Champions for Change game day is this Sunday, and the UNC softball team is proud to welcome Tim Bradshaw and his daughter Emily. Both Tim and Emily are not only champions of their challenges in life but in the hearts of many people. They are passionate and strong people who have persevered throughout their lives. The UNC Softball team and UNC Athletics are honored to get the opportunity to share a game day with Tim and Emily. We asked Mary Ann Bradshaw, Tim’s wife, to tell us a little about Tim and Emily and their personal stories. Here is an inside look at our champions!
1. Describe our “champions” for this Sunday.
We have a family of champions led by Tim, a wonderful husband, father, son and friend to many. He loves the outdoors, especially fishing, and he loves baking, reading and music. However, none of his interests match the passion and devotion he has to his family and his faith, which he has courageously shown over his lifetime, particularly since his latest traumatic brain injury in 2008. His mid-life gift was not going to be a new sports car, but an opportunity to show others, including himself, how to model grace in the midst of unwelcome change. A modeling that has significantly blessed our family and others as well. It is a story that he has been encouraged to tell more, and our family is grateful for the opportunity to do so now.
Our other champion for the game is our daughter, Emily, a beautiful 13-year-old seventh-grade student who loves questioning and learning. She loves people, including her family. She loves music, especially country music, and singing. She also enjoys reading and her cat, Sammy. Emily has gifts of compassion and justice for others, particularly those who may encounter challenges in their lives.
Tim and Emily share their home with wife and mom, Mary Ann; son and brother, Jacob (age 9); and mother-in-law and grandmother, Bessie (a spry 97-year-old).
2. What disorders or conditions do your husband and daughter have? What obstacles or adversity has your husband, daughter and family faced?
Tim is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor. When he experienced a vasovagal (passing out) episode in 2008 (secondary to an earlier hit on the head with our van’s rear door) and fell into our bathtub, hitting the left front side of his head with full force. No one could have predicted the rest of the journey. Scans showed areas of encephalomalacia (dead brain tissue) in parts of his left temporal, parietal, and frontal lobes that were already there and had been there for quite some time. We now know is that these areas were from Tim’s first major TBI when he was in an accident as a 13 year-old. He fell down a steep hill on his bike outside of his home in Alabama and slammed into the pavement, hitting the left side of his head. Back then, once you regained consciousness, and your x-ray looked okay, you were sent home. It was called a concussion but not a TBI. No one knew to advice against playing contact sports like football and that once someone has had a TBI they are at greater risk for receiving more. People also didn’t know that the long-term effects of multiple TBI’s over time. Tim showed signs of a drop in grades, especially in math and writing, despite way above average intelligence, and a change in mood state were linked to the “concussion”/TBI. Now, these factors are beginning to be more-widely acknowledged.
Tim’s ability to deal with the issues for quite some time before they were brought to light in 2008 is a huge testament to his courage and tenacity. He graduated from college and then earned his Masters degree in Social Work, before spending almost 20 years working within some of the most difficult areas of practice. He worked in areas of domestic and sexual abuse, and family violence, to name a few. Since the TBI in 2008, and another in 2009, he could no longer work full-time. Yet, one would never know his problems just by looking at him. Tim has had the gift of multi-tasking, as well as the inherited gift from his father of being a “jack of all trades”. It has been difficult for Tim to not be able to continue in the same paths as before, but he has continued to model perseverance and humility, despite his daily challenges.
Technology has certainly been helpful, as well as support within the brain injury world. An adjunct therapy of HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) has also proven extremely providential for both Tim and Emily with both of their brain issues. Tim’s from TBI, and Emily’s of a more global nature. After discovering the multiple benefits of adjunct therapy in combination with their other therapies, Tim and Emily now travel together to New Orleans every three months to receive booster treatments with Dr. Paul Harch. Ever since they both started HBOT they have experienced increased functionality with cognition, learning, sleep, mood, and physical balance, along with less fatigue. In addition, Tim has had no further debilitating headaches. It is not a panacea, but both Tim and Emily will attest to the difference this regimen of treatments has made for their lives on a daily basis and thus for our family’s life together.
3. What led you to become involved with The Arc?
Tim was referred to the Arc last year by Voc Rehab in Carrboro, where he was beginning the process at that time of exploring a possible return to some part-time work. This was a huge step made up of multiple smaller steps. Tim received wonderful support from the staff at the Arc, especially Duffy Palmer and Stephen Johnson. The Arc helped us find other local services and resources for Emily’s current and future needs. Ever since Emily was a toddler, she has loved having contact with groups from the Arc that have provided hands-on, volunteer assistance at some of Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation’s Adapted & Inclusion programs.
4. How has The Arc helped your husband, daughter and family?
The best way to say this is that the Arc has helped to normalize our experiences within the intellectual and DD (developmental disabilities’) world. Whenever we enter the office, our family feels a tangible sense of belonging and understanding. There are a few other places that this sense of belonging exists for us, including the First in Families of NC, the Family Support Network of NC, and the Brain Injury Association of NC. Our family firmly believes that our world would be better if all places in all communities exhibited the same openness and inclusion that the Arc strives to show.
5. How did you hear about UNC Softball’s Champions for Change and why did this program interest you?
We received an email from the Arc and were immediately drawn to the goals of Champions for Change to create intentional community and connections between the UNC women’s softball team and those with disabilities, seen and unseen. We hope to make some lasting connections with members of the team, and we are very grateful to have an opportunity for both of our children to be a part of the behind-the-scenes activities of their favorite collegiate athletes!