A car accident left Jackie Moore traumatized and unable to function. Now she’s helping others overcome their fears.
By Christine Graf
Jackie Moore is on a mission to bring help and hope to those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Her unexpected journey began in June 2011 after her vehicle was rear-ended. Moore, 49 at the time, suffered no visible injuries but experienced a brief loss of consciousness and was later diagnosed with a concussion. “Doctors told me I would be better in two weeks. Then four weeks. Then three months. Then six months. Then nine months. After one year, my symptoms were still getting worse. I went from doctor to doctor. I received no help,” says Moore. “I was in a constant state of confusion, had problems with my vision, and couldn’t even carry on a conversation or understand language. I couldn’t read, write, or do math. I had no concept of time and no awareness at all.” She could no longer work and was forced to close her business.
Two years after her accident, Moore was finally able to use the telephone and began calling TBI research facilities throughout the country. She contacted the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine and was accepted into its three-day, 25-hour observational TBI study. After meeting with 16 different TBI specialists and therapists, she was diagnosed with a coup contrecoup, a closed-head traumatic brain injury that occurs when physical force causes the brain to ricochet within the skull. Doctors in Toledo, Ohio, where Moore lives did not have the imaging equipment or expertise necessary to diagnose her injury.
Doctors at the NIH helped Moore develop a treatment plan and gave her access to a database of TBI experts throughout the country. In the months that followed, her life improved dramatically. She was so encouraged by her progress that she and her husband, Mike, decided to establish a nonprofit resource center that would help others impacted by TBI. “We realized there was no help or hope for brain injury sufferers,” says Moore. “I knew there were millions of people walking around who were just like me and weren’t getting the help they needed.”
The plan was an ambitious one for Moore because of her cognitive impairments and her limited ability to read or write. But Moore says she retained her ability to make presentations and formulate business plans. “I worked for 30 years in the private sector, and even though I lost many executive functions, I didn’t lose my ability to work with corporate entities. I am able to use my assets to overcome my deficits,” she says. She raised $100,000 and found a home for her center in a space provided free of charge by Mercy Health Partners, Ohio’s largest healthcare provider and the center’s No. 1 supporter.
In April 2015, Moore and her husband opened the Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center (TBIRC) in Toledo with Moore as the center’s sole volunteer employee. At the time, she could only work two hours a day due to her physical limitations. The center was inundated with phone calls and emails, and they offered assistance to 4,000 people during their first eight months of operation. “We were blown away,” says Moore. They rely on generous individual corporate and personal donors, volunteers and part-time paid staff members. Moore receives no salary.
The TBIRC does not charge for any of its services or programs which include speech therapy, support groups, nutrition education, community lunches, and peer-based programming that allows TBI sufferers to help one another. They also provide caregiver and family support. According to Moore, “We offer hope. We offer inspiration. We teach people how to find a purpose again. When you are broken, life sucks. But once you see a little bit of light, you want more. We build on that. We help them create a game plan and give them the tools to navigate through this new life they have.”
A large percentage of the center’s TBI clients also suffer from post-traumatic stress. Many were involved in car accidents and are afraid to drive or ride in cars. Research has indicated that exposure to intense trauma associated with a TBI significantly increases the risk of PTSD. It is also believed that TBI can damage the cognitive function and may lead to PTSD by hindering a person’s ability to manage the consequences of psychological trauma.
Because so many of their clients suffer from both conditions, the TBIRC provides a “judgment-free zone.” Although the center has a code of conduct, it believes in giving second chances. If someone has a meltdown, they are not asked to leave. The staff works with the client to address the problem. They help clients identify their triggers and teach them how to diffuse situations before they escalate. “When people are spinning out of control, they need to be taught how to regroup,” says Moore.
For Melissa, a client of the TBIRC, post-traumatic stress, and TBI resulted from a car accident. “I went to the center three times before I walked in the door,” says Melissa. “It was the fear of something new.” She goes there and takes advantage of many of the center’s services including speech therapy. “It’s a safe haven for me,” she says. “No one’s going to judge me there because we’re all the same. We help each other cope and deal with everyday difficulties and challenges. Jackie has brought me a new light. I see that there are other options besides sitting at home depressed. It has helped me accept things and move forward.”
Life remains a struggle for Moore, but she continues to persevere. “I still fight for my life every day,” she says. She relies on the constant love and support of her husband as well as on her faith. Moore says, “I’m grateful to God because he lets me live every day and provide service to others.”