June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. This annual campaign aims to raise public awareness about brain injuries and their effects on survivors and their caregivers. Globally, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of disability. Over 18,000 Canadians are hospitalized each year with a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”).
All brain injuries are different and the damage to the brain can range from mild to severe. The impairment is also dependent upon which area of the brain is affected.
WHAT IS A BRAIN INJURY?
Any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or a degenerative disease is characterized as an acquired brain injury (“ABI”). The two types of ABIs are non-traumatic and traumatic.
A non-traumatic ABI occurs when something that happens inside the body or a substance introduced into the body damages brain tissues. Examples of non-traumatic ABIs include aneurysms, brain tumors, meningitis, opioid overdoses or an ischemic stroke.
Traumatic ABIs typically occur as the result of a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. They may also occur if an object, such as a bullet or shattered piece of the skull, goes through brain tissue.
SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH BRAIN INJURIES
There are a wide range of both physical and psychological symptoms associated with TBIs. Some symptoms appear immediately following the traumatic event, whereas others take several days or even weeks to develop.
Those that are suffering from a mild TBI may demonstrate the following symptoms:
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Problems with speech;
- Dizziness or loss of balance;
- Sensory difficulties, including blurred vision, ringing in the ears, changes in the ability to smell;
- Sensitivity to light or sound;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Feeling of being dazed, confused or disoriented;
- Memory or concentration problems;
- Feelings of depression or anxiety; and/or
- Difficulty sleeping.
Those suffering from moderate to severe TBIs may experience symptoms as described above, as well as the following additional symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness for several minutes to hours;
- Persistent headaches;
- Repeated vomiting or nausea;
- Convulsions or seizures;
- Dilation of one or both pupils;
- Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears;
- Inability to awaken from sleep;
- Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes;
- Loss of coordination;
- Profound confusion;
- Agitation, contrary or other unusual behaviours;
- Slurred speech; and/or
- Coma or other disorders of consciousness.
Infants or young children who have been involved in a traumatic event may not be able to communicate the symptoms that they are experiencing, such as headaches, sensory issues or confusion. However, the following symptoms may be observed in these younger patients:
- Change in eating or nursing habits;
- Persistent crying and the inability to be consoled;
- Change in the ability to pay attention;
- Change in sleep habits;
- Sad or depressed mood;
- Drowsiness; and/or
- Loss of interest in his/her favourite toy or activities.
CAUSES OF TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES
TBIs are ordinarily caused by a blow or traumatic injury to the head or the body. The resulting damage to the brain is dependent upon the nature of the injury and the force of the impact.
The following events are the most common causes of traumatic brain injuries:
- Falls: Slip and falls and falls from a bed, ladder or down the stairs are the most common causes of a TBI, particularly in older adults and young children.
- Vehicle Related Accidents: Collisions involving cars, motorcycles or bicycles and especially those where a pedestrian is involved in the accident are all common causes of TBIs.
- Sports Activities: Those involved in high impact sports such as soccer, boxing, football, baseball and hockey can become the victim of a TBI, especially children.
HOW TO SUPPORT SOMEONE SUFFERING FROM A BRAIN INJURY?
There are numerous ways that you can support a loved one who is suffering from a brain injury. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Learn about the effects of brain injury and speak to your loved one about which effects they are personally experiencing.
- Be patient with a loved one as those suffering will likely find the uncertainties of their condition to be unsettling and frustrating.
- Do not expect your loved one to be the same person that they were before the injury. Recovery in these circumstances can take time.
- The key to recovery is rehabilitation, which should be carried out under the advice and guidance of qualified medical professionals and with the support and encouragement from friends and family members.
- Try not to take it personally if your loved one is rude or abrupt as these are common symptoms associated with someone suffering from a brain injury.
- Offer to help with tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking or looking after young children.
- Try to include your friend in safe and enjoyable activities and do not take offence if your friend cancels on plans.
- Be sure to look after yourself so that you are able to look after your loved one who is on the road to recovery.
SEEKING COMPENSATION AFTER AN ACCIDENT THAT CAUSED A TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
If you or a loved one think you have suffered a brain injury following a recreational accident, slip and fall or motor vehicle accident, consider getting a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you evaluate the injury’s impact on your life and whether you are entitled to make a claim for damages.
Whether the traumatic brain injury was caused by a car accident, an assault or a fall, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP will review your case from all perspectives to provide you with advice as to whether to pursue a claim for damages. It is important that you call us promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries. Contact our office at 403-571-0555 or online today to book an appointment for a free consultation.