Criminal Injuries Compensation Board: The application

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.

AND THEN…

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.

A little inspiration from Sarah Ramsden

I stumbled across Sarah Ramsden’s story on Facebook a couple of years ago when I was learning about Kombucha and fermented vegetables. She runs a very popular video series on Fermentation (Fearless Fermentation) that I’m always meaning to take to refine our system at home. I love learning and when I read that Sarah had to have brain surgery and then changed her life over the last few years I felt like I’d found someone that gets it. I have about a dozen of her blogs bookmarked to refer to on hard days because I love her insight on how life can change completely after a health concern. Seriously, if you are feeling like your world just doesn’t fit anymore, grab a tea and curl up with her blog. She talks about her own journey from loving the corporate and city life to moving across the country to find joy with less. For today I want to share specifically her blog post Unexpected Lessons From Taking Sick Leave. Sarah succeeds in giving words to the feelings Jason and I have had during his time off. Neither of us wants to say we are grateful for the brain injury or managing life while he is on disability, but we’ve learned some amazing things and been granted incredible opportunities along the way. I’ll sound like I’m stealing her words if I try to list our lessons, but I hope her blog can give you hope if you are in the midst of the painful days.

Review: Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury by Stohler and Hill

This was hands down the best book I have read about treatments for brain injuries. When I picked it up at my library I didn’t expect much, it was not a book I’d heard of before, I only picked it because our library has no other books about brain injuries. But then I started reading and I was blown away by it’s layout, clear language and thoroughness.

It can be found by it’s longer title, Coping with Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide to Living with the Challenges Associated with Post Concussion Syndrome and Brain Trauma, and is written by Diane Roberts Stohler and Barbara Albers Hill. I think the language and thoroughness of this book may be overwhelming to those that have a brain injury but it is the perfect resource for any support person. 

The book begins by discussing the anatomy and physiology of the brain and a variety of brain injury terms and injuries. This section is probably the most clear and concise version I have ever read and should influence how health care practitioners start speaking to their patients. A real understanding of what’s going on under the skin can do wonders for friends and family members’ compassion.

The book continues by breaking down symptoms into physical, mental, and emotional. The authors list the widest scope of symptoms that I’ve ever found in one resource and break each down into how it looks/feels, typical interventions, alternative interventions and what can be done at home as interventions. I found the format easy to follow and makes it easy to come up for a plan for moving forward – whether it is questions to ask a doctor or behaviours and routines to start practicing at home. This book succeeds in making treatments seem accessible and giving even this jaded writer hope for those new to the brain injury world.

Wrapping up the authors continue to explore all aspects of brain injury by discussing what recovery can look like, how to live together post brain injury and what advances in medicine are on the rise for brain injuries.

This is an incredibly helpful book that navigates brain injuries from a clinical rehab point of view. Unlike my other favourite books it does not include sympathy or funny stories to help the support system understand how hard rehab is, but it is the perfect guidebook for coming up with a plan of action.

A beautiful post from 16 Petals of Blue Light

This post comes a bit late, but I stumbled across this post from 16 Petals of Blue Light Saturday night and it’s been on my mind ever since.

I have no issue with Mother’s Day and so I didn’t want to share this post yesterday and detract from my love for our mothers, mother figures and all my friends celebrating their first mother’s day with babies. I am glad we have a day to be thankful for our mothers and I hope everyone was rightfully spoiled yesterday.

This post from 16 Petals of Blue Light should not take away from Mother’s Day, but shares some beautiful insight on how we as caregiver’s feel. I am grateful to Jason’s mom, and all the motherly figures he was blessed with, for creating the man I fell in love with and I never want that message to be lost. But over the last 22 months I have often felt like a mother to Jason more than a friend or wife. It’s a hard fact of caregiving, I’m far from the only one that feels this way (as demonstrated with this beautiful blog post). We’re lucky to be working on a different dynamic now but I remain grateful for wonderful writers that let me know I’m not alone in this journey.

Review: Learning by Accident by Rosemary Rawlins

A few weeks ago I shared a touching blog post by Rosemary Rawlins and realized I never published my review of her book. Learning by Accident: A Caregiver’s True Story of Fear, Family and Hope is her touching real life story of life after her husband Hugh was injured while cycling.

Rosemary writes beautifully and chooses her words carefully, so that with every description of an experience my heart was aching right along with her. I started this book multiple times during the first year of Jason’s injury and had to put it down every time I got to the chapters about being in the hospital immediately following Hugh’s accident. The fear and sadness was written so enchantingly I couldn’t help but relive Jason’s incident. If you have ever wanted to step into someone else’s shoes and understand the fear of losing your love, give this book a read. Likewise, if you want to understand the frustration that can come when dealing with the legal system and a brain injury, immerse yourself in her stories on dealing with the driver that hit Hugh. Rosemary’s candor will give you insight into situations you hopefully never have to live through.

Rosemary and Hugh’s story includes many, many acts of kindness and love from friends and family. It’s inspiring and a beautiful story of community. Unfortunately, this was an area I couldn’t see our story and I probably wept as much for the lovely acts of their friends as I did for our loneliness during Jason’s recovery. I think (based on many conversations, but no real research to speak of) that many families going through brain injury recovery become isolated and so I found it really lovely to hear about friends stepping up and showing love in a really concrete way. The friends and family described in Rosemary’s book are to be admired. For those of you going through as a caregiver I’m sure it’s not at all passive aggressive to highlight some of the stories and hand out copies to your own friends and family!

Finally, as much as I’ve discussed Rosemary’s writing technique, she includes a lot of information on brain injury recovery in general. She describes therapies and symptoms succinctly in a very accessible way.