Sometime last year, when we had already spent thousands on medical care for Jason and were facing the reality of losing thousands in his income, we decided to submit an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB). We had discussed the idea shortly after he was injured but pride, and I’ll admit laziness, got in the way. It wasn’t until we were 7 or 8 months into life with a traumatic brain injury that we decided we needed to ask for financial help.
It was a scary experience, most of the information available online suggested that asking for help from the CICB left victims re-victimized and embarrassed. The fear of the “hearing” with the CICB board was trumped only by the crushing desperation I felt filling out the paperwork. Weighing in at 15 pages this document requires describing the “incident” and revealing all the ways your life has been affected. Once you’ve torn your heart out to mail to them, you also need to include ALL your medical records, invoices, treatment notes, bills, insurance receipts, mileage records, and pay stubs.
A less brain injury friendly process I don’t think I could imagine. A less man friendly process would be hard. I think it’s fair to say both Jason and I barely survived the day we filled out that application. We worked on it for about 4 hours straight (sorry, OTs!) and then cried and had a nap followed by a drink.
Looking back, it’s another experience where I am so grateful that Jason is the man he is. It could not have been easy to hear my versions of how the injury had affected us – beyond the crappy pre wedding stress and long lost honeymoon, I had to detail the angry nights he couldn’t remember, the sadness I felt when he had to sleep all weekend (literally, awake for meals only) to recover from a week at work. He had to acknowledge the loss of friendships and skills at work, the changes in our relationship. If anything could make a 30 year old man feel like a failure I think it would be this application. We had already accumulated all the medical notes we needed but as we set about creating the binder to send in we made the mistake of reading his files. Facts we hadn’t been aware of became details to add to our nightmares – the fact that he had been unconscious in the ambulance, that the police had called in the Forensics team because they assumed this would be a homicide investigation, that there were 5 areas of bleeding instead of the 2 we’d known about. We survived and sent in our application, in all it was a full 3 inch binder of supporting documentation.
We had to continue to send in paperwork any time Jason had appointments or had his disability extended. We were supposed to run our trips to Michigan for behavioural optometry by his case manager before leaving but we didn’t know that and so they could not be covered.
It was a terrible process, and yet even with that criticism I don’t know of an easier one – perhaps only having an online portal to upload files so that we don’t need to kill so many trees for every application. And fortunately the application and the fear of the process was the hardest part. Next week I’ll detail our experience with the actual hearts and souls of CICB but basically we were blessed to meet some very compassionate and kind people.
If you know of anyone that needs to apply to CICB please give them our information. Having lived through the process once we are happy to share our experience and I happen to LOVE organizing when my heart isn’t being ripped to shreds. If they don’t want to reach out to us as random strangers, please offer to help them. Whether acting as a scribe or driving them from medical office to medical office to pick up their files, this process can wear people down and you can be an amazing gift to them as they struggle with identity and fear post victimization.