MEEKER I “Caitlyn was Bradi’s first crush; that’s how I met him,” said Cassie McGuire with a smile as she recalled her daughter and classmate Bradi Bland as preschoolers.
“Brinda (Bradi’s mother) came up to me after school one day and said, ‘Bradi is in love with your daughter!’ and I said, ‘And just who is Bradi?’”
Fast-forward 15 years. Caitlyn is headed to Johnson & Wales University at the end of August. Bradi was also set to take his senior walk this year and begin life as a newly minted adult, but he did not get to experience the classic rites of passage: wearing the itchy polyester gown, tossing his cap high into the air or taking hundreds of photos with proud family and friends.
Instead, he spent graduation day in a hospital bed watching a live feed of the ceremony, fighting for his life and his future.
On April 8, Bradi was involved in a serious car accident. He was flown via helicopter from Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction and then to Denver’s Children’s Hospital. Bradi spent 10 days in the ICU on life support with multiple wounds, including a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). He pulled through despite nearly insurmountable odds.
According to his mother, Brinda Johnson, “Bradi continues to make progress every day and is nothing short of a miracle. He is missing big chunks of his life before the accident for several years, but his short term memory seems to be improving. He is now walking without even a gait belt and is ready for the next chapter in his journey to recovery.”
That next chapter is specialized therapy.
TBIs are extremely complicated to treat.
According to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA), “Brain injury is not an event or an outcome. It is the start of a misdiagnosed, misunderstood, under-funded neurological disease.” Much research is being done, but the only tools doctors have right now are time, trust and specialized therapy to help patients regain basic skills like walking and talking.
Additionally, every TBI is unique and requires a personalized treatment plan. BIAA states, “People who sustain brain injuries must have timely access to expert trauma care, specialized rehabilitation, lifelong disease management and individualized services and supports in order to live healthy, independent and satisfying lives.”
The family’s insurance claims for the specialized care recommended for Bradi were recently denied. And while insurance will pay for some, not all, of the medical costs associated with the accident, it does not cover multiple trips to and from Denver, food, an apartment so the family can be close to Bradi or various other expenses.
“The accident was like a rock being thrown in a pond,” Johnson said. “The ripples continue and just get bigger and bigger, engulfing the family and those around them.”
To help the family weather those waves, a fundraising poker run is planned for Saturday. Meeker residents Rick Dodds, Bernie Roybal and Wade Bradfield came up with the idea.
The poker run’s primary aim is to raise funds to help offset medical costs. All proceeds from the event will go directly to Bradi and his family.
In addition, Johnson and the event organizers hope to raise awareness about the devastation traumatic brain injuries cause.
“Hopefully, the lifetime struggles and challenges will make people think twice about how important safety is,” Johnson said.
“Many volunteers and supporters in Meeker and the surrounding communities have come together to make this ride happen,” McGuire, who has been pivotal in getting this event organized, said.
The 213-mile poker run loop begins at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds at 9 a.m. (hands will be available for purchase from 9-10 a.m.), then stops at JW Snacks in Craig, Colo., (hands available from 10-11 a.m.), Massadona Tavern and Steakhouse in Dinosaur, Colo. (purchase hands from 12-1 p.m.), Highway Bar and Grill in Dinosaur (purchase hands from 1:30-2:30 p.m.) and the Rangely Auto Museum (hands available from 1:30-3 p.m.). All hands must be turned in at the loop’s endpoint, Chippers in downtown Meeker, by 4:30 p.m.
Muscle cars and hot rods are welcome to join the poker run at any of the participating businesses. Hands are $25 each.
After the run, the Meeker Lions Club will hold a raffle and Meeker businesses Chippers and Hollidays are sponsoring an afterparty.
Elk Mountain Inn in Meeker is also offering rooms at a reduced rate for poker run participants.
Riders will receive an embroidered leather patch with the Traumatic Brain Injury awareness ribbon and “Riden’ For Bradi 2016.” Meeker Embroidery and Meeker Collision have donated time and materials to create these patches. There are a limited number of patches available, so be sure to sign up early.
In addition to the businesses previously mentioned, other supporters of the event include McGuire Auto Parts, Identity Graphics, Doc Holliday Harley Davidson, Peach’s Auto Spa, W.C. Striegel, Water Pump of Supply Service and Wendll’s.
“Never in your life can you imagine a life-altering injury happening to anyone you know, much less your own child,” Johnson said. “Our community and the people in it have shown genuine compassion and generosity that brings me to my knees. There are no words to adequately describe our gratefulness to and for each and every person for the care, kindness, support, love and prayers.”
Mark your calendars for the Riden’ For Bradi Poker Run starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds.
For more information, contact Cassie McGuire at 970-878-9855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.