Update: Patriotic Day Can Traumatize America’s Patriots

Last year, I noted how July 4th can be traumatizing for some of those with a brain injury.  This year, I want to recognize that some towns do support those who suffer from it.  In Mississippi, a celebration at Old Trace Park in Ridgeland County holds an event that is partially sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi.  In Iowa, Brett Greenwood, the former defensive back for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes who suffered a brain injury in 2011, will be serving as Grand Marshall of the Bettondorf parade.  (“The goal is for Greenwood to walk on his own,” says his former Iowa football teammate Pat Angerer.)  As for prevention, the Tucson News Now provided advice on how to ensure the health of pet’s brains amid the summer heat of July 4th celebrations.

The Huffington Post notes the ongoing trauma for some troops, specifically noting the trauma suffered by some of the veterans of the Vietnam War.  On this blog, the article, Patriotic Day Can Traumatize America’s Patriots, also recognizes this trauma.

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In America, Helmets ‘R Us

“Make sure you wear your helmet!”  Many remember their mother reciting this rule before a bicycle ride during their childhood.  In 1987, California became the first state to require children to wear helmets, though at the time it was only required for children under the age of 5.  In the past 30 years, many states and counties have taken California’s cue.  “At present, 21 states, and the District of Columbia, have state-wide laws, and more than 201 localities have local ordinances [requiring helmet use].”

While Ohio does not have a state law mandating helmet use, 24 Ohio cities have passed bicycle helmet laws.  At a meeting 7:00pm meeting tonight, Grandview Heights City Council’s safety committee is discussing whether the city should become the 25th city.  Specifically, Council members will be discussing legislation introduced by Council President Greta Kearns on June 5.  The proposed law states that, “children and teens caught riding without a helmet would be warned [on their first offense], but only if their parents can show proof of helmet ownership.”  Further offenses would include fines and charges.

In the United States each year, 218,000 children are treated in the Emergency Room for bicycle-related injuries.  In Ohio alone, that number is 6,200 children, while 1 in 6 of those children are treated for a traumatic brain injury.  The thought of this law and bicycle laws in general, is that, in time, helmets will become a childhood norm.  If so, doctors say it can reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury by as much as 88 percent.

June is… National Aphasia Awareness Month

The National Institute of Health defines aphasia as, “a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language… The disorder impairs the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. Aphasia may co-occur with speech disorders, such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech, which also result from brain damage.”  Brain damage is, of course, the defining effect of a traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders.

The United States government has designated June as National Aphasia Awareness Month.  The subtitle of an article from yesterday’s Huffington Post states what I see as the main purpose of the Month: “Just because you have word-finding problems does not mean you have diminished intelligence!”  Educating the public is the key to Aphasia Awareness, so that those who have a neurological disorder and those who know an individual who has a neurological disorder recognize that their innate intelligence is still very much present.

Update: North Korean Trauma

Yesterday, June 19, 2017, Otto Warmbier succumb to the trauma he suffered for a year and a half while detained in North Korea.  Though Warmbier’s condition has generated more concern over international travel, his comatose mental state is curious.

He shows no signs of understanding language, responding to verbal commands or awareness of his surroundings,” said Kanter, Warmbier’s neurologist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.  However, “He was home and we believe he could sense that,” said his father.

Warmbier’s death, and particularly the fact that it happened almost immediately after he was reunited with his family, begs the question: Does the unconscious brain have more of a sense of self than currently believed?

North Korean Trauma

An American university student who was returned to the United States this week after being held in North Korea for 17 months has a severe brain injury and is in a state of ‘unresponsive wakefulness’,” doctors told Reuters yesterday.  Specifically, Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student of the University of Virginia, was returned to America and is now a patient at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he shows no understanding of any communication around him.  Given the limited amount of information provided by Kim Jong Un’s Korean military, the exact cause of Warmbier’s comatose state is not known.  However, one of the top assumptions is that his condition is the result of a traumatic brain injury.

Warmbier, originally from Wyoming, Ohio, has been in a coma for more than a year, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda sign in North Korea, where he was a tourist.  (I assume that Warmbier stole the sign as a unique type of memorabilia, so he would always remember his once-in-a-lifetime trip.)

This week, the Warmbier family received a call from President Trump, which they termed “kind” of him.  On Wednesday, Secretary of State Tillerson said that America is now considering travel visa restrictions for North Korea.  (Before all of this, last month, a bill was introduced that would ban United States citizens from traveling to North Korea.)  The United Nations human rights division is also carrying out a thorough investigation into North Korea’s actions.

Linking Li to the Brain

In 2014, the National Institute of Health deemed lithium (Li) to be of medical assistance in the treatment of traumatic brain injury.  However, the NIH determination came only from the promising results of a preclinical study.  Now, Rutgers University has released the findings of a three year study, funded by the New Jersey Commission of Brain Injury Research, that corroborates the NIH’s findings.

Commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, “Rutgers researchers discovered that lithium, as well as rapamycin (an immunosuppressant used to treat cancer), protects healthy brain cells from a toxic buildup of a chemical.”  Specifically, this study identified the massive buildup of glutamate.  Glutamate is a chemical in the body that, in healthy doses, promotes learning and memory.  However, in the high doses that can result from the body’s innate response to brain injury, it can be toxic to the cells.

The current results apply to recovery only from concussion.  However, given the positive results thus far, further studies are likely to be in the works.