Spotlight: Take care of your head, surprises can happen
June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time to remind people to protect the head by wearing a helmet, buckling up, driving sober, getting trained, and looking first.
The five messages from the Alberta Brain Injury Network (ABIN) sound like common sense, but awareness is often overlooked.
Take one of the five messages, for example. To “stay sober” means to drive unhindered, ABIN service coordinators Michelle Hill and Nancy Bliss say. Operate a motor vehicle without alcohol, mind-affecting drugs, and distractions.
Wearing a helmet and to “look first” also seem obvious, but accidents can catch people who are unaware, resulting in a fatal incident. Strokes, concussions, and other brain injuries can be difficult to diagnose because they appear “invisible,” Bliss says.
Even health professionals can misdiagnose patients, Hill says, describing a time when a doctor mistook a patient’s slurred speech for drunkenness. The man, in fact, had been suffering from a stroke. In cases like these, Hill says it is important people listen to their bodies and self advocate.
Concussion symptoms are also common. ABIN has one client, a former football player, who has been suffering from constant headaches. Life – before and after a serious incident – can be significantly different.
“Imagine everything you know how to do today and then having to relearn it tomorrow,” is a message both Hill and Bliss stress.
“The new life can be frustrating to learn,” Hill says.
Physical effects can lead to mental ones. Depression, for example, can follow, and it is a condition that can affect families and friends.
Through the Network, clients can be referred to various services in mental health, medicine, and/or recommend therapies and alternative medicine. Both Hill and Bliss spend a lot of their time simply talking to their clients.
“We have limited resources, but we do the best we can,” Hill says.
ABIN often deals with people released from the Glenrose Hospital, a rehabilitation centre in Edmonton. Between Hill and Bliss, the Network has about 30 clients who are dealing with brain injury-related illnesses across the Lesser Slave region, including Falher, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Kinuso, Grouard, and Wabasca.
For additional information, contact either Hill or Bliss in High Prairie, at 780-523-0036 or 780-523-0071. Although ABIN only works with people who have a confirmed brain injury, Hill says she and Bliss are open to talking to people.
Their office is open from Monday to Thursday and the main office is in High Prairie.