Brain injury Awareness Month is recognized every March by The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) to raise awareness for brain injuries, the severity of brain injuries, and also the toll brain injuries take on the entire family of a person with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The BIAA leads the country in spreading awareness on how TBIs affect a person's life and how completing even the smallest tasks can be a struggle. The BIAA’s mission is very important, since according to their research, every 9 seconds, someone in the United States sustains a brain injury. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the BIAA, in part with TBIs becoming part of everyday conversation due to press like the NFL head injury scandal, knowledge on TBIs is increasing and TBIs are being discussed more often. One example of TBIs gaining national attention is their use as plot points in TV shows.
One show that is incorporating TBIs is The Fosters, a popular show that airs on FreeForm. During the show's latest season, one of the characters, 16-year-old Jesus, was involved in an accident and was knocked unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital and ended up in a medically induced coma. It was later revealed that he suffered from a (TBI). The show documented Jesus’ fight with his TBI through multiple rehab centers and through the transition of returning home. The Fosters gives a perfect example of the struggles someone who has sustained a TBI faces. This depiction, though fictional, is in line with the same awareness that the BIAA is trying to raise on the difficulties of TBIs. Giving a character a TBI on the show was not only a major plot twist, but it also educated the show’s demographic of people aged 12-34, who might not have previously known what traumatic brain injuries are.
Although The Fosters is a fictional show, accidents like Jesus’ happen all the time in real life. One real life person living with a TBI is 13-year-old Paul. BrainLine, a national multimedia project that offers information and resources to help people prevent, treat, and live with a TBI, discuss Paul’s story on their blog. Paul was once just like any other kid his age who enjoyed spending time with his family and playing sports outside with his friends. Paul’s whole world was turned upside down after an afternoon of bike riding turned into a car accident. Paul was immediately taken to the hospital following the car crash but was left with life changing injuries. While his TBI wasn’t diagnosed at the ER, TBI symptoms manifested while he was still admitted to the hospital due to car accident injuries. Paul was soon diagnosed with a TBI that left him immobile and in a vegetative state. His recovery was very slow and he fought hard to accomplish things that most people do without even realizing it, like lifting his eyelids, moving a finger, or saying a word. After spending many months in the ICU, Paul was transferred into a TBI rehabilitation hospital. While in the rehabilitation hospital, Paul had to learn how to walk, talk, and do simple everyday tasks all over again.
After a long journey in the rehabilitation hospital, Paul was finally able to return home with his family. However, the problems stemming from the car crash TBI weren’t over yet, and Paul’s journey was nowhere near finished. Even after leaving the rehabilitation hospital Paul was still dependent on a wheelchair and walker. His parents still had to assist him with everyday tasks including self care, such as dressing and bathing. The stress level in the house was extremely high, according to Paul’s mom. Paul’s siblings struggled to get used to what they referred to as their “new” brother. Other than the stress of dealing with the TBI itself, Paul’s parents felt very guilty that all of their time was put toward taking care of Paul, and felt like they were neglecting their other children. Eventually, Paul’s parents knew they needed help balancing everyday life and taking care of Paul, so they asked for help whenever they needed it. Paul’s mom said regarding taking care of Paul and his TBI,
“The care giving was both never ending and exhausting. We had to recognize our own limitations, shed any guilt, and ask for help from our community, friends, and family.”
As years passed Paul continued to improve and was eventually able to return to school, but couldn’t do it on his own. BrainLine says that according to his parents, “Paul needed an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) geared toward his specific needs. He underwent a neurophysiology examination, which is concerned with the relationships between brain function and behavior and considers how injury may affect learning, communication, planning, organization, and relationships with others.” A personal aid was offered to Paul by his school to help him keep up with all the other students. He was also given a personal laptop to do assignments on. Graduating high school was a huge accomplishment for Paul, but was only the beginning to many other hard challenges.
Getting a job and figuring out what he wanted to do after high school was another difficult decision Paul and his parents had to make. Even though Paul had made tremendous improvements, he was still not the same person he was before the car crash. He walks off-balance, his voice is slow and monotone, and he is slightly slower to process information, to form a thought, or to respond to a question. Paul eventually got a job after high school and worked at a local retail store where he started as a greeter, moved up to sales clerk, and then cashier. Ten years after his accident, at the age of 23, Paul is now attending Lesley University where he is studying the Threshold Program in Boston and is living independently. He also volunteers at the hospital that took care of him and speaks about TBIs and the importance of bike and car safety.
Stories like Paul's show that traumatic brain injuries don’t just affect the live of the person suffering from brain trauma, but that a TBI leaves everyone in the family changed for the rest of their lives as well. Paul’s mom shared,
“Despite all the miraculous gains my son has made over the years, my heart often remains heavy. When I look into my husband’s or my children’s eyes, I can still see the lingering fear, the permanent scars.”
Hospitals and the sounds of ambulances have permanently scarred Paul’s parents and siblings. Paul’s mother continued,
“the sound of an ambulance or the sight of a hospital can evoke tears as we relive and experience flashbacks to that unthinkable day of the accident.”
To help people cope with the ways TBIs can disrupt a family’s life, the BIAA offers webinars that people can watch online to educate themselves on all topics related to traumatic brain injuries. Some such topics include up-to-date TBI research, possible TBI treatment options, TBI rehabilitation, and how families can learn to manage living with someone has a TBI.
Whether you are riding a bike or driving a car, you may be at risk of sustaining a TBI. Being knowledgeable about what traumatic brain injuries are and how they affect individuals and families may result in people taking more caution while engaging in physical activities or even driving, in order to prevent traumatic brain injuries from occurring. Traumatic brain injuries like many other car accident injuries not only harm the victim’s health but oftentimes bring up legal burdens for the injured person and their family as well. Our lawyers are experienced in helping families who are struggling with brain trauma handle their legal problems while they focus on their recovery. Call The Michigan Law Firm, PC at 844.4MI.FIRM to meet with a car accident TBI attorney for a free consultation.