Brain Injury Survivor Hopes to Help Others Heal
Advocacy Mission Fuels Quest for Grad Degree in Communication Disorders
Apr. 15, 2010
UT Dallas graduate student Sean Godfrey is on a mission to create something he had difficulty finding when he needed it most: a robust support system for survivors of brain injury.
After he earns his master of science in communication disorders from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, his goal is to establish a research and rehabilitation center that will advocate on behalf of traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors.
His journey to the communication disorders program began in 1999, when he was riding with two friends in a pickup truck that was involved in an accident. His friends walked away from the wreckage, but Godfrey was not so lucky.
The impact of the accident hurled him through the front windshield. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a fracture to the base of his skull and a broken hip and tailbone. He needed surgery to repair a ruptured stomach.
Godrey’s recovery was long and arduous. He had to focus not only on healing his broken body, but also on learning how to compensate for the effects of the brain injury, some of which are permanent. He also had to overcome a debilitating case of post-traumatic amnesia, which is partial or total loss of memory, and aphasia, which is the inability to use or understand language.
“I have learned how difficult it can be to overcome a TBI,” said Godfrey. “People call it a silent epidemic because if you saw someone who has suffered a TBI, there would be no way to know that he has some serious deficit in communication and language and his cognition isn’t at the level it was before the incident.”
Godrey is now committed to helping other survivors of brain injury, which is why he chose UT Dallas’ nationally ranked communication disorders program.
“We’re communicative beings,” Godfrey said. “A speech-language pathologist can be the voice of a brain injury survivor. Depending on the extent of the injury, I can teach patients how to re-establish communication channels or coping mechanisms when they can’t communicate. I’ll be in the best position to help.”
After graduation, Godrey wants his rehabilitation center to help TBI survivors continuously improve their quality of life and become fully functioning and contributing members of society.
“After an accident like the one I had, if you can’t figure something out or you can’t voice what you want to say, if you have these thoughts and feelings inside but you can’t express them, you get frustrated, anxious, and easily excited,” Godfrey said.
“That’s why I’m in this field—for advocacy. I want to create a bridge program, a support system, be a case manager for survivors of brain injury.”