A traumatic brain injury (TBI) drastically alters the lives of the patient and the family. While the effects can be temporary, they can also cause permanent loss of memory or abilities. How do they happen, what signs should we look for, and what can we expect going forward?
How Do People Get A TBI?
There are two different types of TBI, penetrating or blunt force trauma.
When something breaks through the skull and into the brain. Common causes are car accidents or gunshot wounds.
Blunt Force Trauma
The skull is intact. The head moved with sufficient force that the brain hit the skull from the inside one or more times. You see these injuries in car accidents, bad falls, sports injuries, and violent situations like shaken baby syndrome or when the victim gets hit in the head.
Some incidents will cause both types of injuries on the same person.
How Do You Know If You Have A TBI?
There are cases of blunt force trauma where you might not know how severe the injury is. Brain injuries might show immediate symptoms, but you can also experience delayed symptoms as the damage progresses inside the skull. A bleed in the brain, for example, can create more and more pressure until the delicate tissues are crushed.
Warning Signs In Adults
- Blurred Vision
- Trouble Staying Awake
- Unable To Focus
- One Pupil Is Larger Than The Other
- Slurred Speech
- Loss Of Balance
- Loss of Physical or Mental Abilities
- Loss of Memory
Warning Signs In Small Children
- Changes in Appetite
- Constant Crying or Crankiness
- Unable to Wake
- Loss of Interest in a Favorite Toy
- Loss of Ability to Focus
- Lost Skills Such as Potty Training
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke suggests that all children going into competitive sports get a baseline workup of brain function before every season so the doctors can tell if any changes occur after an injury.
What Should You Do If You Suspect A TBI?
At the first hint of traumatic brain injury, go to the emergency room. Doctors can monitor your condition as it progresses, get imaging of the injuries, give medicines to relieve building pressure or prevent blood clots, or make repairs surgically.
What Does Life Look Like After A TBI?
The answer depends on how extensive the damage was and in what area of the brain. Symptoms may be temporary. As the injury heals, the patient’s life should return to normal. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Our memories, problem-solving skills, movement, speech, mood, and identity are encoded in various portions of the brain. Damage can corrupt or erase the data, and the patient must navigate life with what’s left.
Examples Of Cognitive Changes
People with TBI may find they can no longer read or reason. They either can’t decipher the information or don’t know what to do with it once they have it. They may understand a concept or want to express a thought but cannot summon the words. Parts of their vocabulary or memory of how to form the words are gone. The trauma may completely alter their personality so they are no longer the same person.
Examples Of Physical Changes
Some patients find they can’t move body parts after a brain injury. They may be confined to a hospital bed or a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. If they recover, they might have to learn to walk, talk, or eat again. They may lose strength, balance, or manual dexterity. They may lose one of their senses, like sight or sound. That isn’t to say all hope is lost. The patient can relearn some skills or adapt to their new situation, but both options take time and patience.
When faced with a long-term disability or a grueling recovery process, patients may need to cycle through all steps of the grieving process. These may include denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. This may not be a linear process. Patients may skip one step but get bogged down in another. They may need to cycle through them over and over again. The process can take weeks or years, depending on the person and how their disability continues to affect their lives.
The person with the injury isn’t the only one who will grieve or need to adjust. Family and friends will try to comfort the injured while dealing with their own emotions about the incident, empathy for the wounded, and the frustrations of acting as a caregiver.
A licensed therapist may be helpful while navigating emotionally charged stages of adjustment.
In addition to the physical and emotional impacts a TBI can have on a family, they can also devastate their finances with medical bills and rehabilitation and adaptive equipment costs. The injured may not be capable of working, and the financial responsibility falls to the caregivers. You may qualify for disability, but applications can take months or years to process and may not cover all your expenses.
Suppose another party caused the injury but didn’t have insurance, or their insurance company refuses to pay part or all of the claim. In that case, you may also have to secure a personal injury attorney to recover the compensation that you are legally entitled to. An injury lawyer specializing in TBI claims can help the family get the necessary funding from the at-fault party rather. This can save the family from having to face dire consequences like mortgaging their house to pay for essential medical treatments.
Check reviews before hiring a Salt Lake City personal injury attorney. Look for one that works on contingency fees so that you only have to pay your attorney if/when they win your case.
To Sum Up
Traumatic brain injuries can be life-altering for the injured and their family and friends. Early diagnosis and treatment will provide the best outcome for all involved, so go to the ER at the first hint of TBI symptoms.