Brain injuries often occur because of an accident. While survivors might not remember how or why the injury occurred, they can usually find out what happened. For victims of violent crimes who sustain a brain injury however, they may never know what really happened. That was the case for George.
It was around 3:00 a.m. August 21, 1994, when George entered an all-night Detroit restaurant. His next memory was waking up three days later at Henry Ford Hospital.
Thanks to the details he was able to coax from friends, plus a Freedom of Information Act request for 911 call records, George eventually pieced together a very rough sketch of what happened in those pre-dawn hours. After entering the restaurant, he was jumped and beaten by five men.
The restaurant owner had his employees move George to the doorway and leave him there. Only thanks to a concerned bystander were emergency services called. The sparse police write-up of the incident stated that George was found in the area of the restaurant and there were no witnesses. According to George, the police never followed up on the assault and made no effort to identify those responsible.
George’s brain injury left him unable to concentrate, forcing him to take an early retirement. He became financially dependent on social security supplemented by working odd jobs. As true for many survivors, he struggles financially.
“It’s bothering me because I’m turning 70 in June and it’s like, ‘where is my life?’ The bottom line is that it’s hard to put things together, and that even interferes with my social life. The whole thing is, I’m still suffering.” Compounding that suffering is the loss of his favorite recreational activity. As a serious long distance runner since high school, George’s injuries left him unable to train and participate in the masters running events he enjoyed.
A year after the attack, George learned about the Brain Injury Association of Michigan’s support groups. George currently attends meetings of the Detroit Chapter. “It’s been my biggest support in talking and interacting with others. Having been without a regular therapist, that’s been really difficult. Even now, and with insurance, I’m not covered for seeing someone. So it’s just the Chapter and it’s been therapeutic for me just to get there.” For survivors like George, support groups are critical because, as their name suggests, they offer a supportive environment that allow for survivors to share useful information with each other; from coping with brain injuries to finding needed assistance.
For George, while the full story behind his brain injury may never be known, his consolation – and the advice he offers fellow survivors – is to be around other brain injury survivors as it’s the best way to find people who truly understand what you’re going through and to be able to share information to help each other.