In 2002, Graham Kunz was 15 years old and living the life of many a young Canadian boy. He was a top student who excelled at sports and dreamed of a career in hockey – the game he’d been playing since he was 5 years old. Earlier that year he’d returned home elated from having played hockey in the BC Winter Games, and now he had a summer job working with his dad in the Kootenays as a construction labourer.
One summer night as Graham rode home with a co-worker, the vehicle they were travelling in collided with a semi-truck. His friend did not survive the impact, and young Graham lay in a coma for the next several months. As he awoke he remembers hearing the conversation of family and friends, who were using words like ‘car accident’ and ‘brain injury’. Graham had no memory of the accident, but says he gradually “gathered the clues” and figured out what had happened to him.
He spent the next few months in the hospital learning how to walk and talk again and re-learning how to do mental things like sorting and organizing. When he returned to school the following year, Graham had a teacher’s assistant who helped him understand directions and organize tasks for completion.
Like many individuals who sustain a brain injury, Graham also had to deal with the loss of his social circle. He says “old friendships just kind of passed”, and though it wasn’t easy he told himself “that was then and now I’m here…I’m not going to recover the past.”
Graham’s accident changed the trajectory of his young life. Now 29, this former top student learns more slowly than he used to and can no longer play competitive sports. He may never be able to drive a car, and spends many hours walking in the community instead. He struggles with short term memory and is unable to stay on task well enough to keep a job. Graham says it’s still a challenge to meet and make new friends.
He speaks positively of the sense of community he has since found at BrainTrust Canada. He has attended a Young Adults group that provided social outings for youth with brain injury, and a Managing Emotions group focused on handling intense emotions that can arise after injury. Graham currently attends a Wellness group that meets to explore strategies for healthy living. He comments, “There are good programs here for people with brain injuries to use, to get re-involved or re-integrated in the community.”
Sometimes community can be found in unexpected places , and wise is the one who recognizes this to be true. At BrainTrust Canada we count Graham among the 'wise ones'.