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This article was published 6/1/2014 (2717 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Often invisible, the disabilities caused by a brain injury are frequently overlooked or misunderstood.
Formed in 1987, the Manitoba Brain Injury Association (MBIA) recognizes the physical, cognitive and emotional effects of a brain injury and provides much-needed education and support to those affected.
MBIA runs a brain injury survivors group the first three Wednesdays of every month, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in its 825 Sherbrook St. location.
MBIA executive director David Sullivan said brain injuries, be they caused by impact, aneurysm, stroke or drug/alcohol abuse, can cause such problems as memory deficiencies, poor concentration, impulsivity, irritability and depression, in addition to physical symptoms like headaches, vision or hearing problems and fatigue.
However, he said perhaps the biggest obstacle for brain injury sufferers is simply getting on with their lives.
"It’s a big step," Sullivan said. "It’s like relearning to live. It’s a new beginning. That’s what we do, support one another to new beginnings."
Garry Batenchuk, 37, is one of those individuals trying to get back on track. Several years ago, Batenchuk got into an altercation at a bar, received a blow to the head and was subsequently in the hospital for two years, including four months in a coma.
Since 2005, Batenchuk has been a participant in the Wednesday support group, as well as a smaller, more focused discussion group MBIA runs on Tuesdays. He said the sessions have been very beneficial for him, although he was hesitant to attend at first.
"He (Batenchuk’s father) dropped me off the first time and because I was very shy I said ‘No, there’s no brain injury (group),’ so my dad took me home," Batenchuk said.
"The second time I did the same thing, I told my dad there was no meeting and my dad took off in his car. He knew I was lying. He was out there to help me do something better for myself instead of sitting, watching TV and doing nothing. He wanted me to get out and do something, be active, and that’s what I’m doing."
In addition to MBIA’s programs and the support of his parents (Batenchuk said his mother quit her job to spend every day with him during his extensive hospital stay), Batenchuk said he’s greatly benefitted from tai chi.
"My stress, they took my blood work before and my stress levels were high, and since I’ve been taking tai chi, it has dropped and my balance is back," he said.
In addition to sharing, Sullivan said the MBIA support group also features a fair bit of socializing, with activities like potluck dinners and bowling. He said that community aspect is very important, as not all the group members have a solid support system at home.
"The members of the group take care of one another. They look out for one another," Sullivan said.
Batenchuk, who earned his GED earlier this year and is planning to be a teacher’s aide, was able to help a friend of his go back to school as well.
"Now, I just feel like I want to help people," Batenchuk said. "The same thing happened to me, a lot of people helped me, so I just want to reach out and do the same thing for other people who need help."
For more information on MBIA’s support and preventative programs, go to www.mbia.ca
Community journalist — The Times
Jared Story was the community journalist for The Times.