The Cost of Brain Injury

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Last week, while waiting for a train in DC's Union Station, I had a sobering moment.

I was sitting in a cramped cafe, finishing up my coffee, when a man appeared in front of me and forced me to do a double-take. He looked exactly like one of the brain injury patients, "Joe," we have here at NRI, but with a dozen tiny tells. Joe's doppleganger was wearing stylish hipster glasses, with a messenger bag slung over his shoulder. He was preoccupied with an incoming message on his Blackberry, and had a newspaper tucked under an arm.

The way the guy moved–coordinating so much so effortlessly–hinted at fluid brain function. To every one else in the cafe, he probably looked like an ordinary guy on his way to work, but to me, Joe's doppleganger was an incarnation of just how many seemingly small and inconsequential things get lost after a brain injury. The real Joe will probably not be able to coordinate holding a paper, eating a bagel, and texting at the same time. Joe can't hold down a job, so he doesn't ooze ambition like his doppleganger. And of course, without a job, there's no smart sportscoat, no Blackberry, no laptop.

We often hear about the millions of dollars it costs to care for a brain injury patient over a lifetime, but aren't reminded enough of the million small things that simply seem to float out of reach, the things without a price tag. A tip of the cap to Joe's doppleganger, wherever he is, for the helpful reminder.

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