The Brain Injury Association of America estimates that 5.3 million Americans live with mild to severe brain injury. These injuries exact a toll of $76.5 billion each year in the U.S. While 75% are classified as mild, other survivors experience difficulty returning to even the simplest tasks of self-maintenance. Brain injury recovery is different for everyone, even those with injuries similar in nature and magnitude. It can take years for the injured to return to a mental state comparable to that which they possessed before their injury. Sometimes the adjustment back into normalcy is more a matter of compensation for diminished faculties than of retrieval of skills lost. However, as the following accounts illustrate, no brain injury is a lost cause—even when recovery seems slow and grueling.
1. Betsy was 72 years old when a sudden jerk thrust her brain into the front of her skull, leaving her with a subdural hematoma. Her family was told that, in the unlikely event that she survived, she would probably remain unresponsive for the rest of her life. Two operations later, their prognosis was the same: improvement was a remote possibility; it would be more merciful to let her go.
A year after the accident occurred, Betsy was home and self-sustaining—“walking, talking, writing, feeding herself, dressing herself, joking, reading, paying bills, making salad dressing, etc.” Her memory was intact. At 73, Betsy’s neural plasticity allowed her to recover miraculously from a brain injury.
2. Chris Lynch fell 2 ½ stories while training with the French Airborne Division in 1999. He fell at once into a coma for which he was treated in Toulouse. After 24 hours on life support, he was able to breathe on his own and sent back to the United States to recuperate, where he remained in a partial coma and state of paralysis for 21 days.
After a month and a half of physical and speech therapy, Chris left the hospital leaning on a cane. As of November 2012, Chris is an avid outdoorsman, a volunteer at centers for at-risk and disabled youth, and seeing without the glasses he required right after his brain injury. He still experiences some difficulty on account of his fall in France, but has not put his life on hold.
3. Jan Brown fell down a flight of concrete stairs while under the influence of illicit substances and sustained a traumatic brain injury. A former competitive athlete, Jan lost her sporting skills and, worse, found herself unable to reap the emotional rewards that should have accompanied her recovery from addiction.
She was injured yet again when, experiencing residual fatigue and disorientation from the first injury, she swam into the concrete wall of a swimming pool. Much of her progress from previous therapy was undone, and Jan lost the ability to work and drive in addition.
After taking a job at a physical rehabilitation facility and seeing her own symptoms in other brain injury patients, Jan realized the extent of her problems and sought help. Today, she is addiction-free, an established expert on addiction, and the founder of SpiritWorks.
4. Jessica Jones’s chances of survival were smaller than 5% when she was referred to Dr. Reisner for treatment following her fall from a retaining wall on Halloween night. The 14-year-old had landed, head-first, on a concrete driveway while trick-or-treating with her friends. She was still in costume when Dr. Reisner operated, hoping for little more than survival. In his experience, fewer than 10 percent of children in Jessica’s situation ever returned to normal function.
To everyone’s surprise, Jessica opened her eyes five days later and asked where she was. From then on, she pushed herself relentlessly back into her life: she returned to her classes 2 months later and finished high school with straight As. In 2010, Jessica no longer exhibited “no lingering effects” of the brain injury; she graduated from Stanford with top honors.
5. Mark Kerrigan spent April 1989 in a coma induced by two epidural hematomas he sustained in a car accident. The accident and subsequent brain injury left Mark bereft of part of his skull, almost 40% of his weight, the ability to walk, his powers of speech, and even bladder control. Mark was at a loss and might have despaired were it not for the patience and support of family and loved ones.
Since the accident, Mark has relearned how to walk and talk, in spite of doctors’ doubts that he would ever be independent again. Furthermore, he has finished high school, graduated from Belmont University with a degree in English and Journalism, and founded On the Mark Writing to help others communicate effectively through the written word.
Swift and thorough medical treatment lays a firm foundation for smooth progress during rehabilitation. However, for the brain injury victim and their families, these costs can be staggering (particularly when the injury results in lost wages). For those whose injuries resulted from negligence, i.e., failure to take reasonable precautions against accidents on one’s premises, enlistment of a brain injury attorney might be an option…or a necessity.
If you are at pains to meet the demands of a brain injury that someone else precipitated or failed to take due action against, Utah brain injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas can guide you through the legal process and act as your advocate to see that you receive the maximum compensation for optimal treatment. To retain their services, or for a free consultation, call (801) 506-0800.
Image courtesy of John M