Brain On The Fritz

Brain On the Fritz

An X-ray that showing the traumatic brain injury. © Tridsanu Thophet / Alamy Stock Photo.

March 4th is Brain Injury Awareness Day. This is a personal issue for me; I suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident on June 5th, 2013.

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is defined as damage to the brain due to external factors; in my case, the external factor was a car accident in which my head ricocheted off the inside of the car I was in, the result of which is that my brain got knocked around. Other external factors can include things like impact, blast waves, or penetration by a projectile. TBIs tend to be classified based on factors such as severity, anatomical features, and the force(s) that caused it. Classification by mechanism is affected by whether or not the brain is exposed; in my case, I had a “closed” brain injury, as my brain was not exposed, Other causes of TBIs include violence, construction, and sports.

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How To Live With Post Concussion Syndrome Concussion Recovery Therapy. (credit : Adobe Stock Photo).

In addition to the injuries that can obviously be immediately caused when trauma occurs, TBIs can also cause a lot of complications. Complications are effects that can worsen the initial trauma and that can persist long after the effects of the initial trauma; in some ways, I still deal with the effects of my car accident even nine years after the fact.

Effects On Unconsciousness

There are six abnormal states of consciousness that happen due to a TBI: stupor, coma, persistent vegetative state, minimally conscious state, locked-in syndrome, and brain death. In my accident, the effects on my consciousness were closest to stupor; I was responsive to stimuli, but still confused and sluggish.

Brain illustrated using words. (Credit : WordArt.com).
Cognitive Deficits

Cognitive deficits that occur because of a TBI can vary, and they can be specific to the individual, so I’ll try and demonstrate by going over the effects that I dealt with:

  • ADHD worsened
  • Ability to process thoughts slowed down
  • Executive functions were impacted
  • I suffered from amnesia; I actually still deal with this, but the amount of time blanked out of my memory has gotten smaller
  • My short term memory is worse
X-rays of Brain Contusion. (credit : Adobe Stock Image).
Communication Problems

Language and communication problems are common with TBIs; people can have issues with both the overt and subtle aspects. In my case, my communication skills were greatly impacted; since I am already on the autism spectrum, there was a greatly negative impact on my ability to recognize body language and non-verbal cues.

Sensory Problems

In terms of sensory problems, my main issue was with my eyes; I suffered from third-nerve palsy- a nerve connected to my eye got pinched- so I couldn’t see straight for about four or five months. My hand-eye coordination and balance were also greatly affected.

Emotional/Behavioural Problems

Since I already deal with ADHD and Autism, a lot of already-existent emotional/behavioural issues were made a lot worse. I was a lot more emotionally unstable at times; in addition, my depression and anxiety were noticeably worse. It can still be harder to experience pleasure in certain situations for me, and I had to increase my antidepressant dosage after the accident.

Traumatic Brain Injury. (Credit : Adobe Stock image).
Physical Complications

Physical effects have been both a blessing and a curse for me- a blessing in that there was little major outward physical impairment, and a curse in that a lot of the physical effects are internal and are therefore more difficult to explain. There have also been longer-lasting physical effects for me- I still suffer from migraines caused by the accident, to the point where I had to be prescribed medication for them. When they happen, the entire right side of my face can hurt. The muscle I tore in my left leg still reminds me it’s there from time to time, and I still deal with tension in my neck and shoulders. My field of peripheral vision in my left eye is also limited; in addition, the nerve damage from that third nerve palsy can cause double vision in bright light.

If anyone reads this, I’m thinking of turning this into a series about the injury/recovery process… let me know what you think!!
National Brain Injury Awareness Month. (credit : Adobe Stock Image).

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