Last year, Springfield resident Kim Hobson was enjoying teaching his 4-year-old son Tyler how to play T-ball and looking forward to the near future when he could play baseball with him. But in February 2013, the unthinkable happened.
“He began having seizures, had a cardiac arrest and went into a coma,” Hobson said. “One minute I was talking about baseball and the next minute I was talking about breathing tubes.”
Tyler was evenutally diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, and had suffered cerebral hypoxia due to his cardiac arrest, causing brain damage.
“Cerebral hypoxia occurs when there is not enough oxygen getting to the brain,” explained Hobson.
Hobson said his family was immediately thrown into a scary, unfamiliar world in which his son’s life was being threatened and he had no idea how to help him.
“At some point my son was in such bad shape that the hospital told me I might want to ‘pull the plug’,” he said. “As both a father and as a man, I was facing incredible turmoil. I knew nothing about Tyler’s condition or anything at all about raising a special-needs child. It was as if my mind was floating a mile from my body and I was having to make life and death decisions like that. One minute I had a normal kid, and the next minute he was in a coma. We didn’t know what to do.”
Hobson said that was when he was introduced to Jo Thompson from the Springfield-based nonprofit group Brain Injury Services. “Jo was a godsend,” said Hobson. “She led us out of the dark.”
Thompson has been a pediatric case worker for BIS for 11 years and says she handles about 30 cases at a time.
She says what she does is help families to navigate services and resources for pediatric clients and their families.
“I met Tyler and his family in July, 2013,” she said. “At that time, Tyler was still in a rehab hospital. I felt like I hit it off with the Hobson family right off the bat. They are the type of family that makes me love my job. They are grateful, positive and so grounded. Tyler’s injuries are severe, but his family is so optimistic and supportive.”
Since 1989, BIS has helped Northern Virginia families whose family members have experienced brain injuries.
“Brain Injury Services helps children and adults with brain injuries build the skills and confidence they need to lead a fulfilling and productive life,” said BIS Executive Director Karen W. Brown. “In 2013 BIS helped 650 individuals, including 65 children with brain injuries, and their families.”
Hobson said he cannot convey how deeply grateful he and his wife Evelyn are to both Thompson and BIS.
“After Tyler’s brain injury it was as if we were completely in the dark and Jo came into that dark world with a flashlight and said ‘follow me, I know the way out of here,’” he said. “BIS changed my life and my family’s life. I can’t even tell you how impactful they have been. Without them, I really don’t know what we would have done.”
Hobson said Thompson arranged for in-home physical and occupational therapy for Tyler and introduced the family to exercises and equipment to aid in his recovery.
Thompson said her initial objective was to establish home-based therapy, set up assistive technology equipment in Tyler’s home and work on hetting him back to functioning on his own so he could re-enter school.
“Before BIS, I didn’t know about any of this,” Hobson said. “Jo and BIS have helped my family in so many ways.”
Today, Hobson said Tyler is five-years-old and attending kindergarten at Fairfax County’s Key Center School in Springfield. The school is a special education center which serves students with intellectual disabilities and autism. “He has a long way to go,” he said. “I look at it like he has to go 100 yards and he is on the 5-yard line, but he is getting there. He’s moving the ball.”
On May 16, BIS will be celebrating its 25th anniversary at the Country Club of Fairfax. Brown said sponsorships are still available. “The honorable Katherine (Kate) Hanley, a former Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairperson and former Secretary of the Commonwealth will chair the 25th anniversary gala.
“Twenty-five years ago families in Northern Virginia were unable to cope with the results of traumatic brain injury and BIS was established as the first community-based organization dedicated to serving individuals with brain injuries in the Commonwealth,” said Brown. “BIS would not exist today if Ms. Hanley and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors had not heard our constituents and their need for services related to the traumatic effects of a brain injury.”
For more information about BIS and its 25-year anniversary gala, go to www.braininjurysvcs.org.