This post is based on the article titled “More Than a Bump on the Head: Brain Injury,” which was written by Emily Klein and published by Barista Kids. Text under the heading “Article” was written by Klein, but her full article does not appear in this post. However, I included a link to the full article under the heading “Credits.” Jim Matthews, the subject of Klein’s article, is not the child’s real name. As such, the picture in this post is not a picture of the child who Klein wrote about in her article.
Jim Matthews was only fourteen years old when he was struck by a car while riding his bike. Unfortunately, he was not wearing a helmet. Matthews spent two months in a coma before transferring to a children’s hospital for rehabilitation.
Nine years later, Matthews lives with acquired partial paralysis, poor balance, intermittent weakness on his left side, and headaches. He also deals with muscle spasticity and muscular tightness in his chest. Cognitively, he struggles with expressive language, delayed and impaired processing, and memory deficits. [Now, at age 22], he lives at home with his parents who help with all of his daily routines.
A Silent Epidemic
According to a newsletter distributed by the New Jersey Department of Health, “Every 21 seconds, a person in the United States sustains a TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury]; an estimated 7,000 children die, 250,000 are hospitalized and 400,000 are treated in an Emergency Department. Still, TBI is often referred to as the silent epidemic. Rene Carfi, Senior Director of the Brain Health Network, explains, “…unless the injury was catastrophic, people can look fine on the outside and still sustain cognitive, emotional and behavioral impairments.” Also, deficits may not show up immediately, especially in children.
Dr. Chiaravalloti, Director of the Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Laboratory and Traumatic Brain Injury Laboratory at the Kessler Foundation, explains, “A child may have cognitive deficits that are not realized at first. As he or she grows, their brain no longer develops according to the expected trajectory and this can impact executive skills, like organization, planning, and problem-solving.” Also, behavioral issues caused by brain injuries in young children are often overlooked because the behaviors are age appropriate. As the child gets older and the behaviors remain, they can be misdiagnosed with other disorders like ADHD.
A Closer Look at Brain Injury
There are two types of brain injury: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). According to a presentation from the Brain Injury Alliance, “TBI is an insult to the brain caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness which results in impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning. Common causes of TBI in kids include: abuse (including Shaken Baby Syndrome), falls, sports injuries and car accidents. The Brain Injury Alliance presentation also states that “ABI is an injury to the brain which is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative and has occurred after birth.” Stroke, encephalitis, meningitis and brain tumors can all result in an ABI.
What Can Parents Do
Know the signs of brain injury. If your child loses consciousness – even briefly – take them to the emergency room. If your child seems dazed, loses track of time, doesn’t know who they are or seems generally confused, they need medical attention. It is harder to identify injury in younger children who do not yet have the language to explain what they are feeling. If in doubt, go to the emergency room.
Call to Action
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Click here to read another post about overcoming a childhood adversity.
To read the original article by Emily Klein, click here.
Thanks to Emily Klein for writing the original article; Barista Kids for committing its resources to the article; Google for helping me find the article; Bing for helping me find the picture; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture or text I used in this post.