Hi Everyone,

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. A brain injury can happen to you, your sibling, parent, child, friend or neighbor. A brain injury is not an event, it is a life altering injury requiring long term rehab and financial support for PT, OT, cognitive, emotional/behavioral, aqua, music and art therapies. Survivors and their families need social and community integration programs specialized in working with brain injury survivors.

When you share Corey’s story with your circle of family and friends, your conversations spread awareness for this silent epidemic.

Why is it called the silent epidemic? 2.4 million people survive brain injury annually; that’s risen from 1.6. The green ribbon represents brain injury. I attended a conference when one attendee asked, “why does everyone know the pink ribbon and not the green ribbon”? The answer given was succinct, “a person can participate in their daily life living with most forms of cancer. They can go to the grocery store, live independently, maintain their employment as well as their social and interpersonal relationships. A moderate to severe injury not only traumatizes the survivor but their families too. The survivors often cannot advocate for themselves and their families are not only caring for them but balancing their own jobs and the needs of additional family members.” “How many survivors or their family members can attend a 3 day walk to raise awareness or funding for research”? The daily struggle to survive is why their voices have been silenced. They are too tired to “get out and spread the word”. There are currently 5.3 million people living with a moderate to severe injury.

Funding is critical but for more than research. Our legislators need to be educated on why survivors and their families need funding not only for medicaid but for state waivers as well. Waivers provide funding for home health care; including nursing coverage, rehab services and community integration resources to name a few. There are only 16 states that have waivers for brain injury; many of them have wait lists due to underfunding. PA has 4 waivers; 1 is open with a two year wait list for new applicants.

As you all know, we fight for continued coverage for rehab for Corey. She has made miraculous strides as she regains physical function. We are in year 4 of this journey. There are days it seems as if she’s not making any progress at all and then there are moments that give us hope. This weekend was one of those moments.

A friend of mine called at Christmas wanting to give Corey a gift. She wanted it to be related to her culinary dream. I shared how much she enjoyed her cooking lessons.

This weekend, Corey received a belated Christmas Gift from my friend Jen. We traveled to Villanova to meet Chef Greg Smith. He and his sister own Avenue Kitchen. Chef Greg attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia (Caitlin’s college) and is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in NY.

When we arrived, Chef Greg invited Corey into the kitchen. After a full tour of the ‘back of the house’, he presented Corey with a chef’s jacket and asked her if she’d like to help prep a few things for that evenings dinner. Corey’s face beamed when she saw the jacket. Corey stood next to Chef Greg as he taught her how to make fresh mozzarella. The two worked side by side as they prepared the curd, soaked, seasoned and rolled the cheese.

There was an onion and fresh spices on the cutting board. Chef Greg asked to see Corey’s knife skills. She used her right hand to stab the onion with a fork, transferred her grasp of the fork to her left hand. Holding the onion steady with the left, she chopped the onion with her right. Her slices were steady and her cuts were consistent in size. Note; up to this point, Corey has stood without assistance for 11 minutes without her knees weakening. As she worked beside Chef Greg, she stood straight for nearly 40 minutes.

Caitlin captured many beautiful pictures of Corey (see one portrait in the gallery) but the picture I captured was looking at Corey standing tall, confident and completely as ease as I also watched Caitlin working at her craft as a photographer. Caitlin commented, “when watching Corey in the kitchen she becomes the person she was meant to be”. This is a true statement for both these young woman!

Every update posted leading up to this weekends gift is evidence of why we need to spread awareness for brain injury support. If every survivor had an opportunity to have their voice heard, can you imagine the stories that could be told? xoxo