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This year’s walk is looking to be more than awesome, it’ll be…awesometastic?  I don’t know the right term, but whatever it’ll be, it’ll be that.   The walk is 39 days away, and holy cow, it’s going to be awesome!   If you’ve been to one before, you know how from how awesome it was that it’s going to be better!  Please click-to-register, collect some pledges, and be awesome!

Neurosurgeon answers questions relating to brain injuries

More than four years after a ski accident caused him a near-fatal brain injury, little is known about Michael Schumacher’s current condition. Updates on his health have been extremely scarce ever since he left hospital in September 2014 to be cared for privately at his Swiss home on the shores of Lake Geneva. Details of his specific condition and the treatment he received have been kept strictly private. The last public statement 16 months ago clarified nothing further would be said.

Colin Shieff is a retired neurosurgeon from Britain’s National Health Service and a trustee of Headway, the national brain injury charity. Although he has never treated Schumacher, or spoken with doctors who’ve treated Schumacher over the years, he has dealt with similar cases both at immediate critical-care level and further down the line in terms of long-term treatment.

Shieff spent many years working with people with brain injuries and trauma, including at NATO field hospitals in Afghanistan an Iraq. He answered questions for The Associated Press related to the nature of Schumacher’s brain injury, pertaining to how his condition may have evolved in the time since his accident.

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Q. In your opinion, what’s the likely prognosis at this stage?

A. “The nature of his injury and those bits of information that are available, and have been available, suggest that he has sustained permanent and very major damage to his brain. As a consequence his brain does not function in a fashion similar to yours or mine. The longer one goes on after an injury the more remote it is that any improvement becomes. He is almost certainly not going to change from the situation he is now.”

Q. What ongoing treatments would he be having?

A. “He will have the kind of treatment, which is care: giving him nourishment, giving him fluid. The probability is that this is given in the main – or at least as supplements – through some tube passed into his intestinal system, either through his nose or mouth, or more likely a tube in the front wall of the tummy. He will have therapy to sit him, because he won’t be able to get himself out of a bed and into a chair. He will be treated in a way that will ensure his limbs move and don’t remain rigid.”

Q. Would someone in his position receive around-the-clock treatment?

A. “He will be allowed a period of rest and sleep and relaxation, and he will be given an environment. I’m positive as I can be without knowing the facts (that) he will be living in an environment that — although it’s got artificial bits of medical kit and care and people — will mimic a caring, warm, pleasant, socially stimulating environment.”

Q. Would he be able to sense he’s in such an environment?

A. “I don’t know. There is always a technical, medical and neurological issue with defining a coma. Almost certainly he cannot express himself (in a conversation). He may well be able to indicate, or it may be apparent to those around him, that he is uncomfortable or unhappy. Or (he) is perhaps getting pleasure from seeing his children or hearing music he’s always liked, or having his hand stroked.”

Q. Are patients in his situation aware of touch and voice from family members?

A. “Absolutely. Even in the early stages, even in a critical care unit, when medicines are being given, for one individual at one time there may be an ability to discern and show response to someone they are familiar with. Respond to familiar, respond to family you’re triggered to. You hear them all your life so that’s the very, very familiar (aspect) the person is going to respond to.”

Q. Is there a chance he can make A) a full recovery? B) A partial recovery?

A. “First one, absolutely, totally no. Number one statistically, number two neurologically, and number three he’s been ill for so long. He’s lost muscle bulk, even if he opened his eyes and started talking there will have been loss of memory, there will be impact on behavior, on cognitive functions. He would not be the same person. (As for a) partial recovery, even the smallest thing that gets better is some kind of recovery. But (it depends) whether that recovery contributes to a functional improvement for him to be able to express himself – other than an evidence of saying ‘Yes’ or an evidence of saying ‘No.’ (Therefore) if he could use words of two syllables, if he could turn on the remote control for the tele. One can do, professionally, all sorts of wonderful things with electronic devices and couple them up to eye and mouth movements. Sometimes with a person in a situation called ‘Locked In’ or ‘Profoundly neurologically comprised’ — which is essentially paralysis but with continuing intellectual function — ways can be found to communicate with those people. If that had been so with Michael Schumacher I am positive we would have known that is the case, so I don’t believe it’s so for him.”

Q. This is a deeply personal decision for the family. But how long can treatment last for?

A. “In, for example, our health system we don’t have the luxury to keep maximal intervention going in a high-tech hospital environment. For Michael Schumacher’s family, I suspect they have the financial support to be able to provide those things. Therefore, for him, the future is longer but it doesn’t imply any change in the quality of it.”

‘Unmasking’ event at Guthrie Theater raises awareness about brain injuries

Every journey has a starting point—just ask Archie DuCharme.

His journey started on a ladder that he was using to climb onto the roof of his home, only he never made it that far. DuCharme fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury, changing his life forever.

“I told her I just need to run up there for 15 minutes of work,” DuCharme said.   It was my own fault.”

DuCharme was a successful computer programmer at the time, though within a month of the accident he could not read his own codes.

“I could read sentences, but I couldn’t put together the paragraphs and the chapters in the program anymore,” he said.

According to the neurologists at Hennepin County Medical Center, DuCharme had a brain sheer. Like many people who suffer from brain injuries, DuCharme had no visible outward signs of an injury. So his wife, Denise, encouraged him to paint the signs.

Several years ago, the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance started a program called Unmasking Brain Injuries.  They provided brain injury victims with a blank mask and asked them paint and decorate the mask in a way that tells a story about their injury.

DuCharme decided to make one painting, and then another one.

“Each one of these wire figures is a little person and they’re pulling the words out of my head,” he said while describing his mask. “And I just thought that was kind of a cool way to describe it.”

Denise also created a mask representing all of the questions she receives about her husband’s brain injury.

Denise and Archie were among two hundred people who initially created masks for the Brain Injury Alliance. The collection has now grown to more than a thousand.

Many of those masks along with a film documenting their creation is set to run at the Guthrie Theater Monday, showcasing the invisible but long-lasting effects of brain injuries like DuCharme’s.

“It will allow people to have a deeper understanding of what some of their fellow family members or people in their community have gone through or are going through,” DuCharme said. “It’s definitely a journey, but we’ve learned to turn it into an adventure, I think.”

No two brain injuries are identical: The future of fMRI for assessment of traumatic brain injury

Brain imaging is an important tool for clinicians in diagnosing patients who have suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Brain imaging techniques generally focus on either structure or function. With TBI, the focus is typically on the extent of structural brain damage, which is often assessed using computed tomography (CT).  Structural brain scans provide information regarding the severity of TBI, which is largely determined by the extent of damage. But, what about measures of brain function?

Another brain imaging technique that has become a crucial instrument for scientists trying to learn more about how the brain works is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI allows the examination of human brain function in a way that is not invasive and, in contrast to a CT scan, does not involve radiation. With the help of math and statistics, brain mappers are able to measure brain activity patterns. But, can fMRI also be used as a diagnostic tool for TBI? Because (a) no two brain injuries are identical and (b) the way in which brain injuries affect cognition and brain function is highly variable, the current picture of fMRI use as a diagnostic tool for TBI is unclear.

Nevertheless, new tools and techniques have recently been developed that allow for the assessment of brain function in TBI, as well as other types of brain injury. Using fMRI could thereby add a whole new dimension to our understanding of TBI and TBI recovery. To get a better sense of the present state of fMRI applications with TBI, we have asked three TBI experts the following question:

Given that the utility of fMRI is still relatively undefined in the clinical realm, how do you see modern neuroimaging techniques playing a role in TBI in the future, beyond conventional scanning (CT, structural MRI)?

Neurosurgeon answers questions relating to brain injuries – he’ll #NeverStop working, so we can #ConquerABI

More than four years after a ski accident caused him a near-fatal brain injury, little is known about Michael Schumacher’s current condition. Updates on his health have been extremely scarce ever since he left hospital in September 2014 to be cared for privately at his Swiss home on the shores of Lake Geneva. Details of his specific condition and the treatment he received have been kept strictly private. The last public statement 16 months ago clarified nothing further would be said.

Colin Shieff is a retired neurosurgeon from Britain’s National Health Service and a trustee of Headway, the national brain injury charity. Although he has never treated Schumacher, or spoken with doctors who’ve treated Schumacher over the years, he has dealt with similar cases both at immediate critical-care level and further down the line in terms of long-term treatment.

Shieff spent many years working with people with brain injuries and trauma, including at NATO field hospitals in Afghanistan an Iraq. He answered questions for The Associated Press related to the nature of Schumacher’s brain injury, pertaining to how his condition may have evolved in the time since his accident.

Supreme Court sides with CFL: Arland Bruce’s claim for concussion-related damages must go to arbitration – they #NeverStop fighting the league, and #ConquerABI

There will be no day in court for Arland Bruce.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday morning it had denied an application by Bruce’s lawyers for leave to appeal two British Columbia court rulings that the former wide receiver must go to arbitration with his claim for concussion-related damages against the Canadian Football League and former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon.

Bruce’s lawyers had argued his case was an exception to legal precedents, including a 1995 Supreme Court ruling, that unionized workers must generally take injury-related claims to arbitration as set out in collective agreements between unions and employers.

The contract between the league and the CFL Players’ Association, most recently updated in 2014, caps medical coverage at 12 months and says players who are released or otherwise terminated — such as those who fail physical exams at the following training camp — have 10 days to file injury-rehabilitation claims.

It claimed that the CFL and its teams, Cohon, the CFL Alumni Association and its president, Leo Ezerins, brain-injury specialist Dr. Charles Tator and the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto knew or should have known about the long-term risk of brain injury resulting from concussive and sub-concussive blows and that Bruce was allowed to return to play in games despite continuing concussion symptoms.

Those claims have not been tested in court or arbitration.

Lawyers for the CFL and the other responding parties in the original claim argued that arbitration could provide an effective remedy for injury-related claims from players. The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in their favour in March 2016.

Bruce subsequently dropped the claim against all parties except the CFL and Cohon and sought to have the original ruling overturned, but a panel of judges from the British Columbia Court of Appeal sided with the CFL and Cohon last May.

During that proceeding, a lawyer for the CFL said Bruce would be permitted to submit a claim through arbitration if the league prevailed in the current legal process, even though his claim would be filed well outside the normal deadline for filing.

The CFL on Thursday released a prepared statement saying it was “very pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.  We hope that this decision brings finality to any proceedings in the courts with respect to concussion litigation against the CFL.”

A class-action claim for concussion-related damages involving more than 200 former CFL players was filed in Ontario in 2015. That case has remained on hold pending resolution of the jurisdictional issues involved with Bruce’s claim, so Thursday’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling will almost certainly affect it, too.

More to come.

Ontario passes concussion safety bill ‘Rowan’s Law’ – the law #NeverStop and #ConquerABI

Ontario has passed concussion safety legislation designed to protect amateur athletes and educate coaches about the dangers of head injuries, calling the law the first of its kind in the country.

The bill — named Rowan’s Law in memory of 17-year-old Rowan Stringer who died from rugby injuries — passed with rare all-party support Tuesday.

Rowan’s father, Gordon Stringer, said he hoped the Ontario legislation would lead to reform in other provinces.

“The heavy lifting has been done here in Ontario,” he said. “But this is not something that’s an Ontario issue. This is something that needs to be addressed across Canada.”

Establishes protocols

The law establishes removal-from-sport and return-to-sport protocols for players to ensure they are taken out of a game if they are suspected of having a concussion. Coaches and teachers will also be required to review online resources that help them identify and manage concussions in players.

The bill also includes a concussion code of conduct that would set out rules of behaviour to minimize concussions while playing sports.

He’s the epitome of #NeverStop. Not challenged by a brain injury, but he’s the same.

Brian McKeever is a big fan of the line from the movie The Shawshank Redemption that advises us all to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

No matter the challenge or setback, McKeever clearly chooses the former on his well-beaten path to the Paralympic podium.

Twenty years after learning he was losing his eyesight, the Canmore, Alta. product claimed gold Sunday — alongside guides Graham Nishikawa and Russell Kennedy — in the men’s 20-kilometre cross-country ski freestyle race.

The medal is the 14th of his storied career, making McKeever Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian; the late Lana Spreeman won 13 medals in para-alpine skiing between 1980 and 1994. 

Chalk it up as another example of McKeever getting busy living — so busy, in fact, that he didn’t realize until recently that the record was within reach.

His Paralympic resume now includes 11 gold, two silver and one bronze, with more chances for medals to come in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“These guys did a great job of towing me today,” McKeever marvelled after the race. “They took care of me the whole way.”

Lemonade from the lemons – with brain injury her depression was solved. She’ll #NeverStop and #ConquerABI

My mother suffered from severe recurring depression for 30 years, episodes that floored her to the point of near-catatonic inertia. She was lost to us in a mire of desolation. This happened often — once a year, sometimes more. The worst episodes hung around for months and months. She endured hospital stays, electroconvulsive therapy, countless appointments with shrinks, dozens of varying prescriptions, some akin to snake oil, none a silver bullet.

Then, 2½ years ago, she had a stroke. It stole her ability to read, her ability to remember names, her right-sided vision. It also stole her depression.

I’m all for raising awareness about brain injury, so I FEEL THE NEED TO GO TO HAWAII. Ah, to #NeverStop and #ConquerABI, there

March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month and the state Department of Health is holding events throughout the month to raise awareness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year in the U.S. –  and is a major cause of death and disability.

Locally, the Department of Health estimates between 2012 and 2016 more than 13,000 Hawaiʻi residents have sustained a traumatic brain injury each year.

Health officials consider this type of injury a hidden disability because the effects are not easily seen by others. But for individuals suffering from this type of injury, it can impact daily life and interactions.

Some symptoms of a traumatic brain injury include: headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light or noise, blurred vision, and balance problems. It can also affect a person’s thinking or cognitive abilities, and the individual’s emotional well-being and certain behavior.