Fortunately most of us will go through our lives never knowing what a traumatic brain injury is. Until fairly recently most people that suffered one died without regaining consciousness. A traumatic brain injury occurs when the head is hit hard enough to cause tears and fissures within the brain itself, blood vessels may rupture allowing blood to spill into the brain causing further damage. Imagine if you will a blancmange on a plate, now imagine what will happen to that blancmange if you give the plate a sudden violent jerk, splits and tears will appear randomly throughout the blancmange. Imagine now that the blancmange has a series of blood vessels within it and that some of these have likewise torn, and that blood is spilling from them into the blancmange. It’s a ghastly mess.
Probably the most common cause of traumatic brain injury comes about as the result of a road traffic accident. Typically the car (and it usually is a car) will be being driven by a young man aged somewhere between 18 and 25, the car will be a high-performance model, and the driver will be inexperienced. This concoction of testosterone, speed, and inexperience can combine to produce a scenario the results of which provide the transplant surgeon with more organs than does any other scenario that society currently accepts.
Over the last 30 years with the increasing skill of neurosurgeons, and with the increasing level of expertise and equipment available within intensive care units and with the dedication of the nursing staff and doctors that work within these intensive care units, many of the people that would have died as a result of such accidents now survive, but this survival is not without cost. Typically the survivor will remain in a coma for many days or even weeks, sometimes even months and then slowly, very slowly he will emerge from his coma into an unknown world. He may have little memory of what went before, of who he is, or of where he is. This then is the lot of the survivor of a traumatic brain injury; it is also the lot of his family. Such an accident and such an outcome befell my son Richard in November of 1999, this is an account of what happened to him and to us in those dreadful weeks and months following his accident, and of how he and we are slowly starting to come to terms with a very different life...
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