June may officially be Brain Injury Awareness Month, but prevention should be a year-round goal.
That’s the advice from CEO David Head of the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society as the current campaign draws to a close.
The one thing he doesn’t do when it comes to talking about the impact of brain damage, is sugar coat the devastating impact.
“June is only one month, but the reality is that a brain injury is forever. When you’ve injured your brain, you can’t fix it,” he said. “You may be able to upgrade the quality of your life, you may be able to relearn some of the things you’ve lost, but you can’t fix it.”
He compared a person with brain damage to an old computer.
The inability to process information quickly, limited memory and not being able to react to changes are just some of the potential problems.
“It’s also very common for the person who has had a brain injury to be going through grief, and the grief is for the person they were,” said Head. “In some cases they get into a state of depression, you generally have to become a new person. You have to have new relationships — your wife didn’t marry the guy with the brain injury, she married the guy before the brain injury.”
He added learning to live with a new person can be incredibly stressful for the entire family.
In spite of all the efforts to get this information in front of the general public, Head maintains there are still too many people who don’t take adequate precaution to protect themselves.
Many cyclists, skateboarders, skiers and snowboarders are among those, according to the CEO.
He has also heard about a push to relax helmet laws for cyclists in Vancouver who are only going short distances.
“That’s not what I would call a very intelligent argument,” said Head. “People will still get injured when they are in vehicle accidents, but we spend a lot of money trying to make cars better. But we don’t a lot about trying to make people’s heads safer.”
In addition to trauma injuries, brain damage can also be the result of stroke, which is becoming more common as the population ages, and substance abuse.
And even with some protection — as evidenced in the NHL recently — sports remains a large part of the problem.
The CEO did credit minor hockey officials for taking a stronger position about hits to the head and suggested the professional leagues should take a lesson.
His final advice: “Life is filled with risks, and one of the things to manage them is when it is possible to protect your head. Don’t think twice.
“So wear your helmets, wear your seat-belts, don’t take extraordinary risks if you’re going to go and climb the side of a hill. Make sure you protect yourself, because sooner or later you’re going to fall.”
Head added he would like nothing better than to not have any more clients.