Why You Should Tell Your Brain-Injury Story
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. It’s said that brain injuries constitute an invisible and silent epidemic. Invisible? Yes, because most times we, “the walking wounded,” seem fine and because there isn’t a high-profile celebrity who is a spokesperson for brain injuries. Silent? Yes, again, because most of us prefer to blend in and don’t have a public forum to speak from.
Is it possible to stop having brain injuries called “silent” or “invisible”? Yes, it is. It’s all about educating the general public.
Let’s start first by explaining. What is the difference between a mild, moderate, or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI)? According to my dictionary, “traumatic” means “shocking,” “devastating,” “alarming,” “distressing,” “terrifying,” “upsetting,” “wounding,” and even more adjectives. Which seems like there is no such thing as a “mild” or “moderate” traumatic brain injury. The only apparent difference is what caused the injury. A brain injury is a different kind of injury. We didn’t break our arm; we broke our brain. We didn’t remove a cast after eight weeks and get on with life; we needed to relearn, refocus, and re-navigate into our old lives if or when possible. There isn’t a 100% healing process – any person who had a brain injury still has a brain injury and is still recovering.
Concussion seems to be a brain injury that’s mentioned everywhere these days. That’s good – people are beginning to understand concussions. But, concussions are mainly (not always) from sports (football, skating, soccer, and skiing, to name a few). I probably had two concussions after getting hit by cars. I didn’t think I had a concussion at the time, but the more I think about it now, the more I believe I had a concussion from each. I didn’t have any major problems that I can think of, but the accidents happened many years ago.
Traumatic brain injuries seem to be getting more attention as well. A TBI may seem as the most serious type of brain injury, but only because of the circumstance that caused the injury (a violent blow/jolt to the head or an object penetrating the skull). Most people think TBIs come from actions like bomb blasts, combat, violent shootings, or horrible car accidents. Well, falls are main causes of TBIs – falling down stairs, falling from a ladder, falling when attempting to cross the street, etc.
My injury happened when I fell from a ladder while cleaning the gutters on my house in October 2003. I spent one month in HCMC (Hennepin County Medical Center) in a medically induced coma. I needed craniotomy surgery to relieve swelling on my brain. I had many MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CAT (computerized tomography) scans, a feeding tube, a tracheotomy, a session in the hyperbaric chamber, etc.
After waking from my coma, I spent the next two months in two different hospitals to see what, if any, therapy would be necessary. I started with physical, occupational, and speech therapy sessions daily. In January 2004, I was released and was back at home. I wore a protective helmet until the bone flap was reinserted on my skull in February 2004. I continued with speech and occupational therapies at Courage Kenny (Center) from January to September 2004. I went back to my full-time job in October 2004.
Since then, I have become a member of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Speaker Bureau, and a facilitator for the Courage Kenny Brain Injury Support Group. It looks like I recovered nicely, but looks can be deceiving. It may seem like most survivors can go back to their pre-injury occupations. In fact, most survivors cannot.
So what can survivors do? They can become advocates for all survivors. Let the public know that a brain injury is perhaps the worst injury of all. It doesn’t just happen to one person; it happens to the entire family as well. Let the public know by telling your story.
Thank you, Ric Johnson.
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of Ric Johnson)
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