Traumatic injury is sometimes referred to as the death of a person who is still living. An article in today’s New York Times gives a stark patient’s-eye view of what can be like. In“Starting Again After a Brain Injury,” Jane Rosset illuminates her experience with the following details:

  • Long term memory loss: “Memories that connected different parts of my life fragmented and vanished. . . . When I see my pre-accident work, I am introduced to it as if for the first time. . . . I am sometimes fed my own résumé by strangers in the street.”
  • Personality change: “People who love me grieve what they claim to experience as the loss of elements of my personality that I cannot recall having been part of me. Others tell me that I seem to have become an altogether different person.”
  • Irritability: “I am told that I used to be a real “people person.” Today, however, I can barely stand being around people. And I can get irritable in a nanosecond.”
  • Confusion:  “More than four and a half years post brain damage, memories still do not serenely knit back together as in those nifty “How the Brain Heals” neurology cartoons. Shards of memories pierce my consciousness before fragmenting and melting into fresh half-syllables. Some memories hover in shadows. Others gouge and flee.”
  • Neuroplasticity: “The clinical word for what I am describing: diaschisis, sometimes said to be Greek for “shocked throughout.” She explains that neuroplasticity lets me bypass damaged parts of my brain and forge new neuronal communication routes so I can access, or remember, sensory information that I received as a word, from another place from within my brain and in an entirely different format.”
  • Physical pain: “My cognitive problems are exacerbated by chronic physical pain from the damage to my nervous system. Glass-shard-wielding fire ants shred my body’s meridians. . . . talking about my pain only makes it worse. As do hectic, high-sensory situations, mean people and the electric buzz of lights and computers.”
  • Depression: “It is no wonder suicide remains a significant cause of death among people with a traumatic brain injury diagnosis.”
  • Isolation: “Traumatic brain injuries destroy connections between and within people — so how are we to build a self-empowering community?”
  • How to help: “If you want to connect with someone who has a traumatic brain injury, hire us, include us in conversations that regard us instead of speaking about us in the third person in front of our faces. And instead of pressing us about what we “must” remember from our past, simply be present with us. People with traumatic brain injuries are often scolded for having “no sense of time,” but the present is, for many of us, our only authentic time.”
  • Shortage of brain injury rehab: “The Defense Department says that, between 2000 and 2010, more than 200,000 service members suffered traumatic brain injuries. Domestic emergency rooms report approximately 1.7 million T.B.I. diagnoses (and 52,000 T.B.I.-related deaths) annually. But very few people with brain injuries receive any sort of treatment beyond acute care.”


Ken Shigley is President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advovacy. His Atlanta-based law practice includes representation of individuals and families in cases involving serious physical injuries, including brain injury, neck and back injury, spinal cord injury, burn injury and wrongful death. Contact us for a free consultation.