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.
America is a country that loves its sports. From baseball to basketball, we cheer for our favorite teams and plan our weekends, grocery lists and parties around “the big game.”
Once upon a time, baseball was the top sport in the U.S., earning the moniker of “America’s pastime.” But over the past two decades, football has emerged as the top-grossing sport in the country. We love the competition, the drama and excitement so much that Super Bowl Sunday is now practically a national holiday.
Lately, however, one of the hot-button topics surrounding football is head injuries and concussions. Rightly, steps are being taken to protect football players in an attempt to minimize the long-term injuries associated with the aggressive sport.
But an underrepresented group of athletes — who play nearly as much a part in the sport as the players — is being overlooked. (more…)
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.
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. (more…)
The Will to Overcome
Picture flying down a mountain at nearly 60 miles per hour on a bicycle, leaning into turns, watching the road like a hawk for obstacles and loose gravel as objects on the side of the road whiz by in a blur. Other bicyclists surround you, sometimes mere inches away.
You’re wearing spandex shorts and a form-fitting shirt, shoes fastened tightly to the pedals as you rely on instinct and a lifetime of practice to keep you upright as your wheels spin like a propeller.
All of a sudden, in a fraction of a second and without warning, you see the rider in front of you going down. Your heart sinks as you begin to feel impending terror and pain rushing towards you like a midnight train.
Then everything goes black. (more…)
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.’”
Joining the military is an act of immeasurable bravery. Those who enlist are often deployed overseas multiple times, leaving their families behind to engage in war. They fight for their country and for the rights of all Americans. Some sacrifice their lives. Many others come home wounded, forever changed into someone different.
“It’s just what I loved to do… be a soldier.” —SFC (Ret.) Victor L. Medina
Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Victor L. Medina was always going to be a soldier. He grew up in a military academy and joined the reserves at age 18. He attended college, but in the same way that an eight-year-old boy opens the envelope attached to a wrapped present. College wasn’t the prize. Instead, joining the army after college was the excitement for Medina. (more…)
Author, Lyrysa Smith
We recently spoke with this month’s Teach Believe Inspire honoree, Lyrysa Smith. Lyrysa is the author of A Normal Life, a book in which she uses her journalistic experience and her own heartfelt struggles to document the effect her sister’s brain injury had on the entire family.
‘Molly Has Helped All of Us Become Better People’
When Molly woke up from her coma, were you prepared for the possibility of a brain injury?
Not at first. We were told first she wouldn’t come out of her coma, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state forever. Once she very slowly came out of a coma, she progressed very quickly both mentally and physically. However, we were told the damage to her brain tissue was extensive. We still believed for a longer time (several weeks) that she would get her full brain function back, as if her injured brain would heal like a broken leg. (more…)
Author Lyrysa Smith
Lyrysa’s Smith’s sister, Molly Smith Weber, was a publishing executive with Houghton Mifflin Co. She held degrees from prestigious universities Yale and Stanford. She was an extraordinary athlete.
Most importantly, she was a beloved family member, who enjoyed a close relationship with her sister Lyrysa.
All of that changed after a freak accident during a weekend vacation in February 1995. Molly and her husband Walt traveled to Mammoth Lakes, Calif. for a skiing trip. When they checked into their hotel late the first night, neither they nor the hotel staff were aware that the room was lethally infused with toxic carbon monoxide gas from a faulty heater. They went to bed that night and were not discovered until 36 hours later. Molly’s brain was severely injured by the carbon monoxide. Her husband was dead.
Molly was rushed by helicopter to a hospital where she received hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatments. Because Molly had already been declared clinically brain dead, the HBO treatments were considered experimental. But her doctor soon realized HBO might give Molly a fighting chance at life.
Molly had suffered what’s called an acquired brain injury, or ABI. Unlike TBI, ABI is not caused by a blow to the head or an impact to the brain. Molly’s ABI was a global brain injury resulting from a lack of oxygen to her entire brain, with life-altering consequences.
Lyrysa writes in detail of this harrowing experience in her book, A Normal Life. (more…)
Naser Mowfy emigrated from Egypt to the U.S. in 1984 with a passport and a dream. Twenty-seven years later, he had turned his ambition into a successful heating and air-conditioning business, and he held a master’s license in electrical work and HVAC. Over the years, he became the proud father of three children and husband to a loving wife.
Then, in 2011, they nearly lost him to a tragic car wreck in an amateur racing event.
Naser was racing on Langley Speedway in Hampton when his car skidded headlong into a wall, fracturing his skull through his helmet. He was in a coma for 19 days. He finally awoke to his family’s immediate delight — which turned to horror when they realized that he had suffered permanent brain damage.
Although he retained much of his intelligence, Naser now had the emotional age of a teenager. He was — and remains — brash, impulsive, quick to anger and easy to distract. Unable to perform his work, he lost his business and has had to remain at home, where he requires constant supervision.
The Mowfy family had regained a father, but lost a patriarch. Now it was Naser who needed to be taken care of. (more…)
Our Teach Believe Inspire Award winner for June is Linda Arms, an advocate for brain health for the past nine years. Arms has created a website, The Brain Fairy, that is a resource for TBI survivors and their families/caregivers. We applaud her for all she has done for the traumatic brain injury community and are pleased to bring you more insight into her story.
‘A Balancing Game’
Q: You have said that after your accident it became difficult to think clearly and keep thoughts in your head. Did it become easier over time naturally, or did you have to consciously work at the process?
A: I think it became easier over time, both naturally and as a result of working on it with prescribed therapies or me pushing myself to do things on my own. It has been a very slow, gradual process. It’s been nine and a half years and I’m still seeing improvements.
At first, it was all I could do to deal with just the very simple tasks of living such as getting up, getting dressed, eating and having some interaction with family members and medical providers. Everything I did was slow, methodical action which required me to focus on my movements and the process I needed to follow. Most things were no longer automatic. (more…)