What’s going on? Why is my sister crying? Those are the questions 7-year-old Jose asked himself after being struck by a cyclist. The man riding the bike never stopped. Jose woke up from a coma three days later with a fractured jaw, cracked skull, and a brain injury that went untreated. He explains, “Nothing seemed to be too badly off until years down the road.” Jose and his family immigrated to Canada a few years later.

After a skiing accident as a young adult, Jose was prescribed opioids which led to substance misuse and addiction. He sustained additional brain injuries during this period of his life. Jose was ultimately incarcerated multiple times for drug-related charges. Caught up in the cycle of addiction and incarceration, he was never treated for brain injury. He recalls, “I had been losing time from my days. I had been losing days from my weeks.”

“If you don’t look at the root problem, you’re not going to work out the end result.”

Jose was released two years early from his last sentence with the intent to change his life for the better. He began receiving support through BrainTrust’s Crime Prevention & Reduction Program. BrainTrust staff worked with Jose’s probation officer to help Jose identify and learn to use strategies to compensate for his difficulties with memory, organization, and task completion.

When Jose suffered a recent loss, he was able to see a counsellor within a few days through BrainTrust’s Rapid Access Counselling (RAC) program. RAC is designed for clients, like Jose, who have difficulties with memory and executive functioning and trouble applying coping skills in times of emotional distress. With a smile on his face, Jose says, “Places like BrainTrust are a must.”

Today, Jose is motivated to help others and bring awareness to brain injury. He is completing his community service hours with BrainTrust and told his story to students participating in brain injury training. For nearly 3 years, Jose has been free of substances. He explains, “Maintenance is just as important as the accomplishment.” Jose now lives a life with purpose and says, “Now more than ever, I can be of help to my family.” And if Jose ever finds himself needing extra support, he knows BrainTrust is there for him.

When Jose thinks about the man on the bike that caused his brain injury as a child, he states, “I hold nothing against him for [riding away] because he must have panicked.” Jose extends his love, kindness, and empathy to everyone around him and is grateful for the work Braintrust has put towards helping him find his way.