'the late Natasha Richardson'
Lately, brain injury or head trauma, as it is often called, is in the news and is being discussed. We are seeing veterans from the Iraq war return with head injuries from gun shots. Even reporter, news anchor, Woodward was injured in his head when the vehicle he was in, was hit by a land mine. More recently the actress, Natasha Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and wife of Liam Neeson, from 'Shindler's list acclaim, died in a skiing accident. March is also Brain Injury Month. But what about the rest of the year?!
For the rest of us who aren't celebrities, head injury is nothing new. Did you know 3.1 million Americans alone have brain injuries?! I have been living with one since an auto accident I was in at 16. My head went through the wind shield and I suffered a concussion. Back then, they didn't know what they know today. I was nauseous,my head hurt and was swollen and I felt sleepy. The doctors took me for an x-Ray and then I was sent home after being told I would be ok. I was not although I went misdiagnosed for instead depression and mental illness for years.
In school my grades suffered, after being an 'A' student, due to memory problems and not being able to recall math theorems,history dates or chemistry formulas for instance. I had problems concentrating,completing tasks and suffered form depression too. All this was attributed to laziness until a drug induced breakdown at 21 that got me into a mental institution for a month stay. There they did an EEG,more x-rays on my head,performed psych. tests,etc. but found me 'nutty' or bipolar. Back then they called it manic depression. After much disruption in my life and stints to follow in the hospital through the years, 19 years later, after an MRI, I was told that I had sustained a head injury that caused some post-concussion symptoms and considerable short term memory loss, among other symptoms that mimiced mental illness. In fact, back then if the pressure in my brain, had been relieved in time, I might have ben able to lead a normal life. Sadly this is often the case in these matters.
Natasha went home after hitting her head and since she was speaking, everyone thought she was ok. An hour later she complained of severe head aches and she was rushed to the hospital by car,not helicopter,which would have been the wiser choice, only to wait to be seen! Why? The doctors didn't see her bleeding or having a heart attack, as it usually is an invisible injury or disability, so they saw patients that they deemed 'sicker' first. This is common in ER to 'triage' patients this way.
She later died from her injuries. More education needs to be done in diagnosing head injuries. Her family is advocating for helmets to be mandatory for skiing and biking and motorcyling. It is too late for Natasha and for me,although I am lucky to be alive certainly, with daily challenges. Hopefully it will not be the case for the next person. I think the world also needs to become more tolerant and understanding of people with invisible disabilities. We are not 'lazy' or 'crazy' but function differently than those who don't have these problems, but..we are worthy of respect that you would show any other person with a disability or injury that is physical, not just mental because, brain injury is physical! You just can't see it. That doesn't mean it's not there.
I hope"some good will come from the bad" but, I wouldn't count on it. The public has a short memory,no pun intended and very little interest in the problems of people with disabilities in general, not unless it is them or someone they are close to effected. It is not because they are mean but rather is simply human nature to care more about ourselves and what is in our own back yards first. Also many people have other pressing issues to contend with. Like they say 'we all have something!"
For more on brain injury you can go to the web site for the Brain Injury Association. People with 'TBI' or traumatic brain injury, as it is called are eligible for a TBI 'waiver' and special benefits such as a housing and utility subsidy and transportation to social engagements besides the usual doctors appointments which is a nice perk what with the price of gas going up again. They are also eligible for Social Security disability monies. You can do a Google search on TBI waiver programs for more details and also can go to the social security web site, for more Brain Injury and Disability Information in general for you or someone you love.