Category Archives: Brain and Spinal Injuries

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

Abby Maslin: ‘We Don’t Take Anything For Granted’ 


It’s been about 18 months since Abigail Maslin, our January 2015 Teach Believe Inspire award recipient, returned with her husband and son to Washington, D.C. They had spent two months in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at an intensive speech therapy program that helped her husband TC overcome the communication challenges resulting from the traumatic brain injury he sustained in the summer of 2012.

The program, Abby says, changed his life. “It was the best thing we ever did,” she effuses.

TC’s brain injury left him with multiple challenges, but the primary one was aphasia — a condition that leaves the brain unable to find or pronounce common words. Abby tells me that even while TC was recovering his ability to walk, he couldn’t do things simple things like visit the optometrist for an eye test — not because he couldn’t recognize the letters, but because he couldn’t say them.

Following the program in Halifax, TC returned to work full-time in October 2014, resuming his former job in the energy industry. For her part, Abby has resumed life as a working parent, teaching in an elementary school, parenting her four-year-old son and writing a memoir about the experience of supporting her husband through his injury.

Q: Now that you find yourself back to normal, how has normal life changed from what it was?

A: I don’t want it to go back to normal. I don’t want to go back to being the person I was — I wasn’t living to my full potential. I don’t think that I had a real understanding of what I was capable of. Or what people were capable of, in general.

We’re in a wonderful place right now, where life looks a lot like it did before TC was injured. But it’s never going to be the same. It’s still challenging in ways that we’ve got used to, but other people on the outside wouldn’t understand.  Continue reading

Teach Believe Inspire Award – Abby Maslin 

Abby Maslin

“Never in my wildest imagination could I have predicted the level of love and support we have received. It has truly transformed my soul.” 

Abby Maslin, an English teacher in the Washington, D.C. area, probably never expected to be coaching her own husband in second grade-level reading skills. But the enthusiasm she brings to the role are a remarkable and tear-jerking example of the love, patience and perseverance that are essential to a brain injury victim’s recovery.

‘The Grayest of Places’

Abby Maslin was teaching fourth grade while studying for her master’s degree at American University. She had one son with her husband, Thomas “T.C.” Maslin, an energetic associate director for a major D.C. consulting firm. They’d just celebrated their three-year wedding anniversary a few days before the summer night when tragedy struck.

T.C. Maslin had just finished a round of drinks with friends after a Washington Nationals game. He was walking home from a Capitol Hill bar when he was approached by three men who demanded his money. As Maslin handed over his phone and debit card, one of the men bludgeoned him in the back of the head with an aluminum baseball bat.

The blow shattered his skull. Eight hours passed before he was discovered on the street, unconscious and bleeding internally. When at last he awoke from his coma, he was blind in one eye and had only partial use of his right arm and right leg. Continue reading

From Brain Trauma to Violence — The Long-Term Effects of Pro Football

Image Credit: "Ray Rice" by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Image Credit: “Ray Rice” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These are not the NFL’s most shining years. Immediately following up on the rash of revelations about concussions, traumatic brain injuries and top-down neglect within the league’s most prestigious teams, the NFL is now facing another wave of disgrace. This time, it concerns domestic violence.

The arrest of Ray Rice for beating his wife unearthed another alarming trend that we have continued to hear about ever since. While overall arrest rates for NFL players are lower than the national average (the average man in his late 20s is about nine times more likely to be arrested than an NFL player for any cause), NFL players get arrested for domestic violence at an “extremely high [rate] relative to expectations,” according to Benjamin Morris, a writer at statistics-minded news blog FiveThirtyEight.

He continues:

“Domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, compared to [an] estimated 21 percent nationally.”

Forbes chimes in:

“Basically, NFL players are about four times more likely to be arrested for domestic abuse than youd expect, based on their overall arrest rates. Counting Ray Rice, more than two-dozen pro football players have been arrested for domestic abuse in the past five years alone.”

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