“It’s peace. It’s joy. It’s everything,” said the 23-year-old traumatic brain injury victim about to embark on a 3,100-mile hike. “When you’re on the trail, it’s just you and Mother Nature.” She suffered a traumatic brain injury while playing water polo as a teenager. Since her injury, she says that she has a never-ending headache that she rates as a six on a scale of one to ten. After her accident, she would often sleep for entire days in an effort to avoid the overwhelming and persistent pain and nausea.
Thankfully, she has found that long distance hiking improves her condition. First, she tackled the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the California-Mexico border to Canada. “The pain is still there,” she said. “Sometimes it hits me hard on the trail, but being outside and enjoying life when I once couldn’t is what drives me.”
Not all traumatic brain injuries are as severe as hers are, but she had tell-tale signs of a brain injury that parents should be aware of. Most traumatic brain injury symptoms are not outwardly visible. Instead, they manifest as mental impairments and diffuse pain, which many doctors fail to recognize as signs of traumatic brain injuries. Doctors thought the 23-year-old only had a mild concussion, so they told her that simple rest would be sufficient.
The victim described the pain of a traumatic brain injury as someone “jabbing an ice pick into your skull 24/7.” Constant and recurring headaches are the result of sensory over-stimulation common to brain injuries. An uninjured brain filters out unnecessary sensory information, but a brain that sustained a blow to a major sensory lobe has difficulty processing and prioritizing sights, sounds and other sensations. As such, an injured brain has difficulty prioritizing between an immediate conversation with a friend and the sound of birds chirping. This results in an inability to concentrate on isolated tasks.
In addition, traumatic brain injuries affect the victims’ ability to regulate their emotions. The family members of many traumatic brain injury victims report very drastic personality changes after an accident. People who were previously even tempered may find themselves easily frustrated and prone to mood swings after a brain injury. It is important for parents of children with traumatic brain injuries to understand that brain injuries can exacerbate the emotional instability of adolescence.
Many traumatic brain injuries occur within the realm of contact sports. Unfortunately, another common symptom of traumatic brain injuries is disjointed and uncoordinated movements, hindering the careers of budding athletes. Consequently, many traumatic brain injury victims require extensive physical therapy after an accident. It is important to note that the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries vary based on the severity and location of impact.
Overcoming the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injuries requires the coordinated efforts of neurologists, physical therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. Taken together, the therapies necessary to treat the whole victim, not just their isolated symptoms, are incredibly expensive. Families who attempt to bear that economic burden themselves end up sacrificing their financial stability. If you worry about covering these costs, consider consulting an experienced brain injury attorney to help you cover the immense economic and emotional costs of caring for a loved one with a traumatic brain injury.