Valley Life for All column: Audrey McNeely and Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado
Valley Life for All
Editor’s note: The Post Independent, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles to increase awareness of the value of people of all abilities.
It may be absurd to wear a stickie note on your forehead explaining your behavior, but some with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) often wish they could do just that.
“We can’t see a brain injury,” says Audrey McNeely, navigator and advisor at Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (BIAC). “If people can’t see it, how can they reconcile with it? If survivors could wear a sign saying, ‘I have a brain injury,’ people might treat them with more respect and leniency.”
At BIAC, McNeely sees myriad brain injuries. No particular injury dominates our high risk sports enthusiasts population. McNeely sees TBI caused by accidents, strokes, suicide attempts and domestic violence. But there’s two things in common among TBI survivors: They need resources, and they want to be understood.
BIAC is a resource for survivors, families and providers. Its goal is to have survivors thrive in their community through guidance, resources, support groups and education by engaging with TBI survivors in lifelong growth.
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“We offer programs to connect people to resources in their communities like neurophysiological evaluations or refer clients to the who’s-who experts in brain injury.”
As a navigator, McNeely describes herself as a concierge of sorts. “I know the mountains area well, so I can help people with TBIs stay in their community, so community becomes family. It’s so important to create relationships and circles of support.”
McNeely also meets individually with clients to works on identified goals. “We meet for about six months and work on organizing, and memory strategies to get back a semblance of normal life. It’s like putting more tools in their toolbox.”
The biggest challenge for TBI survivors is to be understood by friends, family, and the community. McNeely tells of an unfortunate result of the community not understanding TBI.
“A client was continually being kicked off the public bus because the driver and passengers thought they were drunk. Not so. So we created a TBI survivor card saying to the effect, ‘Pardon my behavior, I have a sustained brain injury.’ It’s a tiny moment of understanding. A card might not be enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
McNeely hopes communities strive to better understand those with TBI. “If you see someone struggling, step up and offer to help. Have some common courtesy, be non-judgmental and patient.” She adds, “Those with TBIs don’t necessarily want to be cared for, but they want to be cared about. Listen, be there.”
BIAC is having a fundraiser, The Pikes Peak Challenge, on Sept. 11. Contact the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado at 303-355-9969 or BIAColorado.org.
Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at ValleyLifeForAll.org or on Facebook.
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It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club were the de facto champions of their hosted tournament this weekend.