I had searched high and low for a brain-injury support group for my husband and myself right after the accident, but had come up empty. Why not start one of our own? True, neither of us had ever run a support group before, but we both knew how to run a business meeting. We could start there. It would be one foot in front of the other, the blind leading the blind, but it was the only thing that came to mind.
The nearest support group for brain-injury survivors was about forty miles from our home, which was too far. We called my hus¬band Norm’s former therapist, to share our idea, and she agreed to help us investigate the possibilities. On August 18, 1998, we received a memo from the director of rehabilitation telling us she would be happy to lend her support in running this group through the Communicative Disorders Department of Glendale Adventist Hospital, assisting us in any way possible.
First things first, I thought, opening the dictionary to find a name for our new group, something not only descriptive but also motivating. I found twenty-one dictionary entries with “brain” as their prefix, stopping at the word “brainstorming.” The definition was “to engage in or organize shared prob¬lem solving.” That was perfect-it was exactly what we would be doing, solving problems as a group in an organized way.
Now that we had our name, “Brainstormers,” we needed to get the word out. Norm’s therapist contacted the hospital media department, which released an article in the Glendale News, announcing the group, whom it was for, and when we would meet. After deciding to hold the meetings on the second and last Wednesday of each month, we distributed flyers and gave the information to the California Head Injury Foundation for publication in their newsletter. We talked about making name badges for each prospective group member, a crucial detail, since most people suffering with ABI had little or no short-term memory and wouldn’t remember each other’s names from one meeting to the next. It seemed like we were well on our way.
With little idea of what to do, I moved forward, certain only that this group was the next logical step for Norm and me. During the two weeks before we started, we visited two existing brain-injury support groups to see what they were doing and what worked. The first was too structured and the second too uncertain. Just like the Three Bears, we wanted to create a group that was neither too hot nor too cold so we combined the best ideas from both groups so that it was just right. While the group would concentrate on the brain-injured individuals, I also wanted to include their caregivers, who had no support system in the area whatsoever. I figured the meetings would determine the agendas, but planned to invite caregivers and family members, and crucial participants in a brain-injured person’s support system.
Now, nine years later we just had our first garage sale and earned enough money to incorporate our Brainstormers-ABI Support group. We have moved to the Glendale Adventist Church and continue to get new members weekly. We attend lectures, attend live theatre, visit museums and continue to look for free activities in our community.