Volunteering Has Given Us Both a Purpose - 2020 BIANJ Honoree Jane and Joe Concato
In this episode of Kessler Foundation's podcast Dr. Erica Weber, chatted with Jane and Joe Concato, to learn about their volunteer work and how they are helping the community. At this years's Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ) Virtual Gala, the Concato's were recognized as Volunteer Service Champions to honor their service to the brain injury community in North Jersey.
Below is an excerpt from the podcast.
Erica Weber: I'm Dr. Erica Weber, a research scientist in the Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research here at Kessler Foundation, and I'm joined today by Joe and Jane Concato. And we just wanted to, first, congratulate you on your award. You're Volunteer Service Champions by the BIANJ, so congratulations to you both.
Joe Concato: Thank you.
Jane Concato: Thank you.
Erica Weber: Your journey with brain injury developed, really, from a personal story. Would you mind sharing with us a bit about how you got involved in the brain injury community?
Joe Concato: My wife, Jane, had an accidental fall at home on March 15th, 2004. At that point, after the required calls to 911 and everything else, she was admitted to the Hackensack University Trauma Center where she spent approximately four weeks going through acute care and the beginning portions of rehabilitation. From there she was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in East Orange where she spent another four weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, and then approximately 18 months of outpatient rehabilitation.
Erica Weber: So it's been now-- is that 16 years? Am I doing my math right?
Joe Concato: Yes.
Erica Weber: That's quite a long time and a long journey. How have you been doing, Jane?
Jane Concato: I've been doing well. As I say, I've come back very well. I have some deficits. My speech isn't that great. I have anomia; I forget words. I had speech therapy for a while. I have anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and a little more depression than I probably had before my brain injury, which really wasn't a lot, but now it's definitely more.
Erica Weber: Yeah. So it sounds like you've had a number of challenges since that fall, but it sounds like you were able to get right into getting some good quality care. And you said you've come back quite a ways since your first injury.
Jane Concato: Yes. Yeah.
Erica Weber: Wow. And I bet that wasn't the easiest road.
Jane Concato: No. There's been a lot of good and a lot of bad. The bad things, I'm not even going to say, but I guess they're common after brain injury. You lose friends. You know who your true friends are. I've had some falls. I have a balance issue. I've had seizures so now I'm on a seizure medication. But we've had, really, some of the greatest times of our lives now.
Erica Weber: So it sounds like it's been really helpful that you could see that even though there's been-- in those challenges and struggles that have come since your brain injury, that you can also see positive changes that have been able to happen in your life.
Jane Concato: Definitely.
Erica Weber: What made you take this personal experience that could be considered negative by many and turn it into something that made you want to give back to the community? How'd you start getting involved in volunteering?
Joe Concato: We both come from a family of volunteers in the emergency services in our local towns, and we still volunteer to this day. As Jane was an inpatient at Kessler Rehabilitation, I was informed of support groups that existed at the time. And when Jane was in inpatient I never really went, because that was my opportunity to spend time with her in the evening. And I don't remember the specific time-frame-- at some point after we were home, but still in touch with the folks at Kessler for case management and everything else, we decided to start attending the Essex County support group. And I think that came from our volunteer efforts. And we started to understand more about brain injury, realize that there were other people going through similar things, sharing some of our stories, and learning from others.