I am Carlos Cortes and I am a longtime member of Jodi House. I lived in Mexico as a child, and at age 6, I was in a bus accident with my family. I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the accident and was in a coma for 15 days. I received care for my physical injuries, but I didn’t get any treatment for my TBI and was sent home from the hospital after I regained consciousness.
Because I was just a child, my brain injury affected my entire life.
School was hard for me, and I did not speak because I didn’t understand the things that were being taught or the things people were saying. I got in trouble often for not speaking, but no one ever thought to test me for any disabilities. I also developed a few tics after my injury around the time I was in elementary school, but I didn’t know what they were.
I made it through school, and I even made it through college, even though I didn’t understand what I was learning. After college, I tried to work some temp jobs, but I couldn’t hold down a job because I couldn’t comprehend what was needed from me or how to follow directions. Around this same time, my tics worsened and began to look similar to Tourette Syndrome. I eventually realized that I needed to go see a Speech Therapist since I had never gotten any treatment for my brain injury. At age 30, when I went to Speech Therapy, it was the first time anyone told me that my communication difficulties were related to the TBI from the crash. It was my Speech Therapist who told me about Jodi House, and I became a member in 2011.
When I first came to Jodi House, I still didn’t really speak because of the trouble I still had understanding people and because of my tics. I slowly got more comfortable here, and when I did decide to talk, I realized that no one here thought I was stupid or thought I sounded weird. Jodi House was the first place I felt like I could talk because I knew I could talk and laugh in my own way. I began to take classes like Musical Mind Workout, Communication Skills, and Memory Strategies, and I was able to practice my art and piano skills. I still have artwork hanging in Jodi House today!
I was also not in a good living situation when I joined Jodi House, and the staff helped me find safe housing through Tri-Counties Regional Center. This is where I still live today, and I am glad to be in my home.
In 2017, my tics and Tourette Syndrome-like symptoms got so bad that I took a break from Jodi House. I didn’t want to scare anyone by yelling or by accidentally throwing something. I had been going to Jodi House every day, so I became very isolated. There was nowhere I could go without getting kicked out or yelled at, so I just stayed in my room most of the time. It was very lonely.
Just this year, I reconnected with Jodi House and they told me about the virtual classes. I decided to try the virtual option because it allows me to mute my microphone when I accidentally yell, and it has been a lifeline for me. It’s been great to reconnect with my old friends from Jodi House and make new friends too. No one judges me if they hear me scream or see a tic because they understand that it’s just part of my brain injury. I feel so much less isolated, and I have been able to take my favorite classes again.
If I could tell the world anything about brain injury, it would be a few things. First, I would say that the cause or severity of a brain injury doesn’t predict what symptoms someone will have or how much it will affect a person’s life. Next, I’d want people to know that a childhood brain injury can affect you for the rest of your life. I wish I got help when I was six, but we didn’t know any better. Finally, I think people should know that a brain injury can cause lots of different symptoms and that all we want is to be accepted. I wish the world could accept and understand my Tourette Syndrome-like symptoms, but I’m glad I know that I can be myself at Jodi House.