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HOLMESVILLE -- At home, they call her Eileen, but at the Holmes County Training Center she goes by Betty, a name she shares with her mother.
Unlike many clients served by the Training Center and the Holmes County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Betty Masters was not born with a disability. She became disabled after suffering a traumatic brain injury, the result of a car crash when she was 20.
And, while she struggles to move and communicate in conventional ways, Masters enjoys writing. And, it was with that in mind, Superintendent Marianne Mader asked her to write a regular column for the agency's newsletter.
"I know that she enjoys writing, and I was trying to find a way for her to use her skill and talent and share it with the community," said Mader, adding the concept of a column "just came to me one day."
And, when she asked Masters, "Her face just lit up."
"Communicating is not easy, but this is a way she can communicate with a lot of people," said Mader of Masters, who attends the agency's day habilitation program. "It's nice for people with disabilities to tell people what they think and feel in their own words."
In her introductory column, Masters introduces herself as an adult who was not born with a disability. Rather, she tells the story of how, while the back seat and unbelted passenger of a drunken driver she was ejected from the car when it crashed and rolled.
"The only injury I had was to my brain. The doctors said it was so badly shaken inside my head it looked like shredded Jell-O in my brain stem area," said Masters, who remained in a coma for a year and was not expected to survive.
The long-term effects of her traumatic brain injury have affected her speech and hearing and also have limited her physically, "but I understand things and my mind is alert," she writes. "I spend a lot of time reading and praying. Don't drink or do drugs.
"The driver I was with was drinking and look at what happened to me. I am a perfect example of what could happen," Masters writes.
Of her experience with the Training Center, she writes, "I really appreciate being able to come to the Training Center daily. I know it really helps my mother because she knows I am in a safe place and I won't be mistreated or ignored due to the fact that I have difficulty with my speech and it's difficult to make myself understood.
"I like to come here because it gets me out and I can tease and hassle the staff because they are my friends. I appreciate my supervisor at the Training Center. She willingly helps me a lot because I'm extremely disabled physically, but I'm OK mentally. I am very thankful for everything that the Training Center has helped me with over the years," she writes.
And, to the taxpayers, who support operation of the center, she is thankful. "Their support has allowed me to own a talking device. Without my device I would have no way of expressing myself."
In the day habilitation program, Masters is one of the several disabled adults who spend up to six hours a day engaged in a variety of low-key activities, music, crafts and exercise.
"Everybody has their thing, and Betty's thing is writing. Knowing she likes to write and that we publish once a month, it worked out well for us," said Mader, joking she's hoping to overcome the occasional lack of copy "now that we have Betty on retainer."
Mader said they've given Masters free reign to write what she wants and will edit her writing only minimally. "This is essentially giving her a voice to say what she wants to say so that she can be heard."
The March edition of the Holmes County Board of Developmental Disabilities' newsletter, in which Masters makes her writing debut, is online at www.holmesdd.org.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.