FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Cassie Palmer started the Forsyth Brain Injury Association of Georgia chapter last May after her husband’s second battle with brain cancer.
They moved from Gwinnett to Forsyth to be closer to her husband’s mother, and Palmer was surprised to find there was no local support group for those who suffered or had loved ones who suffered from brain injuries.
She launched the local chapter herself, aided by her experience working in the world of Medicare, medical repricing and medical bill reviews, she said.
“I thought, ‘oh maybe I’m the one who’s supposed to host that group,’” she said.
The group meets at Northside Hospital’s Forsyth campus and is looking to be added to the hospital’s public calendar soon. The group relies on word-of-mouth, a nascent Facebook page and people she meets through work, she said. They meet from 7-8 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month in the Bennett Education Center.
Cancer formed in her husband’s brain the second time, not after initial surgery, but after clean up surgery several weeks later, she said. She had to learn how to cope, and it was the brain injury support group that helped her.
“Everyone’s supposed to pay it back or pay it forward in some way, especially with the jobs I do,” she said.
She compared the group to the ‘80s sitcom, “Cheers,” saying it’s just nice to be at a place where everyone can relate to you. But the support group doesn’t have the same cast of characters as the Boston bar.
Charles is quadriplegic. He fell asleep driving several years ago and was nearly decapitated by an 18-wheeler. He is determined to walk again and has asked if the group can do more social events, like playing board games together.
Cindy sought the group three months ago after her husband collapsed while training for a marathon. He went into a long-term coma. They had just learned that she was pregnant.
At the group she was able to hear from others who had been in a coma. It helped to know that they were sometimes semi-conscious, able to hear people in the room, able to remember some of the things that were said to them by loved ones.
It’s important for people not to get married to their story, Palmer said. Many people who have attended the group, get caught up in what happened to them, instead of what can still happen, she said.
The group uses techniques from Jim Kwik, who overcame a childhood brain injury and became a respected memory and reading expert. He has worked with executives from corporations including Nike, SpaceX and General Electric.
He emphasizes divorcing yourself from your story, she said, and staying active and stimulating the mind with music. Often the group will play classical music in the background during meetings.
“When the body moves, the brain grooves,” she said.
Before the end of each meeting, Palmer has members think of a goal they want to achieve before the next meeting, she said.
“Reframe that event,” she said. “Yes, that happened, let’s take little small increments. Let’s start setting goals.”
The group’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. July 11 in the Bennett Center of Forsyth Northside Hospital.