Ventura Brain Injury Support Group participants and Facilitator at a recent meeting (photo by Debbie Johnson).

First support group meeting of Brain Injury Center to be held February 3

January 20, 2010
Santa Paula News

Brain injuries are traumatic not only for the patient, but also for family members as all deal with subsequent life-altering issues. Now Santa Paulans who need help dealing with an injury, as well as family members, are invited to a special meeting of the nonprofit Brain Injury Center of Ventura County to be held Wednesday, February 3 at Santa Paula Hospital, according to David Wilk, president of the BIC board of directors.

The Santa Paula Survivor and Family/Friend/Caregiver Support Groups will be held in the hospital library from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The hospital is located at 825 N. 10th Street. 

The meeting will be facilitated by a certified rehabilitation counselor and will focus on personal expression and peer-to-peer support. In addition, a topic is presented for learning and sharing.

Although the center offers separate support groups for persons with a brain injury as well as caregivers - whether family or friends - Wilk said the first meeting will be a “combination to start to see how it goes,” and to determine how many are in each group for future planning. It is an approach that has been used in other areas to determine need.

The February 3 meeting will be “informational, lay the groundwork,” and be an opportunity to meet those who require such services. “It is different for brain injury services and family... it’s quite a profound change of life for the family” that often requires much care giving.

The organization started in 1990 as a weekly potluck of those with a brain injured family member. At that time there were scant services for those with brain injuries. 

Most of those surviving a brain injury - whether through an accident or stroke or other illness - deal with such a wide range of residual effects that they require more assistance or services than any one agency provides. Brain injury survivors often lose their jobs, spouses and friends as they struggle to cope, adapt and learn a new way of life.

Brain injury can bring physical changes that include affected balance and mobility, chronic pain, coma, coordination, seizures, loss of fine motor skills, speech, vision or hearing loss. Concentration can be troublesome, learning and problem solving difficult, judgment impaired. Short- and long-term memory loss and short attention span can result from brain injury, and behavior can also be altered with anger, frustration, denial, depression, mood swings and personality changes.

Wilk said those with a brain injury “were previously an independent adult now likely not able to do their job, maybe can drive no longer,” and if previously the family breadwinner, now unable to work. Brain injury can bring confusion are well as other impairments leading to an adult having to move back in with his or her parents. 

No matter the circumstances or severity of the brain injury, “Everyone wants to know what the progression is, will it get better, will progress be made” that would lead to full recovery. The Brain Injury Center also offers various referrals to “resource entities” that can help with housing, transportation, employment and medical services, among others.

Wilk said outreach for the Santa Paula support group includes letters to medical facilities, service organizations, churches and schools explaining what BIC does and inviting anyone who needs help - or knows someone who does - to contact the organization. Although Wilk is unsure of how many might attend the first Santa Paula meeting, “At our first class in Camarillo we had 15 people... I was really surprised” at the high turnout.

Those planning to attend the February 3 meeting are being asked to pre-register. “We do ask that people let us know in advance that they’re coming. We’re asking them to pre-register,” although Wilk said no one would be turned away, registered or not.

Often those who suffer a brain injury feel isolated and alone: “Also a nice benefit of the support group is it allows” those with a brain injury to interact with others. Wilk said, “It’s nice to meet someone in the same boat,” as it allows those with brain injuries to share their frustrations and triumphs with those who understand best.

For more information or to make a reservation, call the Brain Injury Center of Ventura County, 482-1312. You can also visit their website at

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