LAKEWOOD, Colo. — James Donaldson knows how isolating having a traumatic brain injury can feel, which is why monthly meetings with other survivors have become his lifeline.
"It gives me hope because we’re around other people with TBIs," Donaldson said.
Donaldson has survived two traumatic brain injuries, and like his peers, has received the care of speech-language pathologist, Dr. Mary Ann Keatley.
"She’s a miracle to me," Donaldson said.
Dr. Keatley's generosity began 21 years ago when she noticed her patients were unable to pay their bills and hold a job during their recovery. So she started the Brain Injury Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to people living with TBIs.
"People who have more severe injuries are often able to get funding, but people with mild-to-moderate injuries are quite injured and they can’t work – usually for long periods of time, if at all," Dr. Kealtey said.
"Mary Ann Keatley is the salt of the earth. She is the most giving, incredible, loving person," said Joanne Cohen, the vice president of the Brain Injury Hope Foundation.
The foundation has made a big difference. It has given more than $160,000 to more than 450 local survivors. Dr. Keatley also started the "Survivor Series," a monthly support group for survivors that connects them with resources in their recovery process.
"I probably would’ve lost my house. I wouldn’t have had cognitive care," said TBI survivor Elizabeth Somers. "I’m a lot better than I was because of her care."
In fact, hundreds of people have been touched by the compassion of Dr. Mary Ann Keatley, which is why she is a Denver7 Everyday Hero.
"Mary Ann helped me get a scholarship through the foundation, which helped me pay to start going so I could realign my finances and continue going to eye therapy," explained another TBI survivor, Sandy Campbell.
"After all these years that she’s been giving to the community and to everybody else, we just wanted to have her recognized. And I’ve been watching your 7Everyday hero for years and it just seemed like the right thing to do," Cohen said.
On June 8, the Brittanee Rhoades Memorial Poker Run will benefit the Brain Injury Hope Foundation. You can sign up at 9 a.m. on the day of the event at the Caddy Shack in Colorado Springs.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here . To nominate a hero in your life, click here .