With lights flashing, sounds loud and alcohol flowing, Robert Jacobs was not at a party. In fact, he had just left the party, sober and was safely on his way home. Where he was, was in a shattering, near-fatal encounter with a drunk driver that would incapacitate his body and change his life forever.
In happier times, Robert was a man that loved life and was affectionately loved in return by life. He had achieved his dream of becoming an electrical engineer when he graduated from college. At 23 years of age he was on his way. Fresh out of college, he had found a great job in California earning $80,000 per year programming video games. He was doing what he loved and living the dream. Robert developed a passion for traveling and set a course to see the world. He dined in sidewalk cafes, glimpsed beautiful vistas and sat under crimson sunsets in the locals of London, Paris, Canada and Spain. Life could not get any better. Everything was new and exciting. His experiences were unimaginable for someone like Robert who grew up in the Bronx, NY. He was born in the 70's in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx. Robert was raised in a two parent household. His parents always saw potential in Robert and endeavored to provide the best opportunities for him and his two younger sisters. When he was 5 years old his parents bought a house and relocated the family to *Bayside, NY. Life in Bayside would be a stark contrast to his life in the Bronx. His new home was on a quiet street and he knew all the children in the neighborhood. It felt like home. By age 15, tragedy would strike and Robert would suffer the devastating loss of his dad. Distraught over the eternal absence of her husband, his mother never remarried. But, life had to go on and Robert had to make his dad proud by not giving up and getting his education. He later fulfilled that promise and graduated from High School in Queens, NY.
On the ill-fated day of his car accident Robert was only 26 years of age. He had fallen in love and was planning on returning to New York to marry his high school sweetheart. However, on November 27, fate would have a different plan for him. While driving back from a party, a drunk driver lost control of his car, which crossed over the double solid lines entering into ongoing traffic and hit Robert’s car head on. He never saw the other driver coming. When EMS arrived on the scene Robert was unconscious. He was rushed to Jamaica Hospital’s trauma unit where he remained in a coma for 2 months. Robert had tragically suffered a traumatic brain injury or TBI as it’s referred to. Weeks later when Robert woke up from his coma, he was admitted at the Park Terrace Care Center (PTCC) for rehabilitation. Robert had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.
In his words; “I was in jail in my own body. In my mind I remembered what I use to do, but my body was broken. My memory came and went. My mother was alive but she was living in a senior living facility. Both of my sisters were married and lived in other states. I had no one able to care for me. I lost contact with all my friends and everybody I knew. Every day I wondered if I was ever going to live on my own again. I did not even have a job. I never learned how to cook so preparing my own meals was an additional challenge I was not prepared for. Buying Chinese food every night was not an option. With the passage of time I grew bitter and angrier.The hope that things would get better quickly evaporated. I was young, wheelchair bound and living in a nursing home. This was a far cry from the lifestyle of successful career and travel experienced only previously. I did not have anything to live for so, I gave up. I stopped trying to get better. I stopped wanting to live and contentedly welcomed death.
One day a miracle happened though. My feelings dramatically changed when my social worker told me about the TBI Medicaid Waiver Program. The program was the answer to my prayers. Someone from the Staten Island Regional Resource Development Center came out and met with me in the nursing home. They asked me a series of questions about my injury, reviewed my medical documents and provided me with a list of agencies to find a Service Coordinator. I chose a Service Coordinator from Alliance Services for TBI. His name was John Paul. He worked one-on-one with me to identify my goals. My most dire goal obviously was to leave the nursing home and find my own apartment. The desire for independent living was revived in my spirit and for the first time in a long time I had hope. John Paul offered great guidance and lead me in choosing an excellent team of service providers. I chose my home care staff from All-Metro Health Care and chose a Counselor and Positive Behavior Specialist from Gallub Services for TBI. Medric Cadet completed a service plan for me. We hired a Real Estate agent who could work with me. It took a few months, but the broker finally found an apartment in Queens that was suited for my wheelchair. I signed my lease and was discharged from the nursing home a month later.
Where cooking was once a challenge for me, it no longer is a concern of mine. I don’t have to worry about cooking anymore because I have staff that helps me learn to cook. They assist me with everything, including washing my clothes, cleaning my apartment and keeping track of my doctor’s appointments. I have a Living Skills Trainer that comes on Saturdays to help me plan my week and budget my money in order to pay my bills.”
.Robert’s Service Coordinator visits him at least once per month and keeps everyone on the team on the same page. The team meets at least every six months to review his service plan and to revise his goals as he progresses and continues living in the community.
“As a TBI survivor, I was once disillusioned to believe that I could provide no explanations why living in a nursing home would not be the only option for me. I am comforted in my knowledge that there are better options. Anyone can get hurt or have a stroke and end up in a nursing home. The TBI Waiver Program gave me back my freedom. I value what the program has done for me. There is nothing like living in the community. Last week, I adventurously ventured out to Central Park in Manhattan and the month before I visited the Bronx Zoo. Thanks to Alliance Services for TBI I left the nursing home and never looked back .
* Names & places have been alerted to protect identity.
For more information about this story or interested in the TBI Medicaid Waiver Program at Alliance Services for TBI contact Antoine Etienne at 866-915-7837 dial ext. 700.■