Lis Pilon sits for a photo in Whitehorse on April 24. Pilon suffered a concussion in March 2016 and has now become an advocate for the invisible injury. She started Concussion Café Yukon — a safe space for people with brain injuries to share. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Creating a safe space for those grappling with concussions

Concussion Café Yukon had its debut on April 25

The incident that changed Lis Pilon’s life forever happened during a mundane, every day task roughly three years ago.

“It was a really simple thing. It’s something that could happen to anyone,” she said.

Pilon went to start her car in March 2016 to warm it up. The stairs were slick. On the way back inside, she hit her face off the steps.

She ended up with a concussion.

Advocating for something invisible can seem near impossible, but that is exactly what Pilon did for herself afterwards and plans to continue in order to help others in this territory.

While the effects of the injury have carried on to varying degrees, she’s learned how to cope, gradually improving the quality of her life and those who share it, she said.

That’s why she created the Concussion Café Yukon, a space intended for people dealing with mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries.

“The idea is that we can share what we know, learn from each other and connect on the topic of brain injuries,” Pilon said, adding that tools and resources will be provided.

“I didn’t feel that people in the Yukon knew where to direct me or that there were services readily available for that.”

There are medical supports in the Yukon, Pilon clarified. Her role, she continued, is to help connect people to them and discuss what worked for her. Participants would reciprocate.

The first meet-up was on April 25 at Alpine Bakery. Pilon said stimuli were tempered — dim lighting, decaffeinated tea and no loud noises, for example. If attendees needed a lie-down, they could do that.

It was a long road to recovery for Pilon. She couldn’t work and was prone to emotional outbursts, she said, even grocery shopping felt like an “impossible task.”

“You want to connect with people, but to have someone walking in the room with you is too much stimulation, so they have to sit still and maybe they can’t even talk and maybe you can only sit with them, just while you lie still and stare at a wall for a little while.”

Pilon’s family brought her back to Ontario, where she received treatment at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She found others there in similar circumstances.

“Just seeing that I’m not alone. That little peace of belonging I found and comfort.”

She wants to bring this tenet to the Concussion Café.

Majorie Logue, a resident from Dawson, had a concussion roughly two years ago. She said there’s little information about brain injuries in Canada. That’s why what Pilon is doing is so crucial, she said, because it’s helping raise awareness.

“Speaking with someone who’s going through the same thing or understands what you’re going through — it reduces the isolation. It’s really important, for sure.”

Logue tried to facilitate similar meetings with others but found it difficult to coordinate, she said.

“For Lis to do it, and to do it as well as she’s doing, I think is amazing. There’s definitely a need for it.”

The peer-led group, which will evolve as it continues, Pilon said, is to become a monthly event and maybe, eventually, something more.

“I think if we increase awareness of the need for these services, then, over time, they will evolve and we will, as a community, develop more of them. Who knows, maybe this will lead to starting an organization or a brain injury association in the Yukon. Maybe this will lead to a non-profit or a charity that will provide advocates. Right now, I’m totally open and dreaming about all the things that could happen.”

Pilon said she wouldn’t change anything, that, despite adversity tied to her injury, she’s been able to find a silver lining.

Being alone after the incident spurred introspection and introspection created calmness.

“This has brought so many unexpected gifts and allowed me to slow down and get to know myself in a different way,” she said. “Before I was always rushing and doing too much. This has allowed me to be kinder to myself and be kinder to other people. I am better for having experienced this.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read