Everyone is faced with hardships in life, and sometimes we go through tough times that seem to put our lives on hold. Responding to setbacks in a positive manner is often necessary to move forward.
Ann Boriskie is this month’s Teach Believe Inspire recipient for the way she responded to a terrible car crash that forever altered the course of her life.
Someone She Didn’t Recognize
A former elementary school teacher and corporate executive, Boriskie was a successful mother of three who, by all accounts, had life by the horns. But in 1998 she was involved in a car accident that caused her to sustain a traumatic brain injury. Following the injury, Boriskie was left unable to work because of chronic pain and memory loss, and she struggled to heal physically and emotionally.
Traumatic brain injuries are one of the most serious injuries a person can sustain, and it can take months or years to recover. Life can change drastically after such an event. Many TBI survivors must go through long periods of physical, occupational and speech therapy in order to regain some semblance of the life they once led. It is also very challenging for the loved ones of a TBI survivor; they must learn to live and interact with a slightly different version of the person they once knew.
Soon after the accident, Boriskie remembers looking in the mirror and seeing someone different, someone she didn’t quite recognize.
She had issues and problems common to TBI survivors. She would get lost while driving and have trouble remembering things like phone numbers. Her writing skills were diminished and many of her memories of important events, family trips and family happenings were just gone. Over time, she started having anxiety and felt paranoid.
At times like these, one can become lost in despair or they can press on and do what needs to be done to better their situation. Though she was in excruciating physical and mental pain, and even having suicidal thoughts, Boriskie had an epiphany. She realized her new life’s mission was to be a champion for the brain-injured, to help them realize that their life can be meaningful.
It’s hard to imagine someone realizing a need to help people with brain injuries when she herself was suffering from one.
But that’s exactly what Boriskie did.
The Brain’s Mysterious Power
The brain is an amazing and mysterious organ. When it becomes damaged, it can repair itself in myriad ways, but only if the person is willing to put in the work necessary for its recovery.
This is why, after her injury, Boriskie began to push herself harder than ever. She forced herself to do exercises, including walking and weightlifting, which she had done for 30 years. She kept driving, despite the fact that it was a challenge to remember the correct routes to places. Relearning vocabulary by making herself proofread her children’s writing, she read a lot during the rest periods that followed her various operations. She also began volunteering at nursing homes with Alzheimer’s patients, as many of their symptoms matched her own.
The Road to Brain Injury Recovery Leads to Greater Things
Boriskie’s road to recovery was a long one. She had many physical ailments and problems stemming from the accident, including injuries to her neck, back, jaw, shoulder, wrists, hand, heart and elbow. In fact, her brain injury wasn’t even diagnosed until over a year after her accident. She even lost friends who didn’t want to be around someone who was different.
As Boriskie realized she wasn’t going to be the same person she once was, she had a revelation when her eldest daughter told her there were positives to her “new mom” that weren’t there before. Boriskie had more time to spend with her family now. Her career before the accident was a demanding one that often kept her away from her family more than they would have liked.
She had a new purpose in life. As helping others became more and more her focus, Boriskie launched the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association (BIPVA), an organization made up of and led by volunteers dedicated to providing the hope, support and resources necessary to help brain injury survivors and their families navigate the recovery process.
Without a doubt, Boriskie’s brainchild organization has proved to be a much-needed and extremely useful group for families of TBI victims. The BIPVA conducts peer visits in 41 hospitals and rehabilitation facilities in the Atlanta metropolitan area and throughout Georgia, as well as in Florida. They also conduct peer visits via telephone and email.
A Unique Place
Life has changed since Boriskie’s accident. There have been struggles, and she has worked hard to get to the place she is in currently. Though her life will never be the same as it was before her accident, she believes it can be better. She spends more time with her family and has first hand experience with recovering from a TBI. This experience puts her in a unique place when visiting TBI patients and their families. It must be extremely comforting to be lucky enough to talk with her and ask questions of someone who has been through a TBI and has remained positive throughout the recovery process.
Her work with the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association has helped thousands of patients and families cope with tragic accidents and learn what to expect in the future. Boriskie’s aim is to let people who have had a TBI realize their life can be meaningful. When all seems lost after a tragic accident, one needs to hear that things can and will get better.
Boriskie provides living proof of how pain can be a necessary step in the recovery process that can ultimately lead to a new and fulfilling life. Her work is inspirational and any child would be lucky to have a mother like she is today. Her advice is simple: help others and spread love, because when you make others feel good, you feel good in return.
We at the Brain Injury Law Center are very proud to feature Ann Boriskie as our Teach Believe Inspire award winner for this month.
If you know someone who deserves to be nominated for the Teach Believe Inspire award for the way they have overcome the challenges of a traumatic brain injury, or if you or someone you love has sustained a traumatic brain injury and need legal help, please call the Brain Injury Law Center.