VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER
FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology Division Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Pat #26

DEAR PAT: I have a friend who had a serious brain injury last year. She fell off the horse she was riding and was knocked completely out. I'm glad I was riding with her that day so I could go find help. We got her to the hospital right away. They said she was in a coma from her injury. She spent several weeks at the hospital and slowly got better. When she went home, we threw a big party for her, but it didn't seem to cheer her up much. It's been months since the injury, and she still seems sad all the time. Whenever I ask her to do things with me, she puts me off mostly. I have to insist before she'll even go out to see a movie or eat lunch with me. This isn't like her at all to be so isolated and down.

What can I do to help my friend when she won't even talk to me about what's wrong?

PAT’S RESPONSE: After brain injury, people often have a hard time dealing with life changes that may follow like seeing different doctors, going to physical therapy appointments, being unable to drive, or missing work. Changes in brain functioning after an injury may also play a role in emotional difficulties. The physical wounds of a brain injury often heal much more quickly than the emotional ones. You are a good friend to notice that she needs help feeling better. Despite your best efforts to cheer her up, sometimes it takes help from professionals to start feeling positive again after brain injury.

The Brain Injury Association of Virginia (BIAV), located in Richmond, has information about services for persons with brain injury. The friendly staff at BIAV would be happy to share their resources for persons after brain injury. For example, BIAV has a list of local brain injury service providers (doctors, psychologists, and counselors), information about support group meetings, educational materials about brain injury, and other resources in the community. You and your friend may consider attending a support group to learn about coping with brain injury first hand from people with brain injury and their family members or friends. Perhaps, you can invite your friend for an early supper then go to a support group together!

To learn more about support groups in Virginia for survivors of brain injury and their family members or friends, contact BIAV by phone (804-355-5748 or toll free 800-334-8443), e-mail (info@biav.net), or send a letter to the address listed below:
Brain Injury Association of Virginia
3212 Cutshaw Avenue, Suite 315
Richmond, VA 23230
Toll free: (800) 334-8443
Internet: www.biav.net

For people with brain injuries having a difficult time adjusting, there are a number of studies going on at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center in Richmond which may be helpful. There are two studies which may be of interest to your friend. One study helps identify symptoms of depression after brain injury. The other study provides treatment to persons with severe depression following brain injury. To learn more about options for people with brain injury to volunteer in a study (or two), read on!

In one study, researchers are trying to figure out the best way to identify emotional changes after brain injury. People volunteering for the study will talk with someone about emotional changes they've noticed since their injury. A short test of mental functioning will also be given. They will be interviewed on two occasions -- once as soon as a visit can be scheduled, then again three months later. If a serious emotional problem is found or the person is interested in treatment, options that may help him or her feel better will be discussed. People without clear signs of emotional difficulties after brain injury can also volunteer for the study if they like.

Another study at VCU Medical Center hopes to find out whether medication for depression helps people with brain injury feel better. The survivor will be seen by a doctor and research staff every one or two weeks for three months while on medication to check the person's response. Volunteers are not charged any fees to take part in these studies. To learn more about these research projects, you, a family member, or another friend may call Jenny Marwitz (804-828-3704 or toll free at 866-296-6904). Your local chapter of the Brain Injury Association of America (toll free at 800-444-6443 or internet www.biausa.org) may provide information about ongoing studies or support services for persons with brain injury in your area. Contact information for other national organizations with information about brain injury research and recovery are provided below:

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-7100
(202) 245-7640
TTY: (202) 245-7316
www.tbindc.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
NIH Neurological Institute
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
(800) 352-9424 or (301) 496-5751
TTY: (301) 468-5981
www.ninds.nih.gov

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