Funding expanded to reach more Utahns with brain injuries

Posted at 10:33 AM, Mar 31, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — As we mark Brain Injury Awareness Month this March, FOX 13 News is bringing awareness to how frequently these types of injuries happen across the United States.

The Brain Injury Association of America reports that a traumatic brain injury will occur about once every nine seconds in the country.

Generally, brain injuries are categorized by doctors as traumatic and non-traumatic. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by an external force to the head such as a fall. Non-traumatic brain injuries can be caused by factors like illness or lack oxygen to the brain.

In Stacie Martin’s case, she suffered a non-traumatic brain injury at the age of 32. She was nine months pregnant when she had a stroke.

The Layton native-native says she remembers slurring her words before going to bed one night. Stacie chalked it up to being tired and pregnant, but she had another troubling experience when she got to work the next day while logging into her computer.

“My head knew what the password was, but my fingers wouldn't type it, so there was that disconnect between my brain and my fingers, too,” explains Martin.

Ironically, Stacie worked at an agency that helps people with brain injuries. Her boss noticed something was off and helped take her to the doctor.

That quick thinking prevented severe brain damage, but Stacie still had a long road to recovery ahead, which required her to learn how to speak again.

While Stacie had a supportive family to help her out after the stroke, many people do not have that same support after they’re discharged from the hospital with a brain injury.

That’s a big reason why the Utah Department of Health established the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Fund in 2008.

Their goal is to help connect people of all ages with community resources that are available and give them the tools they need to live as independently as possible again.

Those who receive help from this fund are now assigned a resource facilitator for up to two years.

According to Traci Barney, TBI Fund coordinator with the Utah Department of Health, the fund has helped 1,200 Utahns since 2008. They’d like to support a lot more people moving forward.

“That’s currently what’s been our dilemma is trying to get people engaged and understanding that there is a fund that can help them get connected to those resources,” explains Barney.

During this past legislative session, Utah lawmakers expanded who could receive services from the TBI Fund. Originally, it was restricted to just those with traumatic brain injuries, but it now supports people with any type of acquired brain injury (ABI). Barney hopes this move allows more people to take advantage of the fund.

As for Martin, she still experiences mild side effects from her stroke to this day, but she’s able to live a relatively normal life as a wife and mother of two-teenage daughters.

She also works full-time at the nonprofit, Brain Injury Alliance of Utah, so she’s able to lend a hand to people experienced similar types of trauma.

Martin explains, “I think I’m lucky to have the job that I do…that I get to be there, the one that answers the phone, when people call and say ‘help, I need help.’"