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Brain trauma can have subtle but long-lasting effects


Stashed in: Brain, Emotion, Stories, Psychology!, @RonaldLHayes1, Neuroscience, Brain, Psychology, Mental Health, Stroke, Concussions

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I was once talking to a friend of mine who had breast cancer around the same time I had my subarachnoid hemorrhage.  She noted that breast cancer is the most social malady ever:  basically from the second you're diagnosed, there are a million people offering to help you and support you and do walkathons with you and buy you pink things.  I said brain aneuryms are the opposite:  you rarely meet someone else who had one, and it's next to impossible to describe the subtle changes you feel in your brain and body.This guy had the exact same treatment I had -- craniotomy and clipping -- and he feels that it simultaneously saved and ruined his life.  It's not easy to read because he is angry and emotional and jumpy, but I completely understand where he's coming from.

One of the biggest things that rings true for me is that brain injuries often leave "nothing you can see" in terms of visible injury.  People find it hard to understand that you feel damaged and confused.  For instance, I lost a substantial amount of weight after my brain trauma due to brain chemistry changes that I don't find pleasant -- but everyone comments on how "healthy" I look, because in this society thin = healthy and fat = unhealthy by default.  The gap between how you feel subjectively vs. how others perceive you can really make you feel isolated and misunderstood.

On the other hand, I'm happy to be alive and able to work... and this very heartfelt blog post made me even more grateful.  This is a true story about how thin the line is between perfect and permanently disabled when it comes to brain injury... and how little medical science knows about the brain.

Would you ever consider writing to him?

Or because aneurysms are not a social malady, that is not a good idea?

It's understandable that he's angry and emotional and jumpy.

The brain does not take being messed with lightly.

As Joyce has commented on in the past, surgical treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage can be dehumanizing as well as isolating. Jimmy Breslin, a New York columnist and writer, published a personal account of his experience, "I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me"....recommended reading.

 "I became a body on a table for brain surgery", quoted from an excerpt published in Esquire (http://www.bnaneuro.net/uploads/jimmy-breslin-article.pdf). Patients undergoing this procedure have to cope with the (hoped for) recovery and the threat of potentially fatal but unpredictable "cerebral vasospasms" which can abruptly cut of blood flow to the brain.....all internally and invisible to the observer.  

ronald hayes

I'm becoming aware that there are side effects that only the person with the traumatic brain injury can feel.

I hope that science learns more about these feedback loops to be more helpful to people with TBIs.

The Jimmy Breslin story about how dehumanizing and isolating it is -- that story really resonates.

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