Pam is a living example of courage pushing away fear. Pam is a TBI survivor who has fought her way back from the ravages of brutal violence to a place of healing and hope. She finds meaning for life in her efforts to help others, and credits the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) for helping her put her life back together.
Pam woke up from a two-week coma in May of 2011. Although overwhelmed to find her body hooked up to machines, Pam did not have amnesia. “I knew who I was and I knew what had happened to me,” she said. Pam was the victim of a vicious attack by a former domestic partner.
Pam hovered near death, with multiple stab wounds. She had suffered a hiatal hernia, spine damage and a displaced hip. After two surgeries to repair the damage,and several weeks in Harper Hospital, Pam began the long journey of recovery. She spent a year in physical therapy at the Detroit Medical Center (DMC), first using a wheelchair, then progressing to a walker, and then a cane.
It wasn’t until about four months after the attack that the cognitive effects of her brain injury began to manifest themselves. Her speech, concentration and thinking had slowed down. An MRI confirmed a traumatic brain injury. That’s when Pam called BIAMI.
Diane Dugan, BIAMI’s Program Outreach Coordinator, helped Pam find the resources she would need to move forward. Diane gave Pam the Michigan Resource Guide (MRG), which Pam has used to explain brain injury to doctors, judges, her union and even the Social Security Office. One judge read from the MRG during a Social Security hearing and thanked Pam for educating her on brain injury.
Diane put Pam in touch with BIAMI’s Detroit Chapter, led by Roderick Arnold, also a TBI survivor. Pam has been an active chapter member ever since, sharing experiences with other TBI survivors and family members. According to Diane, “Pam has made remarkable progress during her recovery and is an incredible advocate for herself and others with brain injury. She has recruited others to attend support groups and to contact us.”
Last September, Pam attended BIAMI’s highly regarded Fall Conference in Lansing. “It was a huge challenge to deal with meeting all those people,” said Pam, “but going to that conference gave me my self-esteem back. As a TBI survivor, you want to be a whole person. You want to work. You want to be who you used to be.”
Pam worked as a product control coordinator for an auto manufacturer before her injury. She was constantly multitasking: scheduling workers, contacting vendors and training new employees.
“My ability to do that job was washed away by my brain injury,” she said.
Through Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Pam has taken classes to train for other work, but is unable to work full-time. Now on disability, Pam volunteers for various domestic violence survivors’ groups, crime victims’ groups and for her church. Doing readings at church has helped her learn how to speak in front of groups again. She was recently cleared to drive again. Through BIAMI, Pam has become active with a consumers group regarding the Affordable Care Act.
“People need to know that you can get a brain injury from an assault, not just from a car accident and that not all domestic violence injuries are visible ones,” says Pam. “If you have a brain injury, get in touch with BIAMI. It is a great place to start.”