CALGARY- When a parent suffers a brain injury, life for their children can change dramatically.
Kamilah and Jacob Leicht know what that life is like, together they survived a nightmare that began one winter night six and a half years ago.
They were teenagers when their parents were involved in a head on collision. Their dad was killed and their mother suffered a traumatic brain injury.
“You’ve got to make that conscious decision. You’re 17 years old, I can either be 17 or I can become an adult and do what I need to do to support my mom and my brother,” Leicht said.
Their mother spent three years in hospitals and rehab facilities, while her children had extended family to lean on.
Kamilah and Jacob Leicht said counseling services let them down.
Calgary researcher Aiofa Freeman-Cruz also remembers ‘falling through the cracks’ because few counsellors or support services existed for children in her situation.
“I was also a child of a parent who had acquired a brain injury in my adolescence. There was lots of support for people who were caregivers or siblings or even parents of people with brain injury, but there wasn’t very much for the children affected,” Freeman-Cruz said.
Freeman-Cruz is now working to educate psychologists by collecting the experiences of others.
“When something like this happens, it shatters everything they knew and now they have to create some new sense of self, some new sense of family and have no guidance to actually help them.
“There is a gap in the system for kids in these situations.”
Kamilah and Jacob Leicht said they were able to draw strength from each other, but they wish they could have had someone else there guiding them through their darkest days.
“Being able to talk to someone who knew first hand who maybe had been through it and you know could tell us ‘it’s going to be hard but eventually she’ll get back there’… just so we knew that there was an end in sight,” Leicht said.
Freeman-Cruz’s research is ongoing, so she welcomes anyone who has a brain injured parent to share their story with her.