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Coping with a Spinal Cord Injury and Adjusting to Life at Home

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A spinal cord injury is a serious, life-altering event that can have a lasting impact on the injured person, their family and others close to them. Learning to adjust to life with a spinal cord injury consists of maintaining a positive outlook and staying committed to different types of therapy and treatment options. Moral support and love from friends, family, as well support groups are among the most important resources to helping a spinal cord injury patient adjust to life once they return home from the hospital or rehabilitation program.

Tips for Adjustment and Better Living with a Spinal Cord Injury

  • Find a Long-term physical rehabilitation program: Studies have shown that spinal cord injury patients who actively participate in rehabilitation programs and individual treatment plans experience better outcomes, independence, and quality of life when compared to patients who do not put effort into rehabilitation or those who leave treatment early. Patients should consider established facilities with specific experience working with paralysis patients.
  • Establish and maintain an exercise regimen: Studies have proven that patients with paralysis who exercise regularly enjoy less health complications and a better quality of life compared to those who do not exercise or stay active. Spinal cord injury patients who remain sedentary and gain too much weight face an increased risk of secondary complications including diabetes, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Structured exercise activities within the patient’s capabilities must be added to a regular schedule to reduce the likelihood of secondary complications and to enhance their physical capacity to handle stress and illness. Exercise can consist of modified yoga, outdoor recreation, or water therapy.
  • Explore all options for adaptive equipment: A patient adjusting to life with paralysis often faces considerable mobility limitations in and out of the home. Before a spinal cord injury patient returns home, family members should talk with physicians and rehabilitation specialists about adaptive equipment options and other ways to prepare the home for wheelchair access. A manual or powered wheelchair may be a necessary part of life. A home may need to be fitted with wheelchair ramps, special hand grips, and bathroom modifications designed specifically for spinal cord injury patient mobility. A person living with paralysis might still be able to operate an automobile, but may require adaptive controls. It is important that a patient continue on with scheduled physical therapy sessions until they reach a comfortable range of capability with any adaptive equipment.
  • Continually search for new resources and support online: Attending support groups and counseling sessions can be an important source of support for people living with a brain injury and should continue indefinitely. Spinal cord injury patients and their families can look online to learn more about their injury, learn about funding and research initiatives, and find details about local support groups. Listed below are a few blogs, support groups, and educational resources geared toward helping those who are adjusting to life with a spinal cord injury:

References:

Facing Disability

The Kessler Institute

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Coping with the Mental and Psychological Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

By | Brain Injuries, Catastrophic Injury | No Comments

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can result in certain types of short and long term complications. Common changes following a brain injury often include changes in the person’s mental and psychological state which affect personality and behavior. It helps for caregivers, family members and friends to be prepared for the mental and psychological effects a traumatic brain injury can have on their loved one.

What to Expect Regarding the Mental and Psychological Effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Depending on the area of the brain affected, a person who experiences a traumatic brain injury can exhibit changes, impairment, or imbalance within the brain’s centers responsible for emotion, mood, and feelings.

  • Short or long-term personality changes: A brain injury patient may become more or less outgoing, have sudden vocal outbursts, become withdrawn and less talkative or lose interest in his/her favorite activities.
  • Loss of mental filters: Patients may speak their mind or verbalize socially awkward or rude comments if the injury affected the part of the brain that tells them when to exhibit restraint or keep certain thoughts to themselves.
  • Emotional instability: Depression and anxiety result from changes in brain signals and can be influenced by different circumstances. Moods may linger for days or they can change abruptly in a few hours. Anxiety may range from general restlessness to full-blown panic attacks. A patient’s own frustration in self-recognition of the symptoms may cause feelings of further hopelessness and psychological duress.
  • Temperament/irritability issues: A patient may seem less tolerant of changes and stressful/busy environments, and may become argumentative or even uncharacteristically aggressive. Noticeable frustration and tolerance issues may be more prominent when the injured person is over-tired or under stress.
  • Difficulties with social cues: A brain injury patient may lose the ability to detect non-verbal cues such as gestures or facial expressions. The injured person may be unable to recognize when others are becoming uncomfortable or irritated or may fail to understand why people are smiling or laughing.

It’s important to understand that the injury is responsible for the behavior. Family friends are encouraged to simply support the recovering injury victim through patience and understanding while guiding that person with extra sensitivity.

References:

Medical News Today

Mayo Clinic

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Wave Runner, and Jet Ski Safety Tips

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Personal watercrafts (PWC) are a common pass time for residents in the greater Tampa Bay area and other popular tourist destinations throughout Florida. PWCs are defined as jet-propulsion boats designed to carry between 1 and 4 riders. The term PWC includes all types and brands of Jet-Skis, Wave Runners, and Sea Doos.

Warm weather states like Florida allow residents and tourists to enjoy the use of personal watercraft virtually year round. As Florida’s summer months approach, PWC use skyrockets. Resident who own jet-skis as well as visitors who rent wave runners near local beaches contribute to a noticeable increase in PWC activity in coastal waters. The state of Florida offers safety training and other programs to keep water sports and boating safe for everyone, including PWC riders, but personal watercraft accidents still occur.

5 Personal Watercraft Statistics

  • Inexperience, carelessness, and excessive speed are responsible for 96% of all wave-runner accidents
  • PWC renters are 25% more likely to experience an accident compared to PWC owners
  • In 2012, 651 deaths and nearly 3,000 injuries resulted from recreational boating accidents in the US
  • 85% of drowning fatality victims were reported as not wearing a life jacket or personal flotation device
  • Seven out of ten drowning victims were associated with vessels under 21 feet long (open motorboats, PWC – Jet-Skis, kayaks – canoes)

5 Safety Tips for Avoiding Personal Watercraft Accidents

1. Learn How to Swim: Basic swimming ability can help a person feel more prepared when engaging in any water-related sports or activities. Confidence will help to keep a person from panicking if he/she should fall in the water. Panicked swimmers can also pose a danger to anyone attempting to pull them to safety.

2. Wear a Life Jacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD): Strong swimming ability does not preclude any PWC rider from wearing a life vest, which is designed to keep a person’s head above water if he/she is rendered unconscious. PWCs are designed to allow a rider to fall off safely and re-board, unlike most boats. Therefore, PWC riders also face a greater danger of being ejected and knocked unconscious before they enter the water.

3. Don’t Go Alone: Avoid riding a PWC alone. Take a friend along as a passenger or ride with someone piloting their own Jet-Ski. Stay close together, but maintain a safe, immediate-operating distance. If you must go out onto the water alone, set a “sail” plan just as an airplane pilot sets a flight plan. Friends or family should be made aware each time you go out on the water, where you’re riding, and how long you expect to be gone. Stick to your plan and agree to call someone as a safety “check-in” after you return safely. If you can’t call because of an accident, your safety contact will know to contact the authorities to send help.

4. Avoid Consuming Alcohol: All PWC operators should abstain from alcoholic beverages while on the water. Combined with direct sunlight exposure and a greater potential for dehydration, the effects of alcohol on the water have been proven to have a greater impact than on land. US Coast Guard statistics cite alcohol use on the water as the highest contributing external factor to fatal PWC accidents, particularly when coupled with rider inexperience.

5. Ride Responsibly: A PWC operator is responsible for his or her own safety, the safety of any passenger, the watercraft, and any damage the watercraft’s wake may cause. Obey all signage and adhere to no-wake zone restrictions. Before performing any rapid maneuvers or crossing over another boat’s wake, check for other traffic right, left, and behind you to prevent a collision. Do not trail other boaters to jump their wakes repeatedly and only cross boat wakes at a safe distance.

Post-Concussion Syndrome – Definition, Symptoms, Treatment

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can vary greatly in type and severity. Concussions are the most common type of brain injury and also possess their respective degrees of severity and effects. Concussions result from a non-penetrating blow or impact to the skull. The brain can collide with the inside surface of the skull or can compress and expand rapidly, resulting in bruising, contusions, bleeding, and injuries on a cellular level.

Concussions can be mild, moderate, or severe, generally judged by symptoms. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a disorder in which a combination of varying symptoms (such as dizziness or headaches) persists for weeks or months beyond the initial injury. PCS is generally the designation medical professionals give to post concussion symptoms that last beyond the initial days following the injury. Not all people who experience a concussion will suffer from post-concussion syndrome.

Post-Concussion Syndrome – Diagnosis and Symptoms

PCS is a generalized condition and experienced differently from patient to patient. Studies have revealed that patients who have a previous history of head trauma, young patients, or those with a known history of headaches or migraines are more susceptible to experiencing PCS symptoms.

Diagnosing post-concussion syndrome is difficult, as there is no definitive test for the condition. Diagnosis is loosely based on the patient’s history of previous TBI and claims of ongoing symptoms. A doctor will typically conduct a physical exam and a neurological exam, and may also order an imaging test such as a CT scan or MRI to rule out other causes of symptoms such as infection, poisoning, or bleeding in the brain.

For most concussion patients, PCS symptoms begin within the first seven to 10 days and fade away within six to nine weeks, though there have been cases of symptoms persisting for three to six months. In a few rare instances, PCS symptoms did not dissipate until 11 to 12 months had passed. Symptoms of PCS can be non-specific and commonly include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with Sleeping
  • Mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety
  • Difficulty with cognition and memory

PCS symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with work, especially for jobs requiring hours of computer screen time or jobs requiring the operation of heavy machinery.

Treatment Options for PCS

Most PCS treatment is geared toward alleviating symptoms. The majority of patients who experience PCS are able to recover with plenty of rest in a low stress environment. The treating physician or neurologist may also prescribe migraine or pain medications and treat psychological symptoms with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. Additional non-medicinal treatments, such a Matrix Repatterning, may help to shorten the duration of PCS symptoms.

Symptoms do fade with time, but the patient must take steps to reduce the stress from his/her daily environment and dedicated consistent time to resting, sleeping, and avoiding noise. Patients with a history of head injuries may wish to plan in advance and make adjustments in anticipation of PCS if he/she happens to experience another concussion. Multiple-concussion patients are more susceptible, so even a recurrence of a very mild concussion could trigger a period of considerable PCS symptoms.

Concussion Baseline Testing

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Concussion baseline testing is a newer, proactive concussion management tool available to athletes and sports-training personnel. In an era of increased brain injury awareness and new evidence of the long-term dangers of concussions, the administration of a baseline concussion test can be an important step toward effective head injury management.

The 3 Parts of a Baseline Concussion Test

Many healthcare professionals, head trauma specialists, and sports training organizations offer comprehensive programs for concussion baseline testing:

  1. The test takes approximately 30-45 minutes to administer for each player. Testing will always be conducted before a sports season begins, preferably right before the very first practice.
  2. Testing is typically administered online, although options for written paper testing also exist. Basic coordination, cognition, and mental processing exercises and questions are administered to create a pre-season baseline assessment of each athlete’s brain functions including:
    1. Reaction Time
    2. Learning
    3. Memory
    4. Ability to Concentrate
    5. Problem Solving

Results from the pre-season examination are set as a control or baseline. The initial baseline test may also be able to detect any suspected presence of existing brain injury symptoms. Test results are typically computerized assessments which are stored and analyzed for future reference.

While the concussion baseline test can be used for all ages, some of the assessment exercises are only intended for athletes ages 10 and above due to basic skill level needed to answer the questions.

How Concussion Baseline Testing is Used

If any player is suspected of suffering a concussion, a post-injury test session can be administered. An examination, similar to the baseline test, will be given to the athlete and the outcome can be analyzed against the baseline to give healthcare professionals detailed insight into areas of the brain that may be injured. Without an existing baseline serving as a control, post-injury tests can only be compared with average results of the general public. Individualized results provide a much more detailed look into that individual’s own specific condition. Treatment can begin immediately upon analysis of post-injury test results.

Making Baseline Testing Effective

Only trained healthcare professionals should administer concussion baseline tests. Furthermore, only those specifically trained in concussion management should interpret results and offer treatment recommendations. Many testing programs are offered by professional sports training organizations who team up with or directly employ healthcare professionals and concussion specialists.

At minimum, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that baseline testing should be re-administered every 2 years. For athletes who experience a concussion or head injury, on or off the field of play, more frequent testing is highly recommended in order to re-establish accurate baselines and to closely monitor the player for changes in his/her condition or recurring symptoms of injury. This testing can also serve as an early warning tool to detect long-term signs of more severe forms of damage stemming from previous concussions.

Signs of Head Injury

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Head Injuries are referred to clinically as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), occurring when an outside force acts causes temporary or long term damage to the brain. The force can be direct, such as a punch, blow from an object or hard surface impacting the head. The force can also result from whipping or torqueing, commonly seen in diagnoses of shaken baby syndrome.

In cases of concussions, also classified as closed head injuries, an external force creates a collision between the brain and the inside surface of the skull. The brain can compress and expand, behaving almost like a rubbery sponge. In examples of open head injuries, the skull is penetrated or severely crushed by an object such as a bullet. The object penetrates the skull and damages the brain across its path of travel.

Recognizing the 14 Signs of a Head Injury

Immediately following an accident or collision, a head injury victim may begin to show symptoms of damage to the brain. In cases of concussions, symptoms may worsen, persist or resurface if not recognized and treated properly at first onset.

Effectively managing head injuries and obtaining the necessary treatment can depend on the swift recognition of 14 types of symptoms:

  • Any loss of consciousness
  • Appearing confused or disoriented
  • Short or long term memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness, trouble with basic balance
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Sensory issues
  • Sensitivity to light or sounds, frequent headaches
  • Feeling anxious or depressed, mood swings
  • Trouble Sleeping, sleeping longer or more frequently than usual
  • Convulsions or seizure
  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Loss of coordination
  • Clear fluid leaking from the ears or nose

7 Common Causes of a Head Injury

  • Auto Accident
  • Slip and Fall, Fall from Heights
  • Sports Accident
  • Violence / Assault
  • Domestic / Child Abuse
  • Falling Objects
  • Bicycling Accident / Fall

Treat all Potential Head Injuries Serious and Expeditiously

Parents should always seek medical care in any suspected cases of a blow to their child’s head. A simple fall in the street or at home is enough to cause a concussion. A doctor’s basic office screening will help to detect any evidence of brain injury.

Adults should seek emergency medical care if any of the 14 common symptoms described above occur after a head injury. Most adults know their bodies and habits well enough to detect a slight imbalance. Even experiencing the mildest symptoms following a blow to the head, such as an increased desire to sleep or headaches, needs to be taken seriously and is suitable cause for medical evaluation. At times, a patient’s own recognition of warning signs can be the best indication that medical attention is required.

As more people become aware of the dangers and long-term effects of concussions and other head injuries, more are seeking treatment. An early intervention and treatment plan is important to beginning recovery and restoration of quality of life. Undiagnosed head injuries have the potential to worsen and have a major impact on a person’s life. Early diagnosis and treatment is a patient’s best bet against enduring any unnecessary hardships or complications.

Man Faces Charges of Leaving the Scene of a Crash with Injury

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A woman was seriously injured as her car caught fire in a car accident where a man ran a stop sign, then got out and fled the scene on foot, according to a Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office release.

Anne Fanning was driving a 2003 Mazda eastbound on the Brandon Parkway Extension at around 40 mph on July 27 at around 11:28 p.m., the release shows. Donald Ward, who was driving a 2007 GMC Envoy southbound on Providence Road at around 45 mph, ran a stop sign, crossed the westbound lanes, struck the raised median and struck Fanning’s Mazda in her driver’s door with the front of the Envoy.

While Ward fled the scene of the accident on foot, Fanning was stuck behind the wheel with critical internal injuries as the back of the vehicle caught fire, a Tampa Bay Times article shows. Deputies used six fire extinguishers to keep the fire from spreading to the cab until firefighters arrived at the scene.

A deputy and a tracking dog along with Air Service arrived to search for Ward. The dog called K9 Deuce tracked him to a retention pond surrounded by thick brush, but the dog was unable to find his exact location. However, a pilot located him at the edge of the pond, hiding under the brush and vines, then guided the tracking dog to the location. K9 Deuce bit down on his hand, but was unable to hold onto him. Ward swam under water to the middle of the pond, but quickly surrendered when he surfaced.

Ward was treated for minor injuries to his hand, arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a crash with injury, and later released on $2,000 bail. Deputies said he smelled of alcohol, but refused to submit to any field sobriety tests. Blood alcohol content and further charges are pending toxicology results.

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