Traumatic Brain Injury ("TBI") is an injury to the brain caused by trauma to the head. 50% of TBI's occur as a result of a road traffic accident.
Once injured the brain cells do not repair themselves. The effects of the injury are varied and depend on the individual and the severity of the injury.
The frontal lobe controls personality and emotions. The frontal lobes are particularly vulnerable to injury due to their location at the front of the head. It is the most common region of injury following a mild to moderate TBI. Damage here can have a wide ranging effect on motor function, problem solving, memory, language, impulse control and social/sexual behaviour. One of the most common effects can be a dramatic change in social behaviour, which can be hard for both the victim and their family to cope with.
Fatigue is a particular problem after a TBI. 50% to 80% of individuals will suffer from this disabling side effect. Many victims of TBI will recover from nearly all other symptoms only to find that fatigue prevents them from returning to work full time. With targeted rehabilitation the effects of fatigue can be managed, but some TBI victims will always have to moderate their activity, diet and lifestyle to take account of their reduced stamina.
Problems with memory are common after a TBI. The damaged brain can find it difficult to organise and remember new material. Our brains have 'automatic processing' so that once we have learned something, you will remember it by "forgetting it". Your brain will "forget" the information so that it is no longer at the forefront of your mind and you are no longer consciously thinking about it.
When you have suffered a brain injury, unconscious thinking is less automatic and consequently can be tiring. The tiredness can further limit brain function.
Memory problems can destroy a person's sense of identity and continuity. This is on top of the other problems they may face such as difficulties with attention, process/filtering, listening, remembering and interacting with other people.
The Headway booklet 'Coping with memory problems after brain injury' available from their website includes more details and practical strategies to help live with memory problems.
Rehabilitation is key. Everyone's injury is different and the effects of the injury also differ greatly from one to another. Rehabilitation must be targeted to the individual and delivered by therapists with experience and expertise in working with TBI victims.
A TBI is a serious injury, but with the right support and careful targeted rehabilitation, a victim of such an injury can return to a fulfilling quality of life.