Woman whose son suffered brain trauma in crash to mark Brain Injury Awareness Month
The mother of a schoolboy who suffered a severe brain injury in a car crash has highlighted March’s status as Brain Injury Awareness Month.
Helen Cart said she planned to use the international commemoration month to promote brain injury prevention, as well as Bermudian resources for people affected by brain injuries and their families.
Ms Cart added: “Throughout the month, we will be looking to promote awareness of on-island services and therapies and will also hear from survivors as we look to increase awareness and educate people on brain injury.”
Ms Cart’s son David Goonewardene, now 17, suffered a brain injury in car crash last March after the driver of the car he was in lost control and hit a wall on Knapton Hill Road in Smith’s.
David spent about a month in the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital intensive care unit before he was airlifted to Boston Children’s Hospital where he spent two weeks.
He was later transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston for a month and spent another month as an outpatient therapy before he returned to Bermuda.
He travelled again last September to the Sargent Rehabilitation Centre in Rhode Island for ten weeks.
Ms Cart said it was difficult to find suitable help in Bermuda compared with New England where therapeutic services were coordinated.
She added: “There is no shortage of resources in Bermuda, but we just didn’t know about them.”
Ms Cart highlighted last year that some people with brain injuries may have to relearn how to walk, talk and carry out other activities.
They may also need a neuro-trauma expert to help them reform neurological pathways.
There may also be a need for occupational therapists and adaptive coaches as well as specialists to assist with the social and emotional effects of brain injuries.
The Brain Injury Association of America suggests several ways to mark Brain Injuries Awareness Month. These include:
Engage creatively: Share stories in writing or via social media, through art or other mediums to raise awareness of brain injury.
Gain another perspective: Read about the personal experiences of members of the brain injury community.
Know the facts: At least 3.6m people in the US sustain a brain injury each year. Further facts are available here.
Speak out: Advocates with a personal investment in the cause make great champions. Write a letter to the editor or share information via the media.
Mobilise: Join lawmakers, activists, survivors, caretakers, and professionals in a virtual summit on Capitol Hill on March 16. BIAA, along with the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators and Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, will host a briefing on the importance and value of advocacy. Attendance is free though preregistration is required.
Fund raise: The BIAA encourages fund raising for brain injury causes. There is no specific charity focused on brain injuries in Bermuda, but there are related charities including: The Bermuda Stroke and Family Support Association, WindReach, Action on Alzheimer’s and Dementia and the Committee of 25.
Ms Cart explained brain injuries ranged from mild to severe and could be caused by accidents or through medical problems like strokes or brain tumours.
She said: “The symptoms can range from dizziness and headaches to partial or complete loss of memory, motor skills, executive functioning and cognition skills.
“The effects can last a lifetime and can be devastating for survivors and their families who are often thrown into the role of caregiver with very little experience or medical training.”
Ms Cart launched the Bermuda TBI Survivors and Parents/Caregivers Support Group last year, which includes a private Facebook page, with her partner Michael Souza.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic had restricted the group to virtual meetings, but that she hoped to hold the first in-person meeting this month.
Ms Cart added: “Our aim in setting up the group was to provide online support, share knowledge, resources and encouraging words of support to survivors and their caregivers.”
The Brain Injury Association of America observes Brain Injury Awareness Month in March each year and uses a green ribbon symbol.
The theme for the campaign from 2021 to 2023 is #MoreThanMyBrainInjury.
The association said: “Many people with disabilities have their lives defined for them.
“The #MoreThanMyBrainInjury campaign gives individuals a chance to overcome those definitions, allowing them to tell their own stories and change the narrative of their lives.”
Ms Cart said those who had suffered a brain injury and their supporters could contact her through the Facebook page here, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 704-2504.
The Royal Gazette will feature stories on the subject over the month.
“Falls are a leading mechanism of traumatic brain injury and older adults are at increased risk for sustaining a TBI and experiencing TBI-associated adverse outcomes.
“Evidence-based prevention efforts to decrease falls are important to reducing the incidence and prevalence of TBI among older adults. CDC’s Steadi – Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries at https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/index.html – includes resources for healthcare staff to improve identification of at-risk patients, as well as ways to reduce the fall-related injuries, including TBI.