HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — We associate an injury with the road to recovery. We get better, it makes us stronger, and we move forward.
But when the recovery falls short, the road becomes about surviving and sustaining.
Ginny Tracy gives the same answer no matter when and where she's asked hows she's doing: "Wonderful!"
She spends most of her days at Hinds' Feet Farm near Charlotte. Everyone there lives with the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
“I fell from at least two-and-a-half story apartment," Tracy said. "I hit concrete. They took me to the hospital, and the doctors told my mom and dad I was going to be a vegetable for the rest of my life."
The Centers for Disease Control estimates hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer TBIs every year. Somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 “experience the onset of long-term of lifelong disability.”
“It’s a much bigger problem than a lot of people know of because it doesn’t get talked about," said Martin Foil. His parents began Hinds' Feet Farm 20 years ago.
The goal then remains the goal today: quality for life for a group largely overlooked, for whom the object is no longer recovery but maintenance and joy.
The organization serves dozens on the farm and dozens more at a church in Asheville. According to Foil, the two locations are among fewer than two dozen programs of this kind in America.
“Those folks remember what it was like to drive, to own their own home, to be able to live independently," Foil said. “And that is a completely different life experience and place to come from as a person than someone who was born with Down’s Syndrome or autism."
But typically, that’s where they’re grouped. A recent Canadian study found many adults with TBIs live in settings like nursing homes, which don’t fit their condition or younger age.
Tracy was stuck in groups not suited for TBIs. Her mom, Vickie Tracy, said she noticed a difference as soon as her daughter went to Hinds Feet.
“The other groups, she just felt like she couldn’t be a part of what they were doing," Vickie Tracy said, "but here she feels like she can relate."