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The Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association wants to raise awareness about prevalence of disability

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If you are affected, you are definitely not alone; on average, about 450 people acquire a brain injury in Canada every day

When Marina White’s son was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, his family decided one day to bring toy cars into the hospital.

“We brought in little Dinkies and asked him to show us what happened,” White said in a phone interview Friday.

So he showed them.

Randy, who had just turned 20, had been driving his Jeep along a road near his Mount Pearl home when another vehicle darted out in front of him. He swerved to avoid it. The Jeep rolled, and the roof collapsed.

The head trauma left him unable to walk or speak, even though he retained a recollection of what happened.

That was 20 years ago.



Marina White is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association. — Contributed
Marina White is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association. — Contributed

Today, Randy uses a walker, but can get about on his own. He can speak, with difficulty, works out at the gym, and has a job at the local Y. He also has a lot of friends, and Marina says his personality has not changed much, something that often happens with brain injury.

His dream of becoming a police officer, however, was over.

“Things change, and you rearrange your life,” she says. “He’s happy to be alive. He says he’s lucky, and he is very lucky.”



Leading cause

About 452 people acquire a brain injury in Canada every day. That’s an average of one every three minutes, or 165,000 injuries a year. It’s the leading cause of death and disability for Canadians under the age of 40.

Yet oddly, many seem unaware of its prevalence.

“It’s the number one disability in the nation, and there are so many aspects of it that people just don’t think about until they actually experience a brain injury, or a family member they know of,” says Samantha Gerbeau, a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association (NLBIA)


About 452 people acquire a brain injury in Canada every day. That’s an average of one every three minutes, or 165,000 injuries a year. And brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for Canadians under the age of 40.


Brain injury can happen in many ways. Strokes and aneurysms can cause permanent damage, as can substance abuse.

Even the effects of physical trauma may not be immediately evident.

“A lot of the time, people will bang their heads and think nothing of it,’ said Gerbeau.

“And then months down the road, and sometimes even years, all of a sudden they are finding their vision is being compromised, their hearing is being compromised, their memory is being compromised.”



Samantha Gerbeau is a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association. — Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Samantha Gerbeau is a board member with the Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association. — Keith Gosse/The Telegram

It can happen to anyone, and it can happen completely out of the blue.

Gerbeau talks of one woman who had a box fall on her head in a retail store. An office worker, the woman ended up losing her employment.

“With brain injury, it’s not like something you can diagnose and come up with a prognosis … on what the end result will be,” says Marina White, who became president of the NLBIA board last year after being involved for more than a decade. “With brain injury, every injury is unique, and every outcome is unique.”


Posted by Newfoundland and Labrador Brain Injury Association (NLBIA) on Saturday, September 19, 2020

Since the outcome is unpredictable, she said, it’s not helpful when doctors give a bleak prognosis.

“I found that in Randy’s case, whatever hope there was, they took it all away.”

The NLBIA, which offers numerous counseling and education programs across the province, is holding its annual general meeting on Wednesday. it s taking place both in person and virtually (on Zoom) at the second-floor boardroom at the association's offices at 31 Peet Street in St. John's. One of the topics will be fundraising, as a couple of important events had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

The event is open to the public, but capacity is limited. If the number exceeds 25, they will hold the meeting virtually.

For more information: www.nlbia.ca or call 709-221-1288.

Twitter: @pjackson_nl

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering health care for The Telegram


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