WYOMING COUNTY, N.Y.–
People around the country are recognizing March as Brain Injury Awareness Month. According to the Brain Injury Association of New York State, about 3.5 million people are currently living with a brain injury. That means a brain injury occurs every nine seconds.
Joyce Norman, from Wyoming County, is still feeling that effects of a simple incident that changed her life almost eight years ago. She said she hit her head while putting something into the trunk of her car.
“I opened the back door. I call it a hatch. It went up. I shoved the bag in and the door didn’t stay up like it’s supposed to. It fell right down and it fell on the eye side of my brain,” she said.
Joyce said she felt fine until she started feeling symptoms two days later.
“I had 20 different headaches. There was vertigo and dizziness. I couldn’t walk,” she said. She also said she had trouble forming words. She tried physical therapy and speech therapy with no luck. Finally she said a doctor diagnosed her with a brain injury and a post-concussive eye syndrome. She had to use a cane to stand and also wore two pairs of sunglasses to block light from her eyes.
“There was one point I had to decide which way I was going to go because it was a hopeless and helpless situation. I had to decide if I was going to fight or going to give up.” Joyce said.
“When you sustain a brain injury, your life is turned completely upside down for the most part, so you’re basically starting over in some aspects of your life,” Wendy Verrall, FACTS Coordinator for the Brain Injury Association of New York State, said.
Verrall said thousands of people in New York State have similar stories to Joyce. Majority of brain injuries come from car accidents, serious falls, sports injuries and strokes.
“You can be walking down the street and your trip over the sidewalk and hit your head. You can have a serious car accident or even a minor car accident, but you hit your head hard enough that it causes a brain injury,” Verrall said.
Verrall helps people with brain injuries get the help they need. She said several services are available in Western New York, including connecting people with support groups and helping students get extra support in school.
Almost eight years after Joyce Norman’s injury, she’s now also involved as a board member for the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
“I wanted to help the next generation of folks behind me, and my key thing is education.”
Joyce said her daily headaches finally ended just last year, but she still deals with other symptoms. Still, she says March being Brain Injury Awareness Month helps her cope with the struggles she and so many others have been through.
“It’s an anniversary to remind that I have to keep being positive because it is a struggle.” .