March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, and on March 16th we will celebrate Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. (which also happens to be my birthday, so talk about the ultimate birthday present!!)
The day will include a brain injury awareness fair with more than 50 exhibitors, a Congressional briefing, and a reception to celebrate the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force as well as Brain Injury Awareness Month. The schedule and room locations are:
* 10am-2pm: Brain Injury Awareness Fair, Cannon Caucus Room, Cannon House Office Building
* 2:30-4pm Congressional Briefing, “It’s Not ‘Just’ a Concussion”, Capitol Visitors Center, Congressional Meeting Room North CVC 268
* 5-7pm Reception Celebration, B338 Rayburn House Office Building
The very first Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill was held in 2002, and is is hosted by the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force co-chaired by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.). It is put on in partnership with the Brain Injury Association of America. I will be meeting with my Senators while I am in DC and asking them to join the Task Force!
This year will be my second time attending BIA Day, and I wanted to offer my fellow survivors who are planning to attend some tips on planning out your day!
- Map Your Route
Whether you’re arriving by Metro, Taxi, or car, it is important to do your research and know where you’re going. Make note of which building you need to be at, and program the addresses into your GPS using the “walk” option, or print out maps and highlight your path. NOTE: You will need to go through security screening to enter any of the buildings at the Capitol. You can not bring in food or beverages, and your bags will be scanned and/or checked by hand. Please be prepared, and feel free to tell security you have a brain injury and may need some assistance from them.
2. Plan Your Schedule In Advance
Understand how much energy you’re willing to exert and plan accordingly. If you can only give yourself and hour or so, I highly suggest you put your energy towards the Awareness Fair. You will be able to meet with vendors who support brain injury awareness, you’ll meet fellow survivors, interact with the Brain Injury Association of America, and pick up some free swag to take home with you! The Congressional Briefing can get a bit long, and can be over stimulating to listen to, however, you will learn a lot and get updates on what is happening across the country with brain injury awareness, detection, and prevention. The Reception is a fun time to hang out with the new people you have just met, as well as eat some tasty treats.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
It’s important to understand that there is a lot of walking involved when you’re at the Capitol. You will walk from your car, Taxi, or Metro stop to the building, and also between the buildings. Distance is deceiving when you look at a map, so it’s good to be prepared for a lot of walking!
4. Stay Hydrated & Eat A Snack
Hydration is critical to brain health, so bring a water bottle and fill it up once you’re through security. There is also a cafeteria located inside the building where you can purchase beverages as well as a meal or snacks.
5. Bring A Notebook & Pen & Tote Bag
You will likely meet a lot of wonderful new people, and you’ll want to grab their business card and/or make notes. You will be taking in a lot of new information, and I suggest writing things down so you don’t forget, and make notations of things you want to follow up on. A tote bag will come in handy to carry around the free swag that you pick up (pens, etc).
6. Pace Yourself & Be Prepared For Overstimulation
Get LOTS of rest the night before. This is going to be a busy day with lots of people, walking, and interaction. Bring with you any comfort items you may need such as sunglasses and earplugs. Take breaks and pace yourself, you’re under no obligation to see it all and do everything on the schedule!
7. HAVE FUN!
Amy Zellmer is a professional photographer, author, and creative business coach living in Saint Paul, MN. She is an active member of the Brain Injury Association of America and sits on their Advisory Council. Her first book, “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal” is available as an e-book with a “pay what you can” option for the month of March. You can find her on Huffington Post and at Faces of TBI.