Over the past few years, the specter of brain injuries has received prominent attention, especially on the football field.
One local organization, Kitsap Brain Injury, is leading the efforts in identifying these mystifying problems and their symptoms.
Kitsap Brain Injury is a nonprofit organization that falls under the umbrella of the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington. The organization has support groups in Silverdale and Bremerton for anyone with a brain injury to discuss their common experiences and explore coping strategies.
The support groups date back to 1987 in Kitsap County under the leadership of Dr. Sherwood Young, whose vision was to “create environments and situations for survivors and their families to better understand the effects and behaviors of brain injury, as well as to help individuals construct a new normal,” according to the organization’s summary in kitsapbraininjury.com.
Today, Janice Worman, an occupational therapist at Harrison Medical Center, leads the support group as a facilitator. She has been working with people with traumatic brain injuries for about 30 years.
“Without her, these support groups wouldn’t be taking place,” said Rick Bonari, the 2019 Walk, Run and Roll for Thought event planning committee coordinator.
“She’s not only doing her own work but in her spare time, she’s helping people in these support groups.”
Bonari has seen firsthand the effects of a traumatic brain injury. In March 2014, he was on his way to work and was struck by a tow truck crossing four lanes of traffic to arrive at a car accident scene. The crash resulted in Bonari fracturing his sternum, suffering a cervical sprain and being diagnosed with a severe concussion.
“At that point, your life changes in an instance and it’s never the same after,” Bonari said. “I was just devastated.”
Initially, Bonari saw his primary physician at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, who said he was likely having symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
“He never referred me to any rehab and told me I’d be back at work in six weeks after my fracture healed up,” Bonari said.
Even being assured by a primary physician didn’t make Bonari feel better about his situation. Based on his frequent mood swings and confusion, he knew the diagnoses couldn’t have been that simple. Through a friend from church, Bonari was able to get in contact with Worman a couple of months after the accident and attended one of the support groups in Bremerton.
Worman began to evaluate Bonari’s symptoms and quickly concluded that he was not fit to go back to work once his fractured sternum healed.
“She nailed down exactly what was going on with me,” he said. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty so that people with traumatic brain injuries are understood. I don’t know where I’d be today if I hadn’t got in touch with Janice.”
On Sept. 7, the local organization will have its sixth annual Walk, Run and Roll for Thought event at Lions Park in Bremerton to support people suffering from traumatic brain injuries. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature guest speakers, plus a group photo, the race itself and a raffle, along with refreshments.
Some of the notable speakers include Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler, Dianne Tailleur of Harbor Speech Pathology and Dr. Cheryle Sullivan, who is a brain injury survivor, retired family physician and author.
“We are trying to make the medical community more aware of traumatic brain injuries,” Bonari said. “It’s quite amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in our sixth year.
“We’ve really stepped it up this year [and] we are adding more things,” he went on. “The focus isn’t just Kitsap County, it’s everywhere.”
Donations will benefit individuals and families who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.