Category Archives: Brain and Spinal Injuries

Traveling Exhibit Showcases Art by Brain Injury Survivors

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) impact a substantial number of individuals, contributing to about 30% of all deaths in the United States. For Traumatic Brain Injury survivors, day-to-day life can feel isolated. TBI survivors often face challenges with communication, which can lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

Because the injury is highly misunderstood by the public, TBI survivors sometimes feel detached from the rest of society. However, one art initiative plans to bridge the gap between TBI survivors and their communities.

Survivors Unite to Unmask Brain Injuries

A traveling art exhibit called Unmasking Brain Injury showcases painted masks created by brain injury survivors. The project has produced a collection of over 800 masks, available on display and online. Unmasking Brain Injury began in the United States and is now becoming an international initiative.

“The mission of Unmasking Brain Injury is to promote awareness of the prevalence of brain injury; to give survivors a voice and the means to educate others of what it’s like to live with a brain injury; to show others that persons living with a disability due to their brain injury are like anyone else, deserving of dignity, respect, compassion and the opportunity to prove their value as citizens in their respective communities.” (TASS Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center)

Survivors and advocates can now come together to redefine a disability that affects millions of victims each year.

Voices Heard Through Art Installation

The artwork included in Unmasking Brain Injury is as varied as the individuals who painted them. Participants included in the project became injured through a myriad of traumatic events, from car and train accidents, workplace injuries, criminal assaults, electrocutions, to brain tumors and birth-related injuries.

The art display includes real stories written by brain-injured artists or their caregivers. The masks express raw emotion, telling the story of life before and after the incident.

One brain injury survivor, Steve B. From Hammond, Louisiana shared his mask as part of the exhibit. Steve’s life changed when he was involved in a work-related accident where he was hit by a large bolt. He suffered an irreversible brain injury as a result.

Steve described the emotion that he put into his mask,

“Hopeless, cheated, afraid and anger… these are just a few of the emotions I feel and wanted to show on my mask.  I feel I have been cheated out of my life and spending time with my family and friends.  Much of my time is spent being afraid because I suffer from memory loss.  I am also very angry at my situation, so I tried to show that on my mask.”

Karyn H. from Roswell, Georgia who suffered a brain injury after a car accident, also decorated a mask in support of the art installation.

As Karyn explained,

“The secret to maintaining my intelligence is my love for books.  I have the best potential for dealing with special needs.  The puzzle is my brain being solved.  I have been through so much.  My speech deficit takes away the power of language.  To regain my speech will give me life!”

With the use of some paint and a little imagination, TBI survivors make their stories come to life and contribute to the expanding movement. Survivors and caretakers who come together as a community can offer support while sharing a healing experience.

Joey’s Story

Depending on their specific injury, TBI survivors can face a variety of challenges. Some are affected by impaired thinking, memory problems, troubles with movement and sensation (e.g., vision of hearing), and emotional changes (e.g., personality changes, depression, anxiety). Other brain injuries fit the description of a “silent epidemic” when symptoms and effects go largely unnoticed.

While injuries can vary from person to person, most TBI survivors never return to their previous way of life.

Joey Buchanan’s life forever changed after his accident. The former firefighter was extinguishing a house fire when a 50-pound load of sheetrock fell from an 8-foot vaulted ceiling and struck his head. He suffered a mild brain injury.

Buchanan has accepted his disability as his new reality.

“Those with traumatic brain injuries are no different than anyone else. We have just been chosen to live a new kind of life. A different kind of life. We are not special. Maybe even more normal than many out there.”

After his initial shock following his diagnosis, Joey felt bombarded with internal questions, wondering why he had to endure such an injury. Through much contemplation, he found a purpose in his pain.

Joey believes his accident happened,

“so that others may be educated about this injury…so that others may see that there are huge struggles associated with this injury…so that others may see there is hope and life after this injury.”

Join the Movement

The traveling exhibit is a learning experience for everyone, from students, parents, survivors, and everyone in-between. Now you can spread the word by requesting this art display to be showcased at your event.

Interested in becoming an advocate of the movement? Unmasking Brain Injury is currently looking for volunteers to serve as guides to answer questions while the masks are on display. As first-hand experiences dispel stigmas, TBI survivors and advocates are collectively taking steps towards public acceptance and understanding.

If you are a brain injury survivor and would like to make a mask to be displayed at a traveling exhibit, submit your information to share your story with the world. TBI survivors can now harness their emotions, one art piece at a time.

 

Get Involved: Virtual Brain Injury Awareness Day is February 13th, 2018

brain injury awarenessDealing with a life-long injury can feel overwhelming. If this describes you or a loved one, you’re not alone.

Traumatic brain injuries affect more than just the lives of victims. Friends, family members, caretakers and survivors alike know how devastating a brain injury can be. That’s why The Brain Injury Association of Virginia is taking a stand to advocate for those living with the “invisible injury.”
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Tracy Morgan’s SNL Return Draws Attention to TBI Myths

Last month, superstar comedian Tracy Morgan returned to the stage of NBC Studio 8H to appear on Saturday Night Live. His initial entrance, marked by clumsy movements, garbled speech and a blank-eyed stare, cut short the audience’s instinctive laughter into a fringe of nervous chuckles. From the sound of it, everyone was asking themselves: “Is this real? Is he okay? Is he…really not okay? Why did they let him on the show if he’s not okay?”
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The Acquired Savant

Acquired Savant Syndrome

Traumatic Brain injuries carry significant long-term social and cognitive effects for those afflicted. Often victims’ lives are completely upended to the degree that they can barely recognize themselves. Other times, the brain responds to trauma in spectacular ways, resulting in talents the injured person never before expressed. This is called acquired savant syndrome.
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Best Books for Brain Injury Survivors

While traumatic brain injury affects more than 1.7 million people each year, it is nevertheless easy for victims and their loved ones to feel alone.

The reason for this is simple: the changes taking place in your life make you feel like a stranger to yourself.

Best Books for Brain Injury Survivors

The mental and physical abilities you counted on most are now altered, limited, even impossible. The goals you set for yourself have been swept away and replaced by new challenges that are at once rudimentary and incredibly daunting. And the triumphs you experience in each stage of your recovery and rehabilitation bring exhilaration of a kind that you may never have experienced in your previous life.

When it comes to dealing with traumatic brain injury, each person’s story is undeniably unique.

But the uniqueness of these individual stories is precisely what makes them powerful.

This has been our motivation in bringing you stories that feature TBI survivors, as well as friends and families of TBI victims, who are tackling incredible odds with persistence, ingenuity and faith in themselves.

You can read these stories every month here on the BILC website. But if you’re craving more than the brief snapshots provided here, there is a wealth of personal narratives beyond this blog that will offer you even more insight, hope and inspiration.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best books on traumatic brain injury below. Continue reading

Relationships After Traumatic Brain Injury

Relationships After Traumatic Brain Injury

Many spouses find themselves in a frightening position after their husband or wife suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

First, of course, is the question of life or death. But once they know their spouse will survive, they must then wait to find out how much of their former selves will be retained. Becoming a caregiver for a TBI survivor is a life-changing process. Putting together the pieces of the bond that once existed between husband and wife and creating a new fulfilling relationship can be very difficult and can take years. But there are ways to get help.

A Question of Survival

Rosemary Rawlins knows the difficulties of this process first hand. In 2002, her husband Hugh was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He sustained a TBI and was given less than a one percent chance of survival. Doctors had to remove part of his skull to allow for his brain to swell.

Rosemary recalls the frightening time when he woke up from his coma, unable to speak and looking different from his former self:

“People would say, ‘It’s such a miracle he survived the accident.’ And I would say, ‘I don’t know if he did.’”

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Update on Tracy Morgan’s Brain Injury

Tracy Morgan Brain Injury

Tracy Morgan 3 Shankbone 2009 NYC” by David Shankbone is licensed under CC 3.0

Last summer, Tracy Morgan was involved in a multi-vehicle accident that gave him a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and killed his friend and comedy writer, James McNair. At least one other passenger was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The limo bus that was carrying Morgan and six others was hit by a truck when it failed to stop in time as it approached slow highway traffic. The truck hit the limo bus from behind, sending it crashing into other vehicles before tipping over on its side.

Since the accident, Morgan has been undergoing therapy to get well and attempt to get back to where he was physically and mentally before the accident. This past November, his lawyer said:

“He’s fighting to get better, and if there’s a chance for him to be back to the Tracy Morgan he once was, he’s going to try to do that. But we just don’t know because of the severity of the injuries that he sustained and the fact that he had such a severe brain injury.”

As many people with a loved one who has sustained a traumatic brain injury know, sometimes you have to accept the fact that there might be a “new normal.” Continue reading

A Promising NFL Star Calls It Quits, Citing Brain Trauma Concerns

Chris Borland brain injury

Photo Credit: Stròlic Furlàn by Davide Gabino Liscenced under CC BY 2.0

As a rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers last season, Chris Borland racked up 107 tackles in just 14 games. One of the NFL’s most promising first-year defenders, Borland was signed to a four-year, $2.9 million contract. The chiseled 250-pounder out of Wisconsin exceeded expectations and was a finalist for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He had an incredibly promising pro football career ahead of him.

But the most important statistic to Borland wasn’t one you’ll find in a box score. In a stunning decision, Borland, just 24, retired from the NFL on Tuesday. He directly cited the long-term effect of repeated head trauma from playing professional football as the reason why he chose to end his budding career. Borland suffered two concussions as a youth athlete.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN’s Outside the Lines. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.” 

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Age-Proofing Our Brains

We spotted this neat infographic over at Health Perch, and we thought it would be helpful to share. It’s about how to keep our brains in top-notch shape as we grow older.

The infographic is full of facts, ranging from:

  • the number of new dementia cases each year
  • how many minutes you should exercise each week
  • why spicy food is good for your brain
  • the benefits and pitfalls of alcohol

The infographic is below the fold. Check it out. Stay healthy. Respect your brain. Continue reading

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