Emily, a sophomore at Baldwin-Wallace College, November 2010
Exactly twelve weeks ago today our lives were turned upside down. My beautiful nineteen year old niece, Emily, was involved in a car accident on her way home from church on icy roads. Emily miraculously survived the accident, but suffered a devastating brain injury. Since that morning we have been on a roller coaster of ups and downs as Emily has battled various complications from the brain injury.

Within a few hours of the accident, we knew that her brain had been badly injured. But I also quickly discovered that I knew almost nothing about brain injuries. So where does a person turn to get information today? I immediately starting checking websites for everything I could find about traumatic brain injuries. I still have much to learn. A few things I have learned include:

1. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1.7 million children and adults in the U.S. sustain a traumatic brain injury EVERY YEAR. Our family is not the only one going through this.

2. Our knowledge of what works in treating brain injuries is not all that great. Some of that seems to be because there is much to be learned about how our brains work in the first place. This is definitely an area where there needs to be research.

3. Many brain injuries are preventable. Bike helmets, car seatbelts, and sports safety equipment used consistently can prevent many injuries. (Emily was wearing her seatbelt. Unfortunately the impact was from the side.)

4. Brain injuries affect the entire family. It is taking an all out effort from a lot of family members to care for Emily. The first few weeks put us all in crisis mode, but things are still far from normal. As one of the doctors said on the first day, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The problem is, we want her well NOW and that is not how brain injuries work.

5. We live in a great community and Emily has some very good friends. So many people have gone out of their way to help. Neighbors, co-workers, church members, and even strangers have put food in the refrigerator, helped with car repairs, paid for hotel bills, sent cards, brought gifts, prayed, and visited. We feel amazed and humbled by the outpouring of support she has received.

March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. If you would like to learn more about brain injuries, The Brain Injury Association of America has one of the best websites I have found so far. We continue to look for more resources and ideas for treatment and rehabilitation. Please leave me a comment or e-mail if you have come across any information about brain injuries.

At this point Emily is still in a coma. She has improved in many ways and has her eyes open much of the time. There are still no guarantees, but we remain hopeful about her recovery. If you would like to read updates about her progress, you can find them on this Facebook page.