Jordan [email protected]
DIGHTON In 2013, Roberto Cabral remembers that his life changed in an instant. As he was operating a forklift at Bristol Marine, he fell two stories and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
At the time, the ensuing situation seemed hopeless for Cabral he was left deaf in his left ear, could not balance while standing, and had trouble regulating his emotions.
After nearly four years, Cabral is now an avid runner with a half-marathon already under his belt. This Sunday, hell be running seven miles to raise awareness about TBIs on behalf of the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts in the 2017 New Balance Falmouth Road Race.
I struggled to come to terms with my injuries at first, it was hard to swallow, said Cabral. I had to accept that this was a new normal for me and that everyday is a new challenge. Each one, I take seriously.
In addition to a TBI, Cabral also suffered spinal fractures, broken ribs, a punctured lung, blood clots, and fractures in his left temporal and frontal lobes. As a result of his brain injuries, doctors told him that hed have trouble with the most basic everyday activities, from walking to remembering information.
Though he cant hear out of his left ear, Cabral still experiences an internal buzzing caused by tinnitus. He refers to it as a lawnmower in my head.
Cabral, who immigrated from Sao Miguel Island in 1977 and has since acquired full citizenship, worked in assembly line production until 2001, when he entered the shipbuilding business at J&J Marine. Twelve years later, the company was bought out by Bristol Marine, after which he suffered the 20-foot fall while shrink-wrapping a ship for winter storage.
Immigration was a challenge, but it got more rewarding as time went on and I learned the language, said Cabral. My injury was like starting a new life over.
When Cabral first arrived home from the inpatient rehabilitation, Cabral received all the help and suggestions that he could get from doctors, friends, and family. Due to the fact that he could not return to work, Cabral said that his mother-in-law moved in to live with him for over a year and half while his wife worked extra hours to make ends meet. He was also faced with another daily challenge: monitoring his 10-year-old daughter, who had recently been diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.
Your whole family suffers as a result (of TBI). A lot of people arent as lucky as me to have the support that Ive had, Cabral revealed.
Though the use of a treadmill, Cabral was able to regain the ability to walk normally and eventually worked his way up to running. He says that he now engages in intensive workout routines anywhere from three to four times a week.
Cabral had his first post-recovery experience with long-distance running after he was encouraged to run in a road race by Gwen Larsen, his physical therapist from the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. From then on, Cabral says that he got hooked into the sport.
At Benson-Henry, Cabral participated in the institutes SMART program, which teaches patients to cope with anxiety and depression associated with traumatic injury through deep breathing and meditation. Cabral says that running goes hand-in-hand with both practices and is a form of therapy in itself.
In addition to Mass General, Cabral also went through rehabilitation at Brigham and Womens, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Community Rehab Care in Watertown.
While going through the physical and occupational rehabilitation process over two long years, Cabral was able to realize the full extent of those affected by TBI. Recent statistics compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission show that just under 60,000 individuals were admitted to hospital emergency rooms in 2014 for TBI. This number has not changed significantly over past years, according to Cabral.
Those who survive severe brain injuries all have different challenges, Cabral said.
As a result of a workers compensation, Cabral says that he was able to receive top-class care in Massachusetts, home to the best medical system in the world. In addition to physical care, Cabral said that an integral aspect to his rehabilitation process was receiving cognitive treatment to deal with mental issues associated with his injury.
He was later shocked to find out that state law does not require private insurance companies to cover cognitive rehabilitation associated with TBI and other brain injuries. For thousands of patients suffering from TBI, lack of private access to cognitive health services is costly to not only those without coverage, but also to the states public healthcare system.
It is shameful to see that others with similar injuries cannot get the same care as I did, said Cabral. If I didnt have all the coverage that I did, I dont know what Id be doing today.
In 2015, Cabral decided to speak up by petitioning before the Massachusetts House of Representatives to enact legislation that would mandate insurance companies to provide cognitive therapy for brain injury patients. The initial bill H.843 was spearheaded by both the BIA-MA and State Representative Kimberly Ferguson, although it was not enacted into law.
In January of this year, a new piece of legislation an Act Improving Lives by Ensuring Access to Brain Injury Treatment was sponsored by members of both the House and Senate, filed respectively as S.502 and H.2166. The bill is currently still in discussion.
While Cabral is not able to work full time with his condition, he still spends as much time as he can volunteering and working part-time at various locations. Hes currently a member of the Knights of Columbus out of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in North Dighton. At the church, he cuts the lawn and helps with fundraising efforts. Recently, he acquired a gym membership at Raynham Athletic Club.
I feel very blessed to be able to recover to the level that I have and to be able to give back to people who dont have what I do.
Most notably, Cabral works at Tauntons Pride Incorporated on a per diem basis. Pride provides day habilitation (also known as day-hab) to individuals who have living disabilities, helping them learn skills essential to living on their own.
There, he has been spending time with a man who suffers from Parkinsons Disease.
Bob has a super relationship with (the man), said Douglas Latham, the director of operations at Pride and Cabrals neighbor.
I was really worried about him (Cabral) when he came home from rehab, said Latham.
He worked through his condition with hard work and dedication. He might not have went back to work full time, but he remembers where he came from after the injury and never forgets it.
After the Falmouth Road Race, Cabral says that his eventual goal is to run in the Boston Marathon. Although he believes that his condition will make it hard for him to qualify in the trial. He hopes that he will be able to obtain a bib by running on behalf of a charity, preferably one for diabetes. Much like Cabrals dedication to his own recovery, he says that he spends just as much time researching diabetes for his daughter.
Once you accept your situation, then everything changes. If you focus on the positives in life, the negatives become much less of a burden. It does get better.
If you would like to donate to the BIA-MA to help support services to TBI survivors, Cabrals donation page for the Falmouth Road Race can be found athttps://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/roberto-cabral-1/2017-new-balance-falmouth-road-race
Dighton man running race to raise funds, awareness of traumatic … – Taunton Daily Gazette