Valley Life for All: Audrey McNeeley and Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: The Vail Daily, 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 sticky note on your forehead explaining your behavior, but some with traumatic brain injuries often wish they could do just that.
“We can’t see a brain injury,” says Audrey McNeely, a navigator and advisor at Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado. “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 all kinds of brain injuries. No particular injury dominates our population of high-risk sports enthusiasts. McNeely sees traumatic brain injuries caused by accidents, strokes, suicide attempts and domestic violence. But there’s two things in common among traumatic brain injury 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 traumatic brain injury 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 int their community, so community becomes family. It’s so important to create relationships and circles of support.”
McNeely also meets individually with clients to work 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 traumatic brain injury survivors is to be understood by friends, family, and the community. McNeely tells of an unfortunate result of the community not understanding traumatic brain injuries.
“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 traumatic brain injuries. “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 September 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.