Vail Health Magazine 2013 - page 18

16
VailHealth
2013
Even for short, leisurely trips, helmets and seatbelts are always a good idea
Going Head First
Some of us take our brains
for granted. We don’t wake up
every day realizing that every small
thing we do — not just making the
coffee and reading the newspaper,
but every single breath — is all
possible courtesy of our brain.
If you bang up a leg or arm it
definitely hurts and may, if severe,
change the way you do things
with that particular part of your
body. But if you rattle your brain,
your entire self is in jeopardy.
And all it takes is a few seconds: a
single morning on the slopes after
leaving your ski helmet in the car
or driving a block or two without
a seatbelt.
IT CAN HAPPEN
IN AN INSTANT
Nobody knows this better than
Brian Haygood, who suffered a
traumatic brain injury while snow-
boarding 12 years ago. While one
of the lucky ones, he will never be
the same person again.
“I’m a different person, definite-
ly,” said the Vail resident, who now
works for the local VVMC chapter
of ThinkFirst, a nonprofit organi-
zation focused on helping prevent
death and severe head and spinal
cord injuries. “My vision is the
biggest thing that’s different. I’m
missing a bit of it. Cognitively, I’m
not like I was.”
But the fact that Haygood
can speak eloquently, remember
almost everything, walk, run,
ride a bike and still snowboard is
nothing short of miraculous.
On the fateful day of his acci-
dent in 2001 he was on vacation
with friends, snowboarding near
Lake Tahoe.
“I remember getting there, it had
snowed quite a bit that morning,”
he recalled. “I looked up the hill and
thought I was probably just going to
be cruising around with my friends.
They weren’t as skilled as I was, so I
just left my helmet in the car.”
Haygood met up with some
others on the chairlift and talked
about going to hit a jump. This is
the last part of the day he remem-
bers. He went off the jump and fell
backward against a tree, hitting
his head. Luckily he was quickly
airlifted to a hospital where he
underwent brain surgery.
“I had a craniotomy within the
golden hour. That whole response
was one critical reason I survived.
It’s a miracle to look back on that.
They put me in a deep coma to
control the swelling in my brain.
My folks were called to say good-
bye to me. They had to come out
from Pennsylvania. The chances
weren’t good of me surviving.”
Doctors also predicted that if
Haygood did survive, he could
very likely be in a permanently
vegetative state. Instead he woke
up nine days later. After months
of therapy and rebuilding lost
muscle, he slowly returned to
almost his former self, minus
depth perception and a certain
level of alertness. Because of his
miraculous survival and near full
recovery, Haygood isn’t necessar-
ily the most powerful representa-
tion of a cautionary tale, but he
sure does wish he hadn’t left his
helmet in the car that day.
“I truly believe things would
have been 100 percent different,”
he said. “I wore helmets at that
time, I just wasn’t wearing one
that day. You always have to wear
it and be prepared. You can’t
buckle your seatbelt only half
the time.”
Which brings us to another tale
of survival. The story of Jeremy
Greene who, back in 1999 at
the age of 16 and the owner of a
fresh driving license, picked up
some friends for a drive around
the neighborhood. He was in the
habit of wearing his seatbelt. But
he didn’t that day.
Going about 35 mph, the teen-
ager somehow lost control of the
car and hit a tree, destroying the
vehicle and causing his brain to
rattle violently inside his skull. He
fell into a coma and didn’t wake
for three and a half months. He
didn’t fair quite as well as Hay-
By Shauna Farnell
average annual brain injuries
Estimated average percentage of annual traumatic brain injuries by
external cause in the U.S. from 2002 through 2006.
35.2%
10%
16.5%
21%
17.3%
35.2%
FALLS
10% ASSAULT
16.5% STRUCK BY/AGAINST
21% UNKNOWN/OTHER
17.3%MOTOR VEHICLE/TRAFFIC
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