You wake up in the hospital, and your head is in a fog. The nurse notices you moving and smiles. “You survived a traumatic brain injury,” she says.

The days pass by, and you hear this phrase again and again as you make your way through all the health screenings and paperwork. It sounds like a serious injury, but how serious? What does it mean to have a TBI? What does it mean going forward? After the hospital releases you, you and your loved ones might still find yourselves asking these questions.

This two-part blog post provides an overview on TBIs caused by car accidents. This post covers the initial experience of dealing with the injury. Part two discusses the recovery process.

Understanding “closed” versus “open”

TBIs occur when there is a sudden jolt or bump to the head. Depending on whether the bump breaks your skull, TBIs can be either “open” or “closed.” For example, weapons often cause open TBIs because bullets can easily penetrate bone. Car accident victims, on the other hand, most frequently experience closed TBIs. This is where a sudden impact forces the brain to strike the inside of the skull, but the skull itself remains unbroken. For young adults, car accidents are the leading cause of closed TBIs.

Knowing the symptoms

TBIs can have a range of symptoms. If you have recently experienced one, keep an eye out for both mental and physical changes. Some people may experience mild symptoms such as headaches, temporary memory loss and fatigue. Others face more severe complications like dramatic personality shifts and coordination loss.

Keeping good records

It may be the last thing on your mind when you are dealing with a TBI, but keeping records is important. Hospitalizations, doctor’s appointments, rehab visits, insurance receipts: All these things matter. It can make your life easier down the road if you already have everything in front of you.

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