THIS week is Brain Awareness Week (March 10-16). Many people who access Yooralla’s services have an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI).
As part of Brain Awareness Week, Yooralla is trying to raise awareness of this condition and the effects it can have on an individual.
An ABI is damage to the brain that occurs after birth (with the exception of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)). That damage may be caused by an accident or trauma, by a stroke, a brain infection, by alcohol or other drugs or by diseases of the brain like Parkinson’s disease.
Brain Injury is not well understood within the community and its impact varies from person to person. When the brain is injured, people can experience a range of physical disabilities. It can also affect the way they think, feel and behave.
Some people with brain injuries struggle because their disability is ‘unseen’. People in the community are often unable to understand why they behave in a certain way or require particular supports when their disability is not physically obvious.
The long term effects of ABI are difficult to predict. It is common for people with a brain injury to tire easily. Many have difficulty with short-term memory, concentration and with retaining information.
However, with the right supports people with ABI can lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Aaron D’Altera who works at Yooralla’s UCAN Café in Altona North is a great example of a person who, following a brain injury has been able to create a new life for himself.
Previously an apprentice plumber, Aaron (27) developed a brain infection in 2006 leading to a stroke. As a result of the stroke Aaron acquired a brain injury that left him with only 10% vision and restricted use of his hands.
After a long time in recovery and rehabilitation Aaron initially felt lost and depressed.
But with a little encouragement from his family Aaron signed up with an employment agency and completed some courses in coffee making. Shortly after, the opportunity arose for him to work at UCAN Café.
Aaron says he has not looked back.
“Now I have a job I love. I’m making new friends and I can focus on the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t,” Aaron says.
“I’m not afraid of hard work – I just needed someone to give me the chance. One day I’d like to open my own café – the opportunity at UCAN Café is bringing me one step closer to that dream.”
Since starting his job at UCAN Café Aaron has become an expert barista. He was a finalist in the Lavazza Barista Competition in 2013 and he has even made a coffee for the Governor General.
Outside his job Aaron is a keen water-skier and has his sights set on competing in the Australian Water-skiing Titles later this year.