Check out Julián Saavedra's translations of our Synapse
publications into Spanish.
When a family is impacted by Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), each
member may experience a period of emotional crisis, while the loved
one is often left to come to terms with some loss of normal
functioning. This was particularly the case for a family from
Columbia where the father and son have both acquired brain
injuries. Through their love of language and their culture this
family is learning to overcome their challenges.
Libardo, Dora and Julian Saavedra left their family home in Bogota
Colombia twelve years ago to seek refuge in Australia. It would be
a very stressful period for the family as this decision to
immigrate was prompted by Libardo's life being threatened as a
result of his writings on drug trafficking and the guerrilla
movement. As an anthropologist he was well published, and his own
shrewd assessment of the impact of corruption in his own country
compelled him to write of it in his work.
Shortly after their arrival, Libardo experienced a stroke. With
the support of his wife Dora and son Julian, Libardo and his family
successfully worked on adjusting to the impact of ABI as well as
settling themselves. Libardo had some loss of mobility and now
relies on a walking stick. Thankfully his speech, love of writing
and language were preserved, abilities that would play a pivotal
role in assisting the family with weathering the further challenges
Despite multiple strokes, Libardo continued to write, and in 2004
successfully completed and published a book called The Hispanic
Communities. His book pays homage to the influence of Hispanic
cultures across the globe, and he chose to dedicate his book to
Libardo's dedication to recovery could easily be summed up by the
opening comment that he makes in this book: "To all the Hispanics
that live outside their country, proudly showing to the world that
they can stand out by working hard, with integrity, joy and
Tragically, a few years later, Libardo's son Julian was involved
in a motor vehicle accident. Just graduated from high school and
due to commence study in linguistics, Julian walked onto a road and
was hit head-on by a car. He was under the influence of alcohol and
according to Julian his friends at that time "were numerous but
they were not the kinds of friends that looked out for me".
Julian was rushed to the Royal Brisbane Hospital with a severe
traumatic brain injury. His cheekbone was fractured, the right side
of his body was injured, and his right lung had collapsed. He had
multiple fractures to his pelvis and skull. Later his doctor would
say that because his injuries to his skull allowed the blood to
flow-out rather than build-up inside his cranium it may have played
a part in preventing further brain damage and loss of
Julian received rehabilitation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital
where he underwent occupational therapy and speech therapy. After
two months of therapy Julian recovered his speech.
"I remember waking up in the Royal Hospital and trying to speak
but the words did not come out; thankfully with great effort it
gradually returned," said Julian.
According to Julian he remembers being in a wheelchair, being
pushed around and craving solid food. Dora, a constant support to
Julian at this time, would push Julian in his wheelchair to the
outside gardens so he could feel the sunlight.
Dora was now an important emotional support for both Libardo and
Julian, and it would be at her suggestion that Julian set himself
the goal of translating a book into Spanish.
"It was an opportunity to search for an occupation for him, to
assist with his concentration. I didn't know how useful it would be
but it served as a great motivation for him," said Dora.
Before his accident, Julian had set his sight on linguistics as a
career, and with his recovery he was able to continue this pursuit.
With the support of his family, Julian set himself the goal of
translating a book called Surviving Acquired Brain Injury produced
Chapter by chapter, Julian translated the book with his mother and
father proof-reading and adding suggestions and changes as they
went. After four months the translation was complete.
"I found the book to be an excellent help, particularly the
chapters related to motivation and sexuality," said Julian.
In 2011, Julian completed his project. Over 300 pages of text were
translated into Spanish. The project brought them all closer
together. Working together on each chapter, they all learnt about
brain injury and the ways that it can change someone's life. As
they translated chapters this would also be sent to the rest of the
family back in South America so they could also learn about
Julian is now translating another Synapse publication called ABI -
The Facts. "I feel like a survivor, motivated and keen to take the
next step and to move on with life", says Julian.
Julian believes that the hardest thing to accept is that life has
changed. Clearly Julian is learning to adapt and is working toward
focusing on his strengths. "There is not much help for people like
me. I have a brain injury but this is not an intellectual
Julian is now twenty years old and is acutely aware of the
financial difficulties that he must overcome if he wishes to move
out from his parents' home and have his own place. Needing money to
improve his community access and to have the chance to socialise
with other people of his age is another concern for Julian. He is
interested in learning Russian now, and when he isn't translating
he listens to music (Bjork is a favourite) and likes watching the
work of international film makers.
Julian visits his extended family in Colombia occasionally, and
has set his sights on advancing his skills. His next goal is to
enroll at a university.
"I am lucky to have my mum next to me, without her I would be
lost." "I don't want to offer advice to others with ABI because
each person's journey is different. However, what I would say is
that it helps to work very hard at your rehabilitation and be
"At some point everything looks grim and destroyed, but in real
life, it is not like that, it can get better", he said.
Julian now feels strongly against excessive alcohol consumption,
particularly by people of his own age group. He believes that "you
really don't need to consume a lot of alcohol to have fun and
"Alcohol can destroy their lives, I now know that it's best to pay
attention to what my parents say, they are just trying to avoid
their children getting into trouble."
"If you're a young person with an ABI don't feel down or sad or
destroyed because everything will improve, everyday you are alive
you are blessed. Be strong."
Synapse would like to sincerely thank Julian Saavedra and his
family for their support and hard work in translating our
publication. We wish them well for the future.