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BIANYS To Honor Laurens Couple at March On Walk


In 2015, Manny Pelligra had been getting ready for work—knowing retirement awaited him at the end of the week—when his wife, Pat, told him she wasn’t feeling well. As they left the house together that day, Pat needed help to the car, and Manny immediately knew he had to get her to the emergency room. Pat had suffered a stroke. What began as a brain bleed was followed by years of surgeries and rehabilitation.

“The first couple of years during Pat’s recovery were certainly difficult,” Manny recalled. “There were many doctor appointments, therapy visits, additional surgeries, counseling, etc. Our retirement plans had changed, and our daily life needed adjustment.

“After Pat’s stroke, and a couple of years of reorganizing and redirecting our plans, we began to realize how prevalent brain injury was,” he continued. “And we came to understand how the support we had received played a vital role in Pat’s path to recovery. We decided that we wanted to get involved and help those that helped us. Our advocacy efforts mainly began through our contact with the Brain Injury Association of New York State.”

Manny and Pat’s introduction to BIANYS has led to many good connections—“other brain-injured people with whom to share frustrations and successes. Also, other caregivers to share experiences, coping strategies and ways to make life easier. BIANYS itself has a great team of professionals who can help people and families with a wide variety of support and resources.”

The Pelligras had a long history of advocacy efforts prior to her stroke.

“Pat, at 19, and in her first marriage, had given birth to a daughter with multiple disabilities. At the time, Pat was told she should put Tracey in an institution—that she probably wouldn’t live for more than three years,” Manny explained.

“My first child was born with a brain injury. It’s ironic that, all these years later, I have one, too,” added Pat.

Pat was a constant advocate for Tracey, attending all of her review meetings.

“If something was not right, she insisted that corrections be made,” Manny said.

During Tracey’s time at developmental centers, Pat made friends with other moms of disabled children.

“She and two of her friends worked hard to make sure the systems became better. Pat and those two moms are friends to this day. Their strong advocacy for their children brought them together and they supported each other,” Manny reflected.

Today, Tracey is 54 years old, healthy and happy.

“She lives in a wonderful group home in the Utica area and has excellent care,” he said.

After retiring from the Norwich City School District, where she was a junior/senior high school English teacher, Pat held jobs in which her advocacy efforts continued. She taught high-school equivalency, GED, then later worked for a Southern Tier AIDS program. As a volunteer, she served on the Board of Directors of The Arc of Otsego County. She held various board positions with The Arc, including president of the board. She also served on the Oneonta School Board as vice-president.

“We met in 1985, as I was employed by The Arc of Otsego County,” said Manny. “I worked there for almost 20 years in a number of roles. We both were also involved with The Arc of New York State. I served on the statewide Public Information Committee.

“Therefore, we got much experience advocating for people with disabilities,” Manny added.

“There have been so many people, groups, and medical professionals that have been significant in helping us,” Manny said. “We are so very fortunate to have a wonderful circle of family and friends—many friends that Pat has known since elementary school. All these people and groups have helped us in a variety of ways.”

Brain injury is not discriminatory, Manny pointed out. It can happen to anyone, at any time, whether it’s a brain bleed, stroke, concussion, or accident, auto or otherwise.

“Pat and I attend the monthly Brain Injury Support Group for individuals affected by a brain injury. I worked with BIANYS to create a caregivers support group. Now there are three caregivers groups that meet monthly via Zoom. I help facilitate the once-a-month daytime group,” Manny said.

On September 9, Manny and Pat will be honored by BIANYS at the organization’s annual March On for Brain Injury Walk. The couple will be recognized at the Hudson Valley event, where they will have the opportunity to say a few words on the impact of a brain injury on their lives and how they turned to advocacy in the wake of recovery.

“All that Manny and Pat have done and continue to do is part of their passion to assist and provide support to those impacted by brain injury,” said Eileen Reardon, executive director of BIANYS. “Their strength and perseverance throughout Pat’s injury and beyond is admirable, and we look forward to honoring them at the March On for Brain Injury Walk.”

“We are thrilled to serve as honorees for the March On event in Hudson Valley and to represent Central New York,” said Manny. “This walk helps us all provide a greater awareness of brain injury and how it affects so many families. It is so important to be advocates and let the public, media, medical community, and others know about the frequency of brain injuries and the frustrations of families that deal with them.”

The Brain Injury Association of New York State is a statewide non-profit membership organization that advocates on behalf of people with brain injuries and their families.

Established in 1982, BIANYS promotes prevention as well as provides education and community support services that lead to improved outcomes for children and adults with brain injuries.

The March On for Brain Injury Walk occurs in three locations across New York State—Hudson Valley, Long Island and Rochester—and brings together brain injury survivors, caregivers, and professionals to celebrate and honor members of the brain injury community. Those who would like to support Pat and Manny in their efforts, whether in person or virtually, can learn more at Their team is “Advocates for Brain Injury.”

Now, more than seven years after her stroke, Manny and Pat have been partners throughout Pat’s journey with brain injury and they have dedicated their lives to advocacy efforts in order to bring a greater awareness of brain injury through public information efforts.

“We are willing to speak with individuals, families and community groups to share our story, to help people face the onset of a brain injury,” Manny elaborated. “And also to share with the medical community the trials and life adaptations of a brain injury.”

There have been many changes to the couple’s daily life since Pat’s stroke. According to Manny, she can do some things herself, and can walk a bit, but needs assistance with a variety of things.

“She lost her left side peripheral vision with the stroke and a bit of it has come back, but it still causes her issues. Her walking is limited and she tires easily. As her full time caregiver, my primary role is provide a safe, healthy and enjoyable environment for her. I do have an aide who comes in two afternoons a week—they really enjoy each other’s company, do puzzles, play Uno, chat, work on projects to help with Pat’s vision loss. Pat’s aide is a great person, and they have become good friends. It also provides me with a bit of respite,” Manny said.

Prior to the stroke, Pat loved to drive, and Manny was content with his role as passenger. Now, he does all the driving.

“We still have a number of regular appointments,” Manny said. “We don’t travel much, and our life is different than we planned, but we are comfortable and try to make the best of every day.”


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