By Jenn Vanriper, The Leader-PostOctober 27, 2010
Barb Butler said it’s important to raise awareness about brain injuries because most people have misconceptions about the term.
“They think a knock on the head, you recover from that like you recover from a broken bone. But a brain injury is forever,” explained the vice-president and newsletter editor of the Brain Injury Association of Canada (BIAC).
“When people hear brain injury, I think in their heads they hear brain damage. The term brain damage is much more severe,” said Butler.
Butler is a survivor of a brain injury she got from a car accident in 1993, a year after moving to Saskatchewan, and then joined a support group in Regina. Butler later joined the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association board and then BIAC.
This year, Butler won the volunteer of the year award at BIAC’s national conference in Regina — the first time the conference was held outside of Montreal.
“To win the award in my home province, in front of basically a hometown crowd, just made it so much more exciting,” said Butler, who previously won the award in 2008.
Harry Zarins, executive director of BIAC, said Butler was a major part of the success of the Regina conference.
“She almost works every day, eight hours a day, on supporting her community and making sure that people are aware of the things that are happening,” said Zarins.
The national organization gets together at the annual conference. BIAC supports the provincial organization and focuses on spreading awareness across Canada.
The provincial organization runs support groups, a weekend camp for families and weekend conferences for survivors.
Butler was a teacher before the car accident, but the effects of her injury changed that.
“My memory skills are almost non-existent. I function by use of a day planner to remind myself of where I have to be, what I have to do.
“(My) energy levels are not what they used to be — I could not teach in a classroom full days,” Butler said.
“Your whole thought process gets scrambled. Before you could go from point A to point B. Now you may have to go from A to C to B to D,” explained Butler.
“You usually end up getting the job done, but the thought process isn’t the same.”
Butler said her accident was a result of the other driver’s inattentiveness, something that couldn’t be prevented, but she said most brain injuries can be prevented by taking precautions, such as wearing a helmet.
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