My name is Barb Butler, I live in Regina Saskatchewan, I’ve lived here since 1992, before that I lived in Ontario. In fact we had just moved from Ontario to Saskatchewan when I was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in my brain injury. I was in a vehicle that was driving down the road, there were no cars around us and as we were turning there was a semi behind us that broadsided us. My whole family was in the vehicle. Everyone was injured, but I was the most injured because I hit my head. That was in July of 1993 and I don’t have any memory of the actual incident until about a year later. I was 38 when that happened. After the accident I was in a coma for 22 days and then after that I was moved shortly to a rehab hospital and I was there for about four months as an inpatient, then as an outpatient for the better part of the next five years. I learned to walk. I could talk. I couldn’t recognize people I’ve known all my life. At first I didn’t even know that I had even had children, so I had to be reintroduced to my family. My daughter was in the hospital, she had broken her femur bone, so she was in the hospital for about a month. My kids were nine and five when it happened, so they didn’t really know what was happening and when you ask them about it now, people will say that “it must’ve been so hard for you being so young with a mother who has a brain injury” and they say “she’s just our mom,” and that is the only thing that they remember. But yeah, it was tough for a while, but it’s a long time ago.
I don’t have a really good short term memory, but I write down absolutely everything. So you wouldn’t know that I have a poor short term memory because I never miss appointments or meetings. I do walk with a slight limp, so that’s the only physical part of it. I don’t always limp, but when I’m tired it becomes more noticeable.
In ‘93 there wasn’t a whole lot known about brain injuries, in fact at that time I was first referred to the Saskatchewan Head Injury Association, so they didn’t even call it a brain injury, they called it a head injury. My rehab consisted of learning to walk, learning to read… following that I was basically sent home to figure it out for myself, because at the time there weren't a lot of services. There are now, but at the time there wasn’t. I recovered and continued to go to brain injury support group meetings and soon after that I was asked to join the Board of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association. After being a part of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury board I was asked to be on the board of Brain Injury Canada. I was involved with that board for about 15 years. It was my job as the Conference Chair to find the speakers and do the program. I was also the newsletter editor.
And as I got better and saw the need and knew what all these survivors were going through, the one thing I did do in Regina was that I started a weekly support group so that survivors could go throughout the week because survivors often have nothing to do. So I started that. We can’t run it now because of Covid, but every week we go to each survivor and drop off a care package. Just something to say hi - from a distance of course! People really look forward to just a weekly visit. The group is kind of run by the survivors, it’s kind of what they need to do. There was this one meeting way back where we just talked about Donald Trump, and you may think that’s silly, but these survivors are people who rarely get to voice their opinions, so for them to get to express their political views is really neat because nobody really asks them what they think. It’s important to make them feel that their views are respected and that we want to hear what they want to say. They come and share their problems and we will offer them strategies to help with that problem.
[With the pandemic,] I know these people are desperate for someone to talk to, for someone to see. We’ve tried to do a whole lot of stuff on zoom, but a lot of survivors in my group don’t have technology. So that’s been difficult.
Interviewed by Jasper Delichte