Finding stability in society

Editor's note: This corrects the subhead.

Some people take horrible situations and turn inward, get angry and curse the world. Others try to bring something good out of the bad.

Huntington Beach resident Sue Rueb falls in the latter category.

Rueb, 60, was recognized Oct. 21 as Surf City's Women of Courage honoree by the Farmers & Merchants Bank at its second annual recognition breakfast.

The Farmers & Merchants Bank selected one woman from each of its 12 branches in Orange County for their courage, tenacity and innovation in business and the community.

There is not a shortage of courageous women in Huntington Beach, but Rueb was the first person who came to mind for Marty Hartsock, the manager of the Huntington Beach branch of the Farmers & Merchants Bank.

Hartsock has known Rueb, a client, for several years now and has seen her nonprofit Brain Rehabilitation and Injury Network, or Brain, come together.

Brain was created to help raise awareness for brain injuries, advocate for families with brain injuries and advance research and recovery methods.

"I saw what she had done, and I was just so impressed with that," Hartsock said.

Brain injuries are personal for Rueb, who dealt with brain injury in her family for more than 30 years without knowing it.

Rueb's first child, Kristin Rueb, always had a hard time in school and never really fit in. When she moved out, it only became worse.

She fell into the wrong crowd, got involved in drugs, alcohol and prostitution and came to the brink of death, Sue Rueb said.

"Society ate her up," she said.

It wasn't until 2006 that her daughter's inability to budget her time, plan for the future or understand actions and consequences, was put to a name — schizophrenia — but that still wasn't the answer.

A SPECT scan, a brain scan that shows brain functionality, showed Kristin Rueb had sustained injury to her frontal lobe from using forceps at birth. The injury was mild enough that she slipped through the cracks for 31 years, Sue Rueb said.

"I was called ahead to help others and help Kristin," she said. "Kristin is the catalyst."

Kristin Rueb was incorrectly diagnosed her whole life, and Sue Rueb said she isn't the only one.

Americans know more about erectile dysfunction than they do about brain injury, and many also don't know that brain injuries are different than mental illnesses, Sue Rueb said.

"The lack of awareness of what we're dealing with is huge," she said.

Sue Rueb is trying to change all that with Brain, and she also wants to make it easier for those injured to get help by creating a clinic in Orange County.

The clinic would be a kind of one-stop-shop for those with brain injury and their families to diagnose injuries and treat them and be a meeting place with seminars and classes.

"They are real people," she said. "They need a place to go."

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