that a small group of thoughtful, committed citezens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only that ever has.
- Margaret Meade
Having a brain injury refigures a person’s reality. Though physically, you may not be able to discern that this person has survived a brain injury, in the unseen world, this person is not a mirror reflection of you.
Survivors are often misread and not understood; it’s not easy to understand how a survivor’s world is different without the right guidance. Their world is re-assembled; and of course, many dynamics are problematic, yet survivors usually become more genuine! Gray Matters is aimed at giving you the personal sense of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a brain injury survivor, so you can understand for yourself what type of personal alterations take place after going through a brain injury.
The lack of personal discernment and sensitivity regarding survivors of brain injury is what stirred me to write Gray Matters. When others treat survivors with lack of consideration, or even look down at them for what they’re not able to do (like follow conversation or remember what was just said – and the list goes on…), this drives survivors further into isolation or depression. With Gray Matters, I am looking to familiarize my readers with what it is like to go from abled to disabled and how the effects of brain injury are all –inclusive. I do this because “Knowledge births tolerance and acceptance. For survivors deserve to be granted their peace!” (Lerner, 2006, p. 36).
The very first poem I wrote about brain injury (see below) provoked such inner reflection, that I was inspired to keep writing, until finally, it became evident that I was writing a book. My intent is to give my readers a personal feeling, not just a cognitive library. Yet if I use any clinical terms, definitions can be found in the glossary and other references can also be found in the bibliography; the aim is to target people to learn about brain injury. The purpose is to present a new, uncomplicated method of understanding what happens when our brain is injured.
Trauma’s Unceasing Harvest
Have you heard anything
Regarding injury to the brain?
For in your heart,
You’d think it’s such a shame.
Lets take Jimmy here,
He’s a friend of mine,
Walking to school one day,
Everything was just fine,
Ready to cross the street,
Two cars hit with a crash,
One car rebounded,
And laid Jimmy in the grass.
Sent him right into dreamland,
Twenty days in a coma, or more -
And now he’s battling with himself,
Just to do every day chores.
He sees a therapist regularly,
The way he handles,
I don’t know how,
But let’s ask Jimmy
How he’s doing now.
“It was hard for me at first,
Everything seemed so strange,
Yet my teacher tells me,
That nothing’s changed!
The girl that I used to like,
We’d meet out on the track,
When our classes were free,
Now she won’t even look at me!
To tell you the truth,
I don’t know
If I want to be here in school,
They all look at me
Like I’m such a fool.”
Well thank you Jimmy,
For speaking your mind,
Just know that out there,
Are people that care,
Them, I’m sure that you will find.
Being dragged through the wringer,
Jimmy starts his wrinkled life anew,
And as much as you may have heard,
Do you really know what Jimmy’s going through?
When you read Gray Matters, you will delve into the Inside Perspective of brain injury and also come to know the importance of hope, support, love, faith and a good attitude! Survivors can gain a more complete understanding of their injury and of themselves; I have been told that reading Gray Matters has helped many to cope. Friends and family will gain a better understanding of their loved one’s condition and how they can proactively interact. For professionals in the field of Rehab, I’d like for them to walk away with new insight and sensitivities in their work with brain injury survivors. Gray Matters is uplifting and inspiring; it contains many gems! I hope that all who read Gray Matters will enjoy it and soak in its riches!
Heidi Lerner is the Founder and Director of Gray Matters Survivor Outreach, a peer-based initiative for brain injury survivors. Heidi facilitates several Gray Matters Support Groups in and outside of San Diego California. She is the Director of the Gray Matters Survivor Outreach Mentorship Program in which mentors will be utilized to individualize, accentuate and accelerate the needed developments in their rehabilitation.
This movie is coming out soon. It is remarkable how similar of a story Heidi went through!
Director: Bob Talbot - Cast: Katie Pofahl - : Otter 501 is a feature film due in theaters this spring! When an adventuresome young woman discovers a sea otter pup stranded on the beach and in desperate need of a second chance, an entire species’
Heidi shares a real similar story (even in the same location):
Three Western Sea Kayakers met at Casa Verde Beach in Monterey to go surfing. Once in the surf, Heidi Lerner went to go check on one of the paddlers when he capsized his boat. She asked him if he was Ok; he said he was fine, but said something about an otter. They started looking around.
When Heidi got eye contact with the otter, it immediately approached her boat. That otter jumped aboard and snuggled into her lap (i.e. in the skirt – what attaches the paddler to the boat). She was awed at how comfortable with her it was. She decided to let the otter stay on the boat with her for a while, as this seemed to be it’s chosen preference.
The otter rode atop the boat for some time with her. It would see a wave coming that would take the boat and would dive off – Heidi would ride it in and the otter would swim up to the boat in the soup (i.e. in the whitewater, shoreward of where the waves brake) and hop on again. It was along for the ride! In total, they spent 1 1/2 – 2 hours together.
At one point, the otter began to chew on her skirt. She immediately shook her finger and said, “No!” in a firm voice. It bowed its nose like a guilty dog. It seemed that this otter just needed a MOM!!!!
After this very special surfing extravaganza, Heidi reported this otter to the Monterey Bay Aquarium research department. Karl Mayer, the otter researcher, informed her that “it” was a she and she was reported to have approached quite a few surfers and kayakers in Monterey. According to her tag number, the aquarium had raised her since she was orphaned at about two weeks old.
In hoping that she would have more of a chance to adopt wild ways, Maggie was captured and moved to a less frequented Piedras Blancas, near San Simeon. Well, this didn’t work out, as she continued to approach surfers and kayakers in San Simeon as well. The researchers then decided that even there, she was not safe and that she would only be safe, living in the confines of the aquarium. The Monterey Bay Aquarium moved her into their otter exhibit. She was named Maggie and in the exhibit, she joined other otters, Rosa and Mae.
When Heidi first heard that Maggie would be contained in the aquarium, she was saddened, but when she thought about it – Maggie loves people, perhaps this would not just be the safest route, but it may also be good for her. When Heidi visited Maggie in the otter exhibit, she saw that Maggie is kept inside of double glass, which means that she cannot see any of the people all around her who are staring at her. If she could, she’d be checking us all out!!! Now she is stuck within the exhibit – not quite the atmosphere for her to exercise her adventurous and loving character.
Heidi hesitated in writing this trip report, but she decided to put it out for educational purposes. Although she thoroughly enjoyed Maggie’s antics in the surf and was deeply touched by interacting with this supposedly wild animal, she discourages kayakers from intruding in the wild lives of animals in the sea. All kayakers/boaters/surfers should realize that we are out there in their turf and we should keep our influence to a minimum. If we contribute to taming the wildlife, we are doing them a great disservice. Help keep the animals wild and you could end up keeping them from harm – or from a fate such as Maggie’s, which is to live out her days in the confines of an aquarium exhibit.
This is not saying to hold back love for the sea critters. They are deserving of the deepest love and respect!
Paddle on in peace!