Before Isabella’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), I had no idea what a brain injury was. I like many others never could have imaged the journey we were about to embark on. I had heard about brain damage but didn’t know what it meant. What I knew about comas came from television shows; however, I quickly found out that real life comas are completely different. Television comas are often portrayed as a person lying peacefully sleeping with a wrap on their head. Real life comas are far from peaceful; there are machines everywhere, wires attached to every part of your body and the person is often thrashing around. When Isabella was put on a ventilator I remember saying I didn’t understand because her lungs were fine. I was then told that your brain controls breathing. When Isabella woke up and couldn’t move I remember asking why because I knew she wasn’t paralyzed. I was then told that your brain controls that too. We were quickly thrown into this world of brain injuries with so many uncertainties. I knew nothing about brain injuries.
Over the last three years, I have come to realize just how often brain injuries occur and how little people know about them. March isn’t a month that has the world covered in either green or blue for brain injury awareness. There isn’t a professional sports team adding the colors to their uniforms like they do in other months. Unless you have personally been affected by brain injury you probably wouldn’t even know it was brain injury awareness month. “Brain Injury is the leading cause of death and disability in persons under 45 years of age, occurring more frequently than breast cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury combined.” Why is brain injury still a silent epidemic when it is causing this much death and disability? In my opinion it is because we aren’t loud enough. Our voices are not being heard.
The month of March should not be the only time that we in the brain injury community raise awareness. We are all affected by the lack of research in how to effectively prevent and treat brain injuries. We are all affected by the lack of funding to help support those who survive a brain injury. We are all affected by the lack of appropriate services especially long term care. We are all affected by the lack of understanding that while our survivor may look fine, brain injury is an invisible disability. We are all affected by lack of appropriate educational programs for our child survivors. It only takes one person to make a difference. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone knew about brain injuries.
What can you do to raise awareness? Talk with your family, friends and others about those things that we know can prevent brain injuries such as wearing a helmet and using a seatbelt. Educate your children not to ever drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and to not text while driving. Discuss resources that are available to parents and other child care providers to prevent a baby from being shaken. Remind others to always have a buddy with when swimming. Get others involved in looking out for the signs of a concussion or a stroke. While not all brain injuries are preventable knowing how to best keep yourself and others safe can decrease your risks.
I challenge each one of you to not only raise awareness for the month of March but to raise awareness every day. We are the voice of our brain injury survivors and the survivors to come. It only takes one person to make a difference. Let that difference start with you.
Are you up for the challenge?
Guest Blogger, Kristin Olliney, is the mother of 7-year-old Isabella, who suffered sudden acute encephalitis when she was just 4. Kristin’s bi-monthly blog, Mommy of a Miracle, talks about the trials and joys of raising a brain injury survivor.