Mar 31, 2012

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - Part I

Recently a friend told me that the nephew of a friend suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while playing lacrosse. It made me cringe a lot, not because of the sport being played, but because I've also suffered a TBI. Hence, a series of blog entries related to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), one of the most misunderstood injuries in North America.

As a technical writer, I will keep things factual but I would be remiss to not include some personal observations about my experience. Bear with me... One of the best websites that explains a TBI in a little more detail than I am going to do, is the Traumatic Brain Injury site.

So, the point of this entry is to explain "what" a TBI is. Future entries will cover causes, types, effects, and recovery/rehab. Rather than reinvent the wheel, this is what the above site & links below explain. I have highlighted some key points, and added my comments after the definition:
Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

     Traumatic brain injury, often referred to as TBI, is most often an acute event similar to other injuries. That is where the similarity between traumatic brain injury and other injuries ends. One moment the person is normal and the next moment life has abruptly changed.
     In most other aspects, a traumatic brain injury is very different. Since our brain defines who we are, the consequences of a brain injury can affect all aspects of our lives, including our personality. A brain injury is different from a broken limb or punctured lung. An injury in these areas limit the use of a specific part of your body, but your personality and mental abilities remain unchanged. Most often, these body structures heal and regain their previous function.
     Brain injuries do not heal like other injuries. Recovery is a functional recovery, based on mechanisms that remain uncertain. No two brain injuries are alike and the consequence of two similar injuries may be very different. Symptoms may appear right away or may not be present for days or weeks after the injury.
     One of the consequences of brain injury is that the person often does not realize that a brain injury has occurred.
There are several ways to describe brain injuries.  The brain is enclosed in the bony vault of the skull.  The cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the brain and, most of the time, protects it from impact with the skull.  If there is a rapid force applied to the skull or rapid deceleration of the head, the brain may strike the inside of the bony vault.
Brain tissue may stretch or tear because of the rapid movement.  This can injure the nervous tissue of the brain directly.
Personal Observations:
Some things that aren't mentioned above that were my personal observations about TBIs:
You can't "SEE" a TBI when it occurs inside the head. There aren't any scars (other than how it was caused or hospital equipments used). For some TBI injuries (like mine), there are no visible scars related to it.
A TBI will not only affect the victim, but their family, friends, significant others, employers / employees. They have to adapt to the changes that you've gone through, and be supportive during your recovery/rehab. BUT, you need to ready to accept that the TBI has changed THEIR life too.
The victim of the TBI will not realize it happened when it did. In my occurrence, I didn't know I had a TBI until several weeks after it happened. Why so long? I had to come out of my coma and begin to recover enough to understand what all of those people standing around my hospital bed were even talking about.

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