The Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association, whose volunteers support Shepherd Center brain injury patients and their loved ones, has received a 2015 Quality of Life Grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. The funds will go toward the production of information packets that volunteers provide to those they seek to help.
The packets include lists of resources, websites and books, magazine and newspaper articles, survivor and caregiver stories, educational materials and information specific to the type of brain injury (traumatic, non-traumatic, stroke) a patient has experienced.
"The Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association, which is led entirely by volunteers, is dedicated to providing the hope, support, empathy, education and information necessary to help hospitalized and rehabilitating brain injury survivors and their families navigate the often-difficult and confusing recovery process associated with brain injuries," says founder and director Ann Boriskie, a brain injury survivor.
Volunteers visit patients and their loved ones in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, as well as via email, Facebook, telephone and in the community. All services and information are provided free of charge. Volunteers share their own stories and expertise as people who have survived brain injury or caregivers of those who have experienced it. Each brain injury survivor reached by the association volunteers receives an "I CAN" button to provide extra encouragement.
The Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association provides volunteers support at Shepherd Center, Shepherd Pathways and the Woodruff Family Residence Center adjacent to Shepherd Center. The Brain Injury Peer Visitor team of volunteers who provide support at Shepherd consists of 25 members -- both survivors and caregivers. Of this number, 15 are former Shepherd Center and/or Pathways patients and caregivers.
In 2014, the team at Shepherd made 1,540 peer visits and donated more than 1,385 hours. The program began in June 2006.
Last month, Mrs. Boriskie trained eight new peer visitors for Shepherd Center. All eight were previous Shepherd or Pathways patients or caregivers. At the association's training session for all new volunteers, Shepherd Center brain injury program counselor Tana Hall spoke about techniques to use when interacting with survivors and caregivers.
Mrs. Boriskie has an army of brain injury survivors and some caregivers who made more 6,400 peer visits in 2015. She has personally donated more than 15,000 volunteer hours to the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association since 2006. Since the organization's founding, she and her team haved made more than 26,000 peer visits with brain injury survivors and their families and friends, and they have donated more than 31,000 volunteer hours.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org