Brain Injury of America Conference 2008

From Erin Nichols:

I’m finally organized enough after my mini-vacation to sit down and write about how rewarding last weekend was. For those of you who don’t know, last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Brain Injury Association of America Caregivers Conference, thanks to the generosity of the Wounded Warriors Project who paid my way. I really didn’t know what to expect, and to be honest I was somewhat dreading the trip; but I knew this was an opportunity that I could not refuse.

lee woodruff The conference began with keynote speaker Lee Woodruff, wife of NBC’s Bob Woodruff and co-author of “In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing.” Lee spoke very honestly and personally touched each one of us. As she was speaking I noticed a lot of nodding heads, including my own. She did a remarkable job of making a room of 100 or so people, all with different stories, feel our common connection. We all have a loved-one with a brain injury.

The content of the conference varied from lessons on taking care of ourselves as caregivers, to brain injury 101. They even offered breakout sessions on military specific issues such as Tri-care and VA benefits. The people conducting these lessons were all very knowledgeable in their respective areas and provided us with a wealth of information. Sometimes it’s good to know more than you need; you don’t always know what questions to ask, or you are afraid of the answer.

As enriching as the curriculum was, the greatest, and for me the most unexpected element of the conference was the people. I’m a very independent person (you know that if you’ve ever tried to help me), and I didn’t think I needed the camaraderie of other people in my situation; yet, it was so comforting and relaxing to be surrounded by people who almost always knew what I was talking about. During meals and between workshops we would swap stories and learn about each other’s loved-one.

From talking with other families, I learned how unique Sam’s situation is. Sam’s injury is not unique, but the fact that he has full-coverage insurance, 15+ hours of quality therapy a week and a doctor who not only knows what she is doing, but leads the field in neuropharmacology. Sam is afforded the benefit of expert care that most civilians cannot afford. I was shocked to learn that many civilians with TBI’s are treated by General Practitioners. GP’s are great if you’re relatively healthy, but brain injury medicine is highly specialized. Brain injury awareness can change this. We need more doctors to become Physiatrists (specialty in Physical Medicine and Rehab, PM&R), and insurance companies need to cover the cost. If you had a heart condition you would see a cardiologist; likewise, if you have a brain injury, you should see a doctor who specializes in brain injury.

I’d like to thank the Brain Injury Association of America and all of the weekend’s speakers for a wonderful conference. Also I’d like to thank the Wounded Warriors Project for making it possible for me to attend.

For more information on brain injury and brain injury awareness go to

Sam’s Medical Status:

Visit to Kentfield_6_15_08

On Saturday my wife Julie, my daughter, Allison, and myself went to Kentfield to visit Sam and Erin. Sam has been moved to room 412 which is in the far south-east corner of the hospital. It’s a really nice room because it is a “single” and it has a nice view of some trees.

Sam is still getting over the Seizures he had on Monday. He’s also just finishing up with a round of antibiotics for another bladder infection he’s been fighting. So—it wasn’t in much of a talking mood this weekend.

Sam is going to be put on a new drug called Provigil which is used for people with narcolepsy. His doctor is hoping the Provigil will help his attention span and thus improve many aspects of his daily interaction with the therapist. He’s also having an EEG today in the hopes that they will determine the cause of the seizure.


3 Responses to Brain Injury of America Conference 2008

  1. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Families –

    Erin how wonderful that you had a good time and got to “relax” a little. It must have been a wonderful experience to be with others that are in the same boat as it were as you. I would imagine that it would have a sort of calming, relieving effect when someone knows exactly what you are going through – and says “yes! I know exactly what you mean!”

    It’s always so horrifying, disheartening, and so many other adjectives to learn what our heroes have to go through to get care. It seems to be difficult enough to get “regular” care, let alone specialized care – and receive that care forever. I just don’t understand why all of our heroes from all wars past and present do not enjoy the benefit of the best health care on the planet. I just don’t understand. On the upside there are so many of us out here trying to work towards better, reliable healthcare, and to make other benefits like the GI bill a reality for these guys who have done so much for us. Like give us our way of life and our sweet Freedom. Good grief it’s what is owed to them on so many levels. Hopefully we can all make a difference. No wait – we CAN all make a difference!

    Sam I hope you’re feeling a bit better, that the cause of the seizures is found quickly and that your bladder infection has gone the way of the wind. Sam, Erin & everyone, you are all in my prayers every single day. You WILL be restored Sam, yes you will. Please know and never forget that thoughts, prayers, support and load upon load of Angel Hugs come all of your way, each and every day. God bless you all and may He shower you all with the strength, peace and comfort that you need each day.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  2. Denny in Antelope says:

    Dear Sam and Erin,

    Thank you, Erin, for the update on your trip and for the information you shared with us. I agree. As a country, we must do much, much better in providing the proper care for our heroes while helping to care for their spouses and children.

    To both of you, Erin and Sam, I am so uplifted by your lives. I continue to pray for God’s wisdom for you and the medical staff, even staff yet to come. “Dear Lord, please help the doctors to find the cause of the seizures. Heal the bladder infection. Please take Sam up to the next level of health for both his and Erin’s hope and encouragement, and in order to bring glory to your Name. I ask in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.”

    With much love, affection and respect,

  3. Newsomelaw says:

    Hi Erin and Sam,

    What an incredibly moving story you are telling. I can’t imagine how difficult it has to be at times to go through what you have been, but the positive attitude that is so evident in your posts is a huge inspiration!

    I wish you the very best of luck and healing,


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