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VA Palo Alto Health Care System


In Her Own Words: Women with TBI Share Their Story

Dr. Odette Harris, associate director of Polytrauma and grant recipient for the digital story telling project, talks with the women about sharing their stories.

Dr. Odette Harris, associate director of Polytrauma and grant recipient for the digital story telling project, talks with the women about sharing their stories.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Every culture has a storytelling aspect that helps people learn from and identify with a common situation. The power of the phenomenological approach to healing is well known. As researchers and clinicians, we recognize the power of the patient's voice. The data itself often reflects a limited view of the patients and their experiences. This was the catalyst for the program, "In Her Own Words," a three-day workshop inviting women who have experience with traumatic brain injury (TBI) to share their stories.

The intent of the workshop, which took place in January 2013 at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, is to educate health care professionals and other women with TBI by allowing four women to capture moments that were meaningful to their personal story. The storytellers themselves had full editorial control of their videos, from working with video software to picking the music playing in the background.

The VA Palo Alto website will be launching a public awareness series, releasing one video story per week on Facebook. The series follows a recent seminar (view photos from the seminar) held for VA health care providers and community members called "Women Veterans, Brain Injury and Trauma," where all four videos were debuted.

"In Her Own Words" was a collaborative effort with the VAPAHCS Polytrauma System of Care, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, the Center for Digital Storytelling, and Stanford University. Funding for this project was provided by The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, under a Stanford Faculty Research Fellowship.

This Week's Story

In Her Own Words: Nadine

Nadine served in the Army National Guard. In 2002, while stationed in Germany, a ceiling beam fell on Nadine's head and she was subsequently diagnosed with a TBI. For years afterwards, she was subject to random blackouts leaving her with little memory of anything before her military career.

Nadine suffered from chronic migraines, severe memory problems, speech difficulties, and fatigue. The anxiety and depression from these issues eventually took a toll on her career and marriage.

Two years later, she was in a motor vehicle accident, whereafter the car flipped six times. She sustained another head injury. She could not remember her family and friends; she could not work because she kept forgetting things. She described the feeling as being "lost in time" – disappearing for weeks and months and ultimately leading to her homelessness. When Nadine was finally told that her problems were due to the brain damage injuries, she had relief and realized, "Wow, I'm not crazy."

After making progress in her treatment at the VA and receiving her housing voucher through the HUD-VASH program, she could finally get normal sleep with medication and no worries.

"Thank you for believing in the unseen in people so that we may be healed." - Nadine

Watch Nadine's video


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