Woody remembers every detail about the accident that changed his life forever. He recalls it was 2:20 p.m. on September 15, 1989, when his logging skidder rolled 300 feet down a hill. Though he was wearing his seatbelt, Woody’s head struck the inside of the rig repeatedly as the skidder flipped. In Woody’s words, “I was like a chime in a bell.” He was badly injured and faced a long recovery.
After a traumatic brain injury such as Woody’s, it’s common for survivors to have problems with attention, concentration, learning and memory. Since the accident, Woody struggles with short-term memory.
While he was never able to return to work, Woody maintained his independence after the accident and lived on his own for 15 years until his physical health began to deteriorate. He moved in with a relative but when that arrangement didn’t work out, he was suddenly homeless.
At 58, Woody was living in his car and felt little hope for his future. He says, “I was going nowhere real quick.”
Woody suffers from chronic, all-over pain, which is not uncommon among brain injury survivors. Last winter, his pain was severe enough to land him in the emergency room.
Knowing he was homeless, the hospital referred Woody to ShelterCare’s Homeless Medical Recuperation program, which provides temporary housing for people who are homeless and have been discharged from the hospital. By improving the health and housing status of people like Woody, the Homeless Medical Recuperation program has saved the community $1.2 million in hospital costs since 2014.
As a brain injury survivor, Woody was a candidate for ShelterCare’s Uhlhorn Program, one of only two programs in Oregon that offer apartments with supportive services for survivors of acquired brain injuries. Woody was accepted into the program last February.
Uhlhorn participants benefit from individualized services. Woody needs help managing his medication, because he often forgets whether or not he took his pills:
“I’d get a month’s worth of pain pills and have ’em gone in two weeks, and spend the next two weeks in pain.”
With his pain managed, Woody enjoys daily walks. He uses a walker but doesn’t let that slow him down. He logs at least three miles per day, which he tracks with an app on his smartphone. He also walks to his favorite grocery store, about a mile away, to do his shopping.
Woody describes his life today as “boring” but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He especially appreciates the freedom and independence he has at Uhlhorn. “They let me be me.”
Learn more about Woody and his life at Uhlhorn. Woody was profiled on KMTR April 5, 2016