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Reporter Shares Lifetime of Consequences Following TBI & Fights with Insurance Company

Last week in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, a reporter shared the heartbreaking story of how a car accident caused by a negligent driver took the life of her brother, severely injured her mother, and threw her into a coma. The tragedy struck many years ago in 1985 when the reporter was only ten years old. However, the after-effects of the incident linger on, both in the memory of her brother and the effects of the traumatic brain injury that she still feels. Her story is one that all local community members could learn from, as it mirrors the situation that each Chicago brain injury lawyer has seen in the local clients who we help in similar situations.

The tragedy occurred in the middle of the summer when the family was on their way home from the library. A man, blinded by the setting sun, ran a stop sign and broadsided their car. The girl survived the accident, but she doesn’t remember any of it. What she does know was only learned from those who told her afterward. As a result of the collision, she suffered a serious brain injury that has affected the rest of her life. When talking about her brother and the accident she harrowingly admits that “sometimes, on my darker days, my survivor’s guilt is tinged with envy. Maybe he was the lucky one. He may have died, but at least he never had to suffer.”

After the accident it took the girl six weeks to fully get out of her coma. She notes that it was a gradual process, and she just has flashes of fuzzy images and reminders of eventually regaining consciousness. She was not able to talk or communicate in any meaningful way at first, and it was only when she could scratch out a message on a white board that she first was able to reach out to those around her. Initially the girl’s doctors did not think that she would survive. When she did, they explained that she was unlikely to ever recover much. At the time she had the mental capacity of a toddler but with even less coordination and emotional control. Her parents were given little hope that she would be able to ever take care of her own basic needs or do anything other than sit outside and enjoy the sun. The effects of traumatic brain injuries can be that severe, even after physical injuries like cuts and broken bones heal.

When the girl was discharged from the hospital she had recovered some of her ability to speak and feed herself. But the family’s insurance company claimed that she was not going to recover any more and so they refused to pay for further rehabilitation. The family fought with the insurance company, doing everything in their power to give their daughter the best possible chance of recovering as much as possible. It was only after an agonizing ordeal and dozens of run-arounds that they were finally able to have rehabilitation arranged at a local Children’s hospital. While there the girl re-learned how to talk, walk, socialize, and conduct other basic living functions.

The girl was slowly able to recover. She credits most of it to the persistence of her parents who never gave up on her-even amid their own immense grief. The family spent hours at her bedside, play audio recording of her favorite movies and filled her room with cherished trinkets. Family and friends recorded message for her as well, which her parents played for her while she was recovering.

It is only now, decades after the accident, following what she assumed was a full recovery, that the girl (now a woman) understands that she is still affected by the accident. She contacted a local brain injury association recently and learned that her current problems at work may well be tied to the incident as a child. An injury to a young brain, contrary to adult brain injuries, can create long-term problems even long after the initial trauma. This is the case because certain parts of the brain may not even be fully developed when they are injured. This means that the victim may not fully understand the consequences of the injury until they reach an age where that part of the brain was supposed to be fully developed. For the certain parts-like the frontal lobe-that might not be until one’s mid twenties.

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