At age fourteen, Karen Kaizuka’s son sustained a sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) that required emergency surgery. The long journey of parenting a child with a TBI began as he learned to walk and talk again.
In this episode of Brain Injury Today, Karen joins BIAWA Executive Director Deborah Crawley to talk about the unique process that parents go through, and how her work in healthcare and her involvement with the Washington Traumatic Brain Injury Council is helping her work to improve system supports for brain injury survivors and their families.
Karen already had experience as a parent advocate. Her younger son had previously been diagnosed with autism, so Karen was already involved with special needs and the needed supports for her son. Most importantly, as a parent she had already gone through a grieving process because her son was not going to be who they thought he would be or have the potential that they wanted for him.
This previous “experience” helped her to engage better in the moment for her injured son. This also allowed her to get what her son needed so that he could be the best version of himself.
Growing up, Karen was exposed to her mom’s work as a special education teacher and the impacts of inclusion. This helped Karen bear witness to real advocacy – and be an advocate for her son. She was able to sift out things and focus on what was most important during her son’s injury and journey.
Karen believes in peer mentoring – being able to talk with someone who has walked in the same shoes. A mom did that for her while her son was in the hospital. That gave her hope.
Karen recalls the discharge conversation from the hospital. “He has met all his goals, we have done all we can do, and we are going to refer for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech.” While they had received exceptional care and support up to that point, she felt like they were being released into an unknown void without any support. She hopes to improve processes for system support so that other parents do not hear the same thing she did.
Listen in as Karen discusses her family’s journey, the impact of peer support, and learned advocacy in the podcast above.