Emory Report

April 24, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 30

Clubhouse opens for trauma patients

By Lillian Kim

Each year, an estimated 35,000 people in Georgia suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Oftentimes these individuals are left unable to work, live independently or participate in community activities. Consequently, they can become isolated and inactive, leading to chronic psychological and physical problems well beyond those created by the injury itself.

To help combat these issues, Shepherd Center and Emory Healthcare have partnered to create Side by Side Clubhouse, a central meeting place where individuals recovering from TBI can get involved in productive activities and increase their social interaction and independence.

Located off the town square in Decatur, Side by Side is one of only five model clubhouses in the country for people with brain injuries, and the only one of its kind in the Southeast.

"It's the only resource of its kind," said Kathryn Waybright, whose son, Nate, is a clubhouse member. "We're just thrilled that Shepherd and Emory got together to do this."

Four years ago at age 16, Nate was in an automobile accident that put him in a coma for more than a month. He recovered fully from his physical injuries, but his brain injury demanded intensive, ongoing rehabilitation.

The clubhouse provides Nate with a much-needed creative outlet on top of teaching him skills aimed at making him more self-sufficient. Until the clubhouse opened, Nate's parents searched Georgia for programs suitable for someone like their son.

"We really felt we had exhausted all the possibilities," Waybright said.

"Our goal in creating this program is to give people with brain injuries an opportunity to [make the] transition from being a medical patient to a contributing member of society," said Cindi Johnson, Side by Side director. "Unlike a sheltered living program or an institutional building, the clubhouse is a resource for members. Here they can learn new skills to help them find employment, volunteer opportunities and any other activities that enhance their lives and self esteem."

With limited assistance from staff, Side by Side members are responsible for the day-to-day business operations of the clubhouse such as paying bills, taking attendance, interviewing members, offering tours, budgeting for kitchen supplies, buying food and cleaning.

"Everybody who comes to the clubhouse will have something to do to help them grow in their confidence and skills," said Mike McCord of Emory's Center for Rehabilitation Medicine, who is spending a year working as Side by Side's employment coordinator.

The clubhouse provides members with vocational assistance such as job placement and job support. Certified instructors offer classes on adapted golf, therapeutic drama, tai chi and dance, which help club members increase their physical activity and improve their mobility skills.

"This is a commitment to the community of people with brain injuries," McCord said.

For more information on Side by Side Clubhouse, call 404-378-1139 or visit www.sidebysideclubhouse.org.

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