MADISON, Wis. - Jeff Francis has lived with a traumatic brain injury for more than 10 years, and now he and other survivors are trying to bring awareness to trauma they can cause.
Gov. Scott Walker proclaimed March "Brain Injury Awareness Month" to help people understand the trauma people and their families can face.
According to the Brain Injury Alliance of Wisconsin, it is estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 people in Wisconsin have experienced a TBI. In the U.S., 2.5 million sustain a traumatic brain injury every year.
In October 2007, Francis was on his way home when he was in a car crash down the street from the house in Pleasant Springs where he lived at the time.
"I was a passenger. And I got ejected and I crashed my skull into the pavement going about 45 to 50 mph," he told News 3.
He was taken to UW Hospital, went into emergency surgery and was put in a medically-induced coma for a month. He spent three months in the hospital and afterward went to multiple rehabilitation centers.
"He had to learn basically how to do everything," said his mom, Cheryl Francis. "He didn't know how to put a sock on or a shoe on. He didn't know how to get dressed."
Transportation-related injuries are the leading cause of brain injuries among people between the ages of 15 and 64, according to BIAW.
The organization will be selling T-shirts in March to raise awareness about brain injuries.
Francis said he has no memory of his life before the crash, including becoming an Eagle Scout, going to state for track and field in high school and his family's travels abroad. Now, he spends his days hunting, fishing and trying to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
He is still on a number of medications and sometimes has trouble choosing the right words.
"Having aphasia, I still try to explain to people what exactly happened and I kind of get a little frustrated because I can’t. The words aren't coming out right," he said.
Francis said he's also had a hard time finding a full-time job, but despite everything that has happened to him, he's still able to find positivity.
"I really didn't know if I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life or with somebody having to feed me," he said. "Every night, you feel grateful to be alive."
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