BENEFITING: JCC of the Greater Five Towns
EVENT DATE: Nov 02, 2014
On August 4th, 2000, my life changed forever. I was a successful dentist, a father of three and living in the 5 Towns when a tragedy happened. While on vacation in Monticello, NY, I was riding my Bicycle. Coming down a hill, I swerved to avoid a dead animal on the side of the road. I was thrown off my bike and landed on my head. I ended up in a coma for close to a month. My family was told that I would not live to see another day.
When I came to, it was clear that life would never be the same. I had a diffuse axonal injury aka traumatic brain injury (TBI). For the next 3 years my life was spent in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation centers such as Rusk, Helen Hayes, Burke, Mount Sinai and similar facilities, where I would learn how to speak and how to walk again. My dental career ended that day. My full time job became recovering.
After years in and out of rehab, I was back home struggling with the aftermath of such a devastating life event; the loss of my profession, separation from my wife and kids (and eventual divorce), being disabled, anger, depression, frustration and loneliness. My family, friends and the community were relentless in their support and drove me (both literally and figuratively) to rehab and were instrumental in my recovery. As for my feelings and emotions following the accident, I didn’t have any one to turn to.
One day a woman named Lisa Barnett, a social worker from the JCC of the Five Towns, came to visit. Someone had told her about my situation and she came to assess my needs and see if I would fit into any support groups that the JCC had at the time. Realizing that my needs were different than anyone else’s Lisa went back to the Director and urged them to start a group just for people with Traumatic Brain Injury. And they did.
The Traumatic Brain Injury Support Program at the JCC serves brain-injured adults within the community and offers support, respite & resources to family members. The program provides ongoing socialization, fosters friendships and offers emotional support. Their goal is to offer a safe haven where people like me and my family feel accepted for who we are. Co-facilitated by Lisa Barnett, LCSW-R and Rebecca Gordon, LMSW, the professional staff and volunteers have created a nurturing environment that has enhanced the social, physical and emotional well-being of each client. The Group brings together many types of people with brain injuries who have the support of others and know that they are not alone and that there are people who are interested in helping.
This support group became my lifeline during a time when I found it hard to get up in the morning and face another day of not being the person I once was. No one will ever understand what a TBI survivor goes through and the world in which we are thrown that Chas v’Shalom no one should ever have to visit.
Fourteen years later, I still participate in the program and I am in a far better place than I was. I also have someone in my life who understands me, my needs and the needs of others who have TBI. My girlfriend, Wendy Phaff, has been running to raise money for charities for 8 years. This year she is running in the NYC Marathon on November 2nd. I wish I could run with her but since I can’t we have made a deal to partner together and raise $5000.00 for the JCC TBI Support Group. She’ll do the running, I’ll do the fundraising. We are committed to spreading the word about the wonderful progress the group makes in helping individuals and their families.
Please click on the DONATE button to the right to make your contribution.
Any amount will help and your donation will go directly to the JCC to insure that when someone needs it, the help is there.
Thank you for your generosity!
Steven Wald and Wendy Phaff