Stroke victim now helps others with rehabilitation

March 28, 2010 7:23:54 AM PDT
A structured rehabilitation program for people with traumatic brain injuries is the key to their future.One Chicago area man is giving back to the program that changed his life.

Research shows that majority of recovery from traumatic brain injuries occurs within the first six months to a year of trauma.

Tim Donahoe lost his ability to read and concentrate and struggled with some physical challenges from a stroke.

What he never lost was the will to succeed.

Seven years ago this month, the 48-year-old man's life changed.

"It was a Sunday afternoon. I had taken the three boys away so that my wife could clean the house and make a nice dinner," Donahoe said.

He took his boys swimming.

" When I came home we had a nice dinner, and then after dinner, I was sitting down, and I had a stroke," he said.

After spending time at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Donahoe went home.

" I was doing the rehabilitation myself and trying to get better, at the same time trying to continue working. [I] had a long work history, and my company was hoping I would get better and hold my job, and they very good to me," he said. "I was a salesman. But I ultimately couldn't do the work."

"It took failing at that job, and then actually trying another job and failing at that, to realize I really need to get more help," said Donahoe.

The Anixter Center's new focus program for people with brain injuries was the next option for his recovery.

" We have a variety of groups throughout the week, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 2:15, with each group lasting about 45 minutes. And all the services attend to the emotional self, physical self, the cognitive retraining pieces, even the spiritual self," said manager Lisa Goldman.

After he finished rehabbing at New Focus, Donahoe stayed in touch with Lisa.

"Ultimately, what happened here, the cutbacks here were so deep that she needed help," Donahoe said. "At one point, I said, 'Is there anything I can do?' and Lisa said, 'Sure, you can volunteer here a couple days a week.' So, I started volunteering here a couple days a week. I thought maybe I'd only do it for a couple months. That turned into six months, and then, they offered me a position that was a very small position. And I've been promoted twice," Donahoe said.

Tim Donahoe is in charged of the educational program where he helps people return to work.

"I think Tim is rare and unique, in fact, at least for the folks that have come through New Focus. You know, I think he came into the world with an extra dose of motivation and perseverance, and I think that what his case speaks to is how much a person can gain with persevering and really continuing to rehabilitate, even if they are not involved in an active rehabilitation program," said Goldman.

Tim Donahoe drives four hours each day to get to and from work.

To learn more about the Anixter Center's New Focus Program, please visit