Rebuilding Life After Traumatic Brain Injury

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Jan 22 2011 - 4:18pm
Human brain

After the Tucson shooting on January 8, 2011, the world has been anxiously watching to see if Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would survive the gunshot bullet wound she received to the head. Now the challenge is to rebuild life after traumatic brain injury.

As she has miraculously progressed in her recovery, her story is just beginning to bring awareness to the difficult and unique challenges that traumatic brain injury survivors face in tragedy’s aftermath.

What will life be like for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she rebuilds her life after a bullet wound to the head resulting in traumatic brain injury?

Statistics show that only 5% of people survive such a gunshot wound. Giffords is one of the lucky 5%, but how will her life be different after surviving the bullet?
Dr. Jordan Grafman, the director of brain research at The Kessler Foundation in West Orange, NJ, and Chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), says that the type of person the patient was before the brain injury will profoundly affect the recovery process and the outcome of rehabilitation.

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Dr. Grafman became the Neuropsychology Chief on the Vietnam Head Injury Study, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C in 1981.The head injury study followed 200 Vietnam Veteran’s who survived penetrating brain injuries. The military was able to provide data on the mental abilities and personalities of the veterans before their injuries because of their rigorous testing of the troops.

The study found that a person with a sharp mental ability and a strong social resource network was more likely to have a strong recovery and live a purposeful and productive life after the brain injury.

On the flip side of this, there are also those patients- exceptionally bright and accomplished before their injury- that are unable to find some acceptance and patience in their dramatic life change. This group of individuals may develop prolonged depression and anxiety that can hinder the road to recovery.

How Giffords responds to these challenges remains to be seen, but her rally back to life so far gives the nation watching hope for continued miraculous healing.

For more information on traumatic brain injury visit: http://www.ninds.nih.gov.

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