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Concussion-prone Berrick Barnes Takes Indefinite Break from Rugby

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 14, 2011 09:35


    Berrick Barnes
    The New South Wales Waratahs' Berrick Barnes has ruled himself out of the remainder of the domestic season. Photograph: Jason O'Brien/Action Images

    The Australia utility back Berrick Barnes has decided to take an indefinite break from rugby after seeking medical advice following repeated instances of concussion stemming from head knocks throughout the Super Rugby season.

    The 25-year-old, who can play fly-half and inside-centre, ruled himself out of the New South Wales Waratahs' lineup for the remainder of the season but hopes to be available for the Wallabies' squad in time for the World Cup in New Zealand, which starts in September.

    "I'm not hiding from the fact that I've been a bit frustrated and anxious about things and that's probably causing some of the issues I'm having as well," Barnes said in Sydney. "So to get away from the environment just for a little bit is probably going to be pretty beneficial in that respect."

    Barnes, a veteran of 31 Tests, said earlier this month he wanted to be allowed to wear a boxing-style helmet to protect himself, after missing two matches for the Waratahs because of concussion and another with a migraine.

    The long-term effects of head injuries are a growing concern in all contact sports and the IRB issued new guidelines on the treatment of concussion last month.

    In Australia, the issue was brought into focus earlier this year when the former Australian Rules footballer Daniel Bell lodged a claim for compensation after being diagnosed with brain damage linked to concussions he sustained while playing.

    Barnes has previously expressed wariness about sacrificing his long-term health for his rugby career. "I want to play a bit longer and look after my own health too so I'm trying to work out the best way to do it," he said earlier this month. "I understand that footy is not a forever thing, I don't want to be affecting the forever part in any adverse sense."

    Barnes's loss comes as a further blow for the injury-hit Waratahs' post-season hopes. The Sydney-based side face a crunch match against the ACT Brumbies this weekend, needing victory in the regular season's last round to secure a top six play-off berth.





3D Technology Can Guide Brain Injury Treatment

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 14, 2011 09:32

Scientists are hoping that they can better understand the consequences of brain injury through loss of consciousness using 3D technology.

A 3D movie formed using sophisticated imaging equipment by researchers at Manchester University appears to show that loss of consciousness is caused by a change in electrical activity.

Lead researcher Brian Pollard, who presented findings to the European Anaesthesiology Congress in Amsterdam, suggested that it is caused by a change in activity among a group of cells which hinder communication between different parts of the brain.

He suggests that this functions more like a dimmer switch than a simple 'on-off'.

"We have been able to see a real time loss of consciousness in anatomically distinct regions of the brain for the first time," said Professor Pollard. "We are currently working on trying to interpret the changes that we have observed. We still do not know exactly what happens."

The findings and subsequent interpretations could be used to guide future treatment of brain injuries in emergency situations.

Serious Law, award winning traumatic brain injury law firm

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How the Brain Heals

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 14, 2011 09:27

Healing the human brain, one of the body’s great mysteries, is a much more complicated issue and oftentimes, there’s little a doctor can do to treat damage to the brain. However, breakthroughs in clinical neuroscience are teaching us that an injured brain often has an amazing potential to heal itself. In many cases, given the proper rest and rehabilitation, an injured brain can actually grow new neurons and form new connections, which scientists call “neurogenesis” and “neuroplasticity.”

Physical brain trauma can be broken into two categories -- internal and external. Internal brain injury, such as a stroke, can be caused by blood vessel blockages or from bleeding into the brain. Traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, is caused by some kind of external trauma and causes more diffuse brain injury. Both internal and external brain injuries may be capable of healing to varying degrees, but the process can be frustrating.

Last year, for example, I saw a 20-year-old high-performing college student suffering from a concussion after a head-to-head soccer collision resulted in loss of consciousness for less than a minute. A week after this mild traumatic brain injury, he was still having trouble paying attention in class and retaining information. He tried studying more, but that stole time away from the sleep he needed to recover. His grades dropped. He was also short-tempered with friends, and when socializing, one drink of alcohol felt like three. All of these symptoms are typical signs of a concussion.

When he had unusual headaches, I had him see a neurologist. Though his MRI was normal, his parents sensed that he wasn’t quite himself.  In effect, some of his normal brain connections had short-circuited. We developed a plan and with support from his parents, he wisely decided to take the rest of the semester off to allow his brain the time to rest and recover. He entered a traumatic brain injury program in which they emphasized healing nutrition and adequate rest, gradually adding brain stimulation exercises to work on his memory, concentration and moods.

Fortunately, this young man’s story had a good ending, as he returned the next semester and felt back to his normal functioning. But had he not taken time to properly heal, his concussion could have lingered weeks, even months, taking him on a roller coaster ride of feeling fine one day, fuzzy and disoriented the next. In any kind of TBI, the most important initial treatment is rest -- physical and cognitive -- until the brain recovers enough to start to repair itself. Common symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, fogginess, memory loss, fuzzy vision, stomachaches and mood swings. More severe head injuries involving coma or blast injuries as seen in veterans, can have more severe effects and require longer, more intensive rehabilitation.

Unlike externally acquired head injuries, strokes result in more localized neurological symptoms, and damage to the most severely injured stroke areas can be permanent. The stroke patient has an enormous challenge to try to overcome both loss of function and sometimes loss of dignity. 

However, stroke patients often have a zone of partial injury that is amenable to improvement through neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. That’s where aggressive and insightful rehab comes in. Adding a whole food diet rich in the phytonutrients found in a colorful variety of vegetables, along with adequate amounts of vitamin D, B vitamins and omega-3 fish oil, will support regenerating nerve cells, giving the brain its best chance to heal. Mental outlook is also an important factor; avoiding depression is essential to optimize stroke recovery.  The best stroke rehabilitation programs look at the whole person and help the patient cope with the physical, emotional, and social aspects of loss while helping the patient find the inner will to work hard on those functions that are capable of improvement.

And with any brain injury, whether minor or catastrophic, don’t discount the power of the human connection. Above all, the social interactions and support of loving family and friends have an immeasurable potential to heal. 




Connections: Summer 2011

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 9, 2011 14:43

Welcome to our summer edition of Connections - You can access the registration and pledge forms for the walk on the events page or by contacting your local chapter.


sbia-summer-2011.pdf (1.49 mb)



New Zealand University Targets Youth in Head Injury Awareness Campaign

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 7, 2011 08:34

It’s been called “the invisible epidemic”, but a group of researchers at the University of Waikato are conducting a series of studies to find out more about brain injury and impact it can have on people’s lifelong health and social interactions.

As part of Head Injury Awareness Week, Waikato University’s Dr Nicola Starkey and research officer Rosalind Case will join other agencies and organisations at Nawton shopping centre on Tuesday June 7 to get the message out about the symptoms and potential impact of brain injuries.

Dr Starkey says head injury – or traumatic brain injury (TBI) as it’s technically known - is very common.

“Brain injury can happen to anyone at any time – in a car crash or while playing sports, as well as through assaults and falls,” she says.

“Up to 95% of all TBIs are mild– what is often called concussion, affecting around 24,000 New Zealanders each year, but there’s very little information available on the social and healthcare implications of TBI for sufferers and their families.”

Typical signs of mild TBI are seeing stars, loss of consciousness and not remembering what happened. Mild TBI can lead to fatigue, poor memory, long-lasting headaches, irritability and inability to concentrate.

Over the past year, Dr Starkey with colleagues at AUT and Auckland University has collated information on every incident of head injury in the Waikato region in a study funded by the Health Research Council.

New funding totaling nearly $350,000 from the HRC and the Lotteries Grants Board means the researchers can now extend the study to focus on the impact of TBI on young people and their families.

“This will be the first longitudinal study of children with mild TBI,” says Dr Starkey. “Social behaviour is very complex, and deficits resulting from TBI can have a big impact on children and adolescents. They can end up in the wrong crowd, where they are more at risk from drugs, alcohol and crime.”

One study will focus on the 8- to 16-year-olds identified with mild TBI in the initial research. The researchers will focus on social behaviour and school-related functioning for up to two years after the initial injury.

“We’ll be looking at how these kids manage their emotions, how they cope with planning and organisation,” says Dr Starkey. “The injury may not alter their behaviour at the time, but it may have an impact further down the line.”

Another study will examine the impact of brain injury on school-related functioning in younger children, aged five to 11.

Research officer Rosalind Case, who has been awarded a $250,000 HRC clinical research fellowship to conduct the study with Dr Starkey, will work with local schools to follow the progress of children with mild TBI compared with a matched control group of unaffected children.

“We’ll be asking teachers and parents for their impressions of the childrens’ classroom behaviour and academic achievement,” says Ms Case. “Previous research indicates that TBI can prevent children from reaching normal developmental milestones, so we hope this study will add to what we know about the long-term impact of TBI.”





High Tech Scan to Detect Brain Injury in Soldiers

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   June 6, 2011 08:46

An experimental high-tech brain scan is finding previously undetected traumatic brain injury in servicemen who sustain concussions in combat.

The research is considered a first step toward a better understanding of what happens in the brain after bomb blasts and what might be done about it, said Dr. David Brody of Washington University in St. Louis. He's senior author of the study in the June 2 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Blast-related traumatic brain injuries have affected about 320,000 U.S. troops and are considered the "signature" injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, HealthDay reported. But because concussions alone cause no visible damage, experts have debated whether they actually damaged the brain.

The new "diffusion tensor imaging" scans seem to suggest that concussions can affect the "wiring" that connects parts of the brain. It's unclear what the new finding suggests for treatment, Brody said. Scientists are studying whether they reveal anything about a patient's future course, such as the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The scans were done by adding software to an ordinary MRI machine.

The results suggest doctors may someday be able to use objective markers to help make a concussion diagnosis, said Katherine Helmick, deputy director for traumatic brain injury at the federally funded Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage that results from traumatic brain injury, which can cause changes in mood, behavior. But patients can often be helped with physical and occupational therapy and other forms of treatment.




Toronto Star Investigation - What "Really" Killed Bill Masterson?

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 30, 2011 10:10

It’s the most gruesome distinction in hockey: Only one player has ever died from injuries directly suffered in an NHL game.

When Bill Masterton’s limp body collapsed to the ice on Jan. 15, 1968, the Minnesota North Stars centre appeared to be the victim of an innocuous hit. Thirty hours later, he was dead in hospital.

Today his story is nearly forgotten, but for an annual NHL award that bears his name. It honours perseverance and dedication to hockey.

The irony is that perseverance probably killed Bill Masterton.

What happened in the days leading up to that fatal moment in Minneapolis, when Masterton played his 38th and final NHL game, has been largely a mystery.

But a Star investigation has uncovered evidence that an earlier, untreated concussion was likely responsible for Masterton’s death at the age of 29.

That injury was compounded by the age-old hockey code that preaches shake-it-off-and-get-back-out-there resilience in the face of pain, serious injury, even brain trauma.

“I’ve never said this to anyone before,” said Wren Blair, Masterton’s coach and general manager, now 85. “I’ve never thought that it had anything to do with that hit. I think he had a (pre-existing) cerebral brain hemorrhage.”

Those closest to Masterton concur he was suffering from a brain injury before he stepped on to the ice that night, as does a medical expert who reviewed an autopsy report obtained by the Star.

Minnesota goalie Cesare Maniago’s wife, Mavis, had a clear view of Masterton’s fall from her seat in the stands. She, too, believes something else was wrong with Masterton that night, something that explains why the routine bodycheck left him unconscious even before he hit the ice.

“I saw Bill’s head after he was just checked from behind and it just looked like his eyes were in the back of his head,” she said. “I thought he was out then and just went fast right down.”

While much in hockey has changed since Masterton died, one thing hasn’t: Playing hurt is a sacred principle.

“Billy” Masterton’s commitment to the game was bred in the bone.

A ritual unfolded every Saturday evening in the small Masterton home in Winnipeg’s East Kildonan neighbourhood: brothers Bill and Bob took a bath, slipped into pajamas and sat together in front of a tiny electric fireplace while listening to Foster Hewitt on the radio.

“We spent a lot of time dreaming,” said Bob. “But my brother was the worker and he had the ethic that you need to make the NHL.”

He didn’t just work on the ice. He was a rarity in the way he prepared for a life outside the game. He starred at the University of Denver from 1957-61, helping the Pioneers win three national collegiate titles and earning tournament MVP honours his senior year. More importantly, he earned a degree.

Masterton left pro hockey after two seasons when it appeared he’d never make the NHL. He pursued a master’s degree in business engineering, eventually joining technology giant Honeywell, where he worked on the financial end of the Apollo project. He settled in Minneapolis with his high school sweetheart, Carol, and they adopted two children, Scott and Sally.

In 1967, Masterton’s nearly forgotten hope of playing in the NHL re-emerged with the league’s expansion from six to 12 teams. The Montreal Canadiens, which owned his rights, traded them to Minnesota. Blair, in charge of the North Stars, came calling.

Bob Masterton remembers his brother telling him about the NHL offer over dinner. “I looked at him and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ because he was just starting a young family,” said Bob. “It was kind of one of those things where I asked the question but I knew what he was going to do. It was always in the back of his mind.”

The season started with promise: Masterton scored the first goal in North Stars history. But 37 games later, in the days leading up to the hit that would kill him, there were signs all was not right.

The night before the fatal game against Oakland, Masterton was at Maniago’s house with his family — Scott was 3 and Sally, 1 — helping the genial goaltender celebrate his 29th birthday with teammates.

In a quiet moment, Masterton made a rare admission to Maniago: He was struggling with the effects of a head check into the glass during a recent game.

“He had been complaining of headaches,” said Maniago. “He’d got hit and even that night he said ‘Gee, I’ve really been getting these migraines and they’ve been with me for about a week.’”

In several games prior to the tragedy, Blair had also noticed something strange.

“I’d said to our trainer, ‘Do you ever look at Billy when the game’s on?’” Blair recalled. “His face is blood red, almost purple. (The trainer) said, ‘Yeah, I notice that too.’ I said, ‘I wonder if we could have him checked. There’s something wrong.’”

Masterton, who was always quick to dismiss concerns, was never sent to a doctor.

“I’m fine,” he’d say, the mantra of a thousand hockey players.

Carl Johnson, assistant general manager of Minnesota’s farm team in Memphis, said he was told Masterton had blacked out while on line rushes during practice.

Former Edmonton Oilers coach John Muckler, who coached the North Stars’ farm club in Memphis that season, said he saw signs of trouble with Masterton in training camp.

“I really believe he was injured before the fatal blow. I know that in our training camp he got hit hard a couple of times. And he got hit a few games very hard at the NHL level. His aggressiveness got him.”

Masterton wasn’t big. But he played as though he was, said Muckler.

“He wasn’t the most talented guy in the world but he really wanted to play. . . . He wanted it badly. I’ve never seen a person work so hard. He’d never show when he got hurt. He never laid down.”

When he suffered the final hit of his career, Masterton was making his patented move — crossing the opposing blueline and cutting to one side before passing the puck to a teammate.

Oakland defencemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris moved in to check Masterton, who wound up falling on the back of his head. One account holds that Masterton regained consciousness for a few moments and repeated the words, “Never again, never again,” before closing his eyes for the final time.

Neatly typed on Masterton’s 1968 autopsy report are the words, “Likely Cause of Death: Cerebral contusions” sustained from a “fall on ice.”

After reviewing the document, Dr. Charles Tator, a Toronto neurosurgeon and concussion expert, believes Masterton suffered “second impact syndrome,” a rare occurrence where a second concussion happens on the heels of a first concussion that never healed, causing rapid and severe brain swelling.

“We know the second hit can be fatal. The usual story is just as has unfolded here, that they can even talk a bit after that final hit and then they lapse into a coma,” Tator said. “There is evidence of massive brain swelling . . . that is out of proportion to the blow that he got. My interpretation is that the seeds of this catastrophic injury were sown days before.”

What makes hockey players hide their injuries and re-enter games knowing the next hit could spell ruin?

Fear, plain and simple, said Mike Walton, a Maple Leafs rookie when Masterton died.

“Injury wasn’t really of any importance in the sense that you didn’t want to lose your job and if you couldn’t play, obviously they had to fill their roster,” said Walton, now a real estate agent in Toronto. “It was a dictatorship. They had total control.”

While knowledge of concussions has increased dramatically since Masterton died, the warrior-like mindset of professional hockey players is everlasting, he said.

“It goes on today, there’s no question about it. The general public doesn’t understand the adrenaline, the passion, the dedication the players have to get out there and perform.”

Throughout his college career, right through to his training camp in Memphis, Masterton wore a helmet, a rarity in an age when head protection was dismissed by players and management alike. It disappeared during his 38-game career as an NHLer.

“I’ve always thought of this after, that when he complained (of headaches) at least he could have put on a helmet for a couple of days,” said teammate Wayne Connolly. “But it was frowned on, really.”

Only Andre Boudrias had the temerity to challenge it on Minnesota. He was traded the following season to Chicago.

“We were not allowed to wear helmets,” said J.P. Parise. “You would get traded if you did. It was a no-no in no uncertain terms. You were a yellow belly if you wore a helmet.”

Bill’s son Scott Masterton, now 46 with four children of his own, also believes that his father’s fate was sealed long before the night when the final blow was dealt.

“My mother, before she died, talked about it. He was having some headaches. My feeling is that he may have gotten a minor concussion playing or practising on some other day . . . and when he got hit the second time, he had that head whip and when that happens, you can go unconscious in that split second before you fall.”

He speaks with the authority of an athlete accustomed to putting his body at risk.

As a 29-year-old professional U.S. kickboxing champion, the younger Masterton’s career ended with a slip and fall in the ring against the then British champion on the very date — Jan. 15th — of his father’s death, also at the age of 29.

Their professional athletic careers may have ended with eerie similarity exactly 25 years apart. But from that moment forward, the echoes of his father’s life stopped. With a blown knee and broken bones, Scott stepped away from his sport.

“I knew it was time to stop.”

How much has changed in the NHL since Masterton’s limp body was removed from the Minnesota ice? What distant early warning does his death serve to the league and to the growing ranks of players suffering from the contemporary concussion epidemic in hockey?

Philadelphia forward Ian Laperriere is one of three final nominees for this year’s Masterton Trophy — despite not playing a single game in 2010-11 as he deals with post-concussion syndrome.

Like Masterton, Laperriere earned an unlikely place in the pros with grit. Twice last season, Laperriere took slapshots in the face. Still, he returned to play following lost teeth, hundreds of stitches and even the discovery of a spot on his brain visible on a CAT scan.

Laperriere’s brain was bleeding. But four neurologists cleared him to play after the spot disappeared.

“People said I was crazy, but I’m like, ‘They brought me here to show the young guys the right way,’” said the 37-year-old Laperriere, who had signed with Philly before the 2009-10 season.

His playing style has endeared him to hockey fans. Nowhere was that more apparent than during a standing ovation for Laperriere during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston last year. The scoreboard showed a video of Laperriere getting nailed in face with a puck in the opening series against New Jersey, blood pouring from a gash over his right eye.

As dramatic music replaced a play-by-play call of the incident, the video moved backwards in slow motion until just before Laperriere’s face absorbed the slapshot. The question flashed up on the big screen: “What if Ian didn’t believe in sacrifice?”

Laperriere acknowledged his career may be over, though he can’t bring himself to retire. He admits he lied to team doctors about his post-concussion issues in order to return for a shot at the Stanley Cup.

“If I had a slim chance to play, I’m going to play.”

That’s a philosophy that Scott Masterton views with the ambivalence of both a former competitive athlete and a man left fatherless at the age of 3.

He sees both nobility and short-sightedness in the demands placed on hockey’s most devoted players. He understands how passion and perseverance can deliver both glory and death.

“The idea that you persevere goes back to time immemorial. It’s a badge of honour,” he said. “It’s also the mindset that will shorten their lives and destroy their bodies. Men are the way men are.”

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, will be awarded June 22.





Brain Injury Lawyer Urges Parents to Put Helmets on Children

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 30, 2011 10:07

Brain injury attorney Jason Byrd wants to let parents know that they have a responsibility to make sure their children are wearing helmets when operating ATVs. With ATVs causing a majority of child brain injury cases, it just makes sense for parents to demand that their children wear helmets.

“The brain oversees and controls the entire process of living, thinking and experiencing ,” Jason Byrd explains. “Unfortunately, many brain injuries are permanent in nature, and too much damage to the brain can often lead to either a vegetative state or death.” That said, once a child experiences head trauma, they may lose their ability to lead a normal life.

Jason Byrd is releasing this statement partly in response to a recent article on entitled “Adult-Sized ATVs Are Not Safe for Kids, Startling Statistics Show.” The article explains that ATV related injuries are on the rise and that the severity is increasing dramatically.

Byrd agrees wholeheartedly with the renowned Dr. Sawyer’s quote in the article where he states that “parents should use the same guidelines they would when allowing their children to drive cars,” meaning parents should set the rules for their children and force them to abide by them for the sake of their own safety.





The Power of Physical Therapy

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 30, 2011 10:04

GRAND RAPIDS -- DJ Little dreams of being a paleontologist or an archaeologist someday.

But first, he has set his sights on a goal close at hand: walking across the stage at his eighth-grade graduation ceremony.

When he does, each step will be a triumph, brought about by the love and dedication of his parents, therapists, teachers and, most of all, DJ’s strong will.

DJ, a 15-year-old Alger Middle School student, was hit by a car five and a half years ago. He suffered a broken left femur, a severe neck injury, internal bruising and a traumatic brain injury.

Since the accident, he has had to relearn everything: how to sit up, swallow food, feed himself, talk and, now, how to walk.

”Somebody was a little bit more stubborn than what the doctors thought,” said his mom, Lisa Shockey. She recalled how medical staff first predicted DJ would not survive more than 24 hours and, if he did, he would be “a vegetable.”

DJ, asked how he has managed to come so far, had a ready response.

”I never give up,” he said, his words coming slow but sure. “I didn’t give up on life.”
DJ will be one of nine eighth-graders from Alger’s POHI program -- for physically and otherwise health-impaired students -- taking part in the end-of-school ceremony Thursday (June 2) with the 150 general education students. The crossing-over ceremony marks their transition to Ottawa Hills High School.

”I’m so excited for him,” said Liesha Crawford. who has taught DJ for four years. “He really, really, really has learned more than we ever thought he would.”

D.J. Little suffered brain injury in 2005 when he was hit by a car and now is re-learning to do everything. Little has been practicing with a walker and with a cane, and plans to walk in his "crossing over ceremony," when he graduates from eighth grade at Alger Middle School on June 2. Watch video

The accident that changed DJ’s life happened on Dec. 3, 2005, when the family lived on Brooks Street in Muskegon Township. Ten-year-old DJ (David James)was a fourth-grader, a bright, inquisitive kid with an outgoing personality. He was so analytical that his father, Darren Shockey, said he talked to DJ as an adult.

DJ was crossing the street in front of his home when he was hit by a car. He spent the next month in a coma and a total of 10 months in hospitals and rehab centers before coming home.

His dad switched jobs, and his family moved to a one-story home in Kentwood to be closer to the medical care at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. DJ has undergone 17 operations -- repairing his elbow, leg and neck, getting a skin graft and other procedures -- and has his 18th planned for this summer.

His parents were told DJ probably would get as far as he could in his first year post-accident, but he has far exceeded that prediction.

When Sarah Willson, a physical therapist with Harbor Rehabilitation, met DJ four years ago, he was unable to roll over in bed without help. On a recent afternoon, she helped him stand up and grasp a cane, then coached him as he picked up his feet one at a time and moved forward, one slow step after another.

”Last week was the first time DJ made a full lap around the house,” Willson said, as they walked past the kitchen island. “Which just goes to show you, even four years after a brain injury, you can keep improving and progressing.”

Lisa Shockey credits the therapy DJ has received. He has physical and occupational therapy twice a week and speech therapy once a week at home. He also has therapy sessions at school, along with his academic subjects.

DJ’s hand shook on the cane at times, and his face was a study of concentration. But when someone praised his progress, he grinned.

Although his parents were cautioned his personality might change with the brain injury, they still see the same curious mind -- and especially his sense of humor. He still loves dinosaurs and country music. Thanks to his grandmother, he has a collection of signed photographs of country music stars.

”He has a wonderful sense of humor,” Crawford said. “I don’t think he’d be as far as he is if he didn’t.”

Because DJ has little short-term memory, making progress takes lots of effort and repetition.

”Getting anything into his long-term memory is unbelievably hard,” Crawford said.
She kept DJ for a second year of eighth grade because he made such progress last year. He went from not knowing that he had a binder to remembering to bring it to class and go through it to see what work needs to be done. He is working on multiplication facts. And he uses a color-coded system to distinguish nouns and verbs.

”He can verbalize his answers,” Crawford said. “He has great conversations. He’s very opinionated and he’s not afraid to tell you his opinion.”

DJ will continue in the POHI program at Ottawa -- and he looks forward to seeing his friends who have already moved onto high school.

This summer, his goal is to walk around the block. And he can’t wait ride the bike he ordered through Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

What lies ahead in the long-term is anyone’s guess, his mother said.

”We just take it one day at a time,” she said. “And thank God for all the little miracles.”

”And the big one,” DJ reminded her with a smile. “Me.”




Brain injuries need care sooner

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 25, 2011 08:38

Trauma patients with major brain injuries are not getting to specialized neurosurgeons fast enough.

A study of transportation times for traumatic brain injury patients in Nova Scotia, published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Trauma, states that those patients should and could be in the care of Halifax-based neurosurgeons within three hours but that the current average transportation time is five hours.

"When you get beyond three to four hours, your likelihood of dying from a brain injury begins to increase significantly," said Dr. David Clarke, director of the neurotrauma program at the Capital district health authority.

"We need to look at ways to streamline transportation of brain-injured patients directly to Halifax so that they receive the best neurosurgical care sooner."

Clarke, who led the study along with Dr. John Tallon, said that between ambulances, a helicopter and a plane, Nova Scotia has the emergency transportation infrastructure to get patients to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre within three hours.

The delay in getting patients with brain injuries to Halifax happens while they are being stabilized and assessed at the nearest hospital. He suggested that, on average, the delay for those patients is about 2½ hours.

"You may have a hemorrhage that may need to be taken out urgently, which could cause the patient to die," said Clarke.

"The only place you have that kind of specialized service, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is in Halifax."

The study found that the majority of brain trauma patients fit within two groups — young men, often involved in motor vehicle accidents, and senior citizens who have suffered falls.

The next step, said Clarke, is to figure out the changes that need to be made to get those emergency patients to Halifax sooner.

"Making steps to ensure that the injured receive the necessary emergency care within the required amount of time can significantly improve health outcomes," Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald said in a news release.

"As part of our Better Care Sooner plan, we’re continuing to make emergency care more efficient . . . and this research gives us the opportunity to work closely with our health partners to improve trauma care for Nova Scotians and their families."