The bus needs a water heater. Jim in California had one for me but it would require a 12 inch square hole be cut into the side of the bus and he and I agreed that seemed a bad idea. Once I was back home, I started searching on Craigslist for one which could be run on shore power or the generator (110V) and ideally on engine coolant so we could be more environmentally friendly by using waste heat from that big V-8 engine lurking under the nose of the bus. I found one for sale at half price, still in the box in Kasilof which is down on the Kenai Peninsula. I contacted Bob, the seller, and we began to arrange to have it shipped up to Anchorage as I have no spare time to drive down to collect as all my non-clinic time is now devoted to the bus. I mentioned some where along the way what I wanted the heater for as it is designed for a boat and I did not want Bob to think I was crazy. As Bob and I refined the details and I asked how I could send him the money, I got this email back:
I lost my only son Tuesday morning. He has struggled with TBI for the past 32 years and he died in his sleep ... he was 48 years old. My wife and I will donate the heater to your TBI Clinic project ... this would be the best outcome. We will deliver the heater today to American Fast Freight in Soldotna. Please give us ship to instructions so they know what to do with the freight .Happy to do this for you.
Fortunately, I was working on a presentation for a class on brain health I am teaching and was not going in to see patients because, on reading this, I burst into tears and was in tears for some time. Tears happen more readily since my TBI and this is a common consequence of brain trauma but I also feel it is because I am increasingly more closely acquainted with the pain TBI inflicts on our communities. I am struck once again not only by the magnitude of the reach of TBI but by the incredible support communities can provide. This totally random contact with Bob brought me to tears but also made me realize that despite my fears of not being able to do this project well enough or correctly to help people, I have to make it work. We have to make it work. I am clearly not alone on this mission to help Alaskans with TBI. All my struggles with mountains of paperwork for grants and IRS non-profit applications which keep me up at night are such small parts of something much bigger than me or the bus. There is a powerful force in community and the love and concern for others that comes from shared trauma and tragedy.
Bob and Liz, the loss of their son, Robert Lloyd Correia, and their water heater which will be at the heart of comfort in the bus, all propel this project forward just when I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task and the realization that I might not really know what I am doing. We will figure this out together! I know that again, now. In honor of you, Robert Lloyd Correia, the bus moves forward.