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Acquired Brain Injury

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Glen Power - Drummer with The Script

Glen Power of The Script talks to us today about his miraculous recovery from a skull fracture. An incident which has since seen Glen get involved with headway, a helpline set up to help people and their family members deal with Head related injuries.

Dr. Suvi Korpelianen

What is an acquired brain injury?

An injury to the brain that you were not born with.

There are a few types:-

1. A traumatic brain injury is caused by an external force, like what Glen experience such as a fall, car accident or an assault.
2. Stroke or hemorrhage
3. Damage through infections such as meningitis
4. Anoxic brain injury - Can be a result of heart failure, where people experience a feeling of drowning.

Is it apparent immediately after the accident?

No, there are primary injuries, which is the blow of the impact at the time, and it may feel sore, but the real problems within the brain, which we can secondary injuries, often happen hours before the accident.

This can include bleeding internally, bruising internally or swelling. It is in the first few hours of this happening that we can really do the most work to prevent long term damage.

Any warning signs?

. Period of unconsiousness
. Period of Disorientation
. Strange behaviour
. Memory loss
. Vomiting
. Vertigo

These warning signs depend on where in the brain the injury is sustained, and the extent of the injury, i.e. what kind of impact there was.

What are the consequences?

With traumatic brain injury it depends on the side of the head that is damaged.

The front of the brain:-

Cognitive Characteristics:- This is where most activity happens, so it would be the most important part. If someone is damaged in that area there is often difficulty with planning, problem solving, attention and concentration. They also may act inappropriately and experience increased apathy.

Physical consequences:- Co-Ordination and Balance is Affected

Left side of the brain:-

Cognitive characteristics This is the communication side of the brain. This is typical of a stroke victim, and may result in speech diffiulties, difficulty in understand, and memory loss.

Physical: Difficulties with the right hand side of your body:-

Right side of the brain:-

Cognitive Characteristics:- This affects perception and facial skills.
Physical Characteristics possible weakness and persistant headaches and fatigue.

Behavioural Consequences:-

This can be very varied but ABI can lead to huge behavioural change, and often characteristics that the person had before the injury can get much exaggerated, mainly with anger. There is sometimes sexual inappropriateness, either verbally or physically. Many people also experience massive amounts of apathy, where they need help or encouragement to do all tasks or day to day things.

Do effects go over time?

The first three years are when the brain heals itself, so if the person is given good treatment then there are good chances of recovery. However with some elements, such as stroke where speech is flawed, it is generally permanent.

Through rehabilitation and support groups like Headway, patients are told how to live with the things like memory loss/coordination problems etc by getting patients to use diaries, calendar etc so and name association that they can live with their injury if it doesn't get better.

People with problem solving issues are encouraged to write everything down,

Are people with brain injury more careful?

Some people get a terrible fright and can end up feeling very vulnerable and may resist social activity. However in some instances, if they've aquired a brain injury and are still recovering, their coordination and sense of danger may be quite low and are actually very vulnerable to having another one.

Is there a misconception that people with brain injury means less intelligence?

Yes there is certainly that misconception, and that's all that there is. Most injuries are to a certain part of the head so the rest of the brain functions as normal. This is a huge part of the stigma associated with acquired brain injury.

If someone has a fall but doesn't feel that they've been hurt. They've no loss of consciousness - should they still get checked out?

People should always err on the side of caution, but also trust their instinct. I don't want to scare anyone but there have been cases, as with Natasha Richardson where someone thinks they are okay, goes to sleep and doesn't wake up.

What can be done to lessen the occurrence of acquired brain injuries in Ireland?

Main ones are:

1. Road Safety
2. Wearing Helmets and proper sports equipment
3. Reduce alcohol intake

Why are men aged 16 - 29 at biggest risk?

Well unsafe driving is associated with men in this age group, as is alcohol and sport, so this is why they are the major risk group.

How do family and friends cope?

It's important to remember that brain injury doesn't just happen to the person who aquires it, and family members need to remember to look after themselves first if they are to care for someone else. Also there are support groups through somewhere like Headway and they should always stay in touch with people who are going through the same thing.

Where can you go for help?
Helpline 1890 200 278