Discharge after Traumatic Brain Injury. Too Soon?

Discharge after Traumatic Brain Injury

Once the patient emerges from their coma the need to be in the Intensive Care Unit diminishes.  This is the part where the physicians decide what kind of care is appropriate for the brain injury survivor.  Many times the survivor now gets the wrong end of the stick.  Brain injury care is very crucial at this time because it can determine the outcome of their recovery. So many times discharge comes way to early.

We have learned about the mistakes made by hospitals and insurance companies when it comes to survivors emerging from their coma and their discharge procedures. In our TBI Voices project we interviewed over thirty survivors of traumatic brain injury.  In the midst of their personal stories we have heard how hospitals tend to discharge them into situations that may not only hamper their recovery but may have caused more harm than good.

One example is the story of Gina.  Gina was in a tubing accident that resulted in a skull fracture.  She didn’t immediately lose consciousness which happens quite often and she was semi-lucid as they were airlifting her to the nearest trauma one center.  Her injuries resulted in brain swelling and brain bleeding.  They had to perform a craniectomy to relieve the pressure caused by the swelling. A craniectomy is when they remove part of the skull.  The part they remove is called a brain flap or also known as a bone flap.  Almost always this part of the skull will be reattached but not always.  She did become comatose and remained in a coma for eight days.

Once she started to emerge from her coma, her insurance company gave her husband 24 hours to transfer her to a hospital within “their network”. A discharge story that came way too early.  The insurance companies network did not include a facility for her to be discharged to that would have been appropriate for Gina’s coma emergence and her recovery.  To read Gina’s story click here

Another example of an early discharge is told in the story of Chris.  Chris was a 15 year old typical teenager.  While walking to her Grandmother’s house for a birthday celebration she was hit by a drunken driver.  Her injuries resulted in a coma that lasted three weeks.  At one point an intern suggested that she would never come out of a vegetative state and they should seriously consider taking her off life support.  Thank goodness her parents were not excepting of this at all and once they spoke to her neurosurgeon were assured that there was hope for Chris and that the intern gave them extremely poor advice and should not have done that.

Chris’s coma emergence was a very slow and painful process.  When she opened her eyes she had no comprehension of anything including her surroundings, or what had happened.  Once she started to emerge from her coma they transferred her to another hospital that was more suited for brain injury patients coming out of a coma.  She spent three months there when she was transferred to yet another hospital where finally she got the kind of care and therapy that she had needed all along.  The third hospital is where Chris finally began her recovery.  If it hadn’t been for her caring family that worked with Chris constantly when there were there she may not have gotten as far as she had by the time they transferred her for the second time to a facility equipped to handle Chris’s needs.  To read all of Chris’s story click here

The discharge part of recovery is so very important.  Even though the medical community has made strides in dealing with the severely brain injured community it still has a long way to go.  For those survivors that need an extensive long term rehabilitation, the choices are limited.  We can help you find a facility that can help your loved one.  We have years of experience with the brain injury community and can help you find the right place to handle your loved ones needs.  Click here for information on how to contact us click here

Next: Returning Home after Brain Injury


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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