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The Holidays Look A Little Different Now
By MADD | December 12, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services , Drunk Driving

When Bryan Kranek was just 17-years-old, his life changed in an instant. He was rollerblading home from a babysitting job when a man with a BAC of .266 driving in excess of 40 mph on a residential street hit Bryan from behind. 

“In the blink of an eye, twelve days of my life became nothing but stories from other people as to what happened,” Bryan says.

Bryan was knocked unconscious instantly. Witnesses said he flew onto the truck’s hood, smashed his head in the driver’s windshield and was thrown 10-15 feet in the air, landing on a neighbor’s driveway. Bryan sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and was rushed to the emergency room where he immediately went into surgery to relieve the swelling of his brain. 

When Bryan was released from the hospital 23 days later, he had to relearn the basics, like how to walk and talk. He spent several months in speech, occupational and physical therapy to relearn all of the things people often take for granted.  Bryan was determined to work hard in his recovery.

“Honestly, I didn’t know there was any other option,” he said.

Bryan, now in his late twenties, still hasn’t fully recovered from his TBI and as a result, the holidays look a little different for him. His favorite part of the holiday season is gathering together with his family at his grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve to celebrate.  “It is a lot of fun and everyone is jovial.” But Bryan knows that because of his injury, he often gets tired quickly and can’t always keep up with everyone else throughout the day. 

He copes with the stress of the holidays and his TBI by taking a time out when he needs to.

“I hit the reset button and rejuvenate myself,” he explains.

Bryan’s advice for other injured victims is to remember the importance of self-care during the holidays, since they can be an especially difficult time. 

One thing that Bryan says helps him is making the holidays about others not himself – something that Bryan does all year round as a speaker at MADD Victim Impact Panels, running TBI support groups and working with kids with special needs. 

Reporting for Duty
By MADD | December 9, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services

Originally featured in the 2014 fall edition of MADDvocate®.

Corinne Ford’s 20-year-old son, Tommy, was killed in a drunk driving crash on May 29, 2011. In the months following the tragedy, she described feeling like “one soldier in a huge army alone.” After Corinne bravely started volunteering with MADD’s National Victim Services Help Line, she discovered not only her passion, but also an army of support to help her become a survivor.

Corinne has been volunteering with MADD for a year now, spending more than 20 hours a week answering calls to the Help Line.

“It’s never easy,” she says, “and it definitely reopens my wounds.” However, her commitment is unwavering. Corinne takes calls in the middle of the night and even brings her MADD phone on weekends away with her husband, so that she can be available for victims and survivors in need.
The feedback she receives from the victims at the end of a conversation makes the emotional phone calls and hours of time she gives worthwhile. She sees this opportunity to help others as her way of healing.

Corinne’s dedication has not gone unnoticed. She received the Community Champion award at MADD’s third annual “Take the Wheel” recognition luncheon in Tyler, Texas.

“My son would be so proud of me for doing this. I cannot go backward, but I can go forward and help ease someone else’s pain. I wouldn’t be able to be this strong without the support of MADD.”

Click here to learn more about becoming a MADD volunteer.

Remembering Meagan (Guest Blog)
By Guest Blogger | December 5, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services , Drunk Driving

By Donna McCain, whose daughter Meagan was killed in a drunk driving crash in 2009.

The first Thanksgiving and Christmas after our daughter Meagan was killed by a drunk driver was spent basically in a state of shock. We had seen Meagan off for her second year of college on a pre-dawn morning in August, 2009 and five days later received the news that she would not return home. Meagan and three college friends were hit head-on by a wrong way drunk driver on Interstate 40. It seemed that the holidays rolled relentlessly toward us while I was needing time itself to stop so that I could find my bearings again.

During the six Christmas’s that we have faced without her, it has been very important to us to keep her presence real. We have special ornaments on our tree in her memory and continue to use the ones we collected as she was growing up. One of Meagan’s grandmothers sponsors a needy child and we all look for ways to help others in both large and small ways in her memory. Mark and I focus on our families, especially the nieces and nephews, during the holidays but all of our family includes “Meagan stories” as we visit. I feel like this is the most important thing we do to not only remember her, but to cope with the emotions of the holidays without her.

Meagan is always mentioned during the prayer before our special holiday meals, even though it leaves most everyone a little choked up. We are truly blessed to have family and friends who speak Meagan’s name freely whenever we are together. While I cannot say that the holidays have been easy (or ever will be), we have continued to adjust to the new reality and learn coping skills for dealing with the unique emotions of life after Meagan. Five years and counting after her death, we are focusing on celebrating her life, the joy of who she was and each moment of the (almost) twenty years that we had with her.

Surviving the Holidays

Each person has a unique grief journey that is dependent on their own personality and the relationship they had with the person who was taken. Each of us must find the way through that is best for us. I will share some things that have helped me and my family in the hopes that it will help you in walking your own journey or in understanding the journey of other family members or friends.

Find ways to honor and remember the person who was lost. Choose a special ornament for the tree or light a candle in their memory during your holiday celebrations. Let people know that you would enjoy having them share stories that include the one who is missing. Perform acts of charity in honor of your loved one such as sponsoring a needy child or helping feed the homeless.

Choose the traditions you would feel comfortable in continuing and the ones that you need to skip. Participating in “normal” holiday activities can help to distract from the loss for a time. But choosing the activities is important because some will be too difficult to handle in the first year but may become easier in subsequent years. Ease into situations to see what you can handle, carry a friend or family member with you for support and know that you can always leave if it becomes too much. If you are worried about your emotions become overwhelming, give the host a call ahead of time to let them know that you may need to exit without warning.

Spend time with the people who matter the most to you. Losing Meagan made me much more conscious of the fragile nature of life and the importance of savoring every opportunity you have to be with family and friends who mean the most to you. These are also the people who will best understand and share the grief that you are experiencing and can help you celebrate their life. Focusing on others will provide a distraction from missing your loved one and the traditions that you enjoyed with them.

Allow yourself time for grieving. Give yourself permission to exit the hectic holiday rush and find quiet time. Often, our intense emotions are triggered unexpectedly, especially during the holidays. It is okay if you need to cry or to walk away and find a quiet place for a while. Those who matter will understand. Cut yourself some slack and do the same for other family members who are walking their own journey.

Understand that the holidays will never be the same again but that you can find a new way to spend this special season so that it can still be a positive and meaningful time of the year.

McCain Family, Christmas 2006

Light a Virtual Candle
By MADD | December 4, 2014 | Filed in: Victim Services

Behind every drunk driving statistic is a person whose life was full of family and friends, love and life, joy and laughter. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Their lives touched so many and they will never be forgotten.

This holiday season, we are asking everyone to take part in our online celebration of life candlelight vigil, and light a virtual candle in honor of a loved one who was killed or injured in a drunk driving crash.

You can share their story or write them a message, and light a candle in their honor or memory. Participate in our online tribute by lighting your virtual candle now.

MADD West Texas Tree of Life Memorial Wall
By MADD | November 28, 2014 | Filed in: Drugged Driving , Victim Services , Drunk Driving

MADD West Texas recently unveiled their new Tree of Life Memorial Wall at their office to honor victims and survivors of drunk driving:

Memorial Wall Dedication

The Memorial Wall expressed by this painting is dedicated to all victims killed and survivors injured in a drunk or drugged driving crash.

The center of the painting is tree from the roots to the branches; the tree is the MADD’s Tree of Life.  The foundation of a tree is the roots and trunk; in this painting it represents family and branches represents friends.  Each individual leaf represents the victims and survivors whose lives have been lost or changed by injury.  The different colors of the leaves signify the diverse walks of life.  The background colors; blue, green, orange and red are the season of grief, that also signifies the time of year in which a crash, death, injury occurred.

e photographs and faces of each victim or survivor are unique and they are remembered forever in our hearts and on MADD’s Tree of Life.

– Javier Luna, Artist

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