Support group helps brain injury patients


The effects might linger for patients after rehabilitation of a traumatic brain injury, feelings of anger, disappointment, frustration.

They have somewhere to vent.

The NCH Healthcare System offers a traumatic brain injury support group, free to the community, thanks to the efforts of healthcare workers who volunteer their time.

Led by speech pathologists Carrie Anderson, Kim Beaugez and Jill Schmid, the group meets once a month, the site alternating among North Collier Hospital, Naples Community Hospital and the Naples Outpatient Rehabilitation Center.

"Even when (patients) are done with physical therapy, they need that support because they're lives have been altered," Anderson said.

Anderson said patients range in age from the late teens to those in their 50s and older. They have suffered from various ailments, she said, from car accidents to gunshot wounds to unhealthy reactions to drugs, usually prescription medication.

The patient count for each 2-hour meeting averages about 10, though Anderson said there have been as many as 20 there. The meetings take place on the first Thursday of every month, except the next one, Jan. 9, pushed back one Thursday to compensate for the New Year holiday.

Whether or not all three speech pathologists attend each meeting depends on the patient count, Beaugez said.

"We try not to overwhelm the patients with employees from the hospital so they'll feel comfortable to share their stories," Beaugez said.

That's why social workers and care givers also attend, as well as guest speakers from the Brain Injury Association of Florida and the Florida Brain/Spinal Cord Injury Program.

Catalina Grisales, 20, has attended some of the meetings after her car accident last summer. She said she was coming home to Naples from Valencia Community College in Orlando when she skidded off the road in a heavy downpour, then hit the cement construction pillars lining a bridge before a semi-trailer crashed into her.

The accident caused about a half-dozen injuries, the worst of them a crack in her vertebrae, and has even made her short-term memory and attention span shorter.

Through the meetings, she said, "I see that there are people out there like me.

"We talked about the things that happened and it was nice because we could all relate."