Thriving Together: My Journey Through Brain Injury with NextRoll's Support

My name is José Hernandez, Senior Software Engineer at NextRoll. I’d like to share a deeply personal journey that underscores the incredible support I've received from my team and the broader NextRoll community.

I joined NextRoll in 2017, while my partner was 8 months pregnant with our first child. At that time, I couldn't imagine why a tech startup would hire someone who was guaranteed to be out on parental leave their first month after joining. But NextRoll saw something more, and they invested in me.

Over the years, I've experienced both professional growth and significant personal challenges. A little less than two years ago, I was diagnosed with a 4.5cm benign meningioma near my frontal lobe, "the good kind of brain tumor," my doctors assured me. It was successfully removed by the best surgeons at USC in September 2022, and while the tumor is gone, I've had to manage many effects resulting from the surgery. After a few months, I was able to return to work, but it took over a year to recover from the majority of the traumatic brain injury (TBI) effects, and many still linger.

Common side effects and disabilities from TBIs include:

  • memory issues

  • concentration difficulties

  • fatigue

  • emotional changes

  • cognitive impairments

Support systems are crucial for anyone recovering from a TBI or other forms of brain injury or trauma, including our military veterans. NextRoll provided me the support I needed, including:

Social and Emotional Support

Support Groups: Virtual support groups provide a sense of community and shared understanding, which are vital for emotional recovery. NextRoll encourages us to share our struggles and celebrate our triumphs internally, with groups like #roll_able (our mental health ERG), and visibility campaigns like Mental Health May.

Counseling and Therapy: NextRoll provides me support through Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide confidential counseling services. ModernHealth and Calm have been beneficial not just for me but for all employees.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Upon my return, there had been a reorganization, but my managers made the thoughtful decision to allow me to return to my previous team, where I was deeply familiar with the code and systems. This significantly eased my ramp-up from what was essentially a hard reboot. 

Working on a codebase I had written and reading my own comments felt like receiving a postcard from an old version of myself, reactivating the neural pathways I needed to resume my previous functions. Before long, I was not only up to speed but building new things possibly better than before (with a little help from GPT). The power of neuroplasticity is real.

I've just celebrated my seventh anniversary at NextRoll, thanks to the adjustments and support I received from my managers and team. 

This experience has made me passionate about destigmatizing mental health by emphasizing "brain health." Our brains are just another organ, and they can get sick or injured, just like any other part of our body. Mental health is interconnected with brain health, and it's essential to take care of both.

I am proud to be part of a company that not only understands but actively supports brain health. The culture of care and understanding at NextRoll has made all the difference in my recovery and continued growth.

Thank you for reading my story.


For readers who are either struggling with a brain injury or looking to support those who are, here are some valuable resources:

Comprehensive Rehabilitation Programs

1. Johns Hopkins Medicine

Offers detailed information on the various aspects of rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological counseling, and speech therapy.

2. BrainLine

 Provides an overview of traditional and alternative rehabilitation treatments, including cognitive rehabilitation therapy, physical therapy, and vocational rehabilitation services.

3. Family Caregiver Alliance

Describes different types of rehabilitation programs, such as acute rehabilitation, comprehensive long-term rehabilitation, day treatment programs, and transitional living.

Social and Emotional Support

1. Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA)

   - Provides information on virtual support groups, which offer community and shared understanding essential for emotional recovery.

2. MSKTC (Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center)

Works closely with researchers to develop resources for people living with TBIs and their supporters, including support groups and educational materials.