At the age of 22, homemaker and aerobics instructor Su Meck was seriously injured when a ceiling fan fell on her. The accident caused numerous skull fractures, resulting in a severe brain injury that left her in a coma. Eventually, she awoke from her coma but could remember nothing about her past life, including her education. So when she decided to go back to college, it was like starting from scratch. With the support of her family, Meck literally taught herself how to learn. Taking cues from her three children, she overcame the fear of being in the classroom and graduated with a 3.9 grade-point average.
Meck’s inspiring story illustrates some of the challenges traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims face. The human brain is so complex that we do not fully understand all the ways in which it works. As a result, there is no “garden variety” closed head injury – each one is unique and must be treated individually. And while doctors attempt to classify them according to severity, a simple label (mild, moderate, severe) is not enough to capture the true extent of the injury. Indeed, depending on the specific location of the trauma, symptoms can range from death to coma to various levels of physical and cognitive impairment. Likewise, treatment options are varied and often require some amount of trial and error to find an appropriate solution.
Unfortunately, many traumatic brain injury victims do not receive the treatment they need. If a victim does not have an adequate support system in place, such as a caring family or other advocate, he or she may not even be aware of the treatment options available. And as many TBI victims suffer memory deficiencies, following through with treatment plans can be difficult. Still, with courage, perseverance, and support, it is possible to prevail over many closed head injuries.