As a physician, I see the devastating effects of brain injuries in my patients. From teenagers who are no longer allowed to play sports and who now have cognitive challenges, to adults whose brain injury has literally changed their personality, to veterans who have suffered TBI’s (traumatic brain injuries) and struggle to explain why they are disabled when they bear no visible scars – brain injuries can be complex to manage, long-lasting, and the effects can change from day to day.
One of the most profound concussion cases I witnessed was in medical school when an internal medicine physician in a rural practice had what anyone would think was a simple concussion. Dr. Smith (name changed) was pulling into his driveway, had his seatbelt off, and another vehicle hit the back of his car. He had a brief loss of consciousness and a headache.
Three months later, Dr. Smith still couldn’t function at anywhere close to previous work capacity. His short- and long-term memory suffered. He couldn’t recall patients he had cared for over the past 20 years!
Because I was in a longitudinal program, I watched how he had to claw his way back to seeing 2 patients in the morning, to 4, to working only half days with longer appointments, to finally, after 6 months, getting back to a full schedule. But he shared with me one day that his confidence was gone. He didn’t trust his recall of treatment options in critically ill patients’ care in the hospital. He didn’t trust himself not to have an outburst or say something the wrong way. (Before the accident, this gentle, compassionate man had never said an unkind word to patients or staff, to my knowledge.)
What has stuck with me ever since that time period was how much we take for granted. We always expect our thoughts to be solid and reliable. It never occurs to us that the ability to think clearly can be taken away in a blink of an eye. And it never occurs to us how an entire career can be destroyed almost to the point of starting over…just by a “simple” head injury. (Hint: none of them are simple…)
Take a look at the information from Victoria Griffin on her upcoming anthology. This material is relevant and touches on concepts that have affected all of us to some extent. As writers, this upcoming work may stretch our boundaries of empathy and the ability to convey the human condition. As readers, we can gain understanding of what loved ones around us might have endured. And as humans, any piece of art that makes us feel and grow, that makes us have more compassion toward others, and gets us to appreciate how fragile is the ability to create our own thoughts…? Then it’s worth the investment of time, effort and support.
Let me know if you all have stories about head injuries, concussions, TBI’s that you’d like to share. Or better yet, put pen to paper and send those stories to Victoria. Your voices need to be heard!