Join in ... with Families 4 Families

Kylie Mara and Marie Erswell invite you to join in with a Murray Bridge support group for people with acquired brain injuries.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.

Kylie Mara calls it an “invisible disability”.

Life changes irrevocably when you acquire a brain injury, as she did when she suffered a massive stroke in 2008.

She only survived because she happened to be at the Royal Adelaide Hospital at the time, she says, and things she once did without a conscious thought – even getting dressed – can now be difficult at times.

But you wouldn’t know it, even if you sat down and chatted with her; that lack of understanding is one of the challenges survivors face.

Support groups run by an organisation called Families 4 Families have helped her and others, including a handful who meet at Murray Bridge Library each month to talk about their experiences and their ongoing recovery.

Kylie and group coordinator Marie Erswell sat down with Murray Bridge News this week.

When did you first get involved with Families 4 Families?

Marie: I got involved when I was going through the BIRCH (Brain Injury Rehabilitation Community and Home) program. The couple who founded Families 4 Families were doing a presentation there. Straight away I connected to them and thought “I’d love to put my energy into this”. I’d worked full time previously, and to go from full-time to nothing was a shock. That was in 2012. I was a personal assistant in the education department – I even worked at Beatty Terrace (some years ago) ... (The Murray Bridge group) came later. Somebody else was running it before me. She retired last year. My husband says “you can’t help everybody” but I’ve got to try.

What do you get out of your involvement?

Kylie: You can help (people) by giving little pointers: reach up and touch door frames. Have a cook-up day. Little tips can make a massive difference.

Marie: It gives me a purpose, knowing I’m going to the group.

What is your fondest memory of your time with Families 4 Families?

Kylie: For me it’s building friendships with people who completely understand. I look fine but I’m so completely not fine.

Marie: It’s an invisible disability. I get aphasia so bad. I go home at night and won’t be able to talk because I’ve been talking all day. You can’t pronounce things. There’s a lot of different deficits. Neuro fatigue is the worst. When I get really overloaded it turns into physical stuff, falling over; that's when it gets really dangerous.

What do you spend your time doing each month?

Marie: We do different subjects (for discussion at each meeting). We do two social outings each year. This year they picked bowling and Chinese. I approach people to come and speak to the group. People like to have a topic.

What is your goal with Families 4 Families?

Marie: As long as I can keep helping people, my goal is to keep doing that, and to be able to look after my grandkids.

Kylie: The same, but for my daughter and I.

Why should people join Families 4 Families?

Kylie: They’ll get so much help out of it, knowledge and friendship.

Marie: Knowledge is power. I always say “this is our new normal”.

Kylie: You’ve got to accept it and work with what you've got. We try to inspire people to become more independent.

Marie: This is the family you get to pick, not the one you're born into.

Kylie: Because they understand what you're going through, you develop some good friendships.

“Join In” aims to promote community connections and wellbeing in the Murraylands – and it could promote your business, too. Murray Bridge News is seeking an ongoing sponsor for this regular feature. Call Peri on 0419 827 124 or email peri@murraybridge.news.

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