Midwest Brain Injuries Clubhouse

To help people with brain injuries regain necessary skills, a special clubhouse was built to give Chicago-area survivors life long support.

Chicago's Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse is a popular place. Since it opened spring of 2005, membership has increased.

"We're up to about 65 members now," said Deborah Giesler.

Giesler, a former speech pathologist, is the executive director. She is also the person responsible for setting up Chicago's clubhouse.

"We're individually operated. We are our own not-for-profit, but there are now 18 clubhouses for brain injury in the United States, there's one in Canada, and there's one in Denmark that just opened," Giesler said.

Club members became disabled from strokes, accidents and other significant injuries.

"Our youngest person is 20 years old and our oldest is 63. But I would say our average age here is about 40 years old. These are definitely people who have a life-long need for services," said Giesler.

Services provide at the clubhouse range from independent living skills to employment training. The biggest concern is funding.

"I think a lot of that is related to the fact that people don't understand brain injury and they don't understand the magnitude of how much it affects people. Sometimes there isn't a lot of grants that are specific to brain injury," Giesler said.

Forty-one-year-old Christina Bilbo's life changed 17 years ago.

"I got into a car accident and I wasn't wearing my seat belt, so shame on me, but I went into a coma for a couple months," said Bilbo.

Bilbo has relearned how to walk, talk and read, and now she comes to the clubhouse twice a week to volunteer.

"I like it, it's nice here. It's real nice here. The friendship that I've made with clubhouse has been really excellent," Bilbo said.

Ferris Wilcox is 52 years old and spends a lot of time here. He became disabled six years ago.

"My blood pressure went high, I didn't know it, it created a brain aneurysm right here and I didn't know it," Wilcox said. "I come to the clubhouse three days a week, and I found out through a representative from the state that is my case worker.

"I have a wonderful opportunity to socialize with other people. I have an opportunity to participate in the kitchen at certain tasks, to cook, to help other people work on computers."

"We would love to have you know several other clubhouses in the area," said Giesler. "We know that brain injury and stroke exist in Chicagoland and we know that people need us for services."

There is a fee for services range from $55 to $75 a day, depending on individual resources.

For more information on the Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse go to their website at www.braininjuryclubhouse.org or call (312) 932-1120.

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