My excellent friend Leslie Relle lives here in Eugene, Oregon and is a brain injury survivor. I’m David W. Oaks and I’ve been a disability advocate for decades. During much of this time I’ve known Leslie, she is warm, funny and supportive. Like me, she is in her 60’s. Leslie cares deeply about disability rights, and we are both in our Unitarian Universalist Church’s Accessibility Task Force.

Learn about Brain Injury Awareness Month, March.

Leslie would love to network with other women with brain injuries. Women can email her at the address at the bottom of this essay. Here is why Leslie cares so passionately about head injury survivors and wellness:


Understanding & Opportunities for Women with Head Injuries

By Leslie A. Relle

My accident happened as I was crossing Route 9 in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a couple of friends. There was no stoplight at the intersection at that time. It was on July 9, 1970. I was 12 years old, and we had planned to go to the swimming pool. My friends were crossing the street before I ran across. But I didn’t make it. I vaguely remember them yelling “No, Leslie!” That was it for some time. The doctors wanted to pull the plug but my parents wouldn’t allow that. 

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The Brain Injury Association of America recognizes the many people living with the aftermath of minor and severe traumatic brain injuries. I hope we will have something to celebrate.

I have lived more than 50 years with a severe head injury. It has affected me profoundly. With a great deal of determination, I managed to earn a college degree in 1980.

Unfortunately, our society still does not have all that much understanding about brain injury. The culture is lacking in empathy and compassion. Many times these injuries are invisible. Medicare does not cover much of the care that we need to get by. Most of us are barely managing our lives.

People with brain injuries are misdiagnosed by doctors, given labels that are not all that helpful, misunderstood by mental health professionals, victimized by criminals, and held back by educators. Many of us become caught up in the criminal justice system. We are often abused by so-called friends and by partners.

I have met hundreds of other people with head injuries over the years. We are not all the same. Most of the people getting injured and in support groups are men. There are not many opportunities for women. I’d like to see a group where women with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) could feel comfortable about sharing our struggles and day-to-day challenges.

Women with TBI are invited to email me, Leslie A. Relle, at