Ray Himber: The Healing Power of Family and Community
By Mallory Houston, Research Assistant, Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research, Kessler Foundation
Snowmobiling was one of Ray Himber’s favorite sports. The former auto mechanic always enjoyed riding across the snow-covered terrain with his family and friends – until January 6, 1996, when a snowmobiling accident changed his life forever. He sustained a traumatic brain injury, was airlifted to Wilson Medical Center near Binghamton, N.Y., and remained in a coma for seven weeks. When he emerged, Ray was unable to walk or speak. He couldn’t swallow and eat. His prognosis was poor. Ray’s mother and primary caregiver, Maria, described the experience in one word: “Devastating.”
Ray was eventually transferred to Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, N.J., for more than four months of inpatient rehabilitation, followed by seven months of outpatient therapies. His rehabilitation program was set up in small, manageable steps to help him regain his strength, skills, and independence. Because the injury affected both sides of his body, Ray received treatment for a wide range of issues, including Botox injections to treat spasticity in his right arm and a cane to compensate for left foot-drop. He worked hard and, to this day, continues to go to the gym with his father to exercise.
For the past several years, Ray has been a client at Opportunity Project in Millburn, N.J., a clubhouse program that provides support and resources to help individuals with brain injury overcome many of the challenges they face. Ray has benefitted in countless ways, gaining the skills and strategies to compensate for some of his deficits. For example, due to the extent of his injury, Ray lost much of his vision. He was unable to read, but Maria, a former math teacher, used her knowledge to set up a reading program for her son. Opportunity Project also connected Ray with a teacher, whose various suggestions included purchasing a subscription to the large-print version of Reader’s Digest.
Being able to interact with other people and be involved in his community are very important to Ray. “Before his injury, Ray was a quiet person,” Maria says. “Now, he is outgoing and talks to everybody.” Whether joining in his late brother’s Fire Company 2 drill night in Mahwah, N.J., volunteering at a local animal shelter with Maria, or attending brain injury support groups, Ray is determined to give back to his community. Although he struggles with long-term planning, with the help of his family and Opportunity Project, he continues to pursue activities that interest him and gain greater confidence and self-awareness.
Most of Ray’s time is spent in the company of his supportive parents. At the end of the day, he is upbeat, happy, loving, and thankful. He has always accepted people for who they are. And with an indomitable spirit, unshakable courage, and quiet perseverance, he makes his family – and all of us – proud just by being who he is.
For more information on Opportunity Project, please contact :
Melissa Wish, MSW, LSW
60 East Willow Street
Millburn, NJ 07041
(973) 921-1000 ext. 108