March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Brain Injury Awareness Month is a time to raise awareness about the types of brain injuries that a person can sustain, the long road to recovery, and brain injury prevention. Did you know that traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been found to be the leading cause of death and disability in children and adults ages 1 to 44? At least 5.3 million Americans (2% of the U.S. population) are currently living with disabilities resulting from TBI. As a speech-language pathologist (SLP) working at Magee, I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to work with a wide range of individuals and families whose lives have been affected by brain injury. Brain injury doesn’t discriminate against age or gender and can happen to anyone at any time in their life, even those that are young and otherwise healthy. As Ian McKinney shares with us below, the road to recovery after a brain injury isn’t an easy one. It requires strength, hope, dedication, and ongoing support from family and friends. Ian opens up about his injury, his time at Magee, and how it’s inspired his career.
Ashley Owens (AO): Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ian McKinney (IM): My name is Ian McKinney. I love music, cooking, and all things creative! I enjoy playing guitar, piano, and occasionally the drums. I lead a Sunday school class each weekend where I work with students ages 14-18. We believe every problem can be solved through conversation, acceptance, and the sharing of donuts!
AO: What brought you to Magee?
IM: In 2012, I was driving on an unfamiliar back road. I caught a stop sign too late and skidded into an intersection. I was hit by a pickup truck on my driver’s side door and sustained a diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury.
AO: What was the beginning of your stay at Magee like? What goals did you achieve while you were a patient?
IM: I don’t remember the first few days I spent at Magee. My first memory of Magee is waking up in what felt like the middle of the night. Somehow I seemed to have an understanding of where I was and why I was there. At Magee, I learned how to walk, talk, and eat again. What could be more important?
AO: Tell us a little bit about what you are up to now.
IM: I am currently studying to be a physical therapy assistant (PTA) at Reading Area Community College (RACC). After this semester, I am hoping to transfer to Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), where I will finish my degree. My interest and motivation to do well in this field is heavily linked to my time in Magee as a patient! When I’m not studying or working, I like to I spend my time exercising and listening to my favorite classical and jazz artists like Claude Debussy and Nate Harasim. I also love to cook! Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day to eat and cook. Pancakes are my specialty!
AO: What advice would you give to another brain injury survivor?
IM: For anyone else recovering from a brain injury, my advice is this: It’s not going to be easy or even enjoyable. That doesn’t matter. Listen to your doctors and follow their directions. They really are trying to help you, and they know what they are doing. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. You are capable of more than you or anyone else realizes. Your time at Magee is the easy part, even though it doesn’t feel like it. You need to focus on achieving your goals and recovering so you are able to return to a life outside of Magee. Once you leave, you won’t have doctors, nurses, and therapists around every day, helping you to improve, but that doesn’t mean you get to stop trying! You need to be your own doctor, nurse, and therapist now. Recovery can be hard and frustrating, and you’ll have days when you’ll just want to give up. Don’t. The road can be long and hard; accept that. You still have to do it for you.