VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER
FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

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

Pat #3

DEAR PAT:

I am a police officer who was on duty when I was hit by a car doing 55 mph. I suffered massive injuries and was comatose for 2 months. Since the accident, I have been questioning my faith in God. Is it normal for a person with a brain injury to experience religious conflict?


PAT'S RESPONSE:

It is normal for anyone who has experienced a trauma to experience religious conflict. Traumatic events include brain injury, a relative’s death, war, job loss, the big 3-0, the big 4-0, etc. Events that make us consider the "big picture," the meaning of life, why certain things happen to us can trigger religious ponderings. Many people who survive brain trauma find religion; they may attribute a seemingly miraculous recovery to supernatural forces (i.e., God). Others may wonder why they bothered to be pious in the first place; why did such a bad thing happen to such a good person? Some people may even feel that God is punishing them for their irresponsible behavior, their natural depravity (but then if that’s the case, we’re all in trouble). Bottom line: it is very difficult to reconcile in ourselves why traumatic events occur; we often search for reasons in vain. Don’t blame yourself or God. Pat suggests that you rest in your faith, allowing it to sustain you, as you keep in mind that the things of this world are temporal and eternal peace awaits. (Or eternal damnation, whichever.)

DEAR PAT: My partner (I’m a police officer) suffered a brain injury. He sustained frontal lobe damage. Just looking at him, you would think he’s OK, but he has so many mental problems which he finds difficult to deal with. This man is like a brother to me, and I want so much to help him, but I don’t know how. I try to be there for him when he feels bad but I don’t know what to do. I might be asking an impossible question, but how can I help him? How can I make him feel better? (I wish it were me instead of him.)




PAT'S RESPONSE:

Pat is moved by your compassion. I imagine your friend is, as well. You probably have no idea what a strength you are to him. It is unusual for someone with a brain injury and resulting psychological problems to maintain significant friendships -- most people like this eventually end up alone. Your solid, compassionate friendship is probably the most valuable help you can give him.
It is very common for someone with frontal lobe damage to experience severe personality changes, as well as difficulty controlling their own emotions and behavior. Depression is common, as a result of actual changes in the brain, as well as a natural reaction to the trauma of the injury and its consequences. While you can do little to change your friend’s behavior, you can help by conveying that solid compassion to him in many ways:

* Communicate in simple, direct, understandable terms;
* Be consistent in the way you treat him;
* Repeat things as much as necessary;
* Help create an environment that is calm and nurturing -- not over-stimulating;
* Promote opportunities for success;
* Listen to and respond to your friend;
* Be patient and non-critical;
* Do fun things together often;
* -stimulating;
* Promote opportunities for success;
* Listen to and review each day as a new beginning -- don’t dwell in yesterday or tomorrow. Finally, if you think your friend needs help that he is not getting, assist him in finding a good therapist who understands brain injury. A neuropsychologist who counsels men or possibly runs a support group for people with brain injuries would be a good start. Your state Brain Injury Association has brain injury support groups, as well. Perhaps you could attend a meeting or two with your friend to get him started.



DEAR PAT:Dear Pat, my dad told me that my cousin has a brain injury. I am very nervous because my dad said she may get a tumor. What should I do?




PAT'S RESPONSE: Brain tumors make everyone nervous, especially because tumors can appear in otherwise healthy, young individuals. There are many possible causes for a brain tumor, such as cancer, but sometimes the cause cannot be determined. If your cousin is at-risk for a brain tumor, for whatever reason, she should be evaluated by a neurologist regularly to monitor her health. This is the best way to "watch" for tumor growth and initiate prompt treatment if it becomes necessary. Pat’s advice to you is to find out as much as you can about brain tumors, so that you know what your cousin and family are dealing with. Look at the links on this site, investigate information at a medical library, look through medical journals at a university library. The more educated you are about brain tumors, the better able you will be to support your cousin, and the less frightening this will seem.
The more one knows about anything, the more empowered one is (except when it comes to Pat, in which case the less one knows about Pat, the better).

DEAR PAT:

Pat, my brother sustained a severe head injury and was treated out of state (not in his home state). After treatment, my brother returned to his home state and tried to resume a normal life. However, he has lost his job, experienced paranoia, depression and delusions. The response of health care professionals here has been to "lock him up" in the local hospital. We, his family, feel this is inappropriate. He is not at risk of harming himself or others, but he needs the right kind of help. We are wondering how to find resources in this state similar to those in the state where my brother was injured.


PAT'S RESPONSE:

Almost every state has a Brain Injury Association which can refer you to brain injury rehabilitation specialists and programs, as well as other important resources for people with brain injury-related disabilities. To find out how to contact the Brain Injury Association in your state, contact the national affiliate, the Brain Injury Association, Inc., in Washington, D.C. at (202) 296-6443 or 1-800-444-6443 .

DEAR PAT:

Why would a neuropsychologist recommend Ritalin to a person with a traumatic brain injury? Can a brain injury cause Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)?


PAT'S RESPONSE:

This question presents Pat an interesting opportunity to reveal some very personal information to the audience. Pat is NOT a neuropsychologist. Pat recommends that you consult a neuropsychiatrist for the following reasons:

* A neuropsychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (M.D.) and can prescribe medicines; a neuropsychologist cannot.
* A neuropsychiatrist specializes in neurological dysfunction/brain injury treatment; a psychiatrist does not necessarily have this specialty.
* A neuropsychiatrist can work effectively with a neuropsychologist and other professionals to determine whether the brain injury possibly caused the ADD. There can be a link between brain injury and behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric conditions such as ADD. See the FAQ’s on this site for more information.



PAT’S FINAL COMMENTS: To those of you who submitted questions regarding the following: helping someone with memory loss, helping a family member understand mild brain injury, and sports concussions, please consult the updated list of FAQ’s or information; look under Problems After TBI-Cognitive; Special Issues-Family; and Basic Aspects-Causes, respectively. Pat is especially concerned about you people with sports concussions . . . don’t become another Mike Tyson.

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