Archive of ‘Types of Injuries’ category

A Brain Injury Doesn’t Have to Be the End

concussion recovery

Moving Forward from a Brain Injury

Following an accident, the words “brain injury” are among the scariest a patient’s family can hear. Many assume that there will be no recovery, or, if there is, that their loved one will bear no semblance to the person they once knew. Indeed, for the first few weeks or even months, it’s difficult to know what the eventual outcome will be. The person could be unconscious, in a coma, or in a vegetative state. Even once a patient regains consciousness, even basic responsiveness to stimuli may be slow to return, and unpredictable.

Despite these potential dire signs, there is no need to despair. Many people who suffer brain injuries do make extraordinary recoveries, and go on to live long and full lives. Take Matthew Evans, for example. At the age of eight, he fell off a cliff and suffered a stroke, which caused severe brain damage. Initially, doctors did not expect Evans to be able to continue attending school. In spring of 2015, however, he walked across the stage and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. Though he is still partially paralyzed, he was able to take coursework alongside his peers, and is proud to have overcome these challenges to earn his diploma.

Brain Injury Recoveries: Factors in a Positive Outcome

Brain injuries are complex conditions, and their treatments are long and complex, too. There are many factors that affect outcome. Though the rate of improvement in brain function is often fastest during the first six months, people experience widely varying rates of improvement. CT scans or MRI’s are not necessarily predictive of long-range outcomes, even when the first test results are alarming. A patient who shows severe bleeding in the brain after an accident may make a full recovery (of course, the inverse is true—promising early scans can be misleading as well).

The work continues long after leaving the hospital: for years, patients must work on cognitive exercises and organization. Intelligence and emotional response to the process varies. People with high IQ’s often recover faster, although sometimes their awareness of the situation, and hence frustration, can be a significant emotional stumbling block. It’s very important to get cognitive treatment and therapy as early as possible; though the brain can heal by itself, early treatment tends to improve neurological outcomes. Most people’s lives are forever changed by a brain injury, and few cognitively feel exactly as they did prior to the injury. But though their lives will be different, they can be just as fulfilling, and incredible progress is possible.

How a Car Crash Can Change Your Life Forever

A car crash is always unforeseen, and the consequences are often life-changing. A serious injury that requires many months of medical treatment is often chaotic and emotionally and physically draining, even for a minor injury.

Head injuries are a common injury in an auto collision, and these injuries carry very serious consequences. In many cases there will be a permanent impairment of cognitive abilities, motor skills or both. Even a minor concussion can leave the person with severe headaches, emotional instability, depression and other symptoms. Some of these symptoms may not be immediately recognized as being associated with a head injury.

One of the most difficult situations is when the memory has been affected, either short memory or long term memory. An unusual case reported by Business Insider involved a racecar driver, Fernando Alonso. His car hit the wall at a speed of about 93 mph. He lost consciousness for a period and appeared confused, and due to his symptoms, was airlifted to a hospital for a medical evaluation.

Upon being questioned by medical professionals at the hospital, Mr. Alonso had no memory of the prior twenty years of his life. The brain injury he suffered affected his memory to such a degree that he had literally no memory of two decades, and considered himself to be 13 years old. This form of memory loss is termed retrograde amnesia, and can be a symptom of a serious brain injury or concussion. Some people recover all or most of the lost memories, while others cannot, and must relearn the entirety of their lives, including meeting spouse and children as if for the first time – a difficult situation for everyone. Thankfully, Mr. Alonso is reported to have recovered fully.

Another type of amnesia, called anterograde amnesia, leaves the person unable to create new memories. The inability to retain new information makes life extremely difficult, with challenges that are almost unimaginable. What was learned in one moment can be forgotten almost instantly.

Specialists who work with those suffering from brain injuries have developed methods to assist the person to deal with this serious impairment. Some people must be retaught how to speak, walk and do any of life’s most basic tasks.

The prognosis for any victim in a car accident is often uncertain, particularly in cases of brain injuries. While some patients recover fully, others may never regain their abilities, or will live with significant mental impairments. Medical professionals cannot advise families of what to expect with regard to a full recovery, as each person varies in response to treatment.

Other life-changing injuries commonly associated with car accidents include spinal cord injuries and paralysis, disfiguring injuries and amputations.

A car accident is often not strictly speaking, an accident. It is the result of an act of negligence, when another driver acted by failing to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others, and in doing so, injured others. Acts of negligence include drunk driving, speeding, texting while driving and other types of distracted driving, as well as drowsy driving. If a driver gets behind the wheel and puts others in danger, they can be held accountable for injuries and loss of quality of life through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit. These legal actions fall under the jurisdiction of the state’s civil court system.

How to Live With Brain Injury

Every year in the United States, about one million people seek emergency room care due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and an estimated 230,000 people are hospitalized. Traumatic brain injuries range significantly in severity, from a mild concussion that has no long-term impact on health, to a severe injury that directly impacts every facet of life. For those in the latter category, establishing a new normal is especially difficult, but with motivation and hard work, it is possible to enjoy a sustained quality of life.

The areas of life that are impacted by a TBI will depend on which parts of the brain were injured, as well as the severity of the TBI diagnosis. While it’s nearly impossible to accurately gauge exactly how much impact a TBI will have on a person’s life in the long term, there are general steps a person can take to help them overcome many of the challenges associated with a TBI.

Attention and Concentration

A traumatic brain injury can render you unable to focus or concentrate on multiple tasks. As a result, you may suffer from restlessness and may become easily distracted. To combat those hurdles, remove any potential distractions prior to starting a task. Do it no matter how seemingly simple a task is (answering a phone call) or how difficult (writing a letter). As you gain confidence, you will notice a slow progression in your ability to complete increasingly complex tasks, and eventually the distractions will no longer be a hurdle to completing them.

Communication

Communication can also be problematic for TBI victims. You may find yourself having a hard time coming up with the right word, following conversations, using facial expressions, and reading the emotions of others. To help regain abilities in this area, maintain conversations with only one person at a time, speak slowly and deliberately, and create a signal that others can use to let you know when you have gone off topic. The more you practice these steps, the easier communicating will become.

Organization, Planning and Retaining

Scheduling appointments, making plans, and performing multi-step tasks can be a challenge for people who have a TBI. So, start making and keeping lists of things you need to do and create step-by-step instructions for tasks that you find difficult. If a task is simply too complex, break it down into smaller steps. When faced with a task that you cannot figure out, focus on the desired end result and work backward.

Another common problem for victims of TBI is the inability to recollect events and retain information. You might recall memories from long ago, but short term memory and the ability to grasp new information are generally affected. Write down a list of daily routines and activities and keep a copy by your bed, on your refrigerator, in your car, or wherever else you may need it. Use notebooks, wall calendars and smartphone apps to help you along the way, too.

Also, the more relaxed you are and the more rest your brain gets, the better it will function. So, get plenty of sleep and reduce anxiety triggers. One way to lower anxiety is to review your notes and practice new tasks regularly. That way, you will become more familiar with them, and that will lead to reduced stress.

A traumatic brain injury can be a setback, but there are countless ways you can help yourself along the path to recovery. Even if you don’t regain full capacity, with patience and practice you can still function at a high level. The quality of life you enjoy will be directly impacted by your level of motivation and long term commitment to recovery.

Despite New Study’s Findings, Parents Should Take Potential Child TBI Seriously

Let’s say your child is playing on a swing at school, falls off and hits his or her head on the ground, causing a bruise or bump to form. As a parent, should you be concerned that a serious child brain injury has occurred?

According to a recently published study, if your child’s only sign or symptom after the accident is a headache, there is actually a fairly low risk that the child has suffered a “clinically important” traumatic brain injury (ciTBI), or a brain injury that is likely to require hospitalization or surgery.

However, out of an abundance of caution, you should still have your child examined by a doctor after one of these “bumps on the head.” You should also keep a close watch for signs and symptoms of TBI in the weeks that follow.

Study Finds Low Risk of TBI in Children with Isolated Headaches

Researchers from New York’s Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital conducted the study, which was reported February 2 in the online edition of the journal, Pediatrics.

The study analyzed data from a prospective observational study of children between ages 2 and 18 with “minor blunt head trauma,” or head trauma registering a score of 14 or 15 on the 15-point Glasgow Coma Scale.

As Reuters Health describes, the children were placed into two groups: Those with isolated headaches and those with signs and symptoms in addition to a headache.

Out of 2,462 children who suffered only isolated headaches, none were found to have ciTBI. In contrast, out of 10,105 children with more than an isolated headache, 162 had ciTBI (1.6 percent).

In other words, the risk of serious brain injury is 1.6 percent higher when a child presents signs and symptoms that go beyond an isolated headache.

Additionally, commuted tomography (CT) scans identified ciTBI in only three out of 456 children with isolated headaches (0.7 percent). Out of a group of 6,089 children with additional signs and symptoms, CT scans revealed ciTBI in 271 (4.5 percent). In other words, the risk of ciTBI was 3.8 percent higher.

This research follows a study published online in September 2014 by JAMA Pediatrics that analyzed children with isolated loss of consciousness after suffering mild blunt head trauma. The researchers in that study found there was a “very low risk for ciTBI” among children with that lone symptom and concluded that they “do not routinely require” CT scan evaluations.

How Should Parents React to Head Injuries?

While the these studies, taken together, may suggest that parents have little to worry about if a child merely bumps his or her head and suffers only an isolated headache or loss of consciousness, it is still important to take these injuries seriously.

As the Brain Injury Association of America notes, “62,000 children sustain brain injuries [each year] requiring hospitalization as a result of motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, physical abuse and other causes.”

Pay attention to signs and symptoms of TBI that a child may develop in addition to headaches or loss of consciousness, which the Children’s Health Center of Atlanta describes as:

  • Fluid draining from the ears or nose
  • Confused or dazed looks
  • Inability to see or speak clearly
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Severe neck pain
  • Progressive drowsiness
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Inability to remember people or places.

If your child has suffered an apparent head injury, don’t do the evaluation yourself. Instead, take your child to see a doctor as soon as possible. Allow the doctor to do an examination and to consult with you on whether to order additional testing such as a CT scan or X-ray.

The Link Between Motorcycle Helmets and Traumatic Brain Injury

Motorcycle accidents are a common cause of traumatic brain injuries. The number of riders suffering traumatic brain injuries has increased as states have repealed universal helmet laws requiring all riders to wear protective headgear. Of course, any motorcyclist can suffer a traumatic brain injury, whether or not they’re wearing a helmet. But riders not wearing helmets are at much greater risk of suffering traumatic brain injuries.

Unfortunately, many drivers of cars and trucks are not alert for oncoming motorcycles. All experienced bikers know this. This puts motorcyclists at a far greater risk of a collision and of suffering brain injury or death in an accident. When you are on a motorcycle, there are no airbags and no safety belts. There is nothing standing between you and the pavement passing beneath your wheels. A helmet is the best protection available.

How Common Are Motorcycle Accidents and Serious Injuries?

A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analyzed the connection between motorcycle helmet use and head injuries based on more than 100,000 motorcyclists involved in crashes in 18 states. Approximately 57 percent of the riders were wearing helmets and 43 percent were not wearing helmets at the time of the motorcycle accident. Unhelmeted riders suffered nearly twice the percentage of head and facial injuries as those wearing helmets, the researchers found.

The researchers noted that 21 percent of the riders not wearing helmets suffered traumatic brain injury compared to 15 percent of those wearing helmets. The severity of the brain injury also correlated with helmet use. Seven percent of bikers not wearing helmets suffered severe traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident, while 4.7 of the riders wearing helmets had a severe TBI.
While some motorcyclists are adamant about their right to choose whether to wear a helmet, there is compelling evidence that helmets improve a rider’s odds of surviving a collision with less severe injuries.

A traumatic brain injury has a profound effect on a cyclist’s ultimate recovery. Hospital charges for those with a TBI were 13 times higher than for those who didn’t suffer such an injury. Further, those with a TBI were far less likely to be discharged home from the hospital. Riders with brain injuries are much more likely to require ongoing medical care and to be transferred to a rehabilitation center or nursing home. Finally, those with such brain injuries are more likely to die. Only diagnosed in 17 percent of hospital-admitted motorcycle accident victims, TBI sufferers accounted for 54 percent of accident fatalities.

Many States Have Partial Helmet Laws, Reducing Compliance

In the 1960s, the federal government encouraged states to enact universal motorcycle helmet laws requiring all riders to wear helmets by making certain kinds of federal aid available only to states that had helmet laws in place. In states that institute universal helmet laws, the rate of motorcycle fatalities and brain injuries typically drops, according to Consumer Reports. When such laws are repealed, the rates climb again.

In 1976, Congress stopped the U.S. Department of Transportation from penalizing states that did not have universal helmet laws, and state lawmakers began weakening or repealing the helmet laws.
Only 19 states in the U.S. have universal helmet laws. Twenty-eight states have partial laws requiring some motorcyclists to wear helmets. Oklahoma, for example, has a partial helmet law, requiring riders age 17 and younger to wear helmets. The NHTSA has found that in states with partial helmet laws, there is a lower compliance rate with the helmet law because of the difficulty police have in determining who is underage.  Less than 40 percent of minors involved in fatal accidents were wearing helmets, the NHTSA said.

As a motorcycle accident lawyer may tell you, if you’re not wearing a helmet, an insurance company will argue that you contributed in part to your own injury even if the accident wasn’t your fault. You may have more difficulty collecting compensation to pay your medical bills.

For some motorcyclists, helmets are uncomfortable or seem a distraction. But when faced with the alternative, it seems to be an easy decision to make.

New Study Sheds Light on Potential Long-Term Effects of TBI

A new study illustrates the long-term impact that traumatic brain injury (TBI) may have on victims.

The study came out June 25 in the online journal, Neurology. According to the study, TBI in the older U.S. military veterans whose medical records were reviewed in the study was associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of developing dementia.

While this study certainly has implications for military personnel who are exposed to the risk of severe TBI in the field, it also has relevance to civilians.

The study looked at traumatic brain injuries that could result from not only military events but industrial accidents, automobile accidents and sports accidents as well, a co-researcher told the Los Angeles Times.

Study Finds Heightened Risk of Dementia in TBI Victims

In the study, researchers from the University of California-San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center examined the medical records of 188,764 U.S. veterans ages 55 and older who were patients in the VA health system between 2000 and 2003 and who had not been diagnosed with dementia during that timeframe. Out of that group, 1,229 veterans had been diagnosed with TBI.

The researchers analyzed the records of both the TBI and non-TBI veterans from 2003 to 2012 and compared their dementia rates. The study found that 16 percent of the veterans with TBI developed dementia during the nine-year follow-up period, while only 10 percent of the veterans without TBI developed dementia.

The study’s results indicate that TBI in older military veterans may predispose them towards the development of dementia. Younger veterans and civilians should be concerned about the long-term effects of TBI as well, the researchers said.

As the Times points out, the study did not answer the question of whether victims of mild brain injuries, such as concussions that are often suffered in sports contests, may face a similar heightened risk of developing dementia.

The study also did not establish a clear link between TBI and dementia. It could be that other factors contribute to development of the condition, including genetic factors and alcoholism.

Research suggests that TBI may actually work in concert with those other factors to raise the risk of TBI, the Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports.

What Is Dementia?

As this study suggests, TBI victims and their families should pay close attention to the signs of dementia – even long after the TBI has appeared to heal. They may also wish to learn more about treating the condition.

According to WebMD, dementia is marked by a decline in mental skills and can impact one’s ability to carry out daily life activities. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

WebMD says that signs of dementia include memory loss, difficulties recognizing people and places, problems forming speech and troubles with controlling moods or behaviors.

Doctors may prescribe a wide range of medications and antidepressants to treat dementia, the Mayo Clinic states. However, care and support from those close to the victim will be crucial as well.

 

Submitted by Geoff McDonald & Associates , P.C.

Sports Injuries: Signs that you have a traumatic brain injury

brain injury

Athletes frequently suffer injuries during games as well as during practice.  Ankle sprains, broken wrists, fractured collar bones, bumps and bruises are commonplace.  Trainers and team doctors keep busy by icing player injuries, taping up minor problems, and helping athletes manage pain so that they can get back out on the field or court.  Recently head injuries suffered by athletes have made headlines because of the problems former NFL players are experiencing.   Just a few days ago former NFL star and Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett admitted that he was suffering from a brain ailment that was likely the result of head injuries he suffered while playing football.  He is one of many former football players who are now living with a myriad of brain ailments.  While a traumatic brain injury is often the result of a hit to the head, the signs of a brain injury are not always immediately apparent or recognizable by the player, coach, trainer, or medical staff.  As a result players do not always get immediate treatment and instead resume participating in a sporting event, running the risk of aggravating the injury.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury is caused by a violent blow to the head.  When the hit to the head causes dysfunction of the brain cells, or bruising, torn tissues, bleeding or other damage to the brain, a traumatic brain injury has occurred.

Football players are particularly susceptible to head injuries because tackling is part of the sport.  Players weighing over 300 pounds are tackled and thrown to the ground by other, equally heavy players.  Despite wearing helmets and other protective gear, football players frequently suffer head injuries after being hit or tackled.  Football players are not the only athletes who suffer head injuries that impact the brain.  Head injuries are also common in rugby, cycling, soccer, volleyball, hockey, basketball, and skiing.  Each of these sports involves tackling, a ball moving at a high rate of speed, or the athlete moving at a high rate of speed.

Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

Those who experience brain injuries may demonstrate a wide variety of symptoms.  The symptoms may be physical or psychological.  Some symptoms may appear immediately after the trauma, while others may not appear until days or weeks later.  According to facts compiled by DoSomething.org, 66% of teenagers who suffer concussions do not feel the injury was severe enough to tell an adult.  Symptoms of brain trauma varies depending on the type of brain injury, the severity of the brain injury, and the general health of the victim.  For mild trauma, the symptoms may include a loss of consciousness for up to a few minutes, confusion, headache, loss of balance, memory problems, concentration problems, nausea, drowsiness, and sensitivity to light or sound.  If the trauma is severe, symptoms can  include loss of consciousness from several minutes to hours, extreme confusion, slurred speech, weakness in fingers and toes, loss of coordination, persistent headache, seizures, vomiting, inability to awaken from sleep, agitation, and clear liquids draining from nose and ears.

A severe brain injury can leave the victim in a coma, semi-conscious state, or vegetative state.  It can also result in permanent nerve damage, cognitive problems, sensory and communication problems, and leave the victim more susceptible to degenerative brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Legal Liability When an Athlete Suffers a Brain Injury

When an athlete suffers any type of injury during the course of a sporting event or during practice, it is difficult to place legal liability on another person or organization.  While a severe injury such as a brain injury, spinal cord injury, or any injury that leaves permanent damage is devastating for the athlete and his or her family, the possibility of such an injury is generally a known risk that athletes assume when they chose to participate in a sport.  In fact, athletes at all levels including student athletes, typically sign a waiver relieving the governing organization, coaches and other staff members of liability in the event of an injury.  Thus, a personal injury lawsuit by an athlete based on a traumatic brain injury suffered during a sporting event will likely fail.

The exception to the assumption of risk reality for athletes is when the organization is negligent.  This is the crux of the claim that former NFL players have asserted against the NFL– that the NFL negligently hid facts about the medical consequences of head injuries from players.  As a result such players were not able to make an informed decision about assuming the risk of such an injury.  Other instances in which an athlete may have a claim is where players are not properly supervised by staff, where players are not provided with the proper safety equipment, or where injured players are allowed to continue to play without proper medical clearance.

Even though sports organizations, schools, and the government have taken steps to make certain sports more safe, such as requiring helmets and other protective gear, head injuries remain a fact of life in many sports.  Should governing organizations be required to ensure that athletes who suffer permanent, debilitating injuries have medical insurance that will cover the injured athlete’s lifelong medical care related to such injuries?

Protecting Our Young Football Players? Brain Injury

football brain injury

Would you let your child play football?

That’s a hot question these days as information about long-term medical problems among former players in the National Football League continues to be emerge.  The NFL recently agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players suffering neurological problems. The players claim that the league knew of the potential risk of brain damage due to repetitive concussions, but did little to prevent the injuries from occurring.

Some former players link their current medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and other neurodegenerative diseases to their football playing days.

The barrage of recent media coverage regarding the NFL lawsuit is shining a light on the dangers of the sport and making parents across the country wonder whether the risks are worth it.

Study Shows Higher Risk of Brain Injury

A recent study in the medical journal Neurology suggests that professional football players are three times more likely to have such conditions as the general population. The study, which appeared last year, surveyed nearly 3,500 retired NFL players who were in the league between 1959 and 1988.

The league has taken major steps in recent years to make the game safer for players, both in terms of equipment and protocol. In the past, though, when a player got his “bell rung” and stumbled dizzyingly to the sideline, he was sent right back into the game as soon as possible, exposing the player to further head injuries.

Obviously, there’s a big difference between Little League and the NFL. The massive size, speed and power of players at the highest level is in no way comparable to young kids just picking up the sport in elementary school. You won’t see the kind of violent collisions in Pee Wee games that you do on Monday Night Football.

On the other hand, there’s also a big difference in the quality of protective equipment used by pros versus youngsters. Whereas qualified medical staff is always present at practices and games for college and pro teams, that’s not the case for younger players.

Undeniably, football at any level is violent. To “shake off” on injury and get back in the game is seen as admirable.  That’s just part of the culture of the sport —whether it’s the New York Jets or a Pop Warner team in Columbia, South Carolina. Taping an ankle and limping back out there to the applause of the fans is one thing. Returning to the game once you’ve “shaken the cobwebs” after a blow to the head is an entirely different matter.

Football Remains Popular Despite Injury Risks

Most youngsters who play football don’t sustain serious injuries, although almost everyone who plays long enough will get a little banged up from time to time.  It’s hard for a parent to draw the line. Head injuries, however, aren’t as easy to detect as a twisted ankle. A bruised brain poses a much greater risk for problems down the road.

Maybe youth leagues are safe but reservations start to creep in along about the junior high or high school level as the size, speed and power of the players increase. Regardless of the dangers, the sport remains a popular activity among young people. It is estimated that 3.5 million kids play in youth leagues and one million play in high school.

But how risky is it? A group of researchers in Virginia and North Carolina is hoping to shed some light on the subject, according to an article in Technology Review.  The researchers studied a high school team and two youth teams, including children aged 6-18, during a season. The researchers outfitted their helmets with accelerometers and more than 16,000 head impacts were recorded and measured during the 2012-13 season. Players were given pre-season and post season brain scans and neurological tests to review any changes in the brain. Results are still being analyzed.

Tools to Identify Players in Danger of Brain Injury

The researchers hope to develop tools to identify when a football player has been hit hard enough, or frequently enough, to risk a concussion or other brain injury.

The decision can be a tough one for parents. Most of us want our kids involved in extracurricular activities and believe participating on an athletic team builds confidence and discipline. We may wonder whether football is really more dangerous than soccer or skateboarding or surfing or driving a car or other activities. Many of us have fond memories of Friday nights under the lights and feel like a hypocrite denying the same experience to our children.

Still, keeping our children safe is a fundamental task as a parent. Each family must consider the pros and cons and make a decision that’s right for their child.

Organizations that Have Given Their Heart to Children with CP

Children with CP

What is CP?

CP, formally known as Cerebral Palsy, is the name given to a group of neurological defects that lead to physical disabilities in the course of a child’s growth from infancy through roughly the fifth year, when the diagnosis is fully fleshed out.

The defects are often marked by tremors and loss of sensation, a symptom that also appears in a large number of individuals suffering from early stage Parkinson’s disease. The difference is, those who develop CP do so largely within the first three years.

If undetected at birth, as in the case of athetoid or dyskinetic CP, the affects will appear much sooner, producing difficulty sitting, maintaining a sitting posture without falling over, and walking and speaking distinctly. Because this form of CP affects the tongue and vocal cords, some children may even drool.

CP Types and Symptoms

There are many other symptoms and, in fact, types of CP. Typing is based on symptomatology, and the causes are as varied as the mother developing German measles, drinking alcohol, or taking illicit drugs during the first two trimesters (or six months) of pregnancy. Other causes include (but are not limited to) serious infections like toxoplasmosis, herpes, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), poor diet, and exposure to toxic substances. CP may even be caused by multiple births, small pelvis and breech presentation (buttocks first instead of the head). Even low blood pressure and premature birth may trigger the neurological anomaly.

The disease is tragic, turning a beautiful newborn into an uncommunicative, possibly drooling victim when CP is fully diagnosed.  Nor is the mother always to blame. In fact, aside from the obvious triggers – tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs and unsafe sex – CP is pretty much an equal opportunity brain defect, and even after more than a half-century of research doctors and clinicians are unsure what causes it.

Birth injury is one suspect, as when the placenta is damaged during labor (sometimes by use of a vacuum extractor or forceps, when delivery is breech). Premature delivery in the case of a difficult and premature labor when the fetus is too young to cope with the stresses of life outside the uterus is also suspected.

 Where to Turn for Help

The discovery that a newborn has CP is such a shock to the system some parents never fully recover. In fact, this tiny scrap of humanity, for whom parents have waited almost a year (and in whom resides all their best hopes and ambitions for the future), can tear apart a family faster than more mundane issues like money, infidelity and sexual orientation.

Unable  to admit the awful truth – what they see as some defect on their part(s) – these parents will struggle from day to day, trying to adapt to a care regimen that is nothing like the once described in the baby books. While friends struggle to keep their active two-year-old out of cupboards, rooms and the family dryer, parents of children with CP struggle just to see their baby sit up.

Other parents, firmly grounded and with reliable social safety nets (from workplace friends, high school and college friends, even friends from church or bible study or charitable organization work) will find help, because no one gets through this alone.

That first cry for help may go out to NICHCY, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, an information clearinghouse that outlines disabilities and organizations designed to help desperate parents.

The second call will be to the Cerebral Palsy Organization, which offers everything from definitive advice about classifying, or staging, the severity of CP – an essential element to getting help and one which your doctor may not be comfortable making – to a website and call center to answer those pressing questions.

Other organizations include the Cleveland Children’s Clinic, in Ohio, consistently rated by U.S. News and World Report as one of the “Best Children’s Hospitals” for its staff of more than 300 pediatric medical and surgical professionals. Along the same lines, Gillette Children’s Hospital offers a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in conjunction with Region’s Hospital, the “go to” hospital in St. Paul (Minnesota).

A website devoted exclusively to teen Cerebral Palsy offers chat pages where CP teens can engage one another in conversation about their illness and gain the courage to work harder and face the world. The point? Everyone knows teens would almost rather confront Freddy (A Nightmare on Elm Street) than talk to their parents! A similar site for post-teens is Cerebral Palsy World.

Finally, for those who are financially unable to care for their CP child, cerebralpalsycosts.com offers a wealth of information on how to access various government programs (Social Security Disability Insurance, for example, or Medicaid/Medicare) to fund the more than $1.148 million it costs caregivers to raise the CP infant to adulthood.

These disabled children funding groups include state aid and county aid, but not hospital charitable programs or other charitable institution funding. Do all the legwork, even if you are exhausted, and you may come across a pleasant surprise, like a community hospital which provides indigent or very low income patients with complete financial support except for prescriptions and elective outpatient programs.

Zoloft and the Link to Birth Defects

Zoloft Dangers

For most moms-to-be, pregnancy is a very emotional time. Not only are they dealing with an increase in the number of hormones coursing through their body, but are also preparing to bring new life into the world. While women often consider pregnancy to be an exciting time, some women can find themselves sinking into a depression. Unfortunately, some of the medications used to treat depression—including Zoloft—can have severe side effects, including the development of life threatening birth defects.

What is Zoloft?

Understanding the basics behind Zoloft is crucial for those who want to prevent the development of birth defects in their unborn children. According to Drugs.com, Zoloft is a prescription medication used in the treatment and management of depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Zoloft is often classified as an anti-depressant, and falls into a class of medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—or SSRIs. In addition to the conditions described above, some physicians and other healthcare providers may prescribe Zoloft from the management of insomnia, chronic acne, and other various conditions.

 How to Use Zoloft

As with most other medications, using Zoloft in a safe and responsible manner is very important to prevent potential complications. Individuals who receive the oral tablet form of Zoloft can feel comfortable taking the medication with or without food, as long as it is consumed at the same time each day. In contrast, those who use the liquid version of the product must carefully dilute it with water, ginger ale, or lemon-lime soda before its consumption. Failing to take Zoloft in the described manner cannot only decrease its effectiveness, but may lead to serious complications or health risks for the patient.

Birth Defects Associated with Zoloft

While Zoloft is safe to use for most people, women who are pregnant should never ingest the medication. In fact, pregnant women who do take Zoloft may be at greater risk for the delivery of an infant born with moderate to severe forms of birth defect. Some of the most common birth defects associated with maternal Zoloft intake include pulmonary stenosis, tetralogy of fallot, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, ventricular septal defects, cleft palate, and skull defects. In addition, more and more research is suggesting that infants who are exposed to Zoloft in utero may be at risk for the development of Downs’ syndrome.

Seeking Assistance

Obviously, Zoloft is a dangerous drug that should not be used under any circumstances by women who are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant. Those who suffer from depression or any of the other mental health conditions described above should talk with their healthcare provider about weaning from the prescription as soon as possible. In most cases, these women can be easily transitioned to another medication that does not feature such serious health risks. Once the baby has been born, mothers who are not breastfeeding may be able to return to the use of this product.

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