Mild traumatic brain injuries can have life-altering effects

It was not until Richard Anderson sat down at Perkins for pie and coffee that he noticed he was bleeding and had shards of glass in his ear.

Eight months ago today, a car accident in south Fargo changed everything the 46-year-old Moorhead man knew about himself. “I’m still trying to figure out who I am,” he says.

After his vehicle was hit in the passenger side by a woman going about 40 miles an hour, Anderson did not do any of the things he normally would have. He did not  get the name of the driver, they did not exchange information, and he gave the police officer the wrong insurance card.

Thinking he was fine, Anderson declined medical attention and walked across the street to the restaurant to wait for his wife to pick him up. He was seen at a walk-in clinic but sent home. Two days later, his wife insisted he go to the emergency room.

Although his CT scan was clear, Anderson suffered a concussion, or in medical terms, mild traumatic brain injury. The effects, however, have been anything but mild.

In the following days, weeks and months, Anderson’s wife noticed something was different. “Luckily, I had a caretaker that was able to provide for my needs,” Anderson says. “I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say if I hadn’t, I might’ve been out on the street by now.”

Anderson and his wife had planned a Hawaiian vacation long before his accident. Though he was nervous, he was looking forward to it, especially enjoying a romantic dinner with his spouse.
“What I hadn’t anticipated were flickering Tiki lights at every table, Hawaiian cowboys playing ukuleles, and expensive food that I could not taste,” he says.

The mental overload was too much for Anderson. After nearly causing a car accident, Anderson handed the keys to his wife. But even riding in a vehicle as a passenger is difficult. “Everybody seems to be going 90 miles an hour,” Anderson says.

Concussion symptoms can include increased sensitivity to sounds, lights or distractions and loss of sense of taste or smell.

Most people don’t experience long-term problems after a concussion, but according to the Brain Injury Association of America, up to 15 percent have persistent, disabling symptoms.

Concussions can happen from a fall, an accident or violence.  The BIA says 75 to 90 percent of the 1.7 million traumatic brain injury cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year are categorized as mild traumatic brain injury.  Mild TBI is getting more and more attention.

Post-concussive syndrome, the set of symptoms that emerge after a concussion, often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  The connection isn’t always made to the injury.

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