Every year in March, millions observe Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month by spreading news, information and messages of hope for TBI patients. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, the running theme for March from 2015 to 2017 aims to send a powerful message to TBI patients: “Not Alone.”
What is TBI Awareness Month?
The goal of TBI Awareness Month is to increase the general public’s understanding of traumatic brain injuries, how they occur and how the average person can show support to TBI patients and their families. The Brain Injury Association of America encourages supporters to help eliminate TBI stereotypes and stigmas this month while empowering patients to seek the support they need to live fulfilling lives.
What is a TBI?
The term ‘traumatic brain injury’ encompasses everything from a mild concussion to a penetrating injury that completely changes a patient’s mental capabilities or eliminates independent functioning. There are 5.3 million Americans currently living with some degree of brain injury that lessens their ability to perform daily activities.
What Struggles Come With a TBI?
According to the CDC, up to 40% of patients hospitalized for a TBI maintained at least one “unmet need” a year after they were first treated. An “unmet need” can include memory improvement setbacks, emotional challenges or anxieties, difficulties managing anger, or the struggle to secure gainful employment.
In addition to the lifestyle impact and emotional challenges, the medical and uninsured costs associated with a TBI are staggering. A mild traumatic brain injury can generate medical bills of over $85,000, and a severe injury could cost a family $3 million or more. The average lifetime cost of a severe traumatic brain injury is between $600,000 and $1,875,000. HelpHOPELive works with severe TBI patients to fundraise for the sometimes shocking uninsured medical expenses associated with their injury.
Powerful Stories from TBI Patients
Amy Zellmer, a writer and TBI survivor, gave us a glimpse into her daily life in honor of TBI Awareness Month. “A TBI changes you,” wrote Zellmer. “My personality is different. My energy levels and sleep patterns are foreign to me. The confused woman in the kitchen staring at the oven is someone I am just now starting to understand.”
Here are some powerful insights from other TBI patients and their supporters.
“I have severe memory problems and headaches, and emotional problems. I’m unable to drive now because of my slowed reaction time. I don’t know if I’ll need any more brain surgeries.”
“I do not remember details of my day by the end of the day…my recollections are limited to whatever I wrote in my journal…my medical reports still show I had a ‘mild’ TBI.”
“I’ve had TBI-related injures 10+ years back due to work injuries…[and] have angry spurts. It’s embarrassing and humiliating.”
“Families and strangers alike are often unaware of what is happening with the TBI patient. If there are no obvious signs of the injury, people can be ruthless and unforgiving…for an adult with a TBI, it is like a double injury, being treated like a child along with the inability to do what they could do before.”
Finding Strength in the Struggle
One anonymous TBI survivor had powerful advice for fellow patients: “with the strong support from medical, faith, family, and friends, life goes on. I didn’t give up [and] don’t believe in a can’t attitude. Help is out there if you really want it. NEVER GIVE UP.”
Sharing a message of hope and persistence, TBI patient and HelpHOPELive fundraiser Luis Jovel Jr. described to the Washington Post how he found silver linings in the midst of his TBI recovery. “[The accident has] made me better, in every way,” said Jovel. “I’m happy with the way I am, but I always want more. I want to walk [and] I want to be the best person that I can [be].”
Show TBI Patients They Are ‘Not Alone’
New resources, including TBI forums and documentaries, make it easier than ever to learn about the impact of a TBI. As you read, watch and learn, show TBI patients across the country they are not alone in their daily struggle to regain normalcy and cognitive functionality.