A caravan of support followed author Joel Goldstein as he filed into the Henry Hudson Room at Marist College’s Fontaine Hall. A crowd of onlookers filled the catered opening, pulling additional chairs along the walls to accommodate excess appearances. Scattered around were Marist students, teachers, children and elders. Survivors and supporters sat quietly, waiting to hear Joel’s inspiring words. They gathered to hear the story of his son’s struggle with traumatic brain injury and the process of regaining a life.
Joel’s son, Bart, was only 16 years old when he was involved in a massive car crash on Christmas Eve that left him with a traumatic brain injury. Through his book “No Stone Unturned”, Joel recounts his son’s struggle from a father’s point of view. He detailed the many highs and lows felt when attempting to recoup brain functionality, and the struggles and setbacks many TBI survivors often face. It was the story that earned him the love and admiration of the thousands of reader whom he gave hope and inspiration.
On Wednesday, October 9, Joel took the stand to talk about his book No Stone Unturned: Traumatic Brain Injury and the Conspiracy of Decency. His soft, caring face scanned the audience looking for familiar faces. Even from the back of the room, deep lines of worry were carved deep in his mustached face. He had clearly gone through hell, it was visible in his eyes and in every word he spoke, and yet there was a glow to him. He was addressing a serious issue, one that crippled his son and nearly stole his life, and yet he seemed happy. He seemed to be enjoying himself with a company of friends, speaking casually with a group of individuals he has always known.
Joel opened by immediately asking the room who knew someone affected by traumatic brain injury, to which the majority of hands shot up. Then he asked, who individually is a survivor of traumatic brain injury, to which a still significant number of people responded. Joel established that he was talking to people fighting his very same fight. And even though it wasn’t the scheduled topic of the talk, Goldstein spoke to those affected and attempted to inspire hope.
His main focus was raising awareness of traumatic brain injury, as well as promoting forward, unconventional thinking and problem solving. According to the CDC, 1.7 million people suffer from some for of traumatic brain injury every year.
In an interview with New Paltz Public Access Bart said,” I would actually like to accomplish with this book, besides notoriety, just getting the mass media to understand that there is traumatic brain injury everywhere.
“I really hope that my experience will help other people.”
Through his talk, Goldstein attempted to convey the rollercoaster of life that we all ride upon. Noting, that the effects of Traumatic Brain injury only added to these challenges.
“[Bart] was always a firecracker, but he was prone to angry, violent outbursts seemingly over nothing.”
During these outburst, Joel often received help from complete strangers, bus drivers and lunch attendants lending a hand out of nothing but kindness.
These random acts by total strangers are what helped inspire Joel to think up the “conspiracy of decency”. The idea that no matter how much evil you hear in this world, there are still many good people who are willing to help. Through the time spent rehabilitating his son, these acts were proof to Goldstein of the divine spark in all of us for “without it, this journey would be too bleak and unbearable.”
Bart’s story has spread across the country giving traumatic brain injury survivors inspiration and a reason to fight on. His actions have made such waves that on Joel’s website, tbibook.com, former professional football player George Visger even felt the need to reach out and speak of his appreciation.
His post read, in part:
“Bart, I know what you are going through better than most. I have survived 9 VP shunt brain surgeries since developing hydrocephalus while playing for the 49ers during the 81 Super Bowl season. You and your family are true inspirations to me. Keep up the good work, you are impacting lives.”
The implications of Joel’s work have even been felt here, on campus. Senior Michael Naeem has a family member who has experienced a traumatic brain injury and was at the event.
“Bart’s story gives me hope. I feel through hard work and perseverance TBI can become more well-known and the treatments more advanced.” he said.
Even those who have no personal experience with traumatic brain injury claimed to have gained something from the talk.
“It was truly touching to hear the story of Bart’s fight and his success,” said Nicholas Pepe. “It gives me hope because if something this extreme can be overcome, anything can.”
(photo credit: tbibook.com)