The Crisis of TBI is Physical, Emotional, and Financial

Patrick & Sarah Jane Donohue

Patrick Donohue’s world is defined by two things: His daughter, Sarah Jane, and numbers.

When Sarah Jane was five days old, her baby nurse shook her violently, causing four broken ribs, two broken collarbones, and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). That injury sparked the interest in numbers. According to an article in Utah’s Deseret News, some numbers that Mr. Donohue is obsessed with these days:

  • 765,000:  The number of children and young adults sent to emergency rooms for brain injury in the United States each year.
  • 80,000:  The number who go on to be hospitalized for TBI.
  • 11,000:  The number who die of their TBI injuries.
  • $10 million:  The amount spent on brain injury research. (He compares that to the $4 billion spent on AIDS/HIV research and $1 billion on autism research, which combined afflict fewer people each year than brain injury.)
  • 10: The number of different treatment plans TBI patients are likely to get if they visit 10 different doctors.
  • HR 2600:  The name/number of the bipartisan bill currently being considered in Congress also known as the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI) Plan Act. This resolution would endorse a master treatment plan for brain injury, and create a network of 52 State Lead Centers of Excellence–one fore every state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Dr. Ricardo Komotar, a noted brain specialist at the University of Miami Hospital, many people with brain injury may not even know it, especially if the injury happens during sports.

“It’s important to understand that only 15 to 20 percent of all concussions involve loss of consciousness. The other 80 percent are largely unrecognized.”

That has long-term consequences, he says, including cumulative brain damage. “You can present with early Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia. We’re seeing it more and more, the hits in sports more violent.”

The dementia-related disorders are the biggest issues facing adults who suffer brain injury, even minor brain injuries like concussion…especially after multiple concussions. But for children, the biggest challenges of brain injury are getting appropriate assistance in the school system, and helping them make the transition to adulthood. Experts say that about 90 percent of children in juvenile detention have brain injuries, making it not just a personal health problem but a public health and social crisis.

Concussion may be a dirty word

Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is better known by its more common name:  concussion. But TBI activists and many physicians would rather we call call it just plain brain injury. Why? Because, according to Mr. Donohue, there’s a tendency to disregard injuries classified as mild TBI. “Imagine someone saying you have mild cancer,” he says.

MTBI may not cause the kinds of dramatic and devastating disabilities seen in patients with more severe brain injury, these mild injuries still require medical attention and coordinated treatment plans. Especially children, the youngest victims. And we all deserve to know that scientific and medical research is progressing, and it would be nice if there were sufficient funding that we have hope that someday TBI might become a treatable disorder, as opposed to a permanent disability.

To read the full article in the Deseret News, click here:  TBI crisis as evidence mounts

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