I have a Google alert set up for news on brain injuries. One thing I have noticed over the years is that there have been a number of stories about miraculous recoveries from brain injuries. Lately there have been a number of news stories about Congresswoman Gifford’s “miracle” recovery.
Now, don’t get me wrong nothing would be better than for every brain injury survivor to have a miracle recovery but unfortunately that is not reality. I believe miracles do occur, but, for most people with brain injuries, recovery is a difficult process that requires a strong will, determination, and time.
My problem with the media is that by reporting these situations as miracles they make it more difficult on the survivors and families who have not had such miracles. I believe that often the issue is that the media just does not take the time to really learn and understand about brain injuries.
I believe the determining factor in how a person recovers from a brain injury is what part of the brain is injured and how much of the brain has been damaged. The impact of a brain injury can vary widely all based on what centers in the brain are affected. I think further that if you grouped people according to the type and severity of injury you would see a fairly consistant pattern.
One problem is that extent of the injury is not always known at the time of the injury. For example, the current scans (e.g. MRI, CAT scans) that are used do not show the extent of diffuse injury that is often involved when the head moves violently such as with car accidents. New types of scans such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) may provide better insight.
My point to all this is that to report a good recovery from a less severe injury as a miracle is a disservice to the survivor and families of someone with a more severe injury. Lets take Congresswoman Giffords case as an example. Again, I reiterate that I have no medical knowlege of her specific situation and only know what I have read in the paper. It was reported that the bullet passed cleanly through the top part of the brain. Yes, it is a terrible injury but I would expect, from what I have read, for her to have a better recovery than say someone who suffered a severe anoxic injury affecting the entire brain. So for me, her recovery has been on track with what I would expect from that type of an injury and I hope she continues to improve.
So my suggestion to the media, who surprisingly haven’t asked for my opinion, is let’s try to teach more about brain injuries and not take the easy way route of just calling everything a miracle.
Let me know what you think.