A Community Rallies after Young Resident's Brain Injury
Caleb Potter’s devastating brain injury caused by a July 4th, 2007 skateboarding accident, his steady recovery, and the unflagging support of his home-town of Wellfleet have been well-documented in local papers. Caleb endured a six-month Boston stay at Mass General Hospital and Spaulding Rehab for multiple neurosurgeries and extensive rehabilitation, months more rehab at the Rehabilitation Center of the Cape and Islands as well as another family tragedy - his father’s death.
One thing is certain, Caleb Potter’s courage and fortitude have helped him progress well beyond what most - including his physicians - thought was medically possible.
Fast forward to January of 2010, to see the role his family has played in his steady medical and physical recovery, as well as how they are using creativity, compassion and grace to transform his injury into a healing experience for Caleb and other brain-injured individuals. Caleb’s mother, Sharyn Lindsay, and her sons, Caleb, Kai and Max broke ground on a restorative enterprise – a vegetable and flower cutting garden and farm with the tentative name of Long Pond Farm (runner up name - Hope Grows!)
A landscape architect by trade, Sharyn was inspired after learning about the progress made by U.S. Veterans using horticulture as therapy for brain injury, post-traumatic stress and drug addiction1. Her Ohio farm roots also play a part in the family’s mission to provide meaningful and rewarding employment that focuses on outdoors, good health and cooking, and the healing benefits of working with your hands in the soil and with animals that depend on your care.
Caregiver Homes of Massachusetts is one of the organizations that helped Caleb and his family reach this point of relative stability and the opportunity to move forward to help others. Sharyn explains that when a devastating accident like Caleb’s occurs, “your immediate life just falls apart.” As a first step after the accident, Caleb was enrolled in MassHealth to help deal with the mounting medical bills - aided by many town fundraisers - that rapidly exceeded $1M.
Caleb’s admission to Caregiver Homes community-based care program was “quick and effortless,” according to Sharyn, allowing his brother, Kai to be paid a stipend of nearly $18,000/year to provide Caleb with 24/7 care in their home, and providing the family with nursing, care management and technology oversight and support. She adds that Caregiver Homes “is monumental in support – I lost my business for one full year and it just gives you that boost. When you go through this tragedy, you shouldn’t have to worry about money.” Sharyn is also grateful for the town’s support and she comments on their prayer vigils and fundraisers, “I’ve never seen the community come together the way they did for Caleb!”
Another supportive resource for Sharyn has been the Kennedy-Donovan Center, where she has learned about the complexities of brain injuries in order to be able to provide respite care for other young men who are affected. Sharyn applied to the Community Development Partnership, for a business loan for Long Pond Farm and whose mission on the lower Cape includes supporting economic development issues that are unique to the area.
Their property is a peaceful woodland setting ideally-situated up narrow Sapokonish Road from the entrance to Long Pond Beach. The area to be farmed was cleared of its scrub pine and the soil tested, amended and graded to produce Long Pond Farm’s signature flowers and vegetables. The chickens, goats and family dog make a happy menagerie amid the charming one-room “houses” on the farm that the Potters used as boys, and are now sparsely furnished with Sharyn’s expert eye for simplicity and design.
As an Advisory Council Member for restoration of Wellfleet’s Preservation Hall, Sharyn described their Spring plan for a weekly farmer’s market where they would sell Long Pond Farm’s vegetables and flowers and show their sweet-tempered pygmy goats (donated by Caregiver Homes’ nurse, Cheryl Glazier in return for the family’s rooster!) at the Preservation Hall market and at their farm stand.
Sharyn also envisioned branching out in creative directions that are known to be healing and restorative and that would challenge the Farm’s staff, such as metalwork, ceramics and clay, and she planned to open up the Farm program to youth-at-risk and teens who need to fulfill community service obligations. Her talented sons are an integral part of the plan. Kai has studied horticulture design and art and Max is a builder and woodworker. Caleb, who is rediscovering his talents in art and sculpture, is also developing a green thumb that will not replace, but hopefully will help him once again, fully express himself in a way he is most comfortable – shellfishing and surfing in his beloved Cape Cod Bay and National Seashore.
“I don’t know how other families come together after a devastating illness or accident like Caleb’s, Sharon comments, “but I have to give the credit to my boys.” To Sharyn and her boys, especially Caleb, who so rightly deserve this toast - which was a suggested name for the farm - “This bud’s for you!”
Note: To stay abreast of developments at the Lindsay/Potter household and Long Pond Farm, log on to Sharyn Lindsay’s blog - www.calebpotter.blogspot.com - started when Caleb was first admitted to MassGeneral - and follow along with friends from around the world including this writer who have been touched by their story.
1 Healing Greens by Maria Papadopoulos, Brockton Enterprise, 8/31/09 http://www.enterprisenews.com/news/x359563736/HEALING-GREENS-Local-vets-find-solace-in-horticultural-therapy and Veteran Homestead Victory Farm in NH - www.veteranhomestead.org/facilities/victoryfarm.html