Welcome to the KBIC. My name is David Krempels, and I survived a severe traumatic brain injury. I am honored to have my name attached to this organization that four friends helped me start in 1995. It is something really good that came out of the incredible heartbreak of my own experience with traumatic brain injury.
I want to share my story as a message of hope. Every story is tragic. Life will never be the same. But it can be good again and KBIC can help.
June 1992. A successful building contractor; active in sports, my church, and the community. Just married. And then, in a second, everything changed. Squealing tires, twisted metal, flying glass. A tractor trailer truck slammed into our car. My wife was killed. I was left fighting for my life, and facing the long, lonely journey through the no man’s land of “recovery.”
Confused, angry, crippled, and heartbroken, I desperately tried to cling to the life I had known. But over the course of two agonizing years, I slowly realized that I was never going to be that person again.
Even then, in my darkest despair, I was fortunate. My family, a few extraordinary friends, and some exceptional therapists were willing to go down into my darkness with me. They acknowledged my losses and helped me grieve. They also insisted – against my protests – that my life could be good again. They were right. Little by little I began to replace missing fragments of that shattered life with something new.
Meanwhile, my civil suit came to trial and a jury awarded me a lot of money. That could never bring back what I had lost, but it rescued me from financial disaster. I could buy food, heat, and a car. I could pay off my mountain of debts and reclaim my house from the bank. It also allowed me to achieve what I came to feel is my destiny. I had been brought up to believe that I should do something good and important with my life. My first career was building houses. Now I had the financial resources to help rebuild lives.
For 15 years, I poured a ton of money and all my passion into building this organization. Our mission mirrored my own needs after my brain injury. At first, we made small grants to help relieve immediate financial crises. Gradually we realized that there were even more lasting and paralyzing needs of survivors and their families – isolation, depression, despair. KBIC evolved to provide a physical space where survivors and families could come together for companionship, encouragement, opportunities, and hope.
The organization has flourished beyond my wildest dreams. We are a close, honest, vital, heart-driven community that draws energetic interns from area universities and dynamic volunteers from the region. Our programs and research are pushing the frontiers of what’s possible post rehab. Everyone associated with the organization – our team of staff, volunteers, consultants, the Board of Directors – brings exceptional compassion, enthusiasm, and professionalism.
For many years KBIC was my reason to get out of bed in the morning. My involvement is more relaxed now, but I love the time I spend there. My life is totally different than it used to be but it is once again filled with meaning and happiness.
Every 15 seconds someone in the United States has a traumatic brain injury. The incidence of stroke is almost as high, and over 350,000 Americans are living with brain tumors. These numbers are staggering. Regular people just like you and me – with friends, families, jobs, feelings, hopes for a happy life. And suddenly, everything is changed forever.
I’m one of those statistics, but my story has a happy ending. Some of my friends at KBIC have experienced losses of unspeakable heartbreak and continue to struggle every day. They and their families are the heroes of this story, and they are why KBIC exists.
I leave you with our motto:
You’re not who you were. Be who you are!