Kayla Menucha Fogel was one of the lucky ones.
Then again, sometimes you make your own luck.
The Brooklyn mother of two grown children was wearing a helmet while
she was riding her bike at Avenue J and E. 19th St. in September 1995.
"I was riding down the middle of the street because I ride my
bike like I drive," Fogel said.
As she paused at the corner, a truck passing on her left caught her
head in its passenger-side mirror.
The driver either didn't hear or heed her screams, and when he drove
off she went down, banging her head on the pavement hard enough to split
the helmet in half.
"I was lucky," she says of that day. "I had injuries
to my back and the right side of my head, but no frontal lobe impact.
Frontal lobe impacts tend to produce more changes in personality."
Even after three months recovering, Fogel noticed that her balance
was still off. "I walked like a drunk," she said.
She also had vision problems that would not go away.
"I saw three of everything," she said. "I'd see three
lines of the same text, so I read the middle one."
Fogel found herself going from hospital to hospital in her search for
"No group gave me the information I needed, which was where to
go to get help and what treatment to look for," she said. "I
was one of the successful few in finding treatment because I knew something
was wrong and made sure I got it fixed."
By the time Fogel had secured adequate help for herself, she decided
to do the same for others.
She founded the Brain Injury Society in her basement in 1996, incorporating
it the following year.
The society is a kind of clearinghouse for information on acquired
and traumatic brain injuries that provides everything from medical referrals
to counseling and education on treatment regimes.
That might sound like a lot for a group with three full-time staff
members and 10 volunteers. But Fogel seems to have enough drive to move
a city block. Consider this: She earned four academic degrees from Brooklyn
College after her accident, and is now pursuing a master's in social
work at New York University.
Fogel said she visited every hospital, nursing home and permanent-care
facility in the metropolitan area that specializes in treating brain
injuries so she could personally evaluate each. She then rounded up
some of the top doctors in town specializing in brain trauma and asked
them to sit on the Brain Injury Society board.
"She found all of us, then she created a system of forced labor,"
Berger-Gross said with a grin.
The society has a Web site (www.BISociety.org) and an office at 1890
E 5th St Suite 3S (Sam) Brooklyn, Ny 11223, where a monthly newsletter,
Pathfinder, is turned out.
A Medical Center will be open within the complex shortly.
The Web site gets hundreds of hits a week, while the office averages
30 calls a day.
The group sponsors a brain injury awareness symposium and workshops
in the downstate area in affiliated training with the hospital.
What Fogel really hopes is that the Brain Injury Society can help erase
some of the stigma that still surrounds brain-injury victims, who often
display radically different behavior before and after their injury.
"If you tell people you have a brain injury, I guarantee it will
scare the people you tell," Fogel said. "The person's behavior
can be affected; there can be personality changes."
Berger-Gross said, "People don't know what to expect from you,
but then we don't know what to expect from people who have not had a
brain injury either."
But the trauma is even more devastating for the victim.
Fogel compares it with bumping your head on a kitchen cabinet. "For
a few minutes afterward, you can't speak, can't see, can't communicate,"
she said. "You have to hold on to something to be able to stand
"Now imagine that that feeling doesn't go away."
Tracking the Causes of Injuries
The two major categories of brain injury:
Acquired Brain Injury
An internal disturbance of the brain by physiological changes such as
stroke, anoxia, a growth, tumor, certain diseases, aneurysm and/or removal
of a portion of the brain. The term includes Traumatic Brain Injury,
which is defined as an insult to the brain caused by preventable or
unavoidable rapid external movements.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Often caused by accidents and assaults involving external forces against
the skull. These include motor vehicle incidents, sports and recreational
injuries, physical assaults, domestic violence, shaken baby syndrome,
falls and bullet wounds. Consequences can include cognitive, speech,
hearing, taste, smell, balance/vestibular, vision and physical mobility
dysfunctions, as well as pyscho-social, behavioral and emotional impairments.