The truth about recovering from a traumatic brain injury

May 26, 2016 | Brain Injuries

When you’re hurt in a car accident or other incident, you’re facing an uncertain future. You may lose some of your income, have high medical bills and be missing out on parts of your life as you recover. If you suffered a brain injury, you could feel that you won’t function the same ever again.

The recovery process of working with a traumatic brain injury varies from patient to patient, but there are some general processes that take place. After the injury, the first few weeks focus on managing symptoms of the injury itself. The brain may still be bleeding, swelling or have changes in its chemistry that need to heal before any additional rehabilitation can take place.

It’s not uncommon for a person to be in an unconscious state, which is known as a coma when he or she doesn’t respond to visual stimulation or fails to communicate. After a coma, a person might enter a vegetative state, which is signified by the sleep-wake cycles beginning. The person may start to respond to some stimulation as well.

The last healing state is a minimally conscious state in which the person is partially conscious and can reach for objects or respond to commands. Following this, most patients will wake up. It’s not uncommon for the patient to be confused or disoriented, so expect this as a family member or friend of this injured person.

Some issues may still be present, like the inability to learn new things, to focus or to sleep properly. Sleep patterns are very commonly upset, and it takes time for someone with a brain injury to get back into a normal pattern. Agitation, restlessness and nervousness are all common signs of a traumatic brain injury.

Source: Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, “Understanding TBI: Part 3 – The Recovery Process,” Thomas Novack, PhD and Tamara Bushnik, PhD, accessed May 26, 2016

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