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Enriching the lives of people with brain injury

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BIG Life is a rehabilitative adventure club for Brain Injury survivors and their caregivers to promote lifestyle wellness, community inclusion, social supports, community service and education. BIG Life provides a continuous schedule of regular activities, special events and service projects with an array of adaptive, therapeutic and recreational rehabilitation both on campus and in the community. BIG Life’s objective is to enrich the lives of those affected by brain injury, improving quality of life and overall life satisfaction through fulfilling and rewarding life experiences. BIG Life is a 501(c)3 tax deductible charitable organization.

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BIG Facts

TBI doesn't Discriminate

Every 21 seconds, someone in the U.S. sustains a brain injury. At least 5.3 million Americans live with a brain injury requiring lifelong help

Even our Heroes

At least 400,000 Veterans since 2000 have been diagnosed with a brain injury

In Florida

In Florida alone, an average of 265 people a day sustain a brain injury, equaling over 97,000 annually. Only 1 in 20 brain injury survivors get the necessary rehabilitation

You Should Know

Brain injury is a public health problem as statistics related to brain injuries, ranging from concussions to severe TBI, are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines brain injury as a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

TBI Affects so Much

Brain injury can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, mental health and/or sensation.

The Impact on the Family

Change in brain function can have a profound impact on family, job, social and community interaction. Astounding rates of isolation, depression, poor life quality, suicidality, permanently severed relationships and high divorce rates accompany life after brain injury.

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ABOUT BIG LIFE

April 2009, my world was turned upside when my life was forever changed by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Nate, my husband, was in what was thought to be a fatal motorcycle accident; the result of a
garbage truck turning in front of him. Despite wearing a full-faced helmet, Nate was left with devastating
injuries including: a severe TBI, grade 4 lacerations on 3 of his major organs, a collapsed lung, an orbital eye fracture and severe orthopedic injuries including shattered pelvis, 2 broken hips, 2 broken knees, several fractured vertebrae, multiple broken ribs, broken clavicle, a broken leg, and several broken bones in his feet and hands. Nate was not expected to live for several days after the accident. When he did, he was never expected to come out of his coma. Nate very gradually showed minuscule signs of improvement, yet still was thought to be at best, to live an acutely compromised quality of life as a result and I was advised for a 3rd time by his trauma treatment team to discontinue treatment/life support. Nate had to learn everything again; he had to learn to walk, talk, chew, swallow, read, walk, etc. Although many of the other injuries have long-term ramifications, they do not have the daily effect and unpredictability that comes with living with a TBI.

Traumatic brain injury or TBI is a word I am not even sure I had ever even heard before Nate’s accident yet without warning, preparation, education or awareness I was instantaneously thrust into a life with a TBI at the focal point. The unfortunate part of this is that I am not alone in my ignorance or unpreparedness; I had taken on a new and lifelong role and title of TBI caregiver.

Each day is different and filled with ever-changing challenges for both TBI survivors and their caretakers; no day is ever the same when you live with a brain injury or live with someone who has a brain injury. For years after my husband’s TBI, I lost my own identity, bouts of depression, too ashamed to ask for help or tell people we were hurting, guilt that I struggled with such negative feelings and feeling I lived in an isolated world as no one, not even my family and closest friends could understand, as I struggled to understand life with TBI. To everyone on the outside everything seemed just fine because TBI and its caregiving often show no obvious scars.

I did not choose, apply, aspire, or dream of being a part of the TBI population. I did not choose to be married to the same man, yet in an instant forever being married to a different man. I did not choose for my lifestyle, hobbies, and interests to have to be adapted. What I did choose is to turn indescribable pain and trial into purpose! Sometimes interruptions, big and small, happen in our lives because we have a greater purpose and calling in our lives. Nate and I have no doubt that our journey-the good, the bad, the miraculous, the downright ugly, painful, unclear and everything in between has been to prepare for this very purpose in coming along side others with similar TBI journeys with BIG Life. Although I had no idea at the age of 18 when I chose my career path, receiving my B.S. in Psychology, going on to my PhD in Clinical Psychology and working in the mental health field for 10 + years would ultimately be preparing me to serve the very population I became a part of without even knowing it existed.

Through sustainable donations, grants and sponsorship, brain injury survivors and their caregivers will be blessed with such rehabilitation that otherwise would be unavailable to this severely under-served population. BIG Life provides diverse and innovative rehabilitation opportunities to continually meet the needs of the brain injury population. BIG Life provides a constant sense of inclusion and improved quality of life as part of this group and in our community, stimulating positive-societal change.

BIG Life is serving the brain injury population as resources are available and The BIG Skate will be BIG Life’s first, official fundraising initiative. Every donation is BIG and plays a lasting effect on the lives of those forever impacted by brain injury. As resources allow, BIG Life is working to develop the 3 acre campus to include a 30’x60’ screened pavilion clubhouse for an endless array of therapeutic and group opportunities; restoration of 110’ greenhouse to include raised garden beds to accommodate handicap accessible gardening; continued development of nature trails and walking paths throughout the property; and increased staffing to provide expanded therapeutic opportunities.

OUR TEAM

Merideth McDonald, PhD(c), MHC

Executive Director

Founder and active Executive Director of BIG Life. She brings a duality approach and understanding to the brain injury world with both her personal and professional experience of brain injury. Being the caregiver and wife of a TBI survivor, along with her doctoral-level education, Merideth has committed her life to exposing the “invisible epidemic” of brain injury and improving quality of life for brain injury survivors and their families. Merideth has extensive clinical experience in behavioral and mental health, working as a clinician and mental health counselor.

John Anthony Castro, J.D., LL.M.

Director and Treasurer

John provides BIG Life with unparalleled insight, counsel, and support. As a renowned international tax attorney with his own law firm with 4 offices throughout the U.S. and partner firms in over 130 countries around the world, John assists our donors with their charitable gift planning and the income and estate tax benefits associated with said planning. John has exemplary experience in civil and community organizations, including being previously appointed by the Governor to serve on the Board of Directors of a state museum. John’s reputation precedes him.

Rob Reeves

Board Member

Rob offers distinguished experience and expertise. He has recently retired from the YMCA organization after a 35 year career with them; serving over the last 15 years as CEO. Rob has proudly served and held leadership positions in several civil organizations continually providing a voice for positive societal change. Rob’s heart for community and his 35+ years of professional experience supporting non-profit organizations is an unrivaled and welcome addition to BIG Life.

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To learn more, either as a brain injury survivor, caregiver, volunteer, or partner with BIG Life, please contact us.

Address

576 N. US Hwy 1
Oak Hill, FL, 32759

Phone

386-478-9998

Email

info@iambiglife.org

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