Coping While Surviving

May 1996

Media: Three-dimensional, word-laden acrylic collage on hardboard., 28" x 84"
Venue: Camp Bruce McCoy
Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Coping While Surviving art pieceSponsors:  A Summer Camp Program held in honor of the Brain Injury Association, Virginia

Participating Artists: Kelly Beale, Jen Best, C.L. Brown, Charles Caplins, Denise Cartrette, Steve Clemente, Marc Cripe, Roscoe Cuttrell, Lisa DiBanico, Terry Davis, Rick Diggs,Delton Edwards, Debbie Etherton, Doug Farnsler, Tara Festermann, Marcia Forest, Shelly Haley, Anthony Hintze, Grege Kelso, Dave Lee, Jeb McCourt, Chris Magnotti, Sean Malone, Cori Mitchell, Tim Needham, Sammy Newberry, Gary Palmer, Roy Pennington, Katheleen Richardson, Jean Saah. Christy Saville, Debbie Stone, Terry Turner, Greg Watson, Saraya White,
and Don Willey.

Staff and Supporters:  Don Avles, Richard Banton, Frits Brady, Charlotte Collin,Dennis Day, Kim Depoto, Bittin Foster, Linda Harlow, Jamie Kincade, Russell Littlepage, Chad McGrath, Denise Masiello, Adam Meyers, Robin Moss, William Oliver, Dena Proctor, Wallace Satchell, John Sharpe, Jay Snyder, Grege Stockslager, Harry Weinstock,and Arlene Winterof.

Artists’ Statements:

An expression created by campers at Camp Bruce McCoy.

They gathered together each day to create a collaborative artistic expression of life with brain injury.

Their goal was to educate the world through their writings about life after brain injury and how they each are surviving.

a collaboration of their trials and tribulations –

Art Piece Story

The journey begins when a person is left needing help after receiving a brain injury. The figure at the bottom is reaching for help by calling 911. This person symbolizes the most extreme representation of being completely vulnerable and isolated while one is initially injured. Many people need the assistance of tracheostomy’s, I.V.’s, G Tubes, or electro-shock treatment to start the heart again. This is a very bad stage. Some survivors were shaved for surgery, some were air lifted in a helicopter, some were left for dead and even had a burial plot picked out. The first stage involves the family and dotors. Nobody knows how or when the person will survive.

After the coma lifts, the person has a lot of rehabilitation work ahead. It is the MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE we, the creators of the art piece, have experienced. Most of us have and are continuing to go through stages to achieve getting over where we’ve been, where we are going, and finally where we will ultimately be. We may have to re-experience our childhood stages and grow up again and re-learn how to be appropriate in every day living situations. Rehabilitation from brain injury is more intense, longer, harder, requires more involvement and self determination than any other recovery process of any kind. One learns how to breath, sit up, eat, talk or find another effective means of communication. Learning how to swallow our own saliva and control drooling or manage it appropriately is important. Daily living skills; such as bladder and bowel control, paying attention, reading, managing money, walking, and developing healthy sleep patterns are other necessary components. People regain physical strength by walking, attending weight classes, and bench pressing. The ability to express ourselves has changed psychologically and emotionally. What we are holding in we used to let out. Some used to ride bikes, run, participate in karate or shoot hoops to release their frustrations. But like everything, things change – both physically and cognitively. Now, some write stories and poetry, draw cartoons, cry, paint, scream, walk, or read books to relieve tension. Some people, because of their brain injuries, don’t think like an adult when feeling frustrated, they act out impulsively and irrationally. They end up regretting their reactions and feel worse about themselves. They may feel wrong, stupid, embarrassed, or humiliated which can cause increased self doubt. Some get yelled at when they listen to REALLY LOUD music to escape depression. Social etiquette skills to be re-learned involve anger control, laughing at the right times, attitude adjustment, smiling, learning to ask for help, and having a good sense of humor. Also, learning to spend time alone, realizing our own self worth, forgiving ourself, giving ourselves positive feedback, learning to accept our limits and criticism are essential for recreating a NEW and HEALTHY SENSE OF SELF !! This is only accomplished through many hours of therapy including physical, occupational, speech, recreational, and psychological.

It is always essential to realize certain categories of certain opportunities. Phenomenal determination and will to live were and still are our deepest convictions for living. We learn how to cope with the challenges we are given. We have a new life ahead of us, and an old one behind. We accept the challenges we are faced with.
Participants’ Stories

Debbie Stone

daughter 11 years old Dan
Kroger supermarket cashier
sew, crouttee
rock concerts

daughter at home


better communication (verbal)
survived group back in Ohio
informing people about my accident which helps me cope with it
getting a job again
finding a man
falling in love again

What was it like to survive my accident

I’m very thankful that I’m still here, thanks to the “one” above us. He has plans for me that I don’t even know about.

I was in the rehab center for 61/2 months. I was in a coma for 3 months.

Mom read the Bible to me everyday.

This situation has allowed me to meet alot of nice people. While at the rehab center I met this lady who was like my Grandmother- I called her Grandma Katherine.

Through this ordeal I mer Garth Brooks. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, autographed my t-shirt, a rose, and dinner back stage. I have all this on video.

I just love my church family.

I want to thank my Dad and Mom for working so hard for me. I love my family so much I don’t know what I’d do without them. I’m really sorry for getting mad at my family, but it’s part of my injury, I just need to get out some how.

I’m lucky that my mom found this lady to stay with us for free.

My first accident wasn’t that hard. I had a car accident, broke my right leg and left arm also fractured my skull. My mother thought I lossed my eye. My father pressed his shirt over my eye and noticed it was a deep cut.

My second accident I was trying to build my body how it was before. I was doing laps beneath the water and I had a cardiac arrest in the pool.

I think it shitty now….


My life has changed. I don’t really know why. It was different than before. I was smart, I was pretty. But now things are different. I work and have a life now. I go out and have a good time every once and awhile. I enjoy being Ann Marie sometimes.

I had my accident on February 13, 1987 and was in a coma for 64 days. During that time a neurologist told my parents that I would never walk again, be able to have a good recollection of the past, know the alphabet, spell, math, or have a good attitude towards the situation. I also think that taking physical therapy has helped me relearn to walk again. Problem solving was another class that I took during rehabilitation that tought me hwo to deal with the situation appropriately. Speech therapy was another class that I took that helped me relearn how to use words properly, state sentences in the right manner and be more contributive with my statements. I was in a wheelchair for about 2.5 years then I was operated on to straighten my legs out and was retaught how to walk, I had to use a walker, canes, but now I have much better balance and don’t need any help. I really hope that you can please excuse me but I cannot write anymore about this because it hurts my morality and my heart to explain all of this.


I don’t think about the steps I have taken to help me survive. Surviving my brain tumor surgery I am at camp Bruce McCoy, 27 , of May, 96, at camp Bruce. A young lady named Bittin Foster she had a Brain Injury too. It was not a brain tumor like I had. She is doing art work for disabled Brain Injured people. I have been through her program three years. I didn’t think about what I lost and my family has lost until today. A couple of things I will put down that I lost but I have double vision and the loss of strength in left side, I have a line through the middle of my head where they gave me chemotherapy and radiation therapy I need to sit down and write about going through this but not now.



It’s easy to be a survivor when you have support like family and friends. The most supportive are those in my church community. They did and would do anything I needed help doing. Also every person in my family was very supportive during my long hospital stay. And even now that I’m home they are still very supportive.

Tara Ferstermann


I am Eric L. Vogue. I was born in 1964. The day after I was born I had a seizure that caused me to have brain damage. My dad was in the air force and on one of our visits to Turkey I was diagnosed with epilepsy. We took the very next flight back to the Unted States. Presently, I was working at Potomac Elementary School. I previously volunteered there for ten years. Now I work with special vocation students.

About my survival

my name is Marcia Forrest and when I was about three they discovered some problems that were located in the part of my brain called the hypothalmus so while they were runnig tests they found a tumor also in the hypothalmus. While in the surgery they forgot some of the scar tissue so seens six I have been hving seiures but while in surgery they said I was going to die so I’m thankful to be alive today!

Survival is a wonderful thing. There are 3 stages to every survival. Each and every stage has it’s benefits as well as it’s drawbacks. The introductory phase or survival would be a coma. The phase may last only minutes or it may go on to the extent of many months. When one is in a coma he cannot eat or breathe on his own. The sooner the immediate attention arrives the better. Soon, the intensive care unit, at the hospital should be in control. Friends and family may come and go as they please.

The stage following the general hospital is usually a trip to rehabilitation hospital. While there, one must commit occupational, physical and speech therapies. At this time, the individual is not usually too aware of the circumstances or the seriousness of brain injury. He must look forward to a difficult and different future. The third and final stage can be the hardest once he leaves the hospital care he must learn to face and deal with reality. No longer is someone always there at your beck and call. Everything is up to you.

As I noted above, surviving brain injury is serious. Personally, I feel one must only tackle one day at a time.

My accident hit me like a ton of bricks. One minute I was a college senior prepping for graduation, the next I was in a hospital and a machine was doing my breathing for me. I had planned on moving to San Diego and giving writing screen plays a shot, and then it was like I was in a bad hospital drama. The car did more then knock me out of my shoes but into a 7 month coma. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thankful, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t angry. Angry at the hit and run driver. First, rainy nights secondly and myself for drinking myself into a state where the doctors said I may have died anyway, accident or no accident. I’m not sure why I was selected to survive, but I was. I can’t decide if I should thank God or dumb luck. I suppose all I can do is give a big thanks for anyone and anything that played a role in my survival.

I am thankful for surviving.

I was driving a car and hit something. I was in a coma for several days. I woke up in a hospital and was taken to a nursing home where I learned to walk and to talk again.

I’ve learned to do quite alot in the nursing home.

I live at home with my mom and brother. I work as a volunteer in a nursing home. I was a LPN for about 15 years.

My responsibilities are wash clothes, help shop.

It’s hard when other people think you are sick and not completely ok.

The evolution of Chocolate

Ok, let’s start at the very beginning. God made the earth, Adam and Eve, and all the rest of it. While in this process of concentrating on everlastingly good things to create for the creatures on his newly created world, he considered for a second making an incredibly, outrageously delicious snack food which coudl be used the world over. A snack food that would, in itself create a whole new class of muman beings who could then begin proudly calling themselves chocoholics. The origination of chocolate stems from the fact that immediately before Adam and Eve picked the apple from the tree, they stumbled upon and discovered the cocoa bean tree that was right next to the apple tree. When Adam and Eve first tasted the chocolate, they were suddenly, miraculously and momentarily immersed into heaven so that they could bow down…..

Survival to me means a second chance at life. I hope I can run my life better than before. I want drugs never to run my life again or anything like that again. I don’t want to have friends like I used to have before my accident to make fun of me and laugh at my face. I don’t want to get involved with the law anymore. I would love to have a better job than I had before. I want to be around people who understand what I have been through and will talk and listen to me about my problems without making fun of me.

Andrea Hamilton

Dear Goddess

Dear Goddess:

I just broke up with my boyfriend (boo-hoo) because things just weren’t working out and I guess I lost interest. Now that I’m on my own again, I’m almost afraid to seek another relationship for fear that the same thing may happen again. What should I do?

Signed, Lost in Love

Dear Lost,

Ever heard the old addage “Too many fish in the Sea” ? Well, your on mcCoy grounds now, and the pond has just been re-stocked! Hunting season ha begun! Get back on the pier and throw out your line!

Dear Goddess,

I’m a small town, self claimed Disco King and I’ve beeen looking for a queen! Unfortunately prospects are few and far between. What’s a groovy hunk like me to do?

Signed, J.T.

Doug Hamilton- I have enjoyed camp.

Bittin, Evidently you hat liked my head better than yours. Because the next day Harvey returned your hat to me thinking it was mine. I sware that I didn’t take it back after I gave it back to you. Did you put it down and forget about it? Anyways, it was a fun two weeks. You’ve got a special gift, keep on giving it. Take care of yourself and let me know if you’re ever going to be at Winchester Rehab Center.
Love, Greg

Bittin, you have such a great talent and a huge huge heart. Your love, compassion, and appreciation for each camper was awesome. Keep up the great work.
Love, John W. Sharpe

Bittin, I know you have a kind soul within because it shines so brilliantly outward. Glad I had the opportunity to get to know you and experience your hope and work!
Best Wishes, Wendy Cayx

Bitten, this is Rich. You know I love ya and I see ya later. Keep your head up.
Rich M

Camp was just ot the same after each poker game. Can’t go fishin’, cause we’re missin’, someone named Bittin. You’re a beautiful person, inside and out.

City Cab, Shelly Haley, Charles Caplins

Bittin, You were great. I’m glad we all shared this experience.
Anne McDonnell

Well Shield the land only love be.

Greetings Miss Bittin, Joe McDonough

Hey Bittin, JAy-BEE

Thank you for everything. Andrew J. Hamilton

Eddie Best- Good luck, Bittin. Good luck in the future. Matt Brooken

I hope I run into you again. Love, Gary

Dear Bittin, I’ll never forget you. I love you and caryy you in my heart always.

Bitten, thanks for being you! (great attitude!)
Lori Mitchell

Eddie Bast

Good luck Bittin, Good luck in the future!
Matt Brooken

Marcia Forrest

Woodrow Wilson, Spain JR

Dena Procton

Love ya and thanks!

Bittin, Thanks for everything that you have done for the camp. You contribute alot and have helped make many people more confident and all around better people. Robin

Bitten, I love all that you did and brought to Camp this year!

Surviving a Brain Injury and Terry

Having survived a brain injury can be positive and negative; I can tell you about the negative. The negative aspects include short term momery loss, my sight has worsened, and I have physical disabilities, especially in walking and balance. This hinders my ability to get to most places as well as communicate adequately. The most difficulty in surviving a brain injury is the loss and difficulty in making friends.

Surviving a brain injury can be good due to the benefits and awareness that such a state taht can create. I survived because of my potential that I saw in myself. I no longer run with the bad/wrong crowd that I use to. Through surviving my trust in people has increased-first due to necessity then to experience. The road to surviving a head injury is very tough on the victim and on those who the victim me as a person find myself apologizing to myself and others for my accident. There are some things that I don’t want to do but I guess it’s the right thing to do.

Rocks all over the place
Car accident
No memory
Sewer pipes
New friends
Crush on therapist

Brian L

….strongest in my heart. Thank the Lord for helping me. He .helps me with my troubles and a new life for myself with my wife and child.

Eddie Bast

Surviving means to live abundantly without any remorse of the past. I mean to live expecting great things from the future and always looking to greater things.

To volunteer
by Dave Ruff

Volunteering gives me to go out places. I have 6 voluteer jobs, I work in a retirement home 5-6 hours once a week. I help the people eat their food & I play games with them, and I answer the telaphone. I also work the the BIA, national office in D.C. I am just learning basic volunteer responsibilities. I have copying, stuffing envelopes, folding, stuffing folders needed for a presention for

I have great responsibilities for myself I look forward for more volunteer work. Pretty soon I’m going to be working for the power of energy. I am going to be working as a mail clerk. I want to get out of my brain surgery. I just want to be human again.

I volunteer for the Fairfax Park Authorities. I clean up the I break branches to clear up pathways. I pull weeds, and the dirty trash pick up. I then wash my hands and eat luch with a feeling of pride. I also clean in their museum. I do this once a week.
Food and friends. I won’t go in a bus and give out food to people who have some kind of illness like aids. Terry can’t go shopping so we bring food to them. I do this twice a month.
In the summers I volunteer for a camp for little kids. I feel good doing this but they get me tired a lot. They have way too much energy.
I forth
Voulnteering is good exercise for us. Walking around, getting energy, getting hyped, it is exercise for the brain when I have to think what I’m doing-like using a copying machine I finally learned.

If you were part of this fantastic creation and want me to edit or add anything about your art piece or stories on the web site, please contact me!  – Namasté, Bittin

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