Brain injury education series inspires hope

Every year, about 160,000 people experience a brain injury in Canada with traumatic, even deadly, consequences. Across the country, 1.5 million Canadians are currently living with an acquired brain injury (ABI), according to Brain Injury Canada.

Not only does an ABI affect the individual, but it also affects family caregivers. To help those with ABI learn skills to manage the impact of their injury, St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Program at Parkwood Institute offers a seven-week education series available for viewing throughout Ontario.

During this series, brain injury rehabilitation professionals share their expertise, and brain injury survivors share their journey to recovery. Sessions will be held Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 pm beginning Mar. 19 in Parkwood Institute Main Building Auditorium, Room B2-109. The sessions will be broadcast via webinar and accessed on the ABI Survivor and Family Education series information. No registration required.

Among those sharing their story as part of the education series is Colton Somerville, a young man who is living a life very different than before his brain injury. Here is his story.

photo of Colton and his mother

Colton Somerville is an acquired brain injury (ABI) survivor who will be sharing his story about living with an ABI as part of St. Joseph’s Acquired Brain Injury Survivor and Family Education Series, which begins in March and is available for viewing throughout Ontario. With Colton is his primary caregiver and mother, Corinne. 

Marked with faith

In March 2015, Colton Somerville’s life instantly changed. The then 23-year-old was struck by a transport truck and suffered a devastating and traumatic brain injury. Rushed to the Emergency Department at London Health Sciences Centre’s Victoria Hospital, he underwent surgery and was placed in a medically-induced coma for more than a month. The left side of his skull was removed to relieve pressure due to significant swelling in his brain. His brain injury was deemed catastrophic.

Colton’s mother, Corinne, received a phone call from the police informing her of the accident – a call no parent ever wants to receive. “We rushed to the hospital – they didn’t expect him to survive,” says Corinne.

Colton would spend four months in hospital, including 10 weeks as an inpatient at Parkwood Institute’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Rehabilitation Program. When he arrived, he struggled with severe memory loss and was unable to walk or speak.

After weeks of therapy and hard work, Colton began to regain his speech and improve his coordination and balance – learning to stand and walk again with assistance. The ABI rehabilitation inpatient unit provides opportunities for individuals to regain and maintain an optimal level of physical, cognitive, behavioural and psychosocial independence based on patient- and family-focused rehabilitation goals. It’s is just one component of the rehabilitation continuum offered at Parkwood Institute.

Now, four years after his accident, Colton has set his sights on new goals as he continues his journey of recovery.

"No matter how big or small, I have learned to celebrate progress," says Colton. "I want to help and speak to those who have had similar injuries and challenges and let them know that there is hope."

His mother, who is Colton’s primary caregiver, is proud of the progress and determination her son has shown, even though he continues to deal with significant limitations. The family home was recently renovated to accommodate a new basement apartment for Colton as he strives for a new sense of independence.

“Colton is a miracle in every sense of the word,” says Corinne. “We are incredibly grateful for Parkwood Institute – it marked the beginning of his recovery and the staff have become like family. They cared for him in such a way that I knew and trusted he was getting the best care possible. He still has challenges, but the care he received was truly a blessing.”

Corinne also credits their faith for helping the entire family overcome many obstacles since her son’s injury. Colton’s father, Kevin, was also by his side after the accident and continues to be a strong support to his family.

“We are a family of faith and we just felt that God was continuing to push us forward,” says Corinne.

Colton’s family, which includes his four sisters, all received personalized tattoos to celebrate Colton’s progress and mark the journey they’ve all gone through. Their matching tattoos say, “Jeremiah 29:11” referring to the Bible verse that reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

photo of arm tattoos

Acquired Brain Injury survivor Colton Somerville and his mother, Corinne, proudly show off their matching tattoos, which say “Jeremiah 29:11”referring to the Bible verse that reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." The tattoos pay tribute to their family’s faith and journey since Colton’s devastating accident that led to a traumatic brain injury in 2015.

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