It’s always nice to know when someone who has dealt with serious hardship turns around and uses their misfortune to make the world a better place for others. That’s what Georgetown resident Vicki Boyles is doing here in Kentucky. Boyles suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2004 when she was a victim of a rear-end vehicle collision. Since her long recovery, she’s devoted much of her time to making sure that cyclists, most of them youngsters, are well-protected from TBI. She’s a member of the governing board for a non-profit group, TJ’s Warriors. It’s an organization whose mission is to provide free bike helmets, primarily to children. “The mission,” Boyles says, “is to protect them one helmet at a time.” The organization recently partnered with the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky to distribute 89 free bike helmets to adults and children who would have had difficulty affording to pay for the valuable safety devices. And on October 20, of this year, it distributed more bike helmets to both adults and children at the Georgetown Safety Fair at Georgetown College outside of Lexington. TJ’s Warriors was recently established this past August. It’s named for a (now) 14-year-old boy (TJ Floyd) who was not wearing a protective helmet when he suffered a brain injury in a bicycle accident at age seven. “TJ had to have brain surgery and is still relearning to walk,” Boyles said. Boyles had her own long recovery since her brain injury 14 years ago when her car was hit from behind; she wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was thrown all around her vehicle “like a human ping-pong ball,” she confesses. Her TBI involved a brain hemorrhage, and Boyles was in a coma for around a week. Her wound was left open during her coma in order to drain before being closed with staples. “With a brain injury you have to learn a new normal,” Boyles says. The number one thing with my brain injury was (controlling) impulsivity.” After her physical recovery, her lack of impulse control was marked by an inability to control spending with her many credit cards. She quickly maxed them out because of her poor impulse control from her TBI. Ultimately being referred to the Neuro Restorative in Georgetown, which assists recovering TBI victims, Boyles underwent behavioral and emotional counseling, along with speech, occupational, and cognitive therapy, the latter of which helped her to control her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But after her recovery, according to Boyles, she was still trying to find a voice to do something to give back, when she learned about TJ’s Warriors and immediately saw the match. “Who better to talk to people about brain injuries than someone who has gone through it and knows what is lacking and needs to be done?” At the Johnson Law Firm, we have seen how serious TBI can impact the lives of victims and their families. Approximately 1.7 million people suffer TBIs every year in the U.S., yet too little attention is paid to this serious condition. If you’re unfamiliar with TBI, now is a great opportunity to learn more. What is TBI? To briefly describe it, TBI is head trauma, or a serious concussion. TBI can be either closed or penetrating. Closed head injuries occur when the head sustains blunt force trauma by striking against an object. A penetrating TBI occurs when an object breaks through the skull and enters the brain. Vicki Boyles suffered a penetrating TBI. Signs of TBI include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Physical symptoms: Seizures, headaches, dizziness, sometimes loss of consciousness, and/or limited paralysis in arms or legs
- Sensory problems: Loss of balance, less sensitive to lights, sounds, sense of touch
- Behavior changes: Outbursts, anger, depression or anxiety for no apparent reason
- Challenges to thinking skills: Shorter attention span, difficulty with memory, and problem-solving, or learning new skills
- Difficulty with speech: Slurred words, speaking with less clarity or conviction, or using incomplete sentences or thoughts.