Traumatic Brain Injury: A Silent Epidemic

Each year, an estimated two million Americans suffer some form of traumatic brain injury (TBI); this averages out to about one every 15 seconds. Approximately 5.3 million Americans are living with disabilitieshat have resulted from a TBI.
Several years ago, I received one myself. When a culprit attempted to rob a bookstore I’ve owned for 25 years, I resisted. The perpetrator then decided it would be a good idea to slam a metal pipe down upon my head, cracking my skull even as I threw him out the front doors.
Following this egregious incident I found myself in a dense fog for more than three months and still believe I am experiencing repercussions that I may never fully recover from. I truly got a first hand look at some of the symptoms my father dealt with while suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Further, I couldn’t write for an entire month. I also found myself constantly walking into rooms and being unable to remember what I was there for! Fortunately for me, most of my symptoms have finally cleared up.
I recently got a phone call from a woman who prompted me to write this, what was an originally an article. As she began to tell me that she had been a life-long athlete, I thought for sure, with all the media attention lately given to head injuries, that this was where she was headed. However, it turned out that she had fallen from a chair and hit the back of her head severely. She soon found herself suffering from multiple symptoms such as: migraine-like headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, and even some dementia. She spent two years and eleven days endlessly searching for help before she was finally diagnosed with TBI.

I previously had the opportunity to interview Dr. Gerry Fischer from Florida, a “neuropsychologist.” He explained to me why TBIs are called the “Silent Epidemic.” He described how, many times, the injuries are to the myelin covering of microscopic brain cells that cannot be detected by medical scans; even the patient’s EEG may be normal.

These damaged cells may disrupt the biochemical function of the brain, not only causing symptoms of dementia but loss of emotional control. This may leave the patient crying for no reason or going through bouts of agitation, then leading to the common misdiagnosis of depression or bipolar condition. Traditional cognitive tests may prove inadequate for this type of brain assessment. Instead, a battery of empirically derived sensitive tests must be ordered.

Fischer suggested that the “Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Battery” be performed. This test goes into much greater detail, testing a number of sensory and motor task skills along with the cognitive abilities. The test grades four methods of inference:

• Levels of skilled performance
• Right-left comparison
• Pathognomonic signs
• Patterns analysis
Our brains have more difficulty in healing than any other organ. Take it from someone who’s been through traumatic brain injury, we should never take these injuries lightly. Get checked out right away.

Sometimes it is the damage that is invisible that we have to worry about the most.

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