Overcoming a traumatic brain injury

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - More than one million people in the U.S. will suffer traumatic brain injuries this year - nearly 50,000 of these victims will not survive. For those who do, the recovery process is grueling.  But one brave young woman is pushing past the trauma.

23-year-old Kate Crews is still in recovery mode after a horrific car accident two years ago.  "An elevated truck crossed the center line and hit me in the head," says Kate, "through the windshield, the bumper hit me in the head."

Surprisingly enough, Kate had no broken bones, but the injury inside of her skull is another story.  "When I was hit, it bounced my brain around in my skull and caused different injuries, like bruises in the brain," says Kate.

Hit on the left side of her head, the right frontal lobe of Kate's brain was affected, causing a diffuse traumatic brain injury.  Kate spent the next three months in a coma and when she regained consciousness, she quickly learned that she would have to re-learn every aspect of life.  "I had to relearn everything like a baby," says Kate, "I had to learn how to eat, to speak, to read and write."

Stephanie Karpovs has been Kate's speech therapist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital since her release from a critical care center in Atlanta, Georgia. Karpovs says early and thorough help is a necessity for a brain-injured patient to improve.  "If you don't have help, you don't know the specific parts of the brain that were damaged and how they directly relate to your daily living activities," says Karpovs, "and it can be very frustrating not only for the person - but for everyone involved. They just don't know how to treat the person that doesn't seem like the person they knew."

Knowing that Kate's injury affected her temporal and frontal lobes, Karpovs as well as a team of physical and occupational therapists could form-fit a plan to help Kate from head to toe.  With each step, Kate's shown that she can overcome her traumatic brain injury.

Now, enrolled in her first college class since the 2008 accident, Kate is studying a field that has changed her life.  "I've been inspired to help those like I was helped," she says, "so I want to be an occupational therapist."

Bringing her "can do" attitude to others facing similar obstacles.

*There are some tips to help ease the recovery process of a person with a traumatic brain injury:

1) limit distractions
     2) use a calendar, a planner or other visual aids to help the patient with recall
     3) focus on what the patient CAN do

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