(Editor’s note: Writer, investigative journalist and BEST guest blogger, Isaac Peterson, shares some brain injury awareness information in honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month. Thank you Isaac for the important facts about brain injury. KT)
A few times while contributing writing to this blog, I’ve mentioned undiagnosed traumatic brain injury (TBI) and never really thought about it.
Then, out of the blue, it occurred to me to wonder how it’s possible to have a traumatic brain injury and not be aware of it.
How could you not know you have a TBI?
I think I was making the mistake of thinking anyone with a traumatic brain injury was as bad off as I was, and continue to be, although I’m getting progressively better. After my stroke, I was a real mess mentally and physically. In fact, I felt as messed up as a soup sandwich.
How could someone make it through what I did and not know they have a brain injury?
After a while I remembered not all brain injuries are alike, and neither are the symptoms.
I finally looked into it out of my own curiosity. Here are some things I learned. (Keep in mind this is a broad topic and what I have here is only intended to be general information).
First, there are three levels of brain injury: mild, moderate and severe:
Mild TBI: A person may experience unconsciousness for a few seconds or a few minutes; Post-Traumatic Amnesia (PTA) lasting for a few minutes.
Moderate TBI: Loss of consciousness for several hours; PTA 1-24 hours after injury.
Severe TBI: Loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours, PTA for more than 24 hours. This is the kind of TBI I have.
Some major causes of TBI are external force to the head, oxygen deprivation (examples are near-drowning, near-suffocation, or breathing exhaust fumes), strokes or tumors (these are called acquired brain injury)–and it goes without saying—brain damage.
My severe TBI is a result of a stroke, which created pressure inside my skull on my brain. It put me in the acute care ward for an entire month and left me with ongoing physical, neurological and short-term memory problems.
Fortunately, not all brain injuries are a bad as mine.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no cause for concern.
From what I can make out, people with mild TBI are the ones most likely to have an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury, so they are the least likely to be diagnosed and/or treated. Mild brain injuries can still have a negative effect on certain behaviors and quality of life.
People with milder TBI may experience any number of changes—depression or mood swings may be clues that point to a brain injury, especially if they’re not usual.
Some symptoms of brain injury may at first be diagnosed as something else entirely and distract from being aware that brain injury may be a possible cause.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Persistent headaches.
- Mental fatigue.
- Physical fatigue.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Sleep disorders.
One thing that may contribute to brain injuries going undiagnosed and untreated is feeling like the onset of symptoms is just one of those things that come and go, and that they will go away on their own.
Such attitudes may lead one to forego medical attention that could detect a brain injury.
It may be possible to have a brain injury and not have those symptoms, however.
Our skulls really aren’t as thick as people think they are; any jolt to the head that causes movement inside the skull can cause a brain injury. Or as I said before, it may be pressure inside the skull or oxygen deprivation.
If you take a blow to the head, think about getting checked out by a doctor; there are diagnostic procedures I won’t bore you with. You may not have a TBI, but if you do, why not make sure and have it treated if you do have one?
I advocate maintaining a relationship with your doctor and not hesitating to schedule a visit, whether you think anything is wrong or not.
I’ll end here with two cliches that I think apply: what you don’t know really can hurt you and better safe than sorry.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming.After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at email@example.com.
(Editor’s note: How much do traumatic brain injuries really cost? Writer, journalist and BEST guest blogger, Isaac Peterson, explores the true costs of brain injuries. The information Isaac provides is eye-opening and really makes one think. Thank you Isaac for this thought-provoking piece. KT).
I was just thinking about all the money it must have cost to keep me alive after the stroke I had and the resulting traumatic brain injury (TBI).
I know it must have been a whole lot of money, but I don’t know how much because I’ve got pretty good medical coverage and I don’t see any medical bills.
But I know it must be costing somebody; between my month-long hospital stay, the follow-up doctor visits, the neurological specialists, the MRIs, prescriptions, and more, that must add up to a whole pile of dough.
To start with, I found a couple of websites that claim to list the average cost by state for hospital stays. As far as I can tell, my month in the hospital probably cost more than $10,000 just for the stay itself, but I was in the acute care ward, and that surely raised the cost.
I also wondered how many tacos I could buy with that kind of money, but I couldn’t find any scientific studies about that.
Since I’m far from the only stroke/TBI survivor in the United States, I wondered how much money is spent on people like me. How much do traumatic brain injuries cost a year in this country for everyone with a TBI?
Time to let my journalist freak flag fly; sorry I have to use bullet points, but here’s some stuff I found out. Most of what’s here is from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They don’t completely agree with each other, but they were both in the same ballpark. Some were from different years, and that makes it hard to zero in on the costs because the cost for medical care seems to be going up all the time.
But here is some of what I found out:
- This first point is about the numbers of traumatic brain injuries compared to two other major health problems in the United States. I found these estimates: for 2018 an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and there were an estimated approximate 609,640 deaths. About 610,000 people die of heart disease every year in the United States.
- About 1.7 million cases of TBI occur in the U.S. every year. (Wow–it looks like the number of TBI cases is basically comparable to the cancer rate in the U.S).
- Head injuries accounted for 13% of all injuries requiring hospitalization.
- The TBI number above is for new TBIs in a year. That doesn’t include the number of people already living with a TBI: approximately 5.3 million people live with a disability caused by TBI in the U.S. alone. TBI is also a contributing factor to a third of all injury-related deaths in the United States. The number I listed above is kind of an estimate; In 2010, approximately 2.5 million people sustained a traumatic brain injury, so the number fluctuates.
- So who gets brain injuries? Must be a whole lot of people, since we spend so much money, and it is.
- Falls are the leading cause of TBI. And while anyone can get a TBI, the very young and the very old get more than their share of brain injuries. The number of children aged 0-4 years old and in older adults aged 75 years or older seems to be on the rise and I didn’t find a reason why that is. The elderly have the highest number of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths.
- Shaken Baby Syndrome causes a category of TBI called abusive head trauma (AHT) and inflicted traumatic brain injury (ITBI), and is a leading cause of child mistreatment deaths in the United States.
- The most common overall causes of TBI-related deaths in the U.S. are motor vehicle accidents, firearms, unintentional falls, and motorcycle crashes. Explosions and other kinds of blasts, along with impacts to the head are a leading cause of TBI for active duty military personnel in war zones. Children in foster care and victims of domestic violence are at heightened risk. And there are people like me who acquire traumatic brain injuries from strokes, aneurysms and other health conditions.
Now, an estimate of the dollar amount spent on TBI a year: the estimated economic cost of TBI, including direct and indirect medical costs, is estimated to be approximately $76.5 billion. About 90% of the estimated cost are from fatal TBIs and those requiring hospitalization.
That’s a whole lot of tacos.
I wasn’t able to find an estimate for the dollars spent on the different kinds of therapies (physical, occupational, etc.) and other post-injury support, but it’s got to be way up there.
So: what can be done to avoid traumatic brain injuries and their cost?
Sadly, there isn’t a one size fits all kind of cure.
Preventative measures don’t seem to do much good; while bicycle, motorcycle, and football helmets are good ideas and can provide some measure of prevention, they can’t prevent most TBIs. Airbags in cars can cause traumatic brain injuries themselves. Any kind of jolt or impact that causes the brain to move can cause traumatic brain injuries, so the only way to prevent brain injuries simply must prevent movement inside a skull.
And then there are the costs that can’t be measured in dollars: the toll TBI takes in terms of individual human and personal costs.
- Many survivors live with their families, and that often puts a psychological burden on families, not to mention financial. The family can feel burdened for years or even a lifetime
- Close relationships are at risk and many marriages and partnerships break down. Married couples where one partner has a TBI have a higher divorce rate than the average
- A general feeling of social isolation and psychological distress can cause a survivor to partially or totally withdraw from social situations, even ones they enjoyed before they were injured.
- Mood disorders can occur and there is a high risk of suicide.
- A brain injury can cause a loss of productivity. If the injury is severe enough and lasts long enough, survivors may feel forced to abandon jobs or careers, which can contribute to a general feeling of despair, helplessness or uselessness.
And many more, too many more to list, but you get the idea.
So, in a nutshell, traumatic brain injuries cost individuals, families, and society a great deal of money, resources and pain.
There is no way to even begin to estimate all the total costs.
There is a whole lot more to know about traumatic brain injuries–someone could make a whole career out of researching and gathering information. It won’t be me though–having a TBI takes up most of my time.
It sure looks like it took quite a few dollars and resources to keep me alive and moving. Multiply my costs by all the other people with TBI, and you’re talking about a pretty significant number of tacos.
The thing is, I’m sure feel like I’m worth any cost.
Aren’t we all?
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Puget Sound area?
Here’s our flyer below. For a detailed activities calendar, click here.
And while you are visiting The Space, be sure to check out our one-of-a-kind Superhero Shoppe!
Want to be a superhero? Then visit us at the Superhero Shoppe for all your superhero and gift needs!
Here are all the details.
The Superhero Shoppe offers fun and unique superhero gifts, accessories and more. Proceeds from the Superhero Shoppe support the superheroes of the brain injury community and the superhero programs, services and resources (see below).
The Superhero Shoppe also proudly features the work of paper artist, Diane Rasch of Heartfelt Tidbits of Creativity.
Superhero Shoppe hours are Wednesdays from 12 pm to 6 pm and Thursdays 10 am to 4 pm.
We are located inside Our BEST Space at 2607 Bridgeport Way W. Suite #1H, University Place, Washington. Click here for driving directions.
Watch this space for our new online Superhero Shoppe coming soon on the BEST website! With our new and upcoming online shoppe, you can shop 24 X 7 from the convenience of home!
BEST will be adding new items regularly to the shoppe. Please visit the BEST blog for the latest inventory announcements and updates.
To note: As a volunteer organization, hours may vary. For more information, please contact us at 877-719-2378 or email@example.com. The Superhero Shoppe accepts cash, credit card or personal check (with valid ID and from a local bank only). We do not accept bills $50 and higher.
What are superheroes made of?
Now, what if we had the opportunity to answer that question and explore the answers through art?
How would that look like?
The photograph above of the lion is the symbol of being brave. Brave is a superhero word, most definitely!
This painting above has vibrant colors. We could consider it bold (bold, just like a superhero).
Why are we talking about superhero characteristics?
The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) is thrilled and honored to share that we have that very opportunity coming this fall.
BEST is going to be participating in a community art installation at the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM). Work displayed in Tacoma Art Museum’s TAM Local: Community Art Space for the Superhero show from October 16, 2019 to December 26, 2019.
We will have an opening reception Thursday, October 17, 2019 in the TAM Community Art Space.
To learn more about the community art installation program and the museum, please click here.
We are calling all BEST artists throughout Washington State to share your art with us!
Here’s everything you need to know:
WHO: The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) in partnership with the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM).
WHAT: A community art show at the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM). Work displayed in Tacoma Art Museum’s TAM Local: Community Art Space for the Superhero show from October 16, 2019 to December 26, 2019.
We will have an opening reception Thursday, October 17, 2019 from 5 pm to 7:30 pm in the Community Art Space at TAM.
BEST is seeking art from BEST Artists to share in the following forms: paintings, drawings, mixed-media collage, photography, 3D art, or sculpture.
WHEN: October 16, 2019 through December 26, 2019.
WHERE: Tacoma Art Museum (TAM), 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, Washington.
WHY: What are the characteristics of a superhero? What it is about these traits that make superheroes special? The local artists of the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) explore these questions through their art, along with their personal stories of the journey forward after traumatic brain injury. We cordially invite you to join us to celebrate finding our own superpowers, individual empowerment and the ability to thrive through art and artistic expression.
Okay, BEST Artists, let’s see your creativity!
HOW: Here are the steps to get started:
Step 1: Look at the Need to Know section below first to review this project. Requirements met? Great! Move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Think about superheroes. What are the traits of a superhero that stand out to you?
Step 3: Decide how you would answer that question through your art (see words and examples above for a little inspiration).
Step 4: Create your art (or if you have a piece of art that is ready that you’d like to share, feel free to share that with BEST).
Step 5: Tell us about your art. Email Kim Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know what kind of art you’d like to share for the show. Kim will assist you in answering your questions and providing additional information.
Need to Know:
BEST Artists, here’s what you need to know to participate!
1. Participating BEST Artists must be affiliated with the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) in one (or more) of the following ways:
a. support group participant
b. support group facilitator
d. board member
e. Our BEST Space participant
f. BEST team member
g. Second Life (PEER Center/BEST) participant
h. BEST primary community partner/supporter/contributor
2. BEST artists must be a brain injury survivor, caregiver of a brain injury survivor or closely work with brain injury survivors in a support capacity.
3. Participating BEST artists must be a Washington State resident.
4. BEST artists will submit artwork to BEST via personal delivery to Our BEST Space in University Place, Washington, or by mail to the BEST mailing address on or before the submission deadline of Thursday, August 1, 2019, 5 pm.
5. BEST artists will provide an artist’s statement and specific details of the artistic medium and materials to BEST along with a photo of their work which may be used for promotional purposes.
6. BEST Artists must agree to have their work(s) displayed for the duration of the show which is October 16, 2019 to December 26, 2019.
7. BEST Artists will understand that BEST reserves the right to not accept an art submission for any reason.
8. BEST Artists understand that they are responsible for framing and having artwork display ready for any submitted artwork as appropriate and within the guidelines outlined by the Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) that will be included in the instructions when you contact BEST.
9. For artists outside of the Greater Puget Sound area that wish to submit their work by mail, art must be prepared appropriately for mailing and sent to BEST at the following mailing address: Brain Energy Support Team 3800A Bridgeport Way W. #393 University Place, WA 98466.
10. Need assistance in submitting your work to BEST? Have any questions or concerns about getting your art ready? Please reach out to BEST (Kim Thompson at email@example.com) no later than July 1, 2019 for assistance. We are happy to help you!
11. If artists have 3D works (mixed media collage, sculpture, large works), artists must contact BEST with art project information (size, materials, weight and other pertinent details) at least FOUR WEEKS prior to the art submission deadline of Thursday, August 1, 2019 5 pm. To note, due to space limitations and other guidelines established by TAM, these pieces of artwork must be approved by BEST and TAM in partnership first before submission to the show.
12. After the show, artists are welcome to display their works at Our BEST Space in University Place, Washington, for a time duration that they choose. If the artist would like their work returned to them right after the show, they will need to specify this preference to BEST any time after December 27, 2019. If artists wish to have their work returned, it will be available for pick-up after December 27, 2019 during BEST Space hours of operation or BEST will return works by mail to the artist if requested and the cost is reasonable and sustainable (large and/or heavy works, sculptures or other 3D art will not be eligible for return mail).