March is Brain Injury Awareness Month
March 1, 2018
There are over 11,000 Alaskans living with a traumatic or acquired brain injury (Alaska Scorecard 2016, DHSS). This number only reflects injuries that are reported at a hospital; many individuals do not seek medical care following a brain injury, making it difficult to truly grasp the number of Alaskans living with this hidden disability.
A brain injury happens in a nano-second and can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate based on age, gender, race or socioeconomic status. A traumatic brain injury is an insult to the brain from an external source which can lead to temporary or permanent damage to one’s cognitive, physical or psychosocial functioning. Traumatic brain injuries often occur after falls, motor vehicle accidents, blows to the head or gunshot wounds.
An acquired brain injury is a non-congenital insult to the brain (stroke, anoxia, toxins, tumors, etc.) that also results in temporary or lasting damage to one’s functioning. Although the mechanisms of injury are different, the resulting damage is the same: memory loss, headaches, fatigue, diminished cognitive processing or comprehension, impulsivity, sensory sensitivity, sleep difficulties, lack of focus, irritability or anger – these are just some of the symptoms one might experience after sustaining a traumatic or acquired brain injury (TABI).
TABI is challenging because the disability is unseen–a person looks “normal,” but so much has changed inside. It is difficult for others to understand why their loved one is behaving so differently and can’t do the things they did before. And, it is difficult for the survivor to try to explain what is going on when she or he might not even understand it themselves. Therefore, it is vital that both the TABI survivor and the family and caregiver receive information and support as soon as possible following the injury.
Focused on helping
The Alaska Brain Injury Network (ABIN) is the only non-profit organization in the state of Alaska focused solely on the needs of TABI. We offer education and support to people living with brain injury and their families. We connect people living with TABI to each other through support groups and other community events, as well as with providers to aid in their recovery. We help people navigate paperwork, a challenging task for someone easily overwhelmed and struggling with information processing or comprehension. There is a significant lack of awareness in our state on brain injury, so ABIN also leads the charge in educating the public and health care providers about brain injury through in-service trainings, statewide conferences and clinics. Advocacy is also an important task for our organization; we speak out on behalf of the brain injury community to increase services and resources accessible to this underserved group.
If you or a loved one has a brain injury, ABIN is here to help. Learn more about us at https://alaskabraininjury.net . Feel free to call 907-274-2824 or toll-free 888-574-2824.
Access Alaska offers case management services and organizes brain injury support groups in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kenai and the Mat-Su. Visit http://www.accessalaska.org for more information, or call toll-free in Anchorage, 800-770-4488; Fairbanks, 800-770-7940; Kenai, 888-260-9336; Mat-Su, 800-770-0228.