injury Association for Michigan to tell their story, inform the masses, and possibly give hope to other survivors just like themselves. This experience has been great for me and I am glad that I had the chance to be a part of it!
You have likely dealt with substance abuse before, whether it’s in your family, a friend of a friend, or someone you are working with now. If so, you know that substance abuse has an effect on everyone, but that effect is especially dangerous for those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
For brain injury survivors, alcohol and drugs can increase the likelihood of seizures, and can also have dangerous interactions with individuals’ prescribed medications. In addition, alcohol and drugs affect our brains differently, and can have a much more powerful effect on someone with a brain injury.
Just as importantly, alcohol and drug use may increase the likelihood of re-injury, as survivors under the influence are more likely to engage in behaviors such as impaired driving, or suffer difficulties with balance or impulsive decision making.
Some of the most bothersome cognitive impacts of TBI include issues with decision-making (mentioned above), as well as problem solving, short-term memory, low inhibition, and decreased awareness. Alcohol and drugs can exacerbate all of these symptoms, unquestionably impacting recovery -- which is why complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs is the healthiest and safest choice to aid in brain injury recovery and sustainability.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Alcohol/Drug use or dependence prior to obtaining their brain injury
History of mood disorders
Current depressive disorder or symptoms of depression
Addiction to tobacco
Family history of addiction
Poor social skills
Early use in adolescence
Stress at home
Unhelpful support group or lack of natural supports
Lack of health insurance or access to health care
Questions to ask if you fear that you or someone you love may have an addiction and need support
Do they go through withdrawals if/when they stop using?
Do they have to take larger amounts or over a longer time period than intended?
Has their use resulted in a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home?
Have they continued to use despite continuous problems with using?
Have they made unsuccessful attempts to cut down?
Do they have cravings, or a strong desire to use?
Have they given up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of use?
Do they continue to use in situations where it is physically hazardous?
Do they continue to use despite knowledge of having physical/psychological dependence?
Do they spend a great deal of their time obtaining, using, or recovering from its effects?
There are many avenues to find support, whether one has commercial insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or no insurance at all. You can call your local Behavioral Health Authority, and talk to someone who can immediately assess your need for treatment and link you to the appropriate resources. Treatment can involve medical supervision, individual or group therapy, peer support, 12 step recovery, case management, family therapy, and psychiatric services.
Below are several links depending on your need:
Contact MI 2-1-1: Help is available 24/7. This is accessible via phone, live chat, text, or by searching online.
If any of these apply to someone you know, show that person that you care, are concerned, and are there to support them! Understand that there are likely reasons they do what they do:
Self-medicate for severe/chronic pain from their injuries
Cope with the trauma that they have endured
Try to combat their symptoms of depression due to a loss they have experienced in their life
Escape from their new reality
Use due to an underlying mental health condition
You can use the resources above, or contact a professional who can help you get connected. You can also contact the BIAMI staff to help you connect with helpful resources. Stay strong, supportive, and realize that they may be doing the best they can, in this moment, to get through whatever difficulties they may be facing.
Angela M. Haas, LMSW CAADC is a licensed master’s level social worker with her certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor certification. She works with Special Tree Rehabilitation Systems in their outpatient clinic in Midland and Saginaw.
Kindergarten teacher, brain injury survivor, and newly crowned Mrs. Michigan America 2018, Jodi Byers is using her pageant platform to help BIAMI raise awareness of brain injury and tell her dramatic story to the public and survivor community.
While working at a church camp following her sophomore year at Hope College, Jodi fell and hit her head twice, once on a counter during the fall and again on the concrete floor. Her initial reaction was that it was just a concussion, nothing of any real concern. She immediately returned to working at the camp and flew home a week later.
The extent of Jodi’s injury did not start to manifest until after she returned home and her condition then worsened to the point where she had to take a semester off from college. Jodi was unable to read beyond five minutes without her vision blurring and had difficulties with pattern recognition. Additionally, she had short-term memory loss, issues with perception, and daily migraines. Any single one of these ensured that collegiate study was impossible until she had recovered, and Jodi struggled with them all at once.
As a normally positive and upbeat young woman, Jodi’s physical, cognitive, and psychological challenges made that outlook almost impossible to maintain. “I had a month of falling into deep depression because I didn't think life would ever become the same. I have been blessed with an amazingly supportive family and if it weren't for them, I don't know what I would have done!” Her condition led to a reexamination of her life and goals, and during this period she realized she wanted nothing more than to help others become the best possible versions of themselves. It is what she felt she was meant to do. Through this realization, she found the strength and resolve to work toward recovery.
Six months later, Jodi was back in college. Since then, she graduated from Hope College, was married, competed and won the title of Mrs. Michigan America 2018, and will soon be competing for the national title of Mrs. America. Since her recovery, Jodi has been dedicated to raising awareness for brain injury. Even before competing for Mrs. Michigan America, she started an online concussion group through Facebook called “Maintain the Brain.” Best of all, today she no longer experiences lingering effects of her brain injury. When asked, Jodi recognizes how unique her recovery was. “I am blessed to have no reoccurring symptoms, but many survivors still do. Therefore, I urge people to be patient, be supportive, and offer grace to fellow brain injury survivors.”
Last Thursday, HB 5013 passed out of committee and now sits on the House floor for a vote. This bill will likely be brought up on the floor for a house vote this week, with a second reading on Wednesday and vote on Thursday. Mayor Duggan, a number prominent Detroit Business men and corporations, and members from the Michigan Chamber are working hard to advance this bill. Additionally, HB 5013 will increase the amount of Medicaid spending by $80 million in ten years.
IT IS TIME TO TAKE ACTION AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
We strongly encourage you to join us at the Capitol and oppose this legislation, which would:
Authorize unprecedented dollar cap limitations on no-fault benefits
Give insurance companies greater control over patients’ medical care
Greatly increases the power of the insurance companies while taking legal rights away from patients
Only offers temporary premium rate reductions, if any at all
A strong showing of folks opposing this bill outside the house floor both days is important. Anticipate two long afternoons especially on Thursday. Session on Thursday starts at noon.
We will meet, receive a short update, gather materials and have lunch across the street from the House Office Building at the Central Methodist Church basement, 215 North Capitol from 11:00 AM until 2:00 PM on Wednesday and from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM on Thursday. Salad, pizza, and beverages will be provided on Wednesday at about 11:45 AM. Lunch on Thursday will be ready about 11:00 AM prior to the start of a noon House session.
We need your help if we are going to make sure this bill is defeated. If able, we strongly encourage you to join us. If you are unable, there are still ways you can help and make your voice heard.
Email your legislators.We’ve provided a pre-written form letter, but feel free to make changes or write your own letter and send it. If you write your own, be sure they know your situation and what you stand to lose if this passes.
Call your legislators.We’ve provided talking points, but feel free to make changes or include your own. Be sure they know your situation and what you stand to lose if this passes.
Use social media to share your position and stories regarding your health care situation and be sure to use the hashtags #ProtectNoFault and #NO5013. Tell your story and let people know that the care being received would be impossible under the Duggan-Leonard plan.
Help us protect defend the system of care critical to so many Michiganders who have been, and unfortunately will be, auto accident survivors and their families.
The Brain Injury Association of Michigan serves as a conduit between brain injury survivors and the nation’s largest network of brain injury providers, as well as being a primary resource for brain injury information and support. Whether you’re a survivor, a family member or caregiver, or a provider, BIAMI membership will prove valuable.