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Traumatic brain injury is a frequent and devastating consequence of a car accident. A column by award winning writer Crocker Stephenson in today’s Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel provides a poignant account of a couple driving their car on a foggy day, broadsided by a delivery truck, and each left with serious consequences of brain injury from the force of the brain slamming into the skull that surrounds it. The story is written two years after the accident. The husband’s memory has returned and he has little residual effect, but the wife, who has lived in hospitals and residential treatment centers since the accident, is usually unable to remember her husband or even come up with her own name when asked for it. Their future is unclear.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke lists the following as symptoms of brain injury:

A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.

Many victims of TBI will require surgery to remove hematomas and contusions of the brain, but little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage, so treatment largely consists of various forms of rehabilitation therapy. Disabilities that persist often affect cognition, sensory processing, communication, and behavior.

Hopefully, the future for the coule featured in this story will improve. But with brain injury, no one can say for sure.

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