March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, highlighting the importance of understanding what life after a brain injury looks like for those who survive brain trauma. Brain injuries can occur suddenly by a severe bump, blow or jolt to the head, such as a concussion. And anoxic brain injury is caused when the brain is deprived of oxygen for a period of time, as in the case of drowning.
Some types of brain injuries have a shorter recovery time and less long-term damage, while others can cause permanent disability. Approximately 5.3 million children and adults in the United States live with a permanent brain injury–related disability, which equates to about one in every 60 people. That’s a huge portion of the population and the reason for the hashtag #MoreThanMyBrainInjury.
#MoreThanMyBrainInjury is, in fact, the current and future (through 2023) theme of the Brain Injury Awareness campaign. We need to do a better job as a society in recognizing that a brain injury is a chronic condition with different repercussions for different patients. It’s also important to understand what safety measures prevent brain injury as well as what care and support exists for those already injured.
Prevention is possible
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have well-known safety precautions. Do you cringe when you see a child riding a bike without a helmet? We do, too. In general, to avoid a TBI, follow these measures:
- Wear your seatbelt
- Don’t drive while you’re intoxicated
- Don’t text while driving
- Wear a helmet when you’re on a bicycle, motorcycle, or scooter
- Prevent falls at home by checking stairs, removing tripping hazards, and adding slip-proof bathmats
- Exercise caution around water to prevent drowning
- Wear a life jacket while riding in watercraft
Severity impacts recovery
It probably goes without saying that the severity of a brain injury will have a big impact on a person’s ability to recover. Mild brain injuries can result in the loss of consciousness. But even if medical tests show no visible brain damage, the person who is injured needs to be closely monitored, as some effects take time to develop enough to be seen on imaging.
A moderate brain injury involves a longer loss of consciousness, even up to a few hours, followed by confusion that can last for weeks. Physical, cognitive or behavioral complications could last up to a few months or even be permanent following a moderate injury. A severe injury, on the other hand, is usually life-threatening and causes permanent, irreversible damage.
More than my brain injury
Many people with disabilities have their lives defined for them by what they are able to do based on society’s perceived scale of “normal” to “abnormal.” This puts them into a tight box of stigmatism and doesn’t allow them to lead a rewarding life. One way to find common ground is
to learn more about those who have overcome their injuries to lead a life even better and more fulfilling than they could have imagined. This doesn’t mean the road isn’t difficult for those who suffer a traumatic brain injury, but it does mean that there is hope. Check out some of the amazing stories at the Brain Injury Association of America.