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Brain Injury Survivor Stories

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Forker Project

Valerie Forker was devastated when her 20-year-old son, Jeff, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury in a car accident four years ago. In an instant, Jeff Forker went from an independent young man with the world in front of him to one who required care 24 hours a day, seven days a week — possibly for the rest of his life.

Valerie — a single mom — had to quit her full-time job to become her son’s full-time caretaker. She helps transfer her 6-foot-tall, 200-pound son in and out of bed and helps him reposition in his wheelchair throughout the day. She also assists with his speech, physical and occupational therapy.
As one can imagine, this level of care leaves Valerie very little time and money to maintain the family’s Apple Valley home, and her insurance was threatening to cancel her homeowner’s policy if she didn’t make some repairs.

Thankfully, the Forker family belongs to Hesperia-based Brainstorming 4 Us, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides education and support to those affected by brain injury.

With March as National Brain In j u r y Awareness Month , volunteers at Brainstorming 4 Us submitted the Forker’s story to Southwest Gas for consideration as one of the company’s “BLUE” projects, where employees work on “Building Lives Up Everywhere” by doing local community service projects.

The BLUE team accepted the challenge, and started by repairing the Forker’s fence, which had blown down, to help keep their insurance intact. Southwest Gas covered the cost of materials and enlisted the help of Accent Fence of Apple Valley, which donated the labor required to repaired the fence before the deadline.

“Safety-wise it’s a huge peace of mind the things that they were able to do,” Valerie Forker said. “We were having people come in our yard because of the broken fence and we had had some stuff stolen.”

Then came the real work. Over the course of four hours on Saturday, 35 “BLUE” volunteers helped to transform the Forker’s home and yard. “I was so thrilled with the turnout,” said Nancy Keller, who headed up the project for Southwest Gas. “We had adults, we had kids, but everybody worked hard.”

The Forker home held many obstacles for Jeff, who is wheelchair-bound. The team removed shrubs and laid gravel in the front yard, so Valerie can pull her van up to the front door to load Jeff in and out. They also widened a concrete walkway in her backyard, so that Jeff ’s wheelchair fits on the path. Inside, the team added security features including a lock bar on the sliding glass door, securing bookshelves to the wall in case they were bumped and installing blinds and screen doors throughout the house.

To finish the job, the team cleared weeds in the front and back yards and upgraded the flower beds, Keller said, give the home “a more finished look.” And they’re not done yet. Forker said the team is coming back to finish one more project: a trapeze over Jeff’s bed so he can pull himself up, and hopefully regain some use in his right arm.

The project is the BLUE team’s first this year, though they try to do one major volunteer project each quarter. Next Keller said they’ll tackle work at the High Desert Domestic Violence Program and then the Moonridge Zoo in Big Bear.

Author: Lisa Moss

Categories: Brain Injury BiosNumber of views: 7704

Tags: Brain Injury

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Lisa Moss
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