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Siskinds LLP was recently mentioned in The Stratford Beacon Herald for our fundraising contributions towards the launch of MyBrainPacer, a smartphone app which offers a creative way to assist and empower patients in their recovery from an acquired brain injury.

Cory Smith · The Stratford Beacon Herald · Posted: Apr. 27, 2021

A smartphone app that relies on a points system to help those recovering from brain injuries has been a revelation for St. Marys’ Rob Staffen, whose family’s foundation co-funded the St. Joseph’s Health Care London project.

Named MyBrainPacer, the system was developed by Becky Moran, an occupational therapist in the hospital’s Acquired Brain Injury Outpatient and Outreach Program at Parkwood Institute. It works similar to Weight Watchers, but instead of food it assesses a value to various activities – such as driving, grocery shopping, screen use and exercise – to make sure those with brain injuries are doing the right amount of physical and cognitive exertion.

“Patients like Rob who suffer with persistent concussion symptoms often need tools and therapies to help them self-manage their condition,” St. Joseph’s brain injury program co-ordinator Saagar Walia said in a release. “We have several programs and services that introduce patients and their family caregivers to many of these resources, but we also know there are others in the community and across our region with concussions who could benefit from the strategies developed here at Parkwood Institute.

“The most exciting part about this toolkit is that it was co-designed with patients and families and made possible by generous donations from former patients and several community partners. So many people and organizations have joined together to make this happen.”

Staffen, a local businessman, was badly injured nearly nine years ago during a trip to California. He was cycling down a mountain near Palm Springs when his road bike malfunctioned, catapulting him head-first into the rock-strewn desert below. The impact resulted in a serious concussion.

“I’ll bet you we were 10 minutes from being done,” he said. “I don’t know what happened, but my bike just stopped dead. The good thing about brain injuries is it doesn’t let you remember that moment, which is probably good.”

Staffen eventually flew home and, after some pushing from himself and his care team, was connected with Parkwood.

“Everybody is different on what impacts them the most,” he said. “I couldn’t walk into a store without wearing these massive sunglasses.”

Staffen also developed an eerie sense of hearing, which allowed him to make out distant conversations, such as those in a far corner of a small restaurant. His family’s Brain and Mind Matters Community Fund was then created in 2014 through the Stratford Perth Community Foundation as a way to help people not only with brain injuries, but those struggling with their mental health.

“Even I’ve had those moments where your brain just isn’t working,” he said. “Then you get down, especially about the future, because you think you can’t play hockey again, or (other) stuff because you get thinking these crazy thoughts.”

The foundation has granted more than $130,000 to multiple organizations since its inception, with the Cowan Foundation, RBC and St. Marys Hospital Foundation also contributing. The money typically supports Perth County initiatives, but Staffen wanted to back the concept that’s helped hundreds of St. Joseph’s rehabilitation patients – many from the Perth County region – achieve their recovery goals.

The app launched in February and allows patients to self-monitor their recovery on the go. Its development required strong partnerships and a dedicated project team of St. Joseph’s researchers, therapists, IT experts, patients and donors, like the Brain and Mind Matters Community Fund, Cowan and Siskinds Law Firm in London.

The app is available to the public for free and will also be marketed to physicians and care providers as a resource for their patients. In turn, users will be invited to participate anonymously in ongoing research so St. Joseph’s can continue to test, revise and optimize the app.

“Your brain has been damaged, so you can do way less,” Staffen said. “The trouble with getting better … you have to stay out of that red zone or your brain won’t get back to normal. It took me four years.

“In the bigger picture, it’s really about how a concussion impacts you, and there is a way to get healed. This points system … was a great strategy, and now the app is making it easier.”