Brain Injury Support and Information for Oregon & Washington
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A NOTE ABOUT BRAIN INJURY

The symptoms of brain injury can be confusing for both the injured person and the people around them. There is no nice, neat list of problems and cures, no schedule of how soon you will be better, or of how much better you will get. Some problems may disappear over time, others will improve but never go away. If you are the survivor, people around you--even those who love you--may not understand why you act so different when you look fine. It can be difficult for an injured person to recognize and accept their own limitations, much less explain them. They may think everything will be fine if they just "pull themselves together." Unfortunately, that rarely works. Ignoring the problems just leads to more frustration and it can even be dangerous. We hope you find these pages helpful in your journey to understand your situation. Keep reading for a basic explanation of traumatic brain injury and to learn about the kinds of accommodations that have worked for some survivors.

WHAT IS TBI?

Brain injuries can be the result of accident, aneurism, tumor, brain surgery, and other trauma. You might hear the terms:

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Traumatic Brain Injury

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Closed Head Trauma

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Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

They are different words for the same problem: the brain was injured so that in some ways it cannot work the way it did before. The doctors call it closed head trauma because the skull is intact. They call it mild traumatic brain injury because the parts of your brain that supervise your vital life functions still work, so the injury is not life threatening. For the victim, however, the injury may cause problems that do not seem mild at all.

There are many effects of TBI. Symptoms can be temporary or permanent, mild or severe. Some of the symptoms may not show up for several days, or even for several weeks. Symptoms can also change over time after an injury. Because the brain is complex, every person's injuries are different. Some common problems for people who suffer from TBI are:

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headaches

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fatigue and confusion

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vision or hearing problems

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loss of coordination and balance

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memory problems and "losing" words

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trouble organizing thoughts and tasks (linear thinking)

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trouble with numbers and dates

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emotional turmoil (anxiety, depression, anger)

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inappropriate behavior

Some people are able to continue working, some have to change jobs, some are not able to work at all. Children who have a traumatic brain injury may have special needs to cope with school. If the injured person and their support people do not understand the problems are real and not "just in your head," relationships will suffer. TBI victims usually need a lot of physical rest, and lots of extra time to process information. In other words, they need to conserve their energy.

Most people don't understand TBI. Doctors used to believe that once the brain was damaged, it could not be healed. Now they know better. Researchers get new information every day about how the brain works. The brain does not heal as simply as bones or skin, but it has an amazing ability to adapt and compensate. There is help available through medication, counseling, good self-care, and different kinds of therapy to help the brain learn new ways to do things. There are strategies and tools to help a person remember and organize information so they can continue to do things for themselves. Living with a traumatic brain injury is challenging, but not hopeless.

If you have been injured, it is very important to have a good support team that includes friends and family, medical professionals, counselors and social workers, and sometimes even an attorney. Don't try to be tough and do it alone! There will be many things to remember and understand. Your support team can help you cope with forms and medical information, schedule appointments, provide transportation, and help you organize your home and manage chores to ease your stress. Most importantly, they can give you valuable feedback about how you are doing and encouragement when things are difficult.

 

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