Carol Stanley, an employee with the firm for over 12 years, has a compelling story to tell. In January 2007, although she didn’t know it at the time, Carol’s whole life changed. A critical event would set her on a path as a crusader, for her son and her family, as well as for folks she didn’t even know. Carol was to take up the banner of awareness for victims of Traumatic Brain Injury. Because of the importance of this matter, I am giving a full account of Carol’s journey.
The journey began when Carol’s son, Jason, a student at Auburn University, was physically assaulted by three men just off campus. Jason’s head hit the concrete pavement with blunt force, knocking him unconscious. Despite an initial visit to the emergency room, where his injury was dismissed as minor, within 24 hours Jason found himself in another hospital’s emergency room. There doctors discovered Jason had fractures to his skull and jaw, as well as nerve damage to his right ear, leaving him deaf on that side. He would spend 24 hours in the neuro intensive care unit, and five additional days under observation in the hospital before being released.
Although Jason was physically on the road to recovery, he and his mother didn’t realize that he had suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Even if they had known Jason had suffered a TBI, they wouldn’t have realized that even a mild TBI, like a concussion, can have lasting long-term effects. And Jason’s injuries were far from mild. Most folks still know little about TBIs.
Most people who think about head injuries can easily grasp physical side effects that might result from such a blow – things like dizziness, disorientation, blurry vision, maybe even impaired motor skills. Victims of TBI and their families and doctors often focus on these types of visible injuries, which can be seen with the naked eye or on X-rays or other medical scans. But, most folks are not aware of the “silent disabilities” that come with TBI. These are the injuries you can’t see, and that often are misunderstood. They often develop gradually as the TBI sufferer works to recover from his or her physical injuries.
These neurobehavioral or behavior and cognition problems may include problems with concentration, memory attention, impulses, aggression, irritability, depression, moodiness and changes in personality. A person who has suffered a TBI may begin acting differently, lashing out at family and friends or losing confidence and becoming withdrawn. A person with a TBI also is at a greater risk of suicide. They may also lose insight or self-awareness, so that they do not even realize that their behavior is actually changing. It’s very important for family members to be aware of the possible neurological side effects of TBI, as victims may lose their ability to effectively process information or understand social cues accurately.
Carol began to have the first inklings of these larger cognitive problems when Jason called her one night several months after his assault. He said he felt that something was wrong – he felt depressed and just didn’t feel like himself. Worried, Carol called Jason’s neurosurgeon, who put her in touch with a neuropsychologist in Birmingham, Ala., who was familiar with TBI. It was only then that the deeper significance of Jason’s injuries came to light.
At that time, nobody had ever told Carol or Jason about traumatic brain injury. If Jason hadn’t called his mother and shared his concerns with her there is no telling what would have happened. Jason had anger, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and he was depressed. Neither Carol nor Jason had any idea at the time that all this was caused by his injuries. Carol thanks God Jason told her.
In the next few years, Carol and Jason have learned more about TBI, and made adjustments so as to live with its effects. Carol has gradually expanded her network to both learn more about TBI and to spread awareness to others. She now works with agencies including the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Head Injury Foundation, state suicide task force and mental health departments, and the Alabama High School Athletic Association, which at the beginning of August was successful in passing tough new laws to protect student athletes from the harmful effects of concussions. Carol had this to say about her involvement:
My whole point to reaching out to different groups is to help increase the understanding of TBI. It can happen to any of us, and it will change your life forever. Without awareness, you don’t have a fighting chance. I’m hoping our journey will help not only head injury patients, but will open doors for people with all kinds of disabilities.
Most recently, Carol and Jason have been working with Auburn University’s Center for Disability Research and Service, which opened on the campus in July 2010. The center was originally designed to study and assist people with autism – especially younger students from within the community – and as a teaching facility for people who work with people with disabilities. The center also explores various assistive technologies that can help people with disabilities succeed in the classroom and live independently in the community.
“I was reaching out everywhere to try to help advocate for Jason in his academics issues at Auburn,” Carol explained. Because folks who have suffered a TBI have problems with concentration and cognitive skills, Carol says Jason was struggling to complete his academic coursework. Through the Center, Jason will be able to utilize special software programs and set up apps for his iPhone that will help keep him organized and on track.
Building on this, Carol is working with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services to see if they can help Jason with an iPad and a “smart pen” that can record what it written and convert it to the computer. This type of assistive technology is gaining attention as a resource for combat veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, to help them with PTSD and other side effects of their injuries. Carol had this to say:
Jason was very excited and thought this technology would be very helpful. Once again God has led me to new information to help Jason and others. I hope this may open doors for other TBI survivors in the education field.
Because of the violent nature of the crime that caused Jason’s injuries, in addition to her advocacy for brain injury awareness, Carol also is working with victims’ rights groups. She has worked extensively with Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL) as well as the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. Carol is proud to be able to work on behalf of her son, and gives all the credit to God for providing her with the strength to continue the fight.
Carol says that two scriptures have helped her get through this entire ordeal. One was John 16:33 which deals with overcoming adversity: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The other comes from Philippians 4:13, which tells us: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Carol says without God’s strength there is no way she could have done all that she has done for her son, her family and for others. She acknowledges that God has been her rock.
We are all very proud of Carol for her dedication to a cause and for all of her hard work described above. She has been a real inspiration to thousands of folks. What Carol had done, and continues to do, is very important. Lots of folks will benefit because of Carol’s dedication and hard work. If you would like more information on TBI, you can contact Carol at 800-898-2034 or by email at Carol.Stanley@beasleyallen.com.
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