We all have bad days at work, but for Marty, his bad day ended with a trip to the hospital and a 19-day coma. On August 13, 1991, Marty fell 10 feet off a giant press and landed headfirst on the concrete below. By the time paramedics stabilized him in the ambulance, he’d seemingly regained consciousness. At the hospital, doctors evaluated him and released him. Unfortunately, Marty’s unrecognized brain injury was evolving. He could react, talk, and move, but remained unaware of what was going on around him.
While waiting for a ride home, Marty’s sister saw him becoming increasingly lethargic and unable to remember things. Assuming he’d been medicated, she asked a nurse if Marty was going to be on this medication at home. When the nurse revealed he was not medicated, a neurologist was brought in to evaluate him. By the next morning, Marty was comatose.
Brain injuries are life changing events, not only for the survivor, but for their loved ones as well. In Marty’s case, however, his brain injury would ultimately change the lives of many other brain injury survivors. Eight months after his brain injury and untold hours of therapy, a social worker informed Marty about the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI). Marty and his family then attended his first BIAMI chapter meeting. From there, his involvement in his local chapter grew, and he eventually became president of the Macomb Chapter. While no longer Chapter President, he still serves as their contact person. In this position, he remains able to help survivors and their families at what’s often a key juncture in their recovery process. Marty recounts two especially meaningful examples. In one, doctors had relegated a brain injury survivor to what would have been life in a nursing home after a car accident. The survivor’s father contacted Marty and they met at a Big Boy for coffee, during which Marty provided the father with a list of rehabilitation facilities that could help his son, and indeed one did.
Two years later, the mother of a survivor contacted Marty to see if her son could attend support group meetings to help with his socialization skills. While the support group proved valuable for improving those social skills, it also identified resources to dramatically further the survivor’s rehabilitation. Thanks to Marty and the support group, the survivor went from confinement in a nursing home, to being able to get around in a wheelchair, to walking with a cane and a leg muscle stimulator.
Marty helped yet another survivor overcome her anxiety about joining the support group. With his encouragement, she gained the confidence to attend and ultimately became vice president of the Macomb Chapter. Today, she’s married and had her first child, thanks in large part to the confidence and support she received from Marty and chapter members.
In Marty’s view, the education and resources provided by the BIAMI are immensely helpful. “It makes major changes in people’s lives,” he notes. But while the BIAMI provides tools for brain injury survivors, it’s people like Marty who take those tools and craft opportunities for others.