By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
THE ORDEAL surrounding the horrific brain injury Demont Mitchell sustained when his car collided with a wall in October 2012 has become an encouraging example that good can come from tragedy.
Following the accident, Demont’s father, Matthew Mitchell, teamed up with Dr Magus Ekedede, the neurosurgeon who saved his son’s life, to form a new foundation with the aim of reducing the incidences of traumatic brain injury in the Bahamas.
Though established last year, the Mitchell-Ekedede Foundation held its official launch just two weeks ago at the Meli� Nassau Beach Resort, with Prime Minister Perry Christie delivering the keynote address and launch declaration.
The foundation is a non‐profit organisation whose primary objective is to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury in the Bahamas through brain injury awareness, education, research, prevention, treatment and advocacy. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain caused by trauma such as a blow to the head. It differs from acquired brain injury (ABI), which describes any other brain injury typically brought on by factors such as stroke, tumour, brain aneurysm or oxygen deprivation.
According to Dr Ekedede, the foundation’s co‐founder and trustee, 624 people sustain traumatic brain injury in the Bahamas each year, with the 2012 incidences of recorded traumatic brain injury at 47 per cent higher than those recorded in 1997.
Mr Mitchell, a certified public accountant, said during the time of helping his son recover from the accident, his family had to foot the considerable bills for numerous medical procedures. It was during this time he said he was inspired to start an initiative devoted to raising funds for individuals who suffer brain injuries and are financially disadvantaged.
“The therapy and the medical bills were ridiculously expensive and while it is still ongoing, the cost for my son’s rehabilitation is somewhere around $400,000. When I thought about that and how we are not rich or poor, it dawned on me in a very heartfelt way, that if you do not have money or insurance it is really hard. So I approached Dr Ekedede and said to him we need to do something about this because poor people do not stand a chance. So I said to him that we have to find a way to give back until we cannot give anymore,” Mr Mitchell told Tribune Health.
The foundation will advocate for the needs of people with brain injuries, including outreach to lawmakers regarding the foundation’s expectations concerning enactment of public policy to assist people with brain injuries. The foundation will also advocate for increased government funding and services for brain injury survivors and promote employment of survivors of brain injury.
“We have got four goals, one is creating awareness on how to avoid and prevent brain injury. We will also encourage people not to sleep while driving and not to drink drinking while driving or do drugs while driving,” Mr Mitchell said.
The foundation also intends to provide financial assistance to people suffering from brain injuries.
“We are offering assistance to people who cannot afford medical care, in particular for the rehabilitation component. Even though the surgery and rehab are equally important, the rehabilitation is key to a person’s recovery because the brain is one of these awkward tools that heal at a particular rate and has to be challenged in order to come back. After you have surgery there is a one-year window you have to engage in therapy so that the neurons in the brain can start to regrow,” he said.
The foundation hopes to financially assist more than 100 persons annually. However, this depends on the resources available.
It also seeks to establish a neuro-rehabilitation facility in the Caribbean and establish the Bahamas as a referral centre for the treatment of TBI and ABI.
The trustees of the foundation include Matthew Mitchell, co-founder; Dr Magnus Ekedede, co-founder; Tommy Turnquest, co-chairperson; Johanna Mayson, co-chairperson and secretary; Larry Gibson, treasurer. Other trustees include Anthony Ferguson, Craig Gomez, Dwayne Gibson, Dr Fabian Thurston and Dr Zonya Mitchell.