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Mother and daughter receive award for helping those with brain injuries

EAGLE LAKE, Maine — Life changed significantly for Mindy Forino and her family after she suffered a traumatic brain injury during a soccer game 10 years ago, but Forino and her mother, Suzanne Morneault have turned the tragic situation into a positive one by helping others who experience brain injuries.

In recognition of their efforts, the Brain Injury Association of America-Maine awarded Forino and Morneault with the Lewis and Clara Lamont Brain Injury Advocacy Award, at the 9th annual Conference on Defining Moments in Brain Injury on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in Portland.

St. John Valley mother and daughter Suzanne Morneault and Mindy Forino received the Lewis & Clara Lamont Brain Injury Advocacy Award on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
(Jessica Potila)

Forino and Morneault started the non-profit organization “All Things Become New,” aimed at providing education about brain injuries and support for those who suffer brain injuries and their caregivers.

In 2017, All Things Become New opened a “Haven of Rest” home in Eagle Lake to provide free respite to caregivers in the peace and tranquility of northern Maine.

Morneault was a presenter at the conference, which Forino was unable to attend. The award came as a surprise to both of them. Morneault said she cried when she heard  the announcement at the conference that she and her daughter had received the award.

The presentation Morneault shared at the conference with brain injury survivors, caregivers and medical professionals included “nuggets from our journey to encourage others on theirs,” she said.

While accepting the award, Morneault offered the same encouragement to the conference audience.

“I wanted people to know that Mindy and I would not change what happened. God just had a different plan and we’re OK with it. It’s been difficult, but there are blessings in that which we’ve appreciated,” Morneault said.

The Haven of Rest houses brain injury survivors and their caregivers usually at least once per month.

“They love it. They feel comfortable. It’s a little home away from home,” Morneault said.

When the home has empty space, Morneault and Forino sometimes allow others to stay there, including families whose children are being treated at the inpatient psychiatric unit at Northern Maine Medical Center. Due to a lack of such treatment centers in the state, children from all over Maine stay at the NMMC unit, making travel and lodging arrangements difficult for their families.

The Haven of Rest operates largely based on donations. The home currently needs a new furnace, which Morneault said will cost about $5,000 to replace.

Through All Things Become New, the mother and daughter also host a brain injury support group at Northern Lights AR Gould hospital (formerly TAMC) in Presque Isle twice monthly on every second and fourth Tuesday at 10 a.m.

They are in the process of organizing a monthly support group at Fish River Rural Health in Fort Kent, which they anticipate will start in January.

Morneault and Fournier also hope to raise funds to open a home in Portland where patients of traumatic brain injuries can stay while seeking rehabilitative treatment.

Although it has been eight years since her injury, Forino continues to face challenges, but continues to improve.

“I have been doing all right recently. I moved, so my head struggles with the change and transition,” she said. “Fall has been rough with the change of seasons and change of time. It really takes my body a little bit to adjust to that physically and emotionally.”

Morneault said that Forino recently experienced a medication-induced seizure.

“We haven’t dealt with that for awhile, so that was a bit of a setback physically,” she said.

Forino is happily married, has a stepdaughter and an 8-year-old Yorkshire Terrier named Addison. Forino adopted the dog about six months after the injury, to help her cope with stress and isolation as she recovered from her injury.

“She goes with me everywhere with me. She’s a very, very awesome addition to my life,” Forino said.

Forino feels good about being able to help others who are in her situation.

“I’m always willing to tell my story to anybody. Some days it’s more of a difficult task but in the end we’re just trying to come alongside people and let them know there is hope out there,” she said, “and even if they shed a few tears it’s OK; they’re not struggling alone,” she said.  

For more information about All Things Become New, visit the organization’s website or Facebook page or call Suzanne Morneault at (207) 444-9070 or (207) 540-5446.

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