Today I had the opportunity to speak with an old friend whose son has been living with the effects of multiple brain injuries from competitive sports. He never received rehabilitation and was sent home from the emergency room following his last injury, even after the physicians confirmed that he had injured the frontal lobes of his brain.
Today, her son lives by himself with his dog and is basically isolated from his community. He holds jobs for brief periods and loses them when he has a temper outburst. He is unable to maintain friendships and is alone. He has written several plays, including one which has been produced, but his life is filled with his concerns of “being crazy” and feeling that he cannot control his emotions and conduct.
Although his parents provide him with financial help on occassion, he earns some money through his short-term jobs, enough money, in fact, to prevent him from accessing Medicaid and other assistance programs. He has been denied Social Security disability because he is not “disabled enough”. Yet, he cannot maintain employment, his seizures are under poor control and he is depressed. A physician in his community sees him on occassion to follow his seizure disorder and evaluate his medication. This physician provides his services without a fee.
This young man is eager to get on with his life and find solutions to his seizure disorder and depression problems. Unfortunately, he is caught in the gap. In the eyes of those who administer programs for individuals with disabilities, he is not disabled. He is not eligible for Medicaid because his income was $60 a month above the cut-off. He is an extremely bright person, creative and craving a life with work, friends and activity to replace being alone. The resources he needs are not forthcoming. While the brain injury literature addresses the not-so-mild effects of Mild Traumautic Brain Injury and outlines the needed course of rehabilitation and psychological support, there has been no real trickle down of this knowledge into public access programs. As a result, people with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury often slip between the cracks and end up receiving no services to assist them in returning to productive lives.
Here’s a person who knows the full extent of his problems and is willing to participate in treatment and rehabilitation with the prospect of getting his life back. In the years, I’ve been involved in Brain Injury rehabilitation I have heard this story many times before. It gets harder to understand over time and especially in a situation where I have known the young man and his family for almost forty years. Professionally and personally, it troubles me that “the system doesn’t work.”
One of the things each of us can do as individuals is to join the Brain Injury Association in our state, or to offer them organizational support. The association, in turn, can lobby for greater efforts in statewide treatment of brain injuries. Find out more about the BIA by going to biausa.org.