Posted on March 10, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Chris

Brain Injury Balance Issues: Chris Part Nine

Chris continues to have ongoing brain injury balance issues and serious difficulty with her left hand. It has been more than a decade since her injury and in today’s climate of cutting costs, her arm – her brain injury balance issues , couldn’t be a lower priority in the allocation of medical resources. The therapies stopped after two years after on the theory that her improvement had plateaued even with her continued brain injury balance issues.

To cut off a lifetime of needed therapy for things like her brain injury balance issues on such a pretext is just wrong. First, even if it had plateaued at two years, that doesn’t mean it won’t get worse. Her physical deficits will get worse if she doesn’t continue to have a structured therapy/exercise regime for them. As an athlete will lose fitness without exercise, her arm, her balance will deteriorate without therapy. Even non-brain injured people have extreme difficulty following a physical therapy program , but someone with her executive function problems like brain injury balance issues is guaranteed to be rudderless in a self-supervised regime. A person who has time management challenges getting to work will never be self-compliant on any therapy or exercise regime particularly for her brain injury balance issues.

Further, to decree that “improvement” has stopped at two years is without scientific foundation, especially with an injury as serious as hers. The brain will either continue to get better or it will get worse. The same society that allowed this intoxicated individual to have a drivers license, owes her its best care, for as long as that care will continue to make her life better.

Further vocational assistance makes economic sense. Chris proved that she could work. She did it for four years after her injury. What a miracle her return to work must have seemed at the time, considering the year of inpatient care. To allow that miracle to evaporate, because she needed more help being on time and with transportation, is unconscionable.

We must design vocational rehabilitation programs not just around retraining, not just accommodations in the workplace, but also addressing the frontal lobe deficits that we know will be there. Work is ultimately the best therapy. It is good for our economy, good for our tax collections. More importantly it is the only way to assure continued cognitive stimulation, community integration and burgeoning self esteem. Almost everyone needs some type of vocational activity and achievement to find self-actualization. In the case of a severely brain injured survivor, that need is even greater because the impact on mood and self is so profound as a result of the TBI.

Is Chris worse than she was ten years ago because of her brain injury balance issues? Chris’s Mom:

I think so, in my opinion. She falls easily. She doesn’t have the use of her arm that she used to. Her hand does not work as well as it used to.

Chris’s Mom participated in TBI Voices because she wanted to make a difference for those moms who may have to go through what she has gone through.

What advice would you give to the other moms sitting in an ICU waiting room?

Maybe just not take things for granted. If you have questions write them down. Don’t take one doctor’s word as that’s the way it is. That doctor who did that to us nine days into her treatments here at the hospital was asked to apologize and when he did apologize to me he said, sometimes when you’re under stress you hear things that you’d, that you’d, aren’t really said so he apologized but in a way that he blamed me for hearing him wrong. But just knowing that you do have rights, take notes, listen to the doctors, if you have questions, ask.

And regardless of how much you believe your child needs you, take some time for yourself, don’t forget your job, the rest of your family.

I continued to work and that’s probably what did help get me through everything.

Not to forget about (your family’s) needs, too. Let them continue with their life as much as possible. Like on the weekends or during the week when we weren’t at the hospital, my son still continued to be in baseball, my other daughter still went with her friends, did things, made sure that they still did what they wanted to do.

And from Chris:

It’s a lot of work, that’s all, that’s all I really know. It’s a lot of work and you have to put all your time into it. It will take everything out of you. It takes all your efforts. (You) really don’t want to just have to sit home and do nothing.

If you’re in this situation, stay as close to your family as you can, because you’re going to need them.

As we conclude and reflect on Chris’s story we first focus on the miracle, of the 15 year old girl who not only awoke but went back to work even with her brain injury balance issues. But if the medical community can’t find ways to commit to a life time of care, that miracle may evaporate not only for Chris but all those impacted by brain injury.

Attorney Gordon Johnson

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About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447