Acquired brain injury can be a consequence of a sporting injury, such as in football, or diving, a fall, a motor bike or car accident or a physical fight with somebody else.
Below is a screenshot of a question put to the Mayo Clinic regarding the association between a traumatic brain injury and depression.
When our son was approaching the end of his teenage years he was very involved in the family farm. The work required a lot of time spent on a quad bike rounding up cattle or checking fences and water supply. He was doing really well as a young farmer and was working towards being able to run the farm business. He had good and innovative ideas and a real passion for the work and lifestyle.
Then one fateful day he went out after lunch to check some cattle and another farm worker had closed the gate he had left open. Being keen to get back to work so jumped on the bike and made a bee line for the gate and laneway he had intended to go down. The bike hit the bottom of a large steel gate, breaking off the bottom hinges which then allowed the gate to pivot on the top hinged right back on to his face, . ( not wearing a helmet)
The consequence of the gate hitting his face meant a lot of damage to his forehead, his eyes, cheekbones and jaw. We rushed him to the local hospital and he was then airlifted to the trauma unit of the Alfred hospital in Melbourne.
The facio maxial team did a brilliant job of rebuilding his face from photos
we had provided so that after the swelling went down he was just as handsome as ever. Being eyed of by the girls everywhere he went because he was so good-looking and he was strong. It was his brute physical strength which saved his life as the doctors said most people would have broken their neck with injuries as severe as he had.
We kept a vigil by his bed the entire time he was in hospital and were just so thankful that our son, who we loved so much was making progress and beginning to heal. It is amazing what modern medicine can do to repair a completely broken face and make it appear almost as good as it was before.
However the brain, that incredibly complex organ contained in and protected by the skull does not heal so easily and cannot be patched up with some pieces of titanium and remodeled components. The brain is like a lump of firmly set jelly when shaken about it can fracture and damage the pathways for neurons to move and process in the way they did before.
On the outside our son appeared to be OK and we were hopeful he might return to the young man he was before and pick up where he left off. This was not to be. He had many different behavioral issues. He had essentially changed and was like a different person but we still loved him, in fact we probably loved and valued him more because we acknowledged the trauma he had been through and were proud of his determination to try to live a normal life again.
It was frustrating for him because he was wanting to go back to where he left off. This no longer being the same person we knew before had to work hard to settle into anything again. Life was a real struggle for everyone in the family.
Surprisingly the intellectual capacity of his brain was unaffected. Being still able to contribute to conversation and increase his knowledge of the world around him and beyond. The other thing we noticed was that he became much more empathetic towards others. He could feel their pain and he would give his last dollar to help anyone he perceived had a need. In some ways this made him very vulnerable and always short of money for his own needs. There were other behavioral changes but it is not the purpose of this post to explore them but to share what has been the most consuming impact of his accident.
Depression in the years following has been one of the hardest aspects to come to terms with.
It is so hard to see someone you love go in to those deep dark valleys often staying there for months at a time. He would have some mountain top moments when he was with his children . He has a son and daughter who he simply adores and has been a wonderful dad to even though he has been tormented by the curse of depression.
Life is not the same for our son, it may never go back to how it was but we are grateful we still have him. It is not the same for other members of the family either. We were all impacted by the changes in his personality and behavior. But we must move on and learn to cope with the new person. Sometimes it is very hard as we see him suffering the deepest darkest moods and lack of motivation to look beyond the negative field he was in.
I came across another mother whose son also suffered a severe brain injury and I will leave a link her story at the bottom of this page. She has articulated the experience better than I could.
Research tells us that about 3 out of every 10 people who suffer a brain injury will also suffer depression. I suspect the number is much higher than that because depression is an illness in itself which many people try to hide. They do not present to the doctor readily with depression and so they do not receive the treatment and care they need. Much is being done now to remove the stigma associated with depression and encourage people to get the help and support they require.
. Depression is among the most financially costly health issues faced in modern times.
Public awareness is being promoted on our television programs on an almost daily basis.
I covered this in an earlier post. Many lives have been lost because of depression and there is a huge loss of productivity in the workplace as well as the medical costs. To address all these issues we need to find ways to better deal with and cope with a loved one suffering depression.