June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. With over 20,000 Canadians being hospitalized each year with an acquired traumatic brain injury (per Government of Canada website) there is a huge need for public education around the prevention and impact of traumatic brain injuries.

Did you know that:

  • There are more Canadians living with an acquired brain injury (ABI) than those living with multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, spinal cord injuries and breast cancer combined
  • 452 Canadians suffer a serious brain injury every day (1 person every 3 minutes!). This figure does not include mild brain injury statistics
  • There are two types of ABIs: non-traumatic and traumatic
  • Traumatic brain injuries are caused by forces outside the body (for example motor vehicle accidents, assault, sports injuries) and non-traumatic brain injuries are caused by something that occurs inside the body (such as a stroke, brain tumour or substance abuse)
  • Every person will respond differently to an ABI, but common impacts includes physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural changes

(Source: Brain Injury Association of Canada)

What can be done to prevent an ABI from occurring in the first place?

  • Wearing a seatbelt and securing children in proper carseats for their age and size
  • Wearing the correct helmet for sports like cycling, hockey, baseball and skiing
  • Taking precautions to prevent falls in children and the elderly (ie. installing hand rails, removing tripping hazards, safety gates for children around stairs)
  • If a previous head injury has occurred (even if a seemingly mild concussion) extra care should be taken to protect the individual from further head injuries as a prior brain injury may make the individual more susceptible to future brain injury.

How do you support someone suffering from an ABI?

  • Be patient with your loved one. They will likely find the uncertainties of brain injury recovery unsettling and frustrating
  • Don’t expect your loved one to be the same person they were before their injury. Recovery will take time.
  • Rehabilitation is key for recovery, but should be done under the advice and guidance of qualified medical professionals with support and encouragement from family and friends
  • Don’t take it personally if your loved one is rude or abrupt with you. This is a common symptom of someone suffering from an ABI
  • Look after yourself so you can look after your loved one

Depression following brain injury or concussion

It’s upsetting to read stories about the death of young people, directly or indirectly, related to brain injury or concussion.Ty Pozzobon’s death following his concussion is certainly a tragedy.

The CBC story discusses the statistical frequency of depression following brain injury. In our practice, we see depression following TBI every day. Frequently I meet survivors and their families shortly after an injury. At that time they are thankful that they or their loved one survived. They praise the medical system and the “miraculous” recovery so far. That’s when I caution about depression and do everything I can to set up a full rehabilitation program. The pattern we often see, as lawyers working with survivors, is that as symptoms persist and survivors don’t recover or get back to “normal” as they hoped, depression sets in. It happens in Merritt, Vancouver and everywhere that people who have persistent post concussion symptoms live.

The risk of suicide is real. Whenever possible, the best plan is to set up a system of service so that survivors can be assisted as they encounter recovery struggles that they did not expect. Perhaps this is worse in brain injury cases because survivors and those around them look “normal” and so desperately want to be “back to normal”. The trajectory of recovery from TBI is different than a broken leg, where there is an expected period of immobility followed by physiotherapy and re-strengthening. We should expect that those recovering from concussion will encounter psychological or psychiatric hurdles. In an ideal world supports to combat the high prevalence of depression following concussion or brain injury would be available for all.

Read CBC article

Awakening from a bad dream……PeaceArch News highlights Harriet Fowler’s story of courage and inspiration

This wonderful lady,  Harriet Fowler, was a client of Brain Injury Law.

“You’re told all these bad things. Doctors always tell you the worst, but the thing you have to remember is to not give up, no matter what doctors tell you.”

Please read the full article about Harriet here http://www.peacearchnews.com/community/280850392.html

and be certain to visit her website: http://harrietrose.org and learn more about her story.

9 Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury

This insightful article provides some helpful reminders to those caring for a loved one with a brain injury.



A Winner!

We are thrilled to hear that Danielle Benoit, a friend, former client and a very accomplished equestrian, has done very well in the BC Summer Games, earning two gold medals and two silver medals.

Congratulations, Danielle!


Meet Harriet Rose Fowler

Harriet is a courageous young woman whose story of recovery is truly inspiring!

Visit her website: http://harrietrose.org and learn more about her story.

Harriet recently completed a manuscript for a book: “You are my Sunshine: The Journey Through my Recovery of  a Traumatic Brain Injury”. She wants to share her story and hopes that it might help others who are dealing with similar challenges.


Six reasons to promptly retain a lawyer after a family member suffers a severe brain injury

If the injury is a traumatic brain injury, all of the following reasons are twice as important; patients cannot recover alone, and must rely upon family to look after things while they concentrate on healing.

Read more

Jen’s Story of Recovery

After sustaining a hairline fracture to her femur, Jennifer Weterings was admitted to St. Paul’s Hospital. Within 24 hours she had developed progressive multi-organ failure, due to severe sepsis, secondary to MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). Her recovery took five months in hospital – from ICU to GF Strong – and is still continuing today.

On Friday, May 17th, 2013, Jen shared her story of recovery with medical and research staff at Vancouver General Hospital’s Lunch N’ Learn session, sponsored by Webster & Associates.

Read more

“Behavioral Challenges after Brain Injury:” Booklet produced by the Brain Injury Association of America

The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) website has a number of useful online resources for individuals and family members affected by traumatic brain injury.

“Behavioral Challenges After Brain Injury” (PDF) is one such resource that informs people with brain injuries, their families, and caregivers about the kinds of behavioral challenges they may face, while also offering practical ways to address these challenges.*

Find this and other great resources on the Brain Injury Association of America website www.biausa.org.


*Please note that while some of the materials referenced on biausa.org are intended for an American audience, the material in general is useful and applicable to anyone affected by brain injury.

New technology aims to get TBI survivors back in the driver’s seat

For many people, driving represents freedom and independence. For survivors of traumatic brain injuries driving has been identified as a key component of achieving autonomy and re-integration into the community. Unfortunately, many TBI survivors (and indeed people with various disabilities) have residual cognitive impairments that impact their ability to drive safely and defensively, among other activities. Such impairments can affect:

  • Visual scanning
  • Spatial perception
  • Attention focusing
  • Problem solving
  • Self-awareness of individual shortcomings and driving abilities (anosognosia)

While many technologies help the physically disabled drive, no technology exists to help drivers overcome the above cognitive impairments to enable safe driving… until now.

In recent months, the Shepherd Centre assistive technology team, the Georgia Tech Sonification Laboratory, and Centrafuse™ have collectively developed an in-vehicle assistive technology (IVAT) – an in-dash, touch screen computer system that uses driver interaction and positive reinforcement to improve and sustain behaviours that are known to increase driver safety.

The use of this type of technology stems from a key observation made by researchers that TBI survivors tend to be better able to remain focused on the driving task in the presence of the evaluator than when driving solo.

In order to replicate the experience of driving with an evaluator, the Shepherd Center team designed a device they called the Electronic Driving Coach (EDC), a three-button box that rests on the driver console. Each of the buttons is labelled to match the three tasks that an individual needs to perform in order to be a safe driver: mirror scanning, speed maintenance, and space monitoring. Every time the individual noticed himself practicing one of these tasks, he or she was to push the corresponding button. The EDC would then give the driver an auditory positive feedback. The researchers found that

“After 3, 6, and 12-month re-evaluations, the individual’s driving skills have been rehabilitated to a much safer level as evidenced by continued evaluations and the discontinuation of traffic violations”

The researchers recognize the limitations posed by the physical in-dash box, and are continuing to evaluate IVAT in both simulators and on-road vehicles with the hope that this technology will not only help TBI survivors, but also other groups of cognitively disabled peoples.

To find out more about driving after a traumatic brain injury, click here.

Read the full, original article here:
“In-Vehicle Assistive Technology (IVAT) for Drivers Who Have Survived a Traumatic Brain Injury” By J. Olsheski, B. Walker, and  J. McCloud