Brain injuries happen suddenly and can dramatically change someone’s life. Almost all brain injury survivors remember what they were doing and the hopes and dreams they had before their injuries. They all must grieve the loss of their former lives. We help survivors accept the changes in their life and discover a life that feels worthwhile and fulfilling. We encourage survivors to keep working in improving and achieving, and being creative in order to find the best quality of life possible and to accomplish their goals. Here are just a few examples of how Schurig Center impacts lives.
Jeff & Mary Ellen
Meet Jeff and Mary Ellen, two individuals who have benefited from accessing Schurig Center’s services. Jeff’s stroke left him unable to walk, talk, read, or write. Jeff is walking again but remains without speech and copes with cognitive challenges.
According to his wife, Mary Ellen, “Life has gotten 300% better since we found Schurig Center.”
In 2008, at the age of 44, Pam was living in West Virginia working full-time, and raising her 12-year-old son as a single mother. One day, she found herself feeling anxious, confused, and disoriented. She called her mother, Barbara, for help.
Frightened and alarmed, Barbara told Pam to go the ER immediately, and she herself boarded a plane from California to be by Pam’s side.
Today, Pam is living with a brain injury caused by a virus. Even a mild viral infection can lead to a more serious brain injury such as a stroke and can cause severe brain damage. In Pam’s case, it resulted in an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system and causes swelling in the brain. Brain injuries like Pam’s can happen to anyone at any time.
After two months in the hospital, Pam was discharged but continued to suffer from poor vision, lack of balance, and impaired cognitive functioning. No longer able to live on her own, Pam moved to California to live with her mother. Their lives were changed forever.
Once her limited outpatient therapy was complete, Pam’s recovery began to plateau. Feeling alone and desperate, and wanting more for her daughter, Barbara reached out to Schurig Center.
Pam has benefited from numerous services including yoga, occupational therapy, life skills classes, art therapy, and support groups. Barbara receives support, education, and respite that provide critical assistance for her to cope with the challenges of caring for herself and her daughter. Not only have their lives greatly improved, but Pam’s abilities have as well.
Meet Giselle. You may not know her, but you have helped her.
At the age of 56, Giselle was enjoying the life she had worked so hard to create. She had been a nurse at San Francisco General Hospital for 30 years and had no plans to retire. Then, in 2011, Giselle had several days filled with excruciating headaches. The pain became so severe that her daughter, Giselle Elizabeth, rushed her to the hospital. It turned out that she was experiencing a stroke. “That is all I remember and the next six months were a blur,” said Giselle.
Grief, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of loss after a stroke are typical feelings for both the survivor and the family members. “It seemed as if the rug had been pulled out from under us,” says Giselle Elizabeth, a San Francisco police officer. “My mom felt like she had lost part of her identity and purpose. And I was overwhelmed by having to become my mother’s caregiver and having our roles reversed.”
In her quest for help, Giselle Elizabeth found Schurig Center. “It was the only place in the Bay Area that could tailor programs and services to fit my mom’s skill level,” she explains. Here her mother participates in several programs, including a support group facilitated by a licensed neuropsychologist, a brain wellness course, a therapeutic poetry group, gardening, adaptive yoga, and resource referral assistance. Giselle Elizabeth attends supportive and educational services to address the many concerns faced by caregivers.
A stroke happens every 40 seconds in the United States and is the leading cause of long-term disability. And it is just one of many types of brain injuries. Statistically, more people in the U.S. sustain a brain injury than are afflicted with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, and breast cancer combined! The injuries can result from a car accident, fall, sports injury or concussion, viral infection, tumor, or in the case of Giselle, a stroke.
“I’m not sure where I would be without Schurig Center…I would be lost, at home doing nothing, afraid to go out.” Giselle
At age 30, Stephanie is relearning much of what came naturally before she contracted viral encephalitis and spent three months in a coma. Her smile is infectious and her determination is inspirational, as she takes two buses each day to get from her family’s home in Santa Rosa to Schurig Center.
“It’s great to be with people who understand what I’m going through,” says Stephanie about the staff and fellow survivors she works with each day. “It’s comforting to spend time with people who have also lost a lot.”
Prior to her illness, Stephanie has graduated from college and was a successful sales representative living on her own. Now she lives with her father, stepmother, brother, and sister. A constant threat of seizures makes it unsafe for Stephanie to live alone.
“All of my old friends are getting married, having children, and buying homes. While it’s hard to be starting over again at my age, I’m grateful to be learning new skills and forming great friendships. I’m a pretty happy person and lucky to have so much support.”
After his motorcycle accident, Peter remained unconscious and hospitalized for two-and-a-half months. “I was zipping along, without a helmet, and the truck driver never saw me,” says Peter, without a trace of resentment.
Though Peter struggles with short-term memory loss, he’s discovering a range of new interests and skills at Schurig Center.
“I love being here because so many doors are open to me. I’m writing poetry, learning to garden, and relearning everyday life skills such as cooking. In addition, I’ve met some wonderful people.
“We have discussions about what’s hard for us, like knowing when to tell people that we’ve had a brain injury. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words, and sometimes it’s hard to know when to explain what I’ve been through.”
Peter says that he never gets bored and is eternally grateful for all the help he’s receiving. “Once I’m able to improve my vocabulary and response time, I’d like to speak at high schools about my experience and the importance of wearing a helmet.”
Five years ago, at the age of 18, Gladiola developed meningitis and, as a result, suffered five separate strokes. Despite this, she still holds on to her dream of becoming a dental hygienist and she’s planning to get started on the prerequisite classes.
“When I first came out of my coma,” says Gladiola, “everything was brand new for me.”
Everything changed for Gladiola when a neuropsychologist recommended Schurig Center. She spends two days a week at Schurig Center participating in the Therapeutic Program where she creates art and most importantly, interacts with people who truly care and understand.
At home, Gladiola enjoys spending time with her niece and playing with her two Chihuahua puppies.
Schurig Center continues to strengthen, expand and add services to address the gaps in the continuum of care for survivors and their families. Please consider a gift of $25 to provide a critical lifeline of hope, healing, and purpose. Or consider a gift of $50 or even $100 to ensure that more individuals have access to affordable therapeutic services that help them rebuild their lives – and their spirits – after a brain injury.