WWW.CHAMPIONNEWSPAPER.COM • FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012 • VOL. 14, NO. 52 •FREE
• A PUBLICATION OF ACE III COMMUNICATIONS •
Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.
by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.com
wasworking as a manager of aKrystal restaurant in Clay-ton County on July 3, 2008,when she was shot in thehead during a robbery.“The doctors told mysisters I wasn’t going tolive and that they shouldget together and get to praying,” Alphabet said.Since the shooting, Al- phabet has had more than adozen surgeries on her faceand can only see out of oneeye. She also has sufferedfrom severe post-traumaticstress disorder.“I’m not in my rightmind, they say, but I feellike I am,” Alphabet said.“God has a reason for me still being here,” Al- phabet said. “It’s been ahorrifying life, but I thank God for it.For almost three years,Alphabet has been a mem- ber of the Side By SideBrain Injury Clubhouse, anon-profit organization inStone Mountain that helps brain injury patients rebuildtheir lives.“This place lets me beme,” said Alphabet, wholives with a sister in Snell-ville and has two childrenand two grandchildren.“God wanted me here totell this story.”When people hear thenews about a gunshot vic-tim, they “don’t think aboutthe rest of their lives,” said
, executivedirector of the organization.“The cool thing aboutthis place is everybody isgrateful to be alive,” John-son said. “It really simpli-fies life.”Side by Side, the onlyone of its type in Georgia,serves 20-30 membersdaily, has 50 active mem- bers and has helped 330 patients since opening inMarch 2000.With an $800,000 annu-al budget, the organizationreceives 75 percent of itsfunding from program feesfrom worker’s compensa-tion insurance carriers.The organization receivesfunding from a Medicaidwaiver program, is alsoa vendor for the Depart-ment of Labor Vocationalrehabilitation program andsolicits grants and dona-tions.Side by Side also has asliding scale payment sys-tem for some people.“People come herefor as little as $1 a day,”Johnson said. The programcosts $135 per person per day.Side by Side wasfounded in 1999 withShepherd Center andEmory Healthcare eachinvesting $100,000 in seedmoney. Started with threemembers and three staff members, the organizationwas housed in a basementoffice in Decatur which itoutgrew in two and a half years.“The folks at Shepherdwere really interested inhelping people live insteadof just surviving,” Johnsonsaid.At Side by Side, mem- bers living with the effectsof traumatic brain injurylearn to cope with their injuries while volunteer-ing their skills to manageall the operations of theclubhouse including thekitchen which preparesdaily lunches for membersand the business unit whichwrites thank-you letters, birthday cards, and news-letter articles and collectsmembers’ lunch money.
, of Dunwoody, became a Side by Side member two yearsago after working in theconstruction industry for 40 years.“I never got a scratch,”Sheftell said.That was until he fell30-40 feet from a roof threeyears ago. Sheftell wasairlifted to a hospital andspent approximately twomonths in Shepherd Center.“I can’t remember adamn thing from the acci-dent,” Sheftell said.After the accident, “mydoctor retired me,” Sheftellsaid.“It didn’t make me toohappy, but you get on withthings,” he said. “That’smy philosophy.”Sheftell said he likesthe camaraderie at the club-house.“Everybody workstogether,” Sheftell said. “Idon’t think I’ve heard any- body refuse to lend a handif asked.”Johnson,
a therapist in brain injury rehabilitation,started Side by Side, whichnow has 11 staff members,“for patients to continuetheir recovery after reha- bilitation.”“It really started weigh-ing on me that peopledidn’t have a place to go to be themselves,” Johnsonsaid.
Brain injury patients have a place to be themselves
Members of the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse learn to livewith the effects of their injuries by assisting with the businessoperations and meal preparations at the non-proﬁt organization.For 12 years, the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse, a non-proﬁt organization in Stone Mountain,has helped victims of brain injuries rebuild their lives. Photos by Andrew Cauthen