#IAmTheFaceOfBrainInjury

MY LIFE 16 YEARS AFTER ABI

By Ria Koning

My name is Ria Koning and I was born on December 14th 1941 as Ria Neehuis (my maiden name) in Oldenburg Germany. I tell everyone I am 49 and holding.

I came to Canada at an early age and eventually met my husband, Dirk Koning. He passed away years ago in 1986.

On August 1,, 2001 I was walking to the local theatre where I live, a place where I used to volunteer. It was quite a hot day and about halfway there I was overcome from heat exhaustion and I fell, badly hitting the back left side of my head, suffering a subdural hematoma.

After being in the hospital for about four and a half months, including surgery and one month where I was in a coma, I was released to go home just in time for Christmas and into the care of my son and daughter. I also had a hospital outreach program follow me to my house with a holistic team that consisted of physical, speech and cognitive therapists.

I began going to the York Durham Aphasia Centre and continued going there for 13 years as they helped me with the progression of my speaking abilities. I also became a mobility plus service user as I was no longer able to drive a car.

In 2004 I became involved with the Ontario March of Dimes. I have a rehabilitation worker who comes to my home once a week and what we do is usually up to me. Sometimes we go to the library, the plaza or work on puzzles, write letters to friends and family or improve my computer skills.

Most of my days are filled with the March of Dimes program, including trips and special events, or attending the Acquired Brain Injury Adult Day Program through Mackenzie Health where I get to socialize with some of my peers, partake in exercise and games and offer support to newcomers. I no longer go to the Aphasia Centre.

The road to recovery for me has not been easy, but I believe my commitment to self-improvement, being able to laugh at myself, and remaining positive have greatly assisted me in my journey. With each goal I accomplish, I gain a little more confidence and independence.

I am the mother to two awesome ‘family’ social workers, my son and daughter, Mark and Amy. I am also a grandmother to two lovely grandchildren, Clara and her spirited little brother Lucas, both of whom refer to me as Oma.

Despite having a brain injury I live a very happy and full life. I have found new independence with enjoying the outdoors on both sunny and windy days with my scooter. And, I still enjoy doing a lot of the activities that have always been an interest to me; things like dancing, singing, photography, swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, puzzles and crosswords. I just take things at a bit of a slower pace. I also have fun from time to time hosting parties to celebrate the holidays with family and friends or getting dressed up to go out for lunch.

My advice to others out there that have survived through, and now live with, a brain injury, would be to not allow the things you can’t do stop you from doing the things you can do; to stay positive and support one another, and to never give up.