A brain injury can be devastating, not only for the patient but for their family and friends. In North Platte, there is a group working to help brain injury patients get back on track.
The North Platte Brain Injury Support Group meets every second Monday of the month at 2 p.m. at Great Plains Health Conference Room A. Leader Judy Nichelson, herself a registered nurse and a survivor of a 2005 head injury, said the group is a great network for patients.
Meetings can be educational and informational. Local speakers sometimes give presentations, or movies and videos relating to brain injury are shown. Patients interested in a certain topic will look for more information to share with the group.
New patients are referred to local services to help them get started toward recovery.
It’s a social group that includes outings and building friendships. All of the members — about 15 total — are survivors of brain injury or caregivers of brain injury patients.
“It’s hard to find someone to relate to the problems you’re having,” Nichelson said. “The group lets everyone know they’re not alone on this journey.”
The group is affiliated with both the Nebraska Brain Injury Advisory Council and the Nebraska Brain Injury Alliance. Annual conferences provide valuable information too, Nichelson said. The next one will be in Kearney March 22-23.
“I learned coping skills and found new resources from the conferences,” she said.
A major goal of Nichelson’s group and others has been finding ways to help even more people in Nebraska. Many patients in rural areas don’t have access to the right medical care or doctors who are familiar with brain injury medicine. They can fall through the cracks, Nichelson said.
“We’re looking at how we can rebrand brain injury,” she said. “Some think that to sustain a brain injury, you must have been doing something wrong.”
But there are a variety of reasons the brain can experience trauma, including stroke, drug use, a fall or a car accident.
“It’s not something you ever plan for,” Nichelson said. “And what’s frustrating about brain injuries is they don’t heal. Sometimes you get a little better; time helps, but it never goes away.”
Nichelson hopes that her group, the advisory council and the alliance can connect more patients to form a strong voice for survivors in the Nebraska Legislature.
Because the damage from a brain injury is on the inside, you can’t always see the problem, but steps can still be taken.
“It won’t be the same life you had before,” Nichelson said. “But you can still have a good life after a brain injury.”