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Brain Injury Turns Cop into Brain Injury Awareness Advocate

Alwyn R. FredericksSome of the greatest activists begin their fight after unexpected, life-changing moments. Tate Mikell and his family are extraordinary individuals whose advocacy for individuals with brain injury began on June 13, 2005.

Tate Mikell was a police officer in Charleston, South Carolina, known as “…the blond-haired cop with the glasses; don’t run from him because he’ll catch you,” according to his mother, Marsha Mikell. Tate, a track and cross-country runner in high school and college, still regularly ran long distances.

It was after lunch with his parents and his usual 12-mile run that disaster struck in 2005. Tate, who had always been fit and healthy, suffered a stroke. Doctors found a large aneurysm (an abnormal, blood-filled bulge of a blood vessel) in his right cerebral artery. En route to the Medical University of South Carolina from the hospital, the aneurysm ruptured. After a six-hour surgery, Tate was still in critical condition, suffered multiple strokes and continued hemorrhaging. Doctors were forced to remove a large portion of Tate’s skull in addition to performing a front-lobe lobotomy.

The intervention of the doctors saved Tate’s life. For six weeks following the surgery, Tate lay in an induced coma. When Tate woke up, he and his family discovered that he suffered paralysis on the left side of his body. It was time for recovery to begin and it did, with two months of inpatient rehab and nine months of outpatient rehab.

Rebuilding a Life After Brain Injury

Undaunted, Tate and his family decided to rebuild their lives, facing new challenges together. Along the way, they became determined to help others like themselves. Tate has served as president of the Trident Head Injury Support Group and served with both the Charleston County Disabilities Board and the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. Tate is still an athlete; he competes in the Special Olympics as a swimmer.

Asked about his advocacy, Tate said, “Being able to talk to people with disabilities and without disabilities, and teaching them about brain injuries and people with disabilities, it makes me feel like I’m helping them to help us.”

Support for Caregivers of People with Brain Injuries

Tate’s mother Marsha advocates for a group of people who rarely realize that they need a helping hand, too – the caregivers. “The more people we meet, we realize we’re not in that bad of a situation,” Marsha said. “And if there is anything that we can share with those people that will help them through their situation, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I did when this all happened.”

The Mikell family’s advocacy is needed in South Carolina. Traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death in people from age 1 to 44. In South Carolina, 61,000 are living with a TBI-related disability.

At the end of January, Tate and his family attended the annual Shuck-A-Rama Oyster Roast, benefitting the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. Attendees enjoyed dancing, music, beer and wine while raising money and awareness for a great cause. The event was so popular that tickets sold out before the big day. We hope that next year’s event is even better and that people like the Mikells keep fighting the good fight.

-Alwyn Fredericks

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