A conference that’s good for the brain

by Gayle Wilson

On the heels of a popular workshop held in Bridgewater in June, the Brain Injury Association Nova Scotia is hosting another event in the town that will be even "bigger and better," according to its executive director, Leona Burkey.

A one-day conference, Brain Injury Education & Awareness Day, is scheduled for the Best Western Plus Bridgewater Hotel & Convention Centre on October 4.

Speakers at the upcoming event include Chloe Luckett, who will deliver the keynote speech on behalf of LoveYourBrain Yoga. And Tina Atkinson, the team physician for Halifax Mooseheads Hockey Club and the founding member of Concussion Nova Scotia, will lead a discussion session at the event.

Burkey says the response to the Coping With Ambiguous Loss After A Brain Injury held at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater June 24 was "somewhat overwhelming. "We had just under 40 people jam into a small room," she told LighthouseNOW.

Following a $5 million boost last year from the federal and provincial government given to a spectrum of organizations involved with brain injury, the association began embarking on a series of workshops outside of Halifax to bring information and connections to brain injury sufferers.

"We definitely have a renewed focus on communities outside of Halifax, because that tends to be where people fare the worst, right? Because there's very little organized or dedicated support and services for brain injury," said Burkey.

A number of factors helped prompt the new workshop. They included interest in the Ambiguous Loss workshop, along with work the association is doing around concussion awareness combined with "a generous offer of the Best Western as a venue as one of the owners of that facility has a traumatic brain injury in her family

Noting that brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for people under 40, the association estimates that approximately 70,000 people in Nova Scotia have brain injuries. Burkey suggests that number is increasing "almost 3,000 a year, conservatively."

The association's South Shore Chapter is hosting the October 4 conference and aiming it at brain injury survivors, their families, as well as care givers, educators, parents, athletes and health professions who may interested in learning more about brain injury recovery and the challenges it presents. Organizers promise to feature a variety of brain injury-related topics including a clinical panel discussing recovery issues.

In contrast to Ambiguous Loss, which focused on the loss felt by sufferers and their loved ones after a brain injury, the follow-up, one-day conference will be "a little more comprehensive," says Burkey.

"And instead of focusing on one topic that has to do with brain injury, we're spreading it out so that people can come for the day, connect with some clinical types."

There will be an occupational therapist, physiotherapist and psychologist,who specialize in brain injury issues. Most are local, with some working at the private rehabilitation centre in Pleasantville, Peter's Place.

"So it's kind of nice that it's not all imports from the city," says Burkey.

Chloe Luckett , daughter of Pete Luckett of Luckett's Vineyards and Pete's Frootique, suffered a traumatic brain injury from a cycling accident.

"Her story is incredible, so she is coming to kind of give that real life, come-back and experience and talk a little bit about how yoga has helped her," reports Burkey.

After former Olympic snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a near-fatal brain injury, he started the Love Your Brain Yoga foundation. The group has hosted three sessions in Halifax since April with each of them filling up. And according to Burkey, the foundation is looking into the possibility of expanding to the South Shore.

For her part, Tina Atkinson will lead a discussion session titled Concussion – a Community Conversation.

"We're pretty certain the concussion session will be well attended, particularly because Bridgewater is a mad hockey town. People want to know; they want their kids to be safe." said Burkey.

The afternoon will also include a shortened version of the Ambiguous Loss concept called Beyond Brain Injury. While the day will wrap up with "a bit of a call to action. Like, what now? Do we want to see more community support? How can we develop, you know, more grass roots support?" says Burkey.

The day-long event costs $25, which includes lunch, or $10 for just the Concussion – a Community Conversation.

Those interested in attending are asked to register by September 30 through Eventbrite, or by contacting Brain Injury Nova Scotia directly: 1-833-452-7246 (toll-free) or 902-422-5000. Email: community@braininjuryns.com.

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