Written by Kristi Whitaker, LMSW, CBIS
As Brain Injury Case Manager, I don’t usually get to see how former patients of ours are doing after they leave our care here at NRI at Brookhaven Hospital. I recently had that rare opportunity while away at a conference. I was approached by a former patient, also a conference attendee, who excitedly told me about being featured in an article in the local newspaper. After chatting and catching up, I looked up the article online.
The first part of the article had details that I have become all too familiar with in my work with survivors of brain injury and their family members. This individual was many years past the initial experience of traumatic brain injury, and the current problems were depression, trouble getting out of bed to start the day, and addiction issues. Initially, this individual’s brain injury was not properly treated, and, as the years wore on, the symptoms worsened. Local doctors without specialized training in the treatment of brain injury failed over and over to offer a proper diagnosis and treatment. We receive calls and emails from across the U.S. and even from other countries from individuals and their loved ones who describe a similar situation. It is tragically very common.
Many people don’t realize, however, that there is hope for recovery for an individual with brain injury, despite the many passing years since their initial injury. There are many barriers along the path to getting the necessary individualized treatment, and it often takes a strong advocate working on behalf of the brain injury survivor. In this case, it was the individual’s mother who tirelessly reached out to several organizations before eventually going to the press about her adult child’s desperate need for specialized brain injury rehabilitation. As I read the news article further, I was gratified to read about the treatment that was received at NRI at Brookhaven Hospital. While with us, this patient received individualized treatment providing the tools to be able to participate in life once again. Therapy and medication successfully addressed the depressive symptoms and substance abuse problem. Of course, our patient’s journey doesn’t end with their discharge from NRI, but great strides can be made and a foundation set for continued treatment at the outpatient level in the person’s home community. This patient continues to make improvements and reports getting stronger every day.
The photo accompanying the article was of our former patient with their kids enjoying the day in a swimming pool. This picture expressed more than the words I could write in a thousand blogs. This is the part of a patient’s successful outcome that I don’t usually get to see, and I will hold onto that image of a survivor of brain injury thriving with two precious children in the blue water as we continue to help others affected by brain injury.