Thankfully, the majority of head injuries are mild and the sufferer can get back to their normal life within a few days. However, for some people, this is not the case. The injury that they received in a workplace accident or in a road traffic accident is severe and the brain has been damaged. Adjusting to life following a brain injury is a challenge and the impact on the whole family can be profound.
If the injury was caused by another person or by negligence on behalf of a company or organization a brain injury lawyer can help you get the compensation that is needed to make adjustments to your home and lifestyle. If you caused the accident or if no-one was to blame you may have to rely on your own health insurance or on savings to help you cope.
Categories of brain injury
The category of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that you sufferer is useful in predicting how well you will recover but doctors do not have a crystal ball. Most injuries are classed as mild. A mild injury may have been caused by you banging your head on a low doorway or slipping over in the street. It is common to feel a bit sick and dizzy for a while but no more. A complete recovery within a few days is expected.
In a moderate brain injury, you will have lost consciousness for between 15 minutes and six hours. You may also have lost your memory which is called ‘amnesia’ and this can last for up to 24 hours after the accident. With an injury like this, you will be kept in hospital for one night so that the medical team can observe you closely. If all is well the next day, you will be discharged.
However, you can have some on-going symptoms that can last for up to nine months. The most common of these are:
- Headaches – which vary in severity
- Cognitive effects including finding it difficult to think things through, remembering things, planning things, organizing things and concentrating
- Behavioral effects including irritability
Whilst it is common to be concerned and worried when you have these symptoms, they will ease off as the weeks progress. You should be able to return to work and all other usual activities within a few months.
In the most severe brain injuries, you will have been unconscious for more than six hours and will have had amnesia for more than 24 hours. You will have spent a prolonged period in hospital and may have in a coma for a long time. The longer you were in a coma, the less likely you are to make a complete recovery but there are exceptions to this rule and there are no certainties.
Rehabilitation and recovery following a brain injury
If you have suffered a severe brain injury, you will have a prolonged period of rehabilitation (months or years) to try to recover as many functions as possible. This is a period of great uncertainty and it can put you and your family and friends under a lot of strain. During the first few months, it simply is not possible to predict how your recovery will progress.
By the time you get to six months post-injury the picture is clearer. However, things can change a lot up to one year after the injury took place so it is wise to delay any major decisions about your care until then.
Psychological recovery can take even longer and so personality and behavioral issues can take many years to resolve or may be permanent. In comparison, the greatest visible, physical progress occurs in the first six months or so and progress after that is much slower.
Where your recovery takes place
Following the initial hospital stay, your recovery and rehabilitation following a brain injury may take place in one of three settings.
If your injury is very severe, you will not be able to return home and your rehabilitation will take place in an inpatient setting. A specialist rehabilitation team will work with you in a neurological rehabilitation center on a structured rehabilitation program. If you are well enough to go home, the same treatment can be delivered but on an outpatient basis.
Once you have developed sufficient skills to live independently, you can live at home with only a community rehabilitation team to support you.
Throughout the whole of the recovery period, the support of family and friends is essential.