This week marks the year anniversary of the horrific attacks in Arizona that took the lives of several and made Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords the nation’s most famous traumatic brain injury survivor. In the months following the accident the public remained transfixed by the Congresswoman’s injury. Recently, as Gifford has made more public appearances and shared her story about the attack and her recovery, many have been amazed the progress she’s experienced in only a year.
However, as our Chicago brain injury lawyers have explained, it is important to keep the Congresswoman’s recovery in perspective. The sad reality is that many victims who face similar hurdles have not seen anywhere near as positive an outcome. A large part of the reason is that they do not have the resources or access to the best therapy available which can help them reach their full potential following the accident. A story in yesterday’s New York Times made the same point. The consequences of these injuries last much longer than a year, even for those who have the absolute best therapy around like Congresswoman Giffords.
One overlooked aspect of traumatic brain injury recovery are the effects that it has on other family members-particularly spouses. The immense interpersonal challenges faced by a husband or wife following one of these events probably cannot be fully appreciated unless one lives it. The personality changes that often come with traumatic brain injury must undoubtedly throw many marriages into troubling spots. Fortunately, the increased profile of these injuries is leading to new developments in counseling and couples therapy. Those involved explain that much of that work is focused on rebuilding social links. The interpersonal connections between spouses and their friends often act as the hallmark of a relationship. Trying to keep those intact following injury is crucial to rebuilding the relationship between life partners.
Encouragingly, the most recent statistics on the issue find that couples do tend to stay together following one of these injuries. A 2007 investigation noted that the divorce rate as long as seven years after the injury were only at 17%. Yet, it is unclear what the quality of those marriages are. As one psychologist noted, “While people may technically be married, the quality of their relationship has been seriously diminished.” That is why much counseling research is going in to helping the uninjured spouse learn how to accept the changes in their partner. Yet sometimes the changes are simply too much for the other partner to bear, a condition many have called the “stranger in the living room.” For these families, the personality changes in their loved one are so profound that they essentially seem like a different person.
Each Illinois brain injury attorney at our firm understands that our work is ultimately about helping victims recover. Particularly in the brain injury context, the quality of therapy available goes a long way to determining the amount of recovery seen. Without holding wrongdoers accountable, many of these victims simply never have access to the help they need. That is unacceptable.
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