In the United States, there is a new case of a traumatic brain injury every 16 seconds. As the focus continues on recognizing Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, a digital agency is using its expertise in social media to help this cause. The Northern Regional Medical Command notes that “traumatic brain injuries occur more frequently than do breast cancer cases, HIV/AIDS infections, multiple sclerosis cases and spinal injuries combined.”
The CDC estimates that 1.7 million traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases occur each year and cost the nation $60 billion. However, the harsh statistics are not enough to give a full view of the suffering TBIs create for survivors and their families. Bernadette Coleman’s son, Michael Black ‘The Bean,’ was involved in a car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Michael, who was in a coma and not expected to survive, beat the odds and continues to amaze his family with the progress he is making in rehabilitation therapy. Bernadette explains that the doctors left the family in a state that “almost had no hope,” but Michael’s strong spirit was able to persevere through multiple surgeries including one that involved removing a large portion of his skull. Today, Michael is able to walk and continues to make progress.
Bernadette Coleman’s experience as a family member of a traumatic brain injury survivor left her with the realization that a social support network was missing online. She explains, “There was plenty of medical research about TBI on the web but we realized very quickly that finding a place where we could connect with other survivors was very difficult.” Coleman turned to her company Advice Interactive Group and created a unique solution by launching TryMunity.
TryMunity provides a safe social networking community for both survivors of TBI and their supporters. Using the expertise from her own digital agency, Bernadette Coleman has shaped TryMunity to be a free social media network that fits the unique needs of its members. Input from her son Michael has also helped the process. It removes the isolation that survivors and families often experience after an injury. TryMunity is not limited to traumatic brain injury survivors and also welcomes cancer, stroke, violence, accident, spinal cord injury and other survivors. It provides a safe space to discuss progress, give hope and ask questions.
Michael Black is one of the most active members of the community. He states, “You can talk to people who have survived and going through the same problems you have, and it helps you out real good to know there are people going through the same things you are.” Black is still doing several hours of rehabilitation therapy a day, and TryMunity provides a welcoming space to discuss his progress with others. Bernadette Coleman continues to focus on raising awareness about brain injuries. She has attended five conferences this month and has talked at the Brain Injury Association along with other brain injury alliances. In addition, she is encouraging others to use social media to help raise awareness for TBI. She points out, “Unless you’re in that situation and scrambling around for a piece of hope that your son is going to live, you don’t know how important those words are.”
Bernadette Coleman has asked other digital agencies and groups to get involved in the cause. She believes that social media experts can truly help spread awareness. She also wants to use social media to make people aware of TryMunity because people need to know this resource is available if their lives have been touched by TBI. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and her message is crucial to connecting survivors and supporters with a safe community that understands their needs.