Three years ago Enterprise publisher
Greg, and his wife Fran Rooker of Claytor Lake struggled through
months of fighting for the life of their son, Jason, and subsequently
suffered the pain of his death. Throughout their ordeal, they sought
information from every source they could find to help them understand
what was happening and how to deal with it. Now, they are sharing
what they learned with others.
The Rookers formed The Jason Foundation
approximately two years ago to assist brain injury survivors from
Southwest Virginia. Today, the foundation's influence is spreading
across the state to all Virginians in need of information and assistance.
The Rooker's son, Jason, then a
10-year-old, accidentally hanged himself while playing and was deprived
of oxygen for more than 10 minutes before he was found. His parents
revived him through CPR techniques but he spent a year in the Kluge
Hospital for Children in Charlottesville, and another five months
at home under daily therapy before his death.
"Jason had an anoxic injury
which indicates a complete lack of oxygen to the brain," said
his mother, Fran. "We wanted to understand exactly what was
happening and we couldn't find the information we needed."
After Jason regained consciousness, his parents wanted to know what
to expect during his convalescence. They gradually realized that
neither Jason's life nor theirs would ever be the same. "We
wanted someone to talk to. It seemed no one could give us any information."
Fran learned that although 50 percent
of brain injuries occur in car crashes, anoxic injury is also quite
common. Cases can involve people in post cardiac arrest, during
medical procedures and near drownings.
The Rookers searched for information,
and many of their friends searched for them. They looked up agencies,
made calls, browsed the Internet and contacted every place they
heard of, collecting information that could help.
"We called the Brain Injury
Association of Virginia but they couldn't tell us what we wanted
to know. We didn't know then that unless we contacted them again
and asked for additional information, they couldn't volunteer to
give it out.
The Rookers had to learn through
trial and error over many months how to find and contact sources
that could give them the information they needed. They learned how
to deal with insurance companies, where to find information, what
questions to ask and what was available. It was a long, hard search,
but they kept digging.
In 1977, a woman from Virginia Beach
called the Rookers to ask them questions about their son, seeking
information for her own family. Fran realized that there were many
others in the same situation and that a desperate need for information
existed. The help they had found could help others. Thus, The Jason
Foundation was formed.
Fran serves as its president, and
the law offices of Brumberg, Mackey and Wall in the McCraw Realty
Building on 1st Street in Radford donated office space. Operating
hours are 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. An answering
machine takes calls when she is out. Volunteers assist Fran with
mailing and clerical work. She is hoping to get an intern from Radford
University to assist in the office after the first of the year.
The foundation is funded through donations from some small businesses
and individuals. She has recently applied for a matching grant.
Fliers are being distributed. The
first mailings went to people who sent baskets of cards to the Rookers
during Jason's illness. Many wrote to offer inspiration or to tell
them what they were going through. They were also sent to friends
and churches. Another batch is going to rehabilitation facilities,
hospitals and schools. Fran will provide educational information
for school staffs and faculty about how brain injury can affect
students who return to school.
Photo By SAM SLEMP Fran
Rooker is president of The Jason Foundation, an organization that
assists families of brain injury survivors with information sources
and networking with other families. The foundation has assisted
approximately 30 families in Virginia.
A student at Emory & Henry did
a report on Images of Disability, and what is available for traumatic
brain injury. "The teacher was a friend of ours," said
Fran, "so she asked the student if she would mind sharing the
information with us. It has helped to broaden our base of information."
The Jason Foundation is basically
a clearinghouse for all kinds of information. It can provide information
on comas and recovery, students going back into the school systems,
help for spouses and caregivers and how these traumas can affect
the entire family. "When situations like this occur, it has
wide-ranging effects on the whole family for the rest of their lives.
It forces a totally new lifestyle. The information can teach people
how to have a better quality of life while facing this situation.
Some people are not aware of the stages that a survivor goes through,
some of them more than two years down the road," said Fran.
People can request forms and fliers
find out about agencies that can help, and what information is available
that they can request.
"We set out to help Southwest
Virginia," Fran said, "but we have had calls from all
over the state. "There are currently 378 survivors of brain
injuries between Roanoke and Bristol, from concussions to severe
traumatic injuries. Statewide, there are 4,930 survivors. Our first
priority is to help families who contact us. Our second priority
is to see if we can be of assistance in making services and support
systems more readily available. There is no support group for this
kind of injury between Roanoke and Bristol. Some caregivers have
tended survivors for 10 to 15 years, and we can help them as well."
The Jason Foundation has helped
approximately 30 people so far who have had family members with
brain injuries, five or six of them in this area. Its main goal
is to access information and network families with similar situations,
but if Fran can't locate financial sources for them, then the Jason
Foundation helps financially as well.
Survivors and caregivers can access
information on medical care options, rehabilitation facilities,
alternative therapies, legal advice, financial aid and school system
support. A list has been prepared of Services for Individuals with
Brain Injury in Virginia, from centers for independent living to
personal assistance services.
"I'm not an expert in any given
area," said Fran. "I'm just a mom. But I can share what
I've learned with others. I would like to stress to people to be
careful driving. This is the time of year when you see more crashes
and more head injuries. And remember that caregivers need additional
support during this busy time. People can lend a hand and it will
be greatly appreciated."
The Jason Foundation can be reached
through the following:
* The Jason Foundation, P.O. Box
430, Radford, VA 24143
* Phone (540) 633-2225
* FAX (540) 633-2258
* e-mail -
* Web site