By Roxana Alvarez
Have you ever woken up not knowing where you are or who the people around you are? Lydia Velez-Herrera has. On Thursday during common hour, November 9th 2017, students and faculty were given the opportunity to hear Lydia Velez-Herrera, founder and president of “Lilly Sin Barreras”, discuss her experience as a traumatic brain injury survivor. According to Ghajar (2000), traumatic brain injury is one of the most common causes of death and disability (Ghajar, 2000). Carlson (2014) goes on to say that traumatic brain injury is a serious problem in which approximately 1.4 million people are treated and released from an emergency department, 270,000 people are hospitalized, and 52,000 people die from each year (Carlson, 2014). Translated in English, “Lilly Without Borders” is an organization that provides legal, informative, and personal support to those that have suffered from brain injury or those that experience cultural, language, or financial barriers. As Herrera’s presentation title “Can You See Me, Can You Hear Me” suggests, she and her organization are driven by the motto, “I Can See You, I Can You Hear You”, as they aim to provide resources to those who don’t have them or don’t know where to find them. During her talk, Lydia described how she was moved by her own experiences with TBI. Through them, she came to understand that sometimes all a person needs is an extended hand. At the age of forty-one, Lydia Herrera woke up and didn’t know where she was. During her talk, Lydia described how the members of her family became strangers to her. She became somewhat of an “adult child” and travelled to Puerto Rico to be with her mother who had to care for her. She expressed how, in Puerto Rico, she spent her time in eight hospital units, all contributing to her becoming overly medicated. During this time, Herrera felt as if she was constantly being watched. Her confusion with the disorder and, and with the way she felt she had to act, often led her to ask herself the question, “What’s happening?” She described that even the act of watching TV affected her negatively; she was easily overstimulated by the people and noises coming from the screen. As her emotional rollercoaster progressed, she was anchored by one quote that she repeated to herself constantly, “You can shake this.” Herrera was put in a position where she was made to understand many realities. At this time, judgement became an important quality in people to her. She claimed that when it comes down to it—intention is important. Perhaps she would be asked questions, (for example, “Do you speak Spanish?” or “Do you have a disorder?”) and that was okay—so long as the intention behind people’s words were not hurtful. As she progressed in her recovery, she also realized that it is important to not submit one’s self to his/her limitations (whether physical/mental/psychological/etc.). She met many people that pushed the idea, “I’ve always been this way” and, because of this, didn’t believe they could get better. She refused to hold on to this. On her search for healthcare providers, she learned that sometimes it takes people that are completely different from you to help you and that it’s important to be patient with, and stand up for, people with neurological disorders. Though Lydia’s TBI contributed to her struggling physically, socially, and emotionally, she expressed how, because of it, she grew stronger—especially in the fact that she never gave up on her own growth/improvement and refused to ever be anybody but herself. In having this experience, Lydia now aims to be a source of help and support to all of those in need—whether it be by providing them with information, legal help, or a general helping hand.
For more information on Lydia or Lilly sin Barreras, call +1.8609668955 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
References Carlson, N. R., & Carlson, N. R. (2014). Foundations of behavioral neuroscience. Harlow: Pearson Ghajar, J. (2000). Traumatic brain injury doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736