Two years ago, Lisa Alberte started a free support group for her clients who suffer from the debilitating effects of brain injuries.
Lisa, a registered nurse who owns her own vocational rehabilitation practice in Muskego, said many people with brain injuries lose virtually everything they own.
One of the patients in her support group was shot in the head while serving in Iraq in 2006 and still has a bullet lodged in his brain. The war veteran never received any special recognition due to his condition when he arrived home, but he captured the attention of Lisa’s 13-year-old daughter, Belynda, who recognized the need to reach out and help patients with brain injuries.
Over the past summer, Belynda, an eighth-grader at Bay Lane Middle School in Muskego, organized a group of 17 friends, putting on a car wash, a bake sale and a rummage sale. She invited the injured veteran to those events, and made flyers and walked them to more than 750 homes. All of the money raised went to Lisa’s support group for the veteran, called Embracing Hope.
“Even when cars were not stopping, she motivated her friends and took turns standing by the roadside waving the American flag, asking people to help an injured solider,” Lisa Alberte says. “They made my patient who was hurt in the Iraq War feel very special by introducing him as a hero to the people who stopped for this event.”
When Belynda first met him, the Iraq war veteran could not walk or talk. Today, he is able to walk and talk, and the efforts by Belynda and her fellow teens provided moral support and encouragement on his road to recovery.
“He really appreciates the support my friends gave him,” says Belynda, who sees the man about once a week when she accompanies her mother on home care visits.
Belynda also has helped two teachers and a daycare provider who sustained brain injuries by acting as the student in simulated work activities as part of their vocational rehabilitation recovery program, and she has talked with children whose parents have sustained brain injuries to help them understand what is happening.
As another example of her commitment, Belynda has organized a silent auction to benefit Embracing Hope. She has written two poems about brain injuries that were shared with patients, and she has walked for brain injury awareness with the Brain Injury Association of Wisconsin.
“I don’t like to see people struggle and have to go though things that are hard,” Belynda says. “I want to help them, to show them that there is hope, that things can get better, that people are here to help.”