Brain injuries impact hundreds in Kamloops

By Tanya Cronin
June 20, 2016 - 5:40pm Updated: June 21, 2016 - 12:12pm

KAMLOOPS — It isn't always obvious and the severity of it is often dismissed. There are so many varying degrees of brain injuries that it's often difficult to know that someone suffers from one. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and understanding around the complexity of brain injuries, and just how common they are. 

New diagnoses are being made everyday, and most people living with a brain injury are diagnosed long after the injury has occurred.

WATCH: Full report by Tanya Cronin

29 years ago, in 1987, James Passmore's life changed forever.

"I was in a coma 4 to 5 days my sister says and when I came out of that, my family was around me and I related to who they were, but I didn't know their names," says Passmore.

Passmore suffered a traumatic brain injury in a serious motorcycle crash. He had to learn how to walk, talk and dress himself, all over again. Turning to alcohol to cope, passmore rebelled, had an explosive temper, but for the last 18 years he has worked to better himself, with the help of the Kamloops Brain Injury Association. 

"The Brain Injury Association has helped me to speak my thoughts, associate with others which is very vital because we all feel lonely and like we're the only person going through this, and to get rid of all that anger was a huge success."

Surviving a brain injury requires a lot of personal support and retraining. The Kamloops Brain Injury Association offers a number of key programs, activities, and support groups. 

"Take a cold shower and change your clothes does not work for brain injury, sometimes they're given that sort of advice, you should try harder, make more of an effort and you'll be able to succeed, that's not part of our mandate at all, people naturally work harder when they see they've got some help, that there's a way forward," says Terry-Lynn Stone, Executive Director, Kamloops Brain Injury Association.

In Kamloops, there are nearly 600 people living with a brain injury. Serving 120 individuals every month, education for the association is a big priority. Terry-Lynn Stone says it's far too easy to end up with a brain injury. Whether it's biking or skateboarding, wearing a helmet is a must, and putting down your cell phone while driving is vital.   

"We have several survivors who have been involved one way or another in an accident where the phone was relevant, accidents are the big thing of course, falls are huge especially for older generation because they're unsteady and mistep, and of course sports."

James Passmore credits the Brain Injury Association for saving his life. He has regained a sense of safety and belonging, and accomplished what he never thought possible, the biggest being the chance to go back to school.

"It was night and day, I was fully involved in school, I participated in all the things, I didn't get the highest marks in the class, but I didn't get the lowest either, and that made me feel like I was a somebody," says Passmore.

While it isn't easy, Passmore's message for anyone struggling with life challenges is never give up.  

"You don't have to be stuck in that place all alone, when there's somebody else there to help you."

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