Tag Archives: accident

Between Hope And Acceptance

Abi Dietz was on her way to school in September 2012 when an auto accident left her with a severe traumatic brain injury. After the accident, Abi was unable to move or communicate. After extensive inpatient rehabilitation, in June 2013, Abi was able to move into her mother’s home. Her family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive for uninsured expenses to help improve Abi’s quality of life and maximize her mobility and independence. Abi’s mother, Georgina, gives us an idea of how life changes after a traumatic injury.

Abi Dietz HelpHOPELive

Abi was injured in 2012


Describe a day in Abi’s life.


Abi is 100% dependent on the assistance of others for all activities of daily living. Each morning when Abi wakes up, I or another caregiver do passive range-of-motion exercises with her. We do her personal care and get her into her wheelchair using a hoyer lift. We then read to her, watch YouTube music videos or do other movement exercises, such as throwing a beach ball and asking her to bat or kick it back to us. This responsive movement is actually new, and even though it seems slight, we are glad that she is responding more than she previously had been.

We have Abi stand in the standing frame three times per week. We take her to scheduled doctor’s appointments, the mall, a local art museum and to the park when the weather is nice. We have a music therapist come in weekly and spend an hour working with her. She listens to familiar songs she used to like, and the therapist tries to get her to play a digital guitar on an iPad or move her hand and arm to play a simple instrument.


Have you noticed any improvements since the injury?


Abi is now able to move her left side at times, but her communication is inconsistent. At times, she is more alert and moves more to look around at her environment. She also shows more movement when giving someone a fist bump, trying to hold something and letting it go again, or reacting to someone throwing a ball towards her.

Abi Dietz HelpHOPELive

Abi is currently 100% dependent on the assistance of others


What are some of the biggest challenges of life with a traumatic brain injury?


The accident has changed our family dynamics in many ways and it has been difficult. Finances are a struggle as well as feelings of isolation. The struggle between accepting what is and still having hope is also a challenge.


What are you fundraising with HelpHOPELive for?


We have been able to purchase an accessible van thanks to fundraising and financial help from a family member, but we still have outstanding expenses. Abi was a musician and music therapy has reached her in places that other therapies haven’t. This type of therapy is not covered by insurance and we use the money raised through HelpHOPELive to pay for it. We also fundraise for in-home massage therapy and physical therapy. Abi has painful spasticity issues and these therapies help stretch and relax her so that she is more comfortable.

music therapy

Music therapy is not covered by insurance


What does hope mean to you?


Hope means believing that things can change. It takes a lot of patience to wait for change to happen and as I said before, it is hard to find the balance between hope and acceptance.


What can the average person do to recognize Brain Injury Awareness Month in Abi’s honor?


You can donate to HelpHOPELive in honor of Abi to help her secure life-enhancing therapeutic treatment that could help her regain mobility and communication skills. You can also send a card to her or to anyone who has a traumatic brain injury. We receive beautiful cards with nature photography from one couple at least once per month. It is so nice to know we are not forgotten.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month


Follow Abi’s story at helphopelive.org. If you know a family that needs help covering the uninsured expenses related to a traumatic injury, start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit today.

What It’s Like To Take Your Mother To College With You

As a college freshman, Kate Strickland was struck by a car while riding her bike. The accident left her paralyzed from the chest down and unable to use her hands or wrists. Unable to find a caregiver to fit Kate’s needs, her mother, Jenie, stepped up to fulfill the role, living with Kate in her dorm and attending classes with her at the University of Texas at Austin as she resumed her studies. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, Kate told us her story.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate, 21, attends college with her mother


When you searched for a caregiver, what were some of your criteria?


We were looking for a caregiver or a group of caregivers who could be with me 24/7. Ideally, the caregiver would have a CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] certification and be near my age in order to go with me to classes on campus. We needed somebody who would be comfortable getting me ready in the mornings, which includes helping with showers, a bowel program and catheter bags.


How does your mother serve as a caregiver for you?


My mom has been my caregiver in everything that I have needed since my accident. She showers me, does the bowel program, dresses me, feeds me and brushes my teeth. She does everything for me. She also goes to my classes and takes notes for me. It’s been very helpful to have my mother fill this role. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to go to school.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate (center) and her mother (left)


Has caregiving changed the relationship between you and your mom?


I think it’s changed our roles more than our overall relationship. Instead of just being mother and daughter, we are now caregiver and dependent. We spend all day, every day, with each other. Before my injury, I was independent at college and I wasn’t even talking to my parents every single day.


Is it difficult to explain to other people why your mom is always with you?


For the most part, I think it is fairly obvious why my mother is with me. It’s difficult to hide that I have a disability since I am in a massive power wheelchair. However, I think having my mother with me all the time changes the experience of making new friends in college. A lot of my peers feel like parents intrude on their college independence, so it’s an adjustment for them to understand my situation.


Can it be stressful to rely on someone else to help you?


Of course it’s stressful to rely on someone else – before my injury, I was always a very independent person. But, the fact is, if I don’t rely on someone else to help me, I won’t be able to do things like attend school, do my homework or even eat, so I have become accustomed to my total dependence on others.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate learned to adjust and accept care after her injury


What one word would you choose to describe caregiving?


The one word I’d use to describe caregiving is complicated.


Do you have any advice for another student who is learning to accept care after injury?


This may sound harsh, but what it comes down to is this: you can either accept your injury and your limitations, even though they are obviously not ideal, and receive the help you need to move on with your life, or you can refuse reality and help to just sit around staying stagnant.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

“Receive the help you need to move on with your life,” Kate advises.


Have you had to adjust to college life with a caregiver? Share your story with us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Learning To Adapt: How A Business Owner Supports His Wife After Injury

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month this November, we’re profiling individuals who play a key role in the care and happiness of their loved ones. In July of 2014, Kirby G. Smith was thrust into one of the most intense experiences of his life. Suria Nordin, then his fiancée, became paralyzed while vacationing with Kirby in Jamaica. By July of 2015, Kirby had founded SunKirb Ideas, a game-changing “smart home” installation and management company.

Kirby hopes to offer ease, efficiency and manageable overhead costs to families coping with a disability or injury. We picked Kirby’s brain to find out how smart home tech could revolutionize daily life for American families.

Kirby Smith and Suria Nordin HelpHOPELive injury spinal cord injury wheelchair SunKirb Ideas

Suria and Kirby in their neighborhood. Source: Wall Street Journal


After your wife’s injury, what modifications were needed to create a supportive home environment?


We had to modify multiple elements of our house, including our home entrances, the heights of our light switches, the bathroom configuration, our flooring and our emergency response options.


How did you begin to discover the benefits of smart home tech?


When Suria was injured, I wasn’t very motivated to seek out adaptive equipment because of the exorbitant prices for purchase and installation. As a result, I started to take a closer look at regular consumer products. It turned out that MANY of these products were already outfitted with adaptive technologies, but those features were not well-advertised.

Kirby Smith Suria Nordin HelpHOPELive home

Kirby found creative ways to make life easier for Suria. Source: Wall Street Journal

When it comes to adapting for disabilities, people tend to just purchase the tech without looking into the value. I realized that instead of asking families to look for expensive adaptive equipment, I could help them to adapt existing equipment for their needs. I realized this was really a gap in the market: services from a company that understands disability and aging directly.


What kind of cost-effective conversions did you discover?


The first four months after Suria was injured were challenging. We had no one to turn to to discuss life after injury when it came down to the nuts and bolts of home modification. In one instance, I searched for a piece of technology that would allow Suria to turn on the television with her voice. A vendor presented me a customized voice-activated device that would cost us $6,000. To me, that price was outrageous. Instead of making that purchase, I picked up a $400 Xbox console, which has built-in audio recognition that can completely control a television set, including sites such as Netflix and cable box or TiVo DVRs.

xbox

An Xbox can be used in place of a $6,000 modification.

The second piece of the puzzle was making physical adaptations without relying on installation services. Every adaptive tech business sold its product aggressively, but no one showed you how to adapt your home without paying a professional to do so. Different vendors handled each piece of the home, from the lights to the doors to the television, with huge service markups attached to each. The vendors pushed their own product and didn’t work on continuity. We would have had to find our own tech-savvy contractor to adapt the house on a physical level. Learning how to do that on my own gave me the experience I needed to help others do the same without paying exorbitant installation fees.


Why don’t businesses advertise adaptive uses for consumer products?


The average person doesn’t even think about these considerations. In Xbox’s case, the company wants to appeal to gamers primarily. Businesses don’t want to lose their core markets, so they tend to shy away from using language like ‘adaptable’ or ‘adaptive’ because they are so afraid of alienating their core consumers.

game marketing Battlefield

Afraid of alienating core consumers, most companies don’t advertise accessibility.


How did your professional background inform your business?


My tech background as a Senior VP of IT helped me to identify what was a good deal and what was an outrageous proposition. We had to design portions of our systems to accommodate persons with disabilities. I’ve been aware of that [need] throughout my career.


How can intelligent tech impact the lives of families coping with an injury?


Smart tech can provide cost savings while improving safety and comfort. A smart house can monitor energy usage and save you money while you’re away from home – for example, the system will adjust the temperature to save energy if it senses that you are away from your home and then, as it learns your schedule, it will bring the temperature back to comfort levels before you arrive. Our home tech learns Suria’s patterns and adapts to them. We have smart smoke detectors that pick up smoke and CO2, but the alarms can identify both the exact location of the issue AND the degree of emergency. If someone burns the toast and there is smoke in the kitchen, the device will inform us of the issue but will also note that it doesn’t pose an immediate threat to our safety. The sensors also detect motion and can alert us if we are away and there is movement in the house. They can also tell the thermostat we’re out, and lower energy levels to save power.

smart home

Smart tech can save users money and improve safety.


Can smart homes help caregivers, too?


As a caregiver, I use our home features as much as Suria does! Technology streamlines and simplifies everything. Caregivers can monitor their homes and their loved ones and keep in constant contact, especially in case of emergencies. When everything is connected, it becomes easier for EVERY member of the family to live a fulfilling life.


Are there benefits to using smart tech beyond physical disability support?


It’s nice to have equipment that assists you but isn’t stigmatizing. There is a ‘cool’ factor to a lot of this technology that supersedes the disabled label – in fact, my first SunKirb Ideas clients are not disabled. That’s what’s so powerful about connected home technology: it transcends traditional labels and limitations. I truly think we’re on the cusp of very affordable technology that can change lives, and I’m proud to be on the forefront of that.

smart house family

Smart tech can transcend the ‘disability’ label to appeal to everyone.


Why not expand your business to the general market?


After what I went through with Suria, serving families who are coping with disabilities is my passion and where my heart lies. I’m not speaking from theory when I address consumers – I’ve lived it, and that gives me a perspective I can share with others. By testing things with Suria, I was able to determine what would work for others with similar situations or even completely different concerns (blindness, for instance). I’m not in this to form a gigantic company – I am looking for fulfillment and the ability to provide a good service. I want to be able to walk away feeling like the money I made is supporting a worthy cause.


Like what you’re hearing? Share your thoughts on caregiving after injury, smart homes and disability-friendly technology with us on Twitter.

Air Force Airman and Firefighter Refuses to Be Extinguished By Spinal Cord Injury

In July of 2014, a simple trip to the beach changed Air Force airman John Michael LeMoine’s life forever.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Air Force

John LeMoine in his Air Force uniform.

John was enrolled in a firefighting technical school in San Angelo, Texas. On a rare day off, John decided to head down to the lakefront with his friends to enjoy the early summer sun. While he and his friends were goofing around, John had to leap into the air to avoid a child playing on the shore. John managed to avoid harming the child, but as he fell, John landed on his neck and shattered his cervical spine (C-6).

John entered a state of cardiac arrest. Thankfully surrounded by his firefighting co-trainees, he was quickly transported to a trauma facility, where he remained in critical condition. Described as a fighter by his supporters, after spending three days in the ICU, LeMoine slowly recuperated from his near-death cardiac emergency. Within six weeks, John had committed himself fully to recovery from his spinal cord injury.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive ICU

John spent three days in the ICU following his injury.

A C-6 spinal cord injury can cause patients to experience bladder dysfunction, uncontrollable blood pressure and heart rate, body temperature spikes, muscle atrophy, bodily pains and osteoporosis. The recovery process requires hospitalization, rehabilitation and ongoing medical costs that can total over $2 million over the course of a lifetime.

It took six weeks of intensive therapy before John managed to wiggle his left big toe.

At Shepherd Center, an Atlanta rehabilitation hospital, and Project Walk Atlanta, an exercise-based recovery facility, John began to make steady progress. Using the Lokomat, a robotic machine to stimulate movement in the lower extremities, John finally began to wiggle his toes. According to his rehabilitation team, the Lokomat offered John the best possible chance to regain the ability to walk – but the cost of using the machine would become prohibitive once John’s insurance allotment ran dry.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Lokomat

John needed extensive rehabilitation to regain mobility.

Thanks to donations to HelpHOPELive from friends and supporters, on March 4, Project Walk Atlanta reported that John was able to stand completely independently. Next to a picture of a smiling John, the Project Walk team noted, “He has put in a lot of hard work to get where he is now, and we are excited to see where he is going to go from here.”

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine stands

John stands on his own for the first time since his accident.

John is looking ahead to a life of continued selflessness. As supporters note on John’s HelpHOPELive Campaign Page, “His wish is to remain in the Air Force and continue to be [an] airman, and if at all possible, to somehow go toward the fire again.” John’s accident could not eclipse his desire to serve. “If anyone knows the heart of a fireman, you know that they are the most selfless people in our lives,” his supporters confirm.

John receives continual support and encouragement from his “Air Force family,” his friends and “even strangers who have given us support and strength from the beginning,” notes his Campaign Page.

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine nephew

John pursues recovery with support from nephew Jake…

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive niece

…and niece Lily.

John’s supporters have thanked donors for “the outpouring of love and support” they have received so far. “Every one of you have helped us meet our goal for John’s continued therapy,” they note. “We have all learned so much about ourselves and the goodness of people…These donations will allow him to strengthen his ability to walk again and meet those financial challenges.”

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive family

John’s family and supporters thank the community.

John is looking to friends, Air Force peers and family for continued support as he makes major strides in his recovery.

You can give John your support by reaching out on Facebook or on Twitter and following his recovery at helphopelive.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the medical costs associated with a spinal cord injury, reach out to us at helphopelive.org. Our team can help you to fundraise online and in your local community to offset your uninsured medical expenses.