Meet Brian, TBI Survivor and Bringer of Joy
When you meet Brian for the first time – and he has probably never met a stranger he couldn’t befriend – the first thing that strikes you is how much joy is radiating off a single human being. Clad in a bright American flag t-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers, and giving a very enthusiastic salute combined with a thumb’s up, Brian’s grin and laughter seem to leap off his face and onto the faces of everyone around him.
A TBI survivor, Brian lives in a beautiful little home tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, just down the hill from his parents’ home. He takes great pride in keeping his home tidy, and has carefully decorated the interior with bright and cheerful toys, gadgets, and inspirational art. A homemade poster says, “Good chance to live longer.” Another says, “Jesus gives new life.”
As a kid, Brian dreamed of being a fighter pilot, and as a young man he fulfilled his dream of joining the military. Although he graduated top of his class in training school, the Navy discharged him because of a severe knee problem, and he moved back to North Carolina to start a new life. One day, as he was riding home on his motorcycle, that life was interrupted. A car pulled out in front of him at the bottom of his driveway. Brian hit the side of the car and flew over it to the other side of the road. His helmet came off in the wreck, and his injuries were so severe that the doctors did not think he would survive. At one point, the hospital asked his family if they wanted to donate his organs. The doctors had done everything they thought possible.
But Brian’s life wasn’t over. His mother Debbie explains this simply: “God saved him.” After months in a coma, Brian woke up.Today he savors the memory of opening his eyes to see his entire family standing there, waiting for him. Five months later. The entire family – Debbie, his dad Gary, and his brother Kurt – worked together to help him adapt to his new life. Kurt even took a year off from college.
Although the doctors didn’t believe he would ever talk again, today the 46-year-old survivor of Traumatic Brain Injury holds his small audience spellbound. “I’ve invented a new word!” he announces to us, chuckling, explaining how he has combined several words into a new one. Brian loves wordplay. His sunglasses are his “eye helmets,” his teeth (which he is very proud of) are “mirrors,” and he calls the grocery store “Singles” instead of “Ingles” because he so enjoys socializing there. He has a very active social life, and he spends time in nature taking photos for greeting cards, which his mom helps him to sell at local businesses.
Today we’re visiting Brian to install new technology that will help him be more independent for the long haul. Brian has staff support for thirty hours a week, but as the result of a recent seizure, his family members are concerned that he may need additional support when staff aren’t present.
Because of these recent health issues, Brian has had to leave his home for a while, so he could get more support. He’s happy about his return: “I like living here!” he says. To help Brian stay independent, we’ve customized a SimplyHome system to support him. Here are some of the new system’s features:
Custom prompts about food access. These pre-recorded auditory cues are designed to help Brian remember to eat, both in the mornings (“Good morning, buddy! Don’t forget your snack!”) as well as on the weekends when he eats with his parents (“Hi buddy. Go to Mom and Dad’s for some good, free food.”) Brian’s mother Debbie has noticed that he sometimes forgets to eat enough during the day.
Custom prompts about medication and hygiene. These pre-recorded verbal prompts help Brian to remember to take his medication, brush his teeth, choose a bath time, and wash his sheets. (One such prompt says, “Brian, brush those mirrors again. You’re looking great!”)
Motion sensors that are set up to alert his mother about wandering or elopement. These sensors are programmed to work with a bed pressure pad and a chair pressure pad, and are customized with rules such as “If an individual gets up during the nighttime and does not return to bed within 20 minutes, send the caregiver an alert.”
The bed pressure pad and chair pressure pad can also alert Brian’s caregivers or staff support that there is a lack of motion in the house.
Smoke alarm monitors that sense when a smoke alarm is going off, and alert others to the potential issue (via text, etc.)
Custom prompts that are designed to encourage Brian. Faith is very important to Brian, Debbie, Gary, and Kurt. Brian is devoted to his church and proudly relates that he has read the entire Bible five times! Some of the pre-recorded verbal cues relate to the faith they share: “Goodnight Brian, Jesus loved you first” and “Brian, remember, ask in my name, and I will do it.”
Brian’s positivity is an intentional way of life. He freely tells the story of his accident and reiterates what his mother says – he is thankful to be alive. He believes he is a better person today because of the accident.
Before we leave, Brian gives us a tour of his house, the purple and bright blue walls showing off the art he has made and collected, the artwork just as cheerful as Brian. There’s a fish mounted on the wall whose mouth serves as a vase for some pink flowers, while a deer head serves as a perch for Santa Claus, a Hawaiian lei, and a bright pink velcro monkey.
The technology that we install today is a small part of Brian’s long journey, but it will play a big role in helping him maintain his independence. We all want to be able to make choices for ourselves of where we want to live, and how we want to live, and how we want to receive support. On a beautiful little patch of land in North Carolina, just down the road from his parents, Brian is at home in his own place once again.