by Áine Ní Shionnaigh
Patrick Donohue is a prominent Irish American lawyer who left his career as a lawyer to change the world for his daughter Sarah Jane, my daughter Grace Anne and countless others in the US and worldwide who have suffered a brain injury. Patrick is the perfect example of someone who has turned a tragedy into a triumph.
In 2007, Patrick set up the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation (SJBF) which is a 501c3 non for profit. The mission of the SJBF is to change the world for Sarah Jane and the millions of other children, youth and young adults who suffer from brain injury and other brain-based disorders by improving services, training and research in this country and beyond. Brain injury in youth can result in widespread impairments in cognition, motor abilities, behavior and social function. The brain remains in a developmental phase until around age 25 so recoveries are possible. However, recovery requires an integrated and individualized approach. There has to be a co-ordination between medical, educational and rehabilitation systems. SJBF’s Advisory Board is comprised of leading experts from the top major medical centers in the US and elsewhere, from Children’s Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital to name but a few.
In September 2013, SJBF launched the first and only school in New York City to educate and habilitate kids with brain injuries and other brain-based disorders – The International Academy of HOPE (iHOPE). The school currently has 19 students and will grow to 40 by summer 2014. The mission of iHOPE is to be the best school in the world for kids with brain injuries and brain based disorders and to translate it’s knowledge across the country and around the world by establishing other iHOPE schools.
Pediatric brain injury statistics unfortunately include more than half of our young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries, the average age of a veteran with TBI is about 19.3 years old. Recently the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation and iHOPE honored Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg with the Col. Jack Jacobs Angel Award for his service to our country and for changing the way people think about brain injury. A roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on his 10th deployment, left Sgt Remsburg in a coma for three months, partially paralyzed and brain damaged. His father, Craig, a retired Air Force Reserve firefighter, and stepmother Annie, are his full time caretakers and accompanied him to the school where he lead the iHOPE students in the Pledge of Allegiance. When asked if he would return to war, knowing what he knows now, he replied, “in a heartbeat”. Such bravery and patriotism is not easily found.
The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation recently held a Conference in conjunction with the NFL, the title was “Finding Solutions to the Public Health Crisis” “Mild”/TBI/Concussion in Youth. The main speaker was Dr Sanjay Gupta who is the Chief Medical Correspondent at CNN and also Associate Chief of Neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital. The conference was attended by top medical experts representing the top centers of excellence in Neurology and Sports Medicine from all over the US. The Sarah Jane Brain Foundation is working to prevent, identify, treat and eventually cure Pediatric Acquired Brain injuries which are the no 1 cause of death and disability for youth around the world so needs to be taken more seriously.
iHOPE school and it’s associated Foundation, the SJBF has the chance to change the lives of children and young adults that everyone else has given up on. It gives back hope in situations where hope is diminished.
“Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all.” (ED)
For more information about the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, please visit: www.TheBrainProject.org
For more information about the International Academy of Hope, please visit: www.ihopenyc.org