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Darren Kilby's traumatic brain injury was the result of a head-on crash with a drunken driver fleeing from police at more than 100 mph.
Ann Boriskie's brain injury occurred when an apparently lost motorist stopped in front of her, and a 16-year-old driver plowed into the rear of her Mustang.
Chantay Reese tried to avoid a deer, but suffered a brain injury when her Jeep flipped at least three times on a rural South Carolina road.
Justin Pressley is confined to a wheelchair after suffering a brain and spinal injury in a motorcycle crash he attributes to his passenger's failure to lean into a turn.
The four are among 275 Georgians helped so far by an innovative state government program called the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund. And it hasn't cost you a cent --- unless you were convicted of DUI.
If you were, 10 percent of your fine was earmarked for the fund, which dispersed $892,248 in its first year of sifting through applications.
The commission dispersing the money approved 77 percent of the applications, said Kristen Vincent, executive director. The money pays for transportation, in-home health care and other equipment and services recipients can't get from any other program.
The trust fund, created by the Legislature and overwhelmingly approved by Georgia voters in 1998, battled bureaucracy from the onset to serve its constituents, nearly half of whom are victims of motor vehicle crashes. Now that money finally is flowing, the fund is endangered by a pending legislative effort to cap fees tacked onto fines for traffic violations, including DUIs.
"This cap could significantly reduce the funds coming in to us," said Vincent. The group already is being shortchanged by the failure of many Georgia courts to collect and disperse the fees properly, she said.
Several recipients gathered last week to share success stories.
Kilby, 27, of Conyers had to be cut out of his Jeep, spent 28 days in a coma, and has no memory of three months of his life. The fund enabled him to buy a reliable car to get him to his job as a teacher's aide.
Boriskie, a business executive before her 1998 crash, is still unable to work. The fund provides the Alpharetta woman with counseling she found she needed to cope with the changes the crash brought to her life.
Reese, 31, of Augusta received a variety of services, including vision therapy that has enabled her to keep working in social services and resume her education, interrupted by the wayward deer.
And Pressley, 32, of Gainesville is now able to pay for attendant care to help him out of his wheelchair and into bed.
The Brain Injury Association of America says more than 1.5 million people a year sustain a traumatic brain injury from vehicle crashes, falls, violence or sports injuries. Spinal cord injury is less frequent, suffered by about 11,000 people a year.
Founding commission member Rocky Rothrock of Douglasville suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle crash. He shuddered when asked how many more people would need such help if the General Assembly, as is being proposed, repeals the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law.
"I wouldn't be here today had I not been wearing that helmet," he said.
For more information, call 404-651-5112 or visit www.bsitf.state.ga.us.
Joey Ledford's Lane Ranger column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution