Vojin Besarabic: "It's possible"
Vojin Besarabic is beating the odds. Facing complicated surgery to remove a brain tumor in 1999, his future was uncertain. His doctors gave him a 25 percent chance of survival. “I was 28 and terrified,” he says, just a trace of his Serbian homeland accenting his impeccable English. “It’s a miracle, by God’s will, that I’m still alive.”
Besarabic spent his first weeks of recovery at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul where his doctors assessed the result of the trauma to his brain caused by the tumor and surgery. Depression, a reluctance to initiate communication and interactions with others, memory issues, organizational skills and some physical coordination issues soon became evident.
“I began rehabilitation right away at Bethesda,” Besarabic recalls. “When discharged, I did not return home but went to live with my mother, Milica. She had contacted Courage Center and learned of rehabilitation programs that might help me regain my independence.”
“The first program Vojin entered was our Community Reintegration Program,” says Melissa Narum, behavioral analyst at Courage Center. “He always says it provided him with knowledge to keep going.”
“It did!” Besarabic confirms. “Counselors helped me organize my life. They taught me how to keep a planner and establish daily routines, how to exercise my memory, too, and remember my appointments. Life is fast: It’s easy to get distracted.”
“Vojin has shown great progress,” Narum says. “And he’s a pleasure to work with – always positive and willing to work to achieve his goals.”
And he’s still on track with those goals. Currently, Besarabic participates in Courage Center’s Independent Living Skills and Behavioral Services programs.
“In ILS, I’ve learned how to keep my finances in order and how to keep my home organized,” he says. “I’ve also relearned how to make lists and do grocery shopping, and how to keep my Medical Assistance records straight. Tax records, too. Keeping track of three different medications – when to take them and when to refill them – is another task, with God’s help, I’ve mastered.”
Behavioral Services helps Besarabic with cognitive skills. “Melissa reminds me how important it is to exercise my brain,” he explains. “I read different kinds of literature and like to play chess. Chess helps improve my coordination, as does tennis. I’m fortunate: there’s a tennis court right across the street from my home,” he smiles.
Besarabic works three days a week at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport driving an electric car. “I transport passengers from gate to gate and concourse to concourse,” he says. “It takes patience because people in airports are often under stress. But I love working with people. I do my best to calm them down.”
His “best” is more than adequate. He recently won his employer’s Employee of the Month award for accident-free, exemplary customer service.
“Vojin also is involved with his residence, where he facilitates a bible study class,” adds Narum.
Yet there’s one goal that has eluded Besarabic. “I’d like to get married and have a family of my own,” he says with a shy smile. “I come from a culture of large families, so five children? I’d like that.” What’s holding him up?
“Well, I just haven’t met the right one yet,” he laughs, adding, “but I’m not giving up!”
In the meantime, Besarabic is thinking about returning to college to pursue a degree in English literature or writing. “Even more certain,” he says with conviction, “is my appreciation for all that Courage Center has contributed to improving the quality of my life. I’m forever grateful. Courage Center taught me how to once again say, ‘It’s possible.’”