Woman With Brain Injury Inspires Other TBI Survivors

Miami brain injury attorneys are always interested in how their clients, and other people who must deal with brain injuries, cope with the changes in their lives. In Kansas (coincidentally in Miami County, Kansas) a fledgling support group, named Heads Up, has opened its arms to people living with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, and those who support them.

The survivors and supporters have found the support group the way people in rural areas often do — largely through word of mouth.

In 2007, Roxanne Bollin co-founded Heads Up.

“Everybody was looking for resources and not being able to get them,” Bollin said. “Then we found out that other people were looking for them, too.”

They built their group using a blueprint from the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City.

Roxanne, or Rox, has become one of the most recognizable faces of Heads Up.

As small as she is, she’s hard to miss in a room. A dark-haired and dark-eyed Italian, she’s spunky like Sally Field, gesturing and pointing as she speaks.

She wears a medal of St. Teresa of Avila, the patron saint of…

headache sufferers, around her neck.

Rox is not able to drive because of her brain injury. “She gets around,” says the owner of the diner where she eats lunch every day.

Every day, just leaving the house is a lengthy process for Rox and Amanda Davis, a transitional living specialist who helps Rox.

Ideally, Rox would like to live in one giant, open room, not the cramped apartment where she bangs into tables and furniture when she’s tired and unsteady with the cane. Her world has shrunk; before the injury, she lived in a big house on several acres outside of town.

Bollin keeps everything she needs on a daily basis within arm’s reach of the sofa. The table next to the couch looks like an artist’s workbench, cluttered with beads she uses to make jewelry for friends and palettes of smeared watercolors. “My brain injury unleashed a creative side I never had,” said Rox. She takes painting lessons at an art gallery on the town square when she can afford them.

Rox has a note stuck to the back of the front door with a checklist she consults every time she leaves the house.

This is Rox with a brain injury, light-years removed from her old self, an on-the-go divorcee who “never had time to sit down” raising two sports-crazy sons. With a brain injury, she doesn’t cook anymore. Friends bring her food and fresh fruits and vegetables because sometimes she forgets to eat.

Rox with a brain injury doesn’t wear the dresses and suits of Rox the insurance agent; most days, she wears a T-shirt.

A high school friend says her personality hasn’t changed a lot, she’s just a little more frail. Her spirit is still there.

Rox was the victim of a beating on July 15, 2005. Her attacker knocked her to the ground, kicked her and slammed her head again and again into the floor, her brain bashing against the inside of her skull.

A doctor told her at the hospital, “One more kick and you would have been dead.”

She doesn’t recall the attack, but witnesses have told her what happened. People who have suffered a traumatic brain injury almost never remember the injury because of the damage to the brain tissue that controls new memories.

All the struggles that Rox had after that became fodder for Heads Up and, more recently, for the Governor’s Mental Health Services Planning Council, to which she has been appointed. Part of the council’s job is monitoring and evaluating how well mental-health services are provided across the state.

“I don’t want my life to become stagnant, otherwise they’ll put me away,” Rox has said. “That is something that does worry you when you feel like there’s something going wrong. Because new things are always bringing new awakenings. And it’s been five years, and I still experience new awakenings. Some setbacks, and then I have to start all over again, learn again.

“And that’s OK, because if you don’t accept it, you can’t do anything about it. It’s not all bad.”

Source: Kansas City Star “Woman with traumatic brain injury serves as inspiration for other survivors” August 20, 2010