A Story of Hope

The Kamloops Brain Injury Association (KBIA) was formed in 1986 by a group of concerned individuals aware of the considerable need to provide support to persons with brain injury and their families, and to increase awareness about brain injury within the community at large. The society incorporated in 1990 as The Kamloops Head Injury Association, and in 1996 changed its name to the Kamloops Brain Injury Association. Behind these simple facts lie many changed and often devastated lives.

The meetings, which were at first held monthly in the board room of HMZ Law, later became weekly meetings held in a small room at Royal Inland Hospital. When the need for information and support grew exponentially and survivors were looking for more continuous service, KBIA became a stand-alone organization, finally growing into the agency that citizens of Kamloops have become familiar with on Victoria Street.

One of the driving forces for the creation of KBIA was the real dearth of information available on brain injury recovery. Survivors were commonly told they were “better” or “cured,” or that they were as good as they were going to get so they had better get on with life.

Far too often it was implied that these survivors might be looking for sympathy or even malingering. Speaking to survivors who suffered their injuries 15 or more years ago, many will tell you their friends, their employers and even their families thought they “weren’t trying to get better.” Today we know better; and KBIA is grateful for all the support and generosity shown by the community of Kamloops. For more information about the KBIA, visit www.kbia.ca

10 Years of Celebrating Survival
Kamloops Daily News
Thursday, June 20, 2013

The History of KBIA
 (by Lyle Berven)
A 2005 Interview with Dave Marr

What was the catalyst to start the KHIA and when and how did the KBIA (KHIA) start and what was your involvement?

Kamloops Brain Injury Association (KHIA) was first conceived in 1986. Back in those days it was a struggle to get anybody in the medical/legal establishment to pay attention to the serious problems experienced by many brain injury survivors once they were discharged into the community. If you could walk and talk when you left the hospital, your complete recovery was assumed. It was as a result of this attitude that Carol Atchison, the mother of a client of mine, came to me and asked me to assist her in setting up a brain injury association, so that survivors and their families would have a forum in which to discuss their common problems and formulate solutions, as best they were able. Ms. Atchison, along with Norma Bruce, from the Chase area, were the two caregivers most responsible (there were other people involved) for the successful launch of the Kamloops Brain Injury Association in 1986. I was appointed president (I think I made that appointment myself) and I have been president ever since (it is now much more democratic and every two years members of the Board of Directors submit their names to the membership which then votes on whether or not they wish any particular Board member to be re-appointed). Were there any major teething problems in the beginning? My recollection is that from 1986 until 1992, we were and remained primarily an unstructured support group for those numerous families that were struggling to reintegrate their own survivor back into the community. 

One of the greatest obstacles that we encountered during this period of time was the total lack of awareness throughout the community and across the spectrum (we were no different than any other community) of the particular problems experienced by brain injury survivors. There simply was no meaningful financial and professional assistance within the community to assist these families. They were on their own. Thus, our support group started to fill an important void.

Over this period of time (1986-1992), the KBIA meetings were held in the Horne Marr Zak reception area (our firm did not have an adequate boardroom at that time). Whoever was speaking to the group that attended any particular session would stand behind our reception desk and address the group. The reception area itself was full of secretarial chairs taken from throughout our office. There were many meetings where there were as many people standing as were sitting, such was the interest in our group.

In those days the sole expense was the cost of coffee for the meetings, which was supplied by Horne Marr Zak. At the time, there was no such thing as the Naramata conference, the Prince George conference or the Pacific Coast conference on brain injury issues.

During this period of time and shortly after we had formed our Association, we were fortunate to attract the attention of people like Lyn Wood (counsellor), Mary Dmytriw (head nurse from neurological ward) and later, Elaine Marrington (rehabilitation nurse), who would regularly attend our meetings and address our members. They recognized that with the medical advances being made within the acute care setting, which was dramatically increasing the survivor rate among the traumatically brain injured population, there was no corresponding rehabilitation progress within the community. Hence, the brain injured survivors were being discharged into the community with no prospect of improvement.

How many coordinators have there been? 
Who was the first coordinator? 
Do you know what that person is now doing?

Between 1986 and 1992, we had a few people from the community that assumed a prominent role in the business of KBIA and I suppose could be referred to as a coordinator. One person that comes to mind is Gail Smillie who filled the role as survivor/caregiver facilitator.

We remained, however, throughout this period of time, primarily an unstructured support/advocacy group for brain injured survivors.

Our first official Coordinator was a lady by the name of Heidi Matsumoto who was hired in 1992 and remained with our organization until mid-1995. Heidi was paid a nominal sum for her services when she was first hired (we had very little money). One of her primary and stated goals from the outset was to put together a fundraising program such that the Association, by November of 1994, would be on a sound financial footing and would have the financial wherewithal to have a paid administrative person and a properly paid Coordinator. This, in turn, was expected to lead to the ability by KBIA to create community programs for survivors and hire appropriate personnel to run them. Heidi took the first steps to recruit various relevant professionals from within the community to become associated with our Association. She instituted contact with various community groups such as Rotary, the City of Kamloops and BC Tel. Heidi started to expand her community educational program to include lectures at UCC. I have lost touch with Heidi over the years but I do know that she lives on the lower mainland and undoubtedly continues to pursue her primary interest which was advocating for those less fortunate than herself.

Karen Waller was the next Coordinator. She joined our organization in mid 1995. Ultimately she was designated our first Executive Director. When Karen arrived on the scene the Kamloops Brain Injury Association was in transition from a small support/advocacy group to an organization that was beginning to build a significant network of resources within our community and developing community profile about the causes and effects of brain injury and prevention issues. Karen held the position of Executive Director until May of 2003. During that period of time she helped to develop comprehensive services; support groups, skill building groups, focus groups, case management programs, life skills support, advocacy and prevention initiatives and public education. These services were expanded fairly rapidly when one considers that it was accomplished during a period of financial retrenchment by our governments.

Although we have always worked under a limited budget, the programs that have been developed are of high quality and in fact some have been implemented elsewhere - notably our Grade 4 School Injury Prevention Program, which was and is coordinated by our Education/Prevention Coordinator – Joy Scobie and facilitated by her and a number of committed survivors to schools throughout the district. This program has won national recognition and has been adopted by other communities. Karen Waller resigned in May of 2003 and the new Executive Director, Helen MacKenzie, was chosen by the Board to replace her.

Helen arrived at a time in our history when there was a campaign to regionalize most health services including those to be earmarked for the brain injury community. Helen has very capably managed to obtain a place at the Interior Health Authority - TCS (Thompson Cariboo Shuswap) leadership table for the Kamloops Brain Injury Association. Relationships between KBIA and the local health authority have been strengthened. KBIA, with the support of the Authority was able to expand its services, opening a new office in Salmon Arm in the Summer of 2004. The Salmon Arm office now serves close to 100 survivors of brain injury from the Salmon Arm/Shuswap Community.

Annual contract negotiations have secured core funding through the Interior Health Authority. This affords KBIA the ability to continue offering comprehensive services; facilitated support groups in Kamloops, Merritt, Barriere and Salmon Arm; 1-1 life skills support directed by the individual with brain injury based on their needs, strengths, interests and goals; case coordination including advocacy and referral; and exceptional prevention initiatives and public education.

The devolvement of the BABC (Brain Association of British Columbia) impacted all community associations, Helen has since been invited to join the remaining members in an attempt to resurrect the provincial body.

Developed partnerships with the United Way of Kamloops and Region and the City of Kamloops - Social Planning have been instrumental in allowing KBIA to enhance our services. Helen has initiated new funding grants through the Vancouver Foundation to develop pre-foundational skills that enhance success in education, employment and meaningful activities for survivors of brain injury.

The Annual Gur Singh Golf Tournament initiated in 2004 was instrumental in increasing awareness of the KBIA. Partnerships with many medical professionals and community businesses have been formed in conjunction with this initiative. The sponsorship for the event spoke volumes of the support from the community for the exceptional work KBIA has and is now doing for Acquired Brain Injury.

Helen believes in community capacity building. In the fall of 2003 KBIA partnered with 8 other community associations in a collaborative approach to bring an inclusive youth program to Kamloops that addressed the multitude needs that youth face today. This program is inclusive so that youth who may have a disabling condition or are living with someone who has a disabling condition have an environment that they can go to and receive support or just have a safe place to be. This initiative was very successful and the youth program has been in operation just over a year at the Mental Health Club House. 

This year 2005, KBIA’s Case Coordinator has formed another partnership and focus group with Mental Health, Phoenix Centre and the NeuroRehab Coordinator from IHA to look at the issues as they related to Brain Injury and Addictions. KBIA currently offers a presence at many community focus groups offering education, perspective and community representation, as it relates to acquired brain injury.

What does being the president mean to you, and what gratification do you receive from it?

As President of KBIA for the last 20 years, I have been able to observe, first hand, the development of comprehensive services for the brain injured survivors and their families by the Kamloops Brain Injury Association and indeed that trend has been province wide. My involvement as President has also afforded me the opportunity to meet incredibly compassionate people who are unselfishly involved in ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for brain injury survivors. That, in turn, has had a very positive effect on me personally in my interaction with my clients.

And, on a personal note, what is your legal history?

I have been practicing in excess of 30 years, largely in the litigation field. I have been involved primarily in insurance litigation since 1980 and have restricted my practice to acting exclusively for Plaintiffs injured in motor vehicle accidents since approximately 1986. I first became heavily involved in brain injury litigation issues in the early 1980s. Since the early 1990's, I estimate that 90% of my practice is related to brain injury litigation. Over the years, we have developed an approach to brain injury litigation that heavily emphasizes our firm’s commitment to the medical recovery and rehabilitation of the brain injured survivor and his or her successful reintegration to the community. In this manner, we are in the best position to assist our clients in finding meaningful employment and if that is not in the cards, then meaningful activities, that will assist them in optimizing their quality of life.