by Nic DonovicTraumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are referred to as the silent epidemic, since we cannot see it as we can see a broken limb or any other injury, for that matter. Its devastating impact is more easily revealed in numbers and statistics. Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people suffer some form of TBI. These brain injuries happen every 15 seconds. They impact the daily life of survivors, family, and friends. Even a minor TBI can lead to long term symptoms. The severity and precise location of the injury will determine symptoms and recovery.
Life after a brain injury is certainly different for everyone. Those with more serious injuries can also experience psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression. Survivors tend to focus on the skills they lost. It can be an overwhelming, confusing and emotional time. The brain is slow to heal, which only adds to the frustrating aspect of TBI’s. With time, there will come acceptance of the injury. This is important, since the person will no longer seek to fight the injury, but rather find ways to integrate it into their lives.
Back to “Normal”
There is no set scheme of events outside of the initial emergency room, hospitalization, and rehabilitation process. The first six months will show the most recovery. After that, skills may or may not be regained. This can be different for everyone. Daily routines may change. They may comprise of incorporating various cognitive exercises into their day, scheduling routine follow-up visits, or for more severe cases, it may require reinventing and reinterpreting themselves after the injury. Their families may have to accept them as something different.
Some may find that roles may shift after a brain injury. Brain injury survivors often have new personality traits, changes in behavior and physical limitations. Partners may not know right away what to expect from each other. Survivors must focus their energy on getting better and developing new skills. As a result, the assignment of responsibilities in the home must change. This means that everyone in the family is involved in learning new skills and taking on new jobs. This can be a stressful time for everyone. It is important to keep communication open and to be understanding of the situation.
After a TBI, once life may be drastically changed. In turn, there will also be a shift in priorities. Person’s that have suffered serious TBI’s tend to describe the experience as being ‘born again.’ This is not referred to in a religious sense, but rather as starting a new life after the injury. TBI’s can shift one’s perspective on life. What may have seemed very important before, can be superseded by other priorities. One brain injury survivor describes his injury in the following way: “Brain injuries tend to be very humbling,” Kohn says. “When you have a brain injury, people see you at your most vulnerable, and it can be physical, mental, spiritual or behavioral. It’s very humbling to have family, friends and healthcare workers knowing intimate details that you do not recall and most likely will not recall.”
Many are now helping to bring a voice to this silent epidemic. March now serves as Brain Injury Awareness Month, and there have been many initiatives to bring further awareness to this issue. To post your story, visit the Heads Up Facebook Page and join the national conversation on brain injury.