Mild Traumatic Brain Injury – Concussions that Crash the Mind
Crashing Minds – Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
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Mild Traumatic Brain Injury is best told through stories, too. But the stories of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury are a different kind of story – stories of misdiagnosis, stories of unexplained hardship. The mild traumatic brain injury stories are also stories of depression, anxiety and loss of confidence and self worth.
It has been a hard day, a productive day, and thus a good day for Bill, a senior partner in a downtown law firm. Work finished, he is heading home, thoughts on dinner, family and the day’s accomplishments, tomorrow’s hearing.
Back at the office, Suzy is almost finished with her long day, putting the finishing touches on the brief the Bill must file in the morning. Pleased with her work, perhaps a bit too much in a hurry, she sends the document to print.
Bill in his car wasn’t in a hurry, but the driver in the red pickup was. The other driver was in too much of a hurry to look carefully before pulling into Bill’s path. Bill saw the truck approaching the stop sign, giving that truck no more thought than any other vehicle he passed on his way home, until –
Suzy stares in shock at her computer screen: “Oh no .. the printer isn’t responding, the cursor has stopped blinking .. not now, did I save it? Oh my God…”
Bill’s attention is now suddenly riveted on the red pickup: “He is running the stop sign? No he can’t be.. my God.. brake, swerve.. crash… “ All of these thoughts in a succession of instants, adding up to no more than a couple of seconds, no where near enough time to slow his car from just over 55 mph to avoid the collision…
For Suzy, the computer crash means long hours of work, into the night, redoing what Bill will need to file with the judge tomorrow, not knowing that no amount of restarts will allow Bill to ever again, handle the speed, the pressure, the processing demands of appearing in Court.
Why the title “Crashing Minds?” These are stories and essays about mild traumatic brain injury, subtle but disastrous damage to our bodies hard drives, central processing units and circuitry. Analogizing a life changing mild traumatic brain injury to a computer crash could offend some as trivializing the devastation involved. Yet our increasing knowledge as to how machines store and process information is making it far easier to teach about brain injury, even mild traumatic brain injury.
As Bill’s car t-boned the red pickup, his body and brain were subjected to intense forces. If he had hit that pickup without time to react, he might have died. This would not be a story of mild traumatic brain injury. With no braking, the deceleration of his brain and the crush damage to the vehicle might have been too intense for even the airbags and the seat belt to have deflected. But as Bill had some opportunity to react, the life robbing forces were changed, to some degree reduced.
Swerving his car to the right, deflected the blow. Rather than totally crushing the front end of his car, much of the force was directed to spinning his vehicle. While his head hit the metal piece that holds the windshield, the airbag and seat belt kept him away from the windshield.
But protecting a brain is a bit more complex than building an egg carton. What the airbag and seat belt couldn’t eliminate was the dynamic spinning forces as his head went through a torturous arc. The forward and backward motion of the linear (straight line) stop, was combined with the twisting, spinning motion of the spin.
“Oh my God. I’m alive. Damn that was close. I thought I was a goner.” .” These are Bill’s next thoughts. Then: “Quick, get out of the car, the door won’t open.” Bill ultimately climbs over the back seat, and out the rear passenger door and stands by the side of the road, looking at the mess of torn steel, plastic and glass. He is conscious, shaken, bleeding above his hairline, his neck getting more sore by the minute.
Within 10 minutes the ambulance people arrive at the scene, talk to him, become concerned about the increasing pain in his neck and strap him to a gurney. He is loaded in the ambulance, taken to the ER, poked, probed, asked simple questions. He is sent to X-Ray while still strapped to the board. The pain in his head is now the most severe, the strap holding him to the gurney feels like some artifact from an ancient torture chamber. It feels as if each passing minute, it is seemingly ratcheted tighter, pressure building. Neck X-rays take forever, having to repeat them three times, because Bill’s shoulders blades obscure the lower cervical vertebral bodies.
Finally, the pictures are clear, neck fractures are ruled out, the ever tightening belt around Bill’s mind is released. And almost as quickly, Bill is released from the hospital. The words mild traumatic brain injury are never spoken, perhaps never even considered at the emergency room. Bill knows who he is, where he is and what day it is.
For a more traditional approach to the the topic of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, go to Subtle Brain Injury