Journey in the Life of Brain Injury Victims by Charles Watson
Posted on November 30, 2019
According to CDC reports, traumatic brain injury affects 1.7 million people every year in the U.S. Severe brain trauma occurs in about 15%, and approx. 11% of the victims die. Motor vehicle accidents account for 60% of brain injuries, and the rest are due to sports or work-related assaults, gunshots, and falls.
Brain injury at any level can have long term negative effects producing lifelong disabilities. A TBI or concussion can increase the risk of dementia by 80%.
A Personal Recount
Melissa was 10, when she fell off a horse, hit her head on a pavement, and was unconscious for about 20 minutes. Again, when she was 16, she was in a car accident that knocked her out. Two years later, she fell off her bicycle when racing with friends, skidded on a gravel path which again left her unconscious.
Though she had visibly recovered completely after each incident, years later, when she was in her mid-40s, she began to have bouts of memory loss, and could not remember names, forgot how to cook and drive.
With help from medical health professionals, Melissa was able to return to her routine after months of treatment and lifestyle changes.
Can you relate to these chain of events? It may be a common occurrence, and not many may be as lucky as Melissa to be able to fully recover from the long-term effects.
A Caregiver’s Perspective
It is an emotional roller coaster ride of living with and caring for a TBI survivor. The bright, blue eyes that once held so many dreams have a look of confusion and sadness. Having suffered a seizure, my uncle lay vulnerable with a defeated look in his eyes.
My uncle was a military officer, and always very active, cheerful, well dressed and healthy. He was in coma for several days after being in combat that left him with TBI. He struggled to walk steadily, hold things, could not comprehend common words, and his speech slurred. He preferred to remain alone away from the “noises” and “lights.” He often complained of headaches, dizziness, and confusion. He did not recognize us or himself, which broke our hearts.
After months of hospitalization, rehab, including physiotherapy, speech therapy, brain scans, medications, back and forth, we could see my uncle improving gradually. We could see his positive spirit returning. Soon, keeping in mind the injuries he had sustained (though it seemed ages to us), he was able to walk with support, began mental exercises, such as crosswords and simple calculations to develop his cognitive skills.
He was relearning everything, used ear muffs, and sunglasses so that he could participate in activities, and as he was in good physical shape before the unfortunate accident, the doctors were hopeful of quick recovery. My uncle was a patient man, and with support from family, friends, and community members came to terms with his situation.
He took early retirement and went onto pursue his hobby of writing. We pledged him to pen down his journey through the trauma. It was difficult for him to relive the incident, but he wanted others to take inspiration from his struggles.
His book “Traumatic Brain Injury - The Silent Epidemic” was a heart touching recount of his brave journey.
However, my uncle fell down in the bathroom and his head collided against the marble floor, and he suffered a seizure. As he was surrounded by the latest gadgets installed for his continuous monitoring, we immediately sought medical attention. As fate would have it, the seizures became a regular occurrence.