This week, 20th - 26th May is Action for Brain Injury week. This week aims to raise awareness of the impact of brain injury not only for the survivors but their families, friends and wider society.

As specialists in both child and adult brain injury claims we understand the difficulties faced by people with invisible injuries. Today we are explaining just some of the many causes and effects of a brain injury to help raise awareness.

Causes of Brain Injury 

Traumatic brain injury

This type of brain injury can occur after a trauma to the head following a road traffic accident, assaults, falls and accidents. Head injuries are the commonest cause of death and disability in people aged between 1 and 40 in the UK (NICE Health and social care directorate, Quality Standards and indicators Briefing Paper: 2014).

Strokes

There are more than 100,000 strokes each year in the UK; around one stroke every five minutes (State of the Nation Stroke statistics – January 2017). Strokes occur when the supply of blood to the brain is disrupted. A stroke can either be ischemic (a blood clot in brain cells), caused by narrowing of the arteries over time or haemorrhagic (a blood leak in the brain cells), mainly caused by high blood pressure.

Hypoxic brain injury 

This type of brain injury occurs when the brain is starved of oxygen causing individuals to lose consciousness after 15 seconds, and causing damage to the brain after approximately 4 minutes. There are many reasons why this type of brain injury may occur and include hypoxia during birth, cardiac arrest, a severe asthma attack, smoke inhalation and allergic reactions.

Meningitis 

Meningitis is an infection which can cause the meninges, protective barriers that line the brain and spinal cord, to become inflamed. This inflammation can lead to the increase of pressure around the brain which will result in brain damage. The infection itself can be bacterial, viral or fungal and can be life threatening.

Meningitis is most common in babies, children, and young adults and can cause not only permanent brain damage but also septicaemia (sepsis), a life threatening blood poisoning condition.

Effects of Brain Injury 

The effects of a brain injury, however caused, are varied. Some may be temporary and mild such as headaches and dizziness, or permanent and severe such as depression and cognitive impairment. The long term effects of a brain injury can affect almost every part of an individual's life including communication, emotions, behaviour, and their cognitive abilities.

Many individuals will suffer with what is known as asphasia, which leads to difficulties with understanding and express language. An individual may also struggle to read and write. The impairment of an individuals cognition will depend on which area of the brain has been damaged. Perhaps most common is short term memory impairment, such as the inability to recognise and remember a person's face or name. An individual may also find it difficult to collate their thoughts.

An individual may never regain control over their behaviour and may remain disinhibited, unpredictable, impulsive and socially inappropriate. These side effects can vary tremendously and can often be the most difficult to deal with for the individual and their families.

Brain injuries can also affect an individual's movement, which may necessitate the need for wheelchairs or other mobility aids. Strokes can also lead to parts of the body becoming paralysed. Another side effect of a brain injury is the potential to become vulnerable to epileptic seizures, which may lead to excessive tiredness, and fatigue.

Action for Brain Injury Week 2019: Support for siblings 

Building on last years successful campaign highlighting the different effects brain injury can have on the survivor and their families, this year’s campaign for #ABIweek is focusing on supporting siblings of children with an acquired brain injury.

It is common for siblings to feel worried, forgotten about, irrationally guilty or ignored as their parents or guardians battle to come to terms with how a brain injury will affect their sibling and their family. It can be difficult for young people to express how they feel and how children react to such a challenging life experience will of course depend on their understanding, their age and the support available to them. The opportunity to speak with family, friends or another person can make a huge difference and help them come to terms with what has happened and answer any questions they have.

The Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT) offer many resources these include:

How we may be able to help you 

As specialists in both child and adult brain injury claims we understand the difficulties faced by young people with invisible injuries. Throughout #ABIweek we at Freeths will be playing our own part to raise awareness of brain injury and to highlight the work of brain injury charities and other organisations and initiatives.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have suffered a brain injury as a result of medical treatment or care please contact one of our national team for a free and confidential discussion of your legal options:

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke on Trent/Manchester/Birmingham/Liverpool) on 0845 272 5677 karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes/London/Bristol) 0186 578 1019 carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester/Nottingham/Leeds/Sheffield) on 0845 272 5724 jane.williams@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/