Brain Injury Center Relocates, Keeps Mission

Brain Injury Center Relocates, Keeps Mission


A brutal attack left Burke resident Kit Callahan struggling to survive and his mother Kim riding the aftermath of her childs' life-changing head injury down an unfamiliar path.

After Kit was far from the intensive care units and EKG machines, the Brain Injury Services stepped in and etched out a path for the Callahans.

"They helped us understand, put us in touch with support groups. They were such an important part. They helped Kit understand that it was not going to be as he planned before the accident," she said.

Karen Brown, its executive director, uses a program of Whatever It Takes (WIT), to help them achieve a plan that the victims want, their own road to recovery.

"It's so unique, a disability, everybody is different. We start helping them look at their strengths," she said.

The programs include a transitional day program, supervised apartment program and a life skills program. It starts with a case management analysis which is free to anyone needing the assistance. Case management includes self-care, family, socialization, vocation, behavior/self-direction, transportation, communication, recreation, mobility, education and independent living. Past the case management stage, health insurance pays for some of the therapy while the rest is paid for by the office through donations.

"There's just a huge number of people that are going to have to live with the effects," Brown said.

Callahan started a fundraising race last year and raised $21,000 for the center and is planning another this year on Sept. 15.

"We brought in $21,000, it just overwhelmed us," Callahan said.

THE BRAIN INJURY Services started in 1988 when the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors noticed a lack of support in this area. The Virginia General Assembly got involved as well. Although the state budget cuts did leave some programs in limbo, theirs were spared.

"The General Assembly, they've been very generous," Brown said.

The office recently moved from the City of Fairfax to Springfield in Supervisor Elaine McConnell's (R-Springfield) district. She's been active in their efforts and sees the effects of brain injuries on a regular basis through the Accotink Academy Preschool where she is CEO.

"They need maximum therapy that first year; I had dozens of students. I would support them in anything," McConnell said.

Delegates Jim Scott, Vince Callahan and Alan Maier were other important figures through the years, Brown said.

PALS is a new program designed to "provide opportunities for survivors of brain injury to meet new people and socialize in the community," according to their literature. Reston resident Jonathan Lefler is a summer intern working with volunteer specialist Michelle Thyen. Lefler suffered a stroke at the age of 14, graduated from South Lakes High School with a 3.7 grade point average and is currently pursuing a degree in history and German at Washington Lee University in Virginia.

"We're trying to bridge that gap between medical services and members of the community," Brown said.

They have matched 14 pairs of people so far. Lefler is involved with sorting out program members.

"The primary goal of this program is to have one-on-one interaction between a survivor and volunteer. It's easier to match up some people than others," he said.

Support groups for families are available.

"It just tears families apart. Most of the people that have brain injuries are looking at long term. They've got to be able to help people through their life span," Brown said.

When children get injured, there is schooling to consider as well. Sometimes they get put into classes with mentally challenged students.

"Their needs are different, it's not appropriate," Brown said.