Traumatic Brain Injury – A Silent Struggle

I just ran across an MSNBC article titled “After Brain Injury, A Silent Struggle to Start Over.” The article tells the story of Kim Valentini, a 36-year-old New Jersey woman who can’t remember things from hour to hour or minute to minute. She keeps a calendar taped to the refrigerator in her parent’s kitchen. The calendar tells her the whereabouts of her father – but she still calls him several times a day to ask where he is.

Valentini was in a horrific car wreck 13 years ago and still lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that has immensely affected her short-term memory. Further, portions of her long-term memory seem to have been erased.

She remembers that she once worked as an administrator, but she can’t remember what she did at work. She recalls that she used to like to dance, but she doesn’t know why. She remembers her old self as a successful, confident person with a good memory and sound mind, but she’s not that person anymore. She doesn’t remember the details of her car accident, but she knows that’s when “the old Kim died.”

Valentini’s car wreck made her one of 5.3 million Americans who live with TBI. Each year, more than 1.4 million Americans suffer a TBI. In a given year, more people suffer TBI than heart attacks. Experts call it “the silent epidemic’ because most people do not realize the extent of the problem. Furthermore, TBI may not leave any visible signs.

“There are countless ‘walking wounded’ who look just fine on the outside, but who aren’t the same on the inside,” said Jonathan Lifshitz, an assistant professor at the Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center.

Nearly half of traumatic brain injuries are caused by traffic accidents. Ironically, advances in protective gear like seatbelts and airbags may have increased the number of TBIs over the past decade. However, a TBI is not as bad as a fatality.

Most TBIs cause permanent brain damage, even if there or no visible signs of injury (even on a brain scan). A TBI can cause changes in mental processing, attention, memory, judgment, and personality.

Therapy can help TBI victims cope with the changes, but it doesn’t repair the brain damage.

“If you lose a leg, you wouldn’t expect it to regrow,” said Keith Cicerone, director of neuropsychology at the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison, N.J. “It’s a long road going from the injury to learning to live a fulfilling life, but with limitations. We’re not looking to make you who you were. We’re trying to teach you to live with the person you’ve become - who you are now.”

For Valentini, every word she speaks is a struggle, and she has trouble focusing on conversations. Her fiancé left her after her realized that “the old Kim” wasn’t coming back.

Despite the hardships, Valentini has improved greatly. Her therapy has focused on retraining her brain, and she has a new start with a new life. She says that she’s not even sure if she’d want the old Kim back now.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence of another individual or entity, you should contact an experienced Georgia traumatic brain injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.