More than a year after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords resigned from her U.S. House seat January 25, 2012. Despite the great strides she has made in her recovery, she is an example of how those who survive traumatic brain injuries can be debilitated for years following the injury.
What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury occurs when a sudden trauma damages the brain. These injuries are caused by sudden, violent hits to the head or objects that pierce the skull. Not all traumatic brain injuries are as apparent as gunshot wounds to the head. In fact, some traumatic brain injuries can happen when a person experiences a concussion or a fall.
Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries, whether in a motor vehicle accident, industrial accident, fall, or other accident. Nearly 75 percent of those are concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries.
What Type of Traumatic Brain Injury Did Rep. Giffords Suffer?
Rep. Giffords suffered her brain injury on January 8, 2011, when she was shot by alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner at a public event outside a Tucson grocery store. As people across the nation heard the news, they marveled at how Rep. Giffords could even survive such an injury.
Doctors reported that Rep. Giffords was shot just above her left eye, and the bullet that pierced through her skull went through the left hemisphere of her brain. Each brain injury is unique, so doctors did not know quite what to expect from the injuries that Rep. Giffords had suffered.
People who survive traumatic brain injuries face several cognitive and behavioral challenges each day. Rep. Giffords suffered injuries to the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas of the brain, which control speech and language. She had difficulty regaining speech, which is to be expected, because the ability to communicate via speech requires that a person comprehend what she wants to say and know when to move her lips to say it.
Other brain injuries can cause impaired movement, loss of memory, shortened attention span, and changed personality.
What is the Road to Recovery Like?
While she has made strides in her therapy sessions, Rep. Giffords is no longer the once eloquent speaker that she was before the shooting. Traumatic brain injuries require a variety of different therapies, depending on the person and the injury suffered.
Rep. Giffords continues her rehabilitation at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research in Houston, where she works with speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and a neuropsychologist to regain her speech.
Doctors expect that Rep. Giffords will require several more years of therapy to fully regain her speech, which is why she has decided to step down from her House seat.
Long-Term Consequences of a Traumatic Brain Injury
Depending on the type of brain injury you suffer, where the brain injury occurs, and its severity, the recovery times will differ. Doctors say that Rep. Giffords has made a remarkable recovery due in part to the excellent health she was in before the shooting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a traumatic brain injury can cause both short-term and long-term changes in thinking, sensation, language, and emotion. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy are common for a survivor of a traumatic brain injury to experience, especially as the victim ages.
Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury range from mild to moderate and severe, depending on the extent of damage. A person who suffers even a mild traumatic brain injury can experience life-long impairment and disability. In addition, people who suffer mild symptoms can experience headaches, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, fatigue, a change in sleeping patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and a disruption in cognitive skills like memory and concentration.
How are Traumatic Brain Injuries Treated?
If you believe you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, you should receive medical attention as soon as possible. Unfortunately, doctors have little ability to reverse the damage already caused to the brain. But patients need to be stabilized so that no further brain injuries occur.
Some patients who experience debilitating symptoms receive rehabilitation therapy individually tailored to their injury. Therapy like what Rep. Giffords is currently undergoing can help victims of traumatic brain injuries recover lost cognitive abilities. The different types of therapy available to victims of traumatic brain injuries include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychiatric counseling, and psychological counseling.
If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence of another, you should know your legal rights.
The road to recovery may be long and difficult, but Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Kay Van Wey has handled several cases in which victims of negligence suffered traumatic brain injuries. She understands the effects these injuries can have on the victims and can help you through the legal process to hold negligent parties accountable. To learn more,call Kay today at (214) 329-1350 or (800) 489-5082.