Since 1995
National Bicycle Greenway in action
Brain Injury Explained
A survivor outlines catastrophic nature of its symptoms
in response to a recent USA Today article
For some servicemembers, the battle lingers on March 11, 2005 pg. A.12 Thanks, USA TODAY, for the excellent reporting on one horrific legacy – traumatic brain injury – the "emerging signature wound" of the war in Iraq (“Key Iraq wound: Brain trauma”; "Brain injuries range from loss of coordination to loss of self," News, March 4).

As the headline of one of the articles states, "Brain injuries range from loss of coordination to loss of self." That sort of trauma carries many consequences. Regardless of how, for instance, an army sergeant's head injury occurs, it is important that family, friends and colleagues understand that the injury may forever impede his ability to function as before. Impairments associated with brain trauma can be permanent and devastating.

The ability to absorb information, think, process and respond is dramatically diminished. A victim may feel overwhelmed with tasks that were simple before the injury. Planning, identifying priorities, sequencing steps to complete a task and monitoring one's own behavior are referred to as the "executive functions" of the brain. And even if the frontal lobes of the brain suffered only a mild trauma, impairments to the following executive functions will, more likely than not, be experienced. A person may: * Become overwhelmed by the complexity of work requiring multiple steps. * Continue to use a strategy that has repeatedly shown to be ineffective. * Become easily frustrated when difficulties are encountered. * Have difficulty controlling anger, tears, happiness or sorrow. All emotional expression may be exaggerated. * Overlook errors, often failing to complete one task before a new task is started. * Have difficulty with decision-making when faced with several choices.

Impairment of these functions is one of the most disabling aspects of head injury because the victim is often unaware of his or her own shortcomings. And when the brain-trauma survivor is aware of these challenges, one can only imagine the frustration, heartbreak and shame. Most people are not aware that injuries to the brain are among the most likely to cause death or permanent disability. Each year in the USA, an estimated 1.5 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury. This is eight times the number diagnosed with breast cancer and 34 times the number of new cases of HIV or AIDS.

Marine Cpl. Shaun Radhay, who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, was featured in USA TODAY's story. "He wants to be the person he was before," his mother, Dollie, is quoted as saying. As a fellow brain trauma survivor, I concur. To allow a person who has suffered a brain injury to wallow in the pathology of ignorance, arrogance or lack of compassion is a huge injustice. You never know. Any one of us, God forbid, may be next.

Patricia Block Burlingame, Calif.

Cycle America, POB 60355, Palo Alto CA 94306
Original Images and Sounds Copyright 2005