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Starting over again after a traumatic brain injury

A fascinating first-person account of what it really feels like to have TBI

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month. Our lawyers have teamed up with the Brain Injury Association of Michigan to co-sponsor a $10,000 donation this month. This blog is part of a series I will be writing about helping people understand TBI, and how this serious injury can affect someone.

The two most common causes of traumatic brain injury in the United States today are falls, such as “trip and falls” and “slip and falls,” and car accidents.

The bigger challenge is getting the public to understand the complicated and devastating effects that TBI poses. Most brain injury symptoms are invisible, which makes the cognitive and emotional changes that brain injury survivors have difficult to prove. Often times, these injuries are discounted or ignored for that reason. People cannot see a traumatic brain injury like they could someone confined to a wheelchair, even though the consequences can be equally devastating.

It’s one thing to say a person with traumatic brain injury experiences memory loss, personality changes, confusion and depression. But it’s another thing to read examples from a brain injury survivor of a little over one year.

That’s why I’ve included today’s blog about the story of how Jane Rosett, former AIDS activist turned author, is coping with brain injury. Rosett is sharing her story and wants people to understand what’s happening to her and to her brain. She recently wrote a column in the New York Times: Starting Again After a Brain Injury.

Rosett was in a rear-end car accident. The injury caused damage to her right temporal lobe. She lost her long-term memory, and has been a brain injury patient within Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospitals for more than a year.

Car accidents are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.

TBI Symptoms: what the doctors say and what they really mean

I pulled out a few excerpts that really paint a picture of what Rosett, as well as thousands of other brain injury survivors are experiencing on a daily basis. Below I’m listing common TBI symptoms and
how they feel, according to Rosett’s article.

Symptom: Long-term memory loss
What it really feels like: “People recognize me when I have no recollection of them. I am told that my work before the accident pertained to the AIDS pandemic; I was a treatment activist, founder of several early AIDS organizations and a photojournalist, as well as an artist. But I have no more memory of a photo on the cover of The New York Times of an exhibition I curated 10 years ago than I do of a watercolor I painted when I was 3 years old. When I see my pre-accident work, I am introduced to it as if for the first time. As if it was created by anonymous. Did I make that? So I’m told.

One woman whom I still don’t recognize told me I used to shred beets into my chocolate cake batter. Her comment reintroduced me to an evaporated passion I no longer remembered and had not missed until then.”

Symptom: Personality changes
What it really feels like: “People who love me grieve what they claim to experience as the loss of elements of my personality that I cannot recall having been part of me. Others tell me that I seem to have become an altogether different person.”

Symptom: Social anxiety
What it really feels like: “I am told that I used to be a real “people person.” Today, however, I can barely stand being around people. And I can get irritable in a nanosecond.”

Symptom: Chronic pain
What it really feels like: “Glass-shard-wielding fire ants shred my body’s meridians…. I broke my leg last year, and it took me and my physical therapist a week to realize it, because my broken leg was unremarkable compared to my chronic neuropathic pain. Then, it was spooky how much more attention my cast and crutches elicited from both strangers and doctors than my broken brain does, even though my invisible cerebral disabilities cause more pain.”

How you can better connect with TBI victims

What a wonderful and selfless way to share for others what it feels like to have a traumatic brain injury. To end her article, Rosett gives a few tips on how to treat brain injury victims. According to Rosett, if you want to connect with someone who has a traumatic brain injury:

  • Hire them.
  • Include them in conversations that regard them instead of speaking about them in the third person while they are present.
  • Instead of pressing them about they “must” remember from their past, simply be present with them.

How you can help raise $10,000 for Michigan traumatic brain injury survivors – with a click of your mouse and without paying a cent

As part of Brain Injury Awareness month, the lawyers at Michigan Auto Law are raising $10,000 for brain injury survivors. But we need a little help from the Facebook community.

For every “Like” Michigan Auto Law receives on Facebook, we will donate $1 — up to $10,000 — to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.

Here is our Michigan Auto Law Facebook page.

Please help us raise money for this very important cause.

As Rosett points out, Domestic emergency rooms report approximately 1.7 million TBI diagnoses (and 52,000 TBI-related deaths) every year. But very few people with brain injuries receive any sort of treatment beyond acute care.

Steven M. Gursten is a brain injury lawyer and partner of Michigan Auto Law. He is a member of the Executive Board of the American Association for Justice Traumatic Brian Injury Lawyer Litigation Group. Steve has received the highest reported trial verdict and settlement for a TBI victim in Michigan in multiple years.

Related information to protect yourself:

TBI facts

Traumatic brain injury from Michigan auto accidents

Choosing a traumatic brain injury lawyer in Michigan

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. Call (800) 777-0028 to speak with one of our Michigan brain injury lawyers today.

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