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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog
A hug is duct tape for the soul.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
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Monday, April 12, 2010
Military plans to test brain-injury therapy
We all know by now that Traumatic Brain Injury is the signature wound of the Iraq War. Explosions that would have killed soldiers in previous wars are now less often fatal, due to the improved protective qualities of military helmets. What happens, however, is that the brain is knocked around inside the skull, as the head forcibly hits the helmet during the explosion. The result is less fatalities, but more brain injuries. According to the Defense Department, more than 134,000 service men and women suffered traumatic brain injuries from 2003 through 2009. The military has planned clinical trials using pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber to determine if the technique can help brain-injury sufferers heal.
From The Associated Press:
The U.S. military plans clinical trials next year to see whether breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber might help thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Monday, April 05, 2010
TBI and the Prison Population (2)
One of Jack's concerns is the frequency of traumatic brain injuries in prisons and their affect on inmates in a prison environment. A few years ago, it would be almost impossible to find literature on this topic, but thanks to the growing body of knowledge about TBI, and its movement into the public consciousness (primarily due to the Iraq War), information on TBI is easier to find than ever before. To be sure, TBI and the Criminal Justice System is lagging somewhat behind other areas in terms of information available, but the field is steadily growing (as is TBI and the Homeless population).
The following is from the National Disability Rights Network:
Why are inmates with TBI or some form of mental illness not hospitalized in a state hospital? Why are they going to prison in ever increasing numbers?
A few years ago, Frontline produced an in-depth look at Ohio's prison system, and why it houses so many mentally ill individuals. Although this program focuses on mental illness, who's to say whether some of the prisoners filmed had also suffered a TBI. But mental illness or TBI, the sheer wrongness of incarcerating sufferers with either condition is obvious.
The opening sentences of the Frontline introduction:
Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number -- nearly 500,000 -- mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the unexpected and often ill-equipped caretakers of this burgeoning population, they raise a troubling new concern: Have America's jails and prisons become its new asylums?You can watch the entire show here. Please let us know what you think. We'll be writing more about TBI and prisons this year.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
TBI and the Prison Population
The C.D.C. has begun funding studies of TBI's in prisons, another of Jack's interests. He has long believed that all prisoners should get a neuro-psych evaluation as part of their exit routine before being released. The prison environment is ripe for TBI's, and it's also probable that a fair percentage of inmates had a TBI long before being sentenced. (Remember that one of Jack's doctors, Jonathan H. Pincus, in his 2002 book (Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill?) theorized, "It is the interaction of childhood abuse with neurologic disturbances and psychiatric illnesses that explains murder.") TBI's fall under the classification of neurologic disturbances, and it makes sense to study their prevalence in the prison population.
TBI, Tallahassee and the Homeless
If you've read this blog much at all, you already know that Jack believes that TBI is a contributing factor to homelessness. He's just not sure how much it contributes because there have been no studies done to check this. One of Jack's ongoing efforts has been to initiate a study to test a sample homeless population for TBI. He is still hopeful that his contacts at Harvard University will bring this plan to fruition.
Jack is a longtime admirer of Mel Eby, the Director of Tallahassee's homeless facility, The Shelter, for more than 20 years. Here's a video that was filmed for Mel's 20th anniversary.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Diabetes and Your Brain
According to the BBC News, "Failure to control type 2 diabetes may have a long-term impact on the brain, research has suggested."
Severe hypoglycaemic episodes - hypos - occur when blood sugar levels drop dangerously low. A University of Edinburgh team found they may lead to poorer memory and diminished brain power. The study, based on 1,066 people with type 2 diabetes aged between 60 and 75, was presented at a conference of the charity Diabetes UK.We will continue tracking this research. Because diabetes affects so many people, a direct correlation between it and brain function has staggering implications:
Diabetes now affects nearly 24 million people in the United States, an increase of more than 3 million in approximately two years, according to new 2007 prevalence data estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes.Read BBC article.
Read more on diabetes.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Blood Test For Brain Injuries Gains Momentum
From ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2009) —
A blood test that can help predict the seriousness of a head injury and detect the status of the blood-brain barrier is a step closer to reality, according to two recently published studies involving University of Rochester Medical Center researchers.Read article.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Florida Takes Serious Look at Brain Injury
From the Tallahassee Democrat:
Unemployment, incarceration and divorce can all be experienced by those suffering from traumatic brain injury.We'll try to get a copy of the five-year-plan and let you know more about it when we do.
Thom DeLilla, bureau chief of the Florida Department of Health Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program, said a lack of knowledge about the injury is another important issue that needs to be solved by the five-year plan.Well, Jack has been saying that since the mid 1980s. In fact, there were little or no resources available when Jack had his TBI. Although increased awareness and treatment options are what Jack's been fighting for these many years, it's a bittersweet victory that positive change, however delayed, is now in sight.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Veterans' issues and actress' death mark Brain Injury Awareness Month
From The Frederick News Post
(Originally published March 31, 2009)
In July 1995, Jean Berube's father, a professor at Old Dominion University, was involved in a car accident. Soon after, he appeared completely recovered from relatively minor injuries.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
On Stem Cells and Brain Injuries - Not that Unrelated at All
It's been a busy few weeks. We usually write about embryonic stem cells on the Beginning of Human Life blog, but since the research could benefit those suffering from traumatic brain injuries, I'm including those news items here as well. First, a recap on the embryonic stem cell issue:
The Moral Imperative to Relieve Suffering: Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Then traumatic brain injury was all over the news this week for a sad story. The lovely, talented actress Natasha Richardson, married to actor Liam Neeson and the daughter of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, fell on a beginner's ski slope in Canada, felt and acted fine after the accident, began having headaches about an hour later, lapsed into a coma, her brain ceased to function, she was removed from life support and died within hours. Broadway, Hollywood, and the rest of the country were shocked. She was so talented. She was so beautiful. By all accounts, she was so funny, and loving, and giving. She was only 45. How could a simple fall in which she ran into nothing or no one cause her to die?
Richardson Died From Clot That Compressed Brain Natasha Richardson, the British actress who fell during a ski lesson on Monday and later in the day lapsed into a coma, died of a large blood clot compressing her brain, New York City's medical examiner said yesterday.The bleeding that led to the clot was caused by "blunt impact to the head," according to the official report, which also labeled the death an accident.And then there's this final disgusting note:
Anti-gay church plans protest of Richardson funeral
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Concussions No Longer Innocuous...or Invisible
Concussions confer tremendous brain damage," reports CNN. That's the latest finding from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), at the Boston University School of Medicine. From a Boston University press release:
Leading medical experts at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE) at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) reported today that nine-year NFL veteran, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tom McHale was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by head trauma, when he died in 2008 at the age of 45. In addition, the CSTE has discovered early evidence of CTE in the youngest case to date, a recently deceased 18-year-old boy who suffered multiple concussions in high school football.Jack has argued for many years that concussions were more serious than popular opinion made them out to be. In fact, he was concerned enough to found a study at his prep school alma mater that administers neuropsychiatric tests to every incoming athlete. This serves as the baseline for future tests. Then, if a student athlete suffers a head injury, a subsequent test could presumably measure the extent, if any, of brain damage.
The discovery of the initial stages of CTE in an 18-year-old should move the discussion of football's concussion crisis toward youth football. The identity of the 18-year-old will not be revealed at the family's request. According to Cantu who wrote the first return-to-play guidelines, "Our efforts to educate athletes, coaches, and parents on the need to identify and rest concussions have only been moderately successful because people have been willing to look the other way when a child suffers a concussion. I hope the discovery of CTE in a child creates the urgency this issue needs. It is morally and ethically wrong to allow our children to voluntarily suffer this kind of brain trauma without taking the simple educational steps needed to protect them."By the way, Jack doesn't limit his concerns to athletes. He thinks everyone should be tested as part of routine medical care.
According to the results of the study:
McHale, a Cornell University graduate, former restaurateur, husband and father of three boys, is the sixth former NFL player to be diagnosed post-mortem with CTE since 2002. CTE, a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by repetitive trauma to the brain, is characterized by the build-up of a toxic protein called tau in the form of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and neuropil threads (NTs) throughout the brain. The abnormal protein initially impairs the normal functioning of the brain and eventually kills brain cells. Early on, CTE sufferers may display clinical symptoms such as memory impairment, emotional instability, erratic behavior, depression and problems with impulse control. However, CTE eventually progresses to full-blown dementia. McHale died due to a drug overdose after a multi-year battle with addiction. Expert consensus is that drug abuse of any kind would never cause the neuropathological findings of CTE seen in McHale.We encourage you to read the entire press release.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
TBI Awareness Has Cost a Lot
We've talked a great deal on this blog about how tragic it is that it's taken a horrible war to increase public awareness of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Iraq War has sent hundreds of our military home with TBI's, numbers high enough that traumatic brain injury has been dubbed "the signature wound" of the war. We are, of course, glad that more and more people now know about TBI and its devastating effects on its victims, their families and caregivers. But it is profoundly sad that this knowledge has come with such a painful price. Here's another article that would not have been written if we were not at war in Iraq:
One of the increasing problems that some soldiers returning from Iraq are having to deal with are brain injuries. We’ve heard a lot in the news about their having post-traumatic stress disorder, but an increasing number of soldiers are also having problems associated with traumatic brain injury. Soldiers hurt on the battlefields are not the only people who can sustain brain injuries, but their increasing numbers are creating an increased awareness of TBIs.Continue reading.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Military Discovers Way to Prove Traumatic Brain Injuries
From the Navy Times, Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer, Friday Feb 22, 2008:
After months of military officials and medical personnel lamenting the lack of an immediate, unequivocal, physical proof of mild traumatic brain injury, an anesthesiologist thinks he has found a solution.
Read the entire article. This could be a huge diagnostic breakthrough for TBI's.
The Crash of a Family
Years ago, I remember, I read some quotation to the effect that "just because somebody's handicapped doesn't mean he can't be a jerk."
I myself am hearing-impaired, and understood exactly what the quotation meant: the handicapped, or the disabled, or the special-needs individual, or whatever polite term you want to use -- all such people are people first, and handicapped second. They have the same kinds of neuroses that other people have; the same things (plus a whole lot more) make them angry; and so on. They can be just really difficult to live with.
Ditto, those who live with them. Being a caretaker doesn't somehow magically endow you with superhuman powers of forgiveness, patience, generosity. It doesn't require you to be a saint, and it won't make you one.
Graphic evidence of the clash of human failings -- exaggerated by a disability -- comes from Jacqueline L'Heureux's article, "Do We Have to Crash Our Marriage, Too?" from the Fall 2007 issue of The Challenge, a print publication of the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA). BIA has graciously permitted us to post a copy of that article (599KB PDF) here on sossisson.com. The article begins:
I never saw the truck coming, stopped on a freeway under a knock-your-eye-out blue sky. My back would freeze for months from the monster grille I never felt mount our car.Think non-TBI'd family relationships are harrowing? Wait till you read the rest of L'Heureux's story.
Note, though, that the piece is not unrelievedly grim. L'Heureux concludes with some helpful tips, among them these:
If You Have a TBI and Your Marriage Is in Trouble:
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Vets & Brain-Injured Read the Small Print
This morning I found an interesting site, Spot-On.com, which is, according to the site's About Us page, "a web-based syndication service offering a range of independent, intelligent and insightful looks at politics and current events." One post, by admitted liberal writer Christopher Brauchli, definitely merits sharing with our readers:
In his last State of the Union message, Mr. Bush received great applause when he said: "Our military families also sacrifice for America. . . . We have a responsibility to provide for them. So I ask you to join me in expanding their access to child care. . . and allowing our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children. Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them." One week later he submitted his 2009 budget and dissed the veterans. No funds were included for transferring education benefits.Visit Spot-On.com to read the complete post.
Just the kind of duplicitous doublespeak we've come to associate with this administration, but it's especially troubling when those being hurt by it are our returning military, for heaven's sake, as well as some of our most vulnerable citizens. It's a disgraceful situation that should get tons of press, but I wonder how many of the Republican Party's faithful are even aware that the country's vets are being treated this way. My guess is not many. As I've said before, "Support our Troops" takes more than a magnet slapped on the rear of your SUV.
LinksTBI Film Reviews
TBI Book Reviews
Traumatic Brain Injury Law Blog
SoapBlox/Chicago: Protecting Our Troops
Head Injury Survival Journal
Losing the Physical Self
Tower of Hanoi: Instructions for this popular puzzle can be viewed simply by clicking the Instructions button on that page.
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