The Subtle Consequences Of Brain Injuries
The study of the human brain, neurology, is a field of science in its infancy when compared to our knowledge of the other parts of our bodies. We have lists of over a hundred different uses for the liver, we’ve explored all the nooks and crannies of the digestive system, and organ transplants which surgeons once considered impossible are today commonplace.
But when it comes to the brain, we are still mapping out which lobes are responsible for what and how they interact to create a single stream of consciousness. And as far as brain injuries go, we still have trouble even spotting when one has occurred.
A Classic Case Study
Back in 1848, a man named Phineas Gage was using a tamping rod to pack a gunpowder charge into a small hole. Unfortunately, the charge went off prematurely, firing the tamping rod like a three-foot-long bullet straight into his skull and out the other side.
Remarkably, Gage didn’t feel significant pain and he didn’t lose consciousness even as he grew weak from blood loss. Of course, the deep wound was still life-threatening and he required weeks of rest and care, but ultimately he made a full recovery. However, the recovery was only “full” if you don’t account for the damage to his brain.
The iron tamping rod had passed through Gage’s frontal lobe, which modern neurologists consider responsible for higher-order reasoning and social functions. Part of the reason they’ve come to this conclusion is because of how Gage’s personality changed following the accident.
People who knew him from before considered Gage to be hardworking, shrewd in business, and respectful when dealing with others. Afterwards, though, Gage became rude and profane. He came up with one plan after another, but as fast as he thought them up he cast them aside. In short, then, he had lost his ability to control his thoughts. Whatever he thought, he said, and whatever he considered doing, he did, unless another idea crossed his mind first.
But aside from this complete personality change, Gage suffered no additional effects, and in fact he gradually began to recover – that is, until 11 years later when he suddenly began to experience frequent epileptic seizures. He died only months later at the age of 36.
A Modern Conundrum
Gage’s story illustrates not only the often subtle effects of brain injuries, but also the fact that symptoms may sometimes take over a decade to surface. Gage lost several mental functions along with the bits of his brain that flew out of his head, but because they affected his personality, this loss wasn’t obvious. At the same time, his head wound was clearly responsible for the seizures that claimed his life, but he had absolutely no problems with epilepsy for 11 full years.
A brain injury doesn’t have to be nearly as dramatic as an iron rod through the skull to leave lasting and debilitating effects. Concussions can be surprisingly easy to come by, whether through sports, military service, or vehicular accidents. By and large, such injuries clear up in a matter of days, but sometimes their effects last for months or years. They may even be so subtle that they go unnoticed, like a sudden but minor shift in personality, or entire years may go by before the true effects of a brain injury begin to appear.
If you’re suffering from a traumatic brain injury because of someone else’s negligence or malice, then even if symptoms only appeared years later you may still be entitled to serve the responsible party with a personal injury lawsuit. If you live in Florida, particularly near Sarasota, you should contact the law offices of , Goldman, Babboni, and Walsh to find out what your options are. Together, we’ll do our best to ensure you get the justice you deserve.