By Kathleen McKevitt – Special to the Pahrump Valey Times
Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, head and brain trauma stories have become more prevalent in the news. It’s not just a result of wars, it happens to everyday people as well.
Each year in the United States, there are an estimated 1.7 million sustained TBIs, which contribute to over a third of all injury-related deaths in this country.
Sadly, those sustaining most of those injuries are the very old and the very young, but in Scott Babb’s case, he was in his 50’s and a backseat passenger in a car being test-driven. Babb, who worked for a local dealership, was in a small truck, which was stopped and waiting to turn. The vehicle was slammed from behind by another car going over 60 miles an hour. That was Oct. 4, 2011.
Babb’s head hit glass and steel, his brain hit the back of his face and the result was a brain stem injury.
After a year and a half of recovery process Babb knows he won’t work again and is told he is at his maximum healing process, and not likely to get significantly better.
The injury means he now has a window of about two hours in which he can go out, drive, listen and pay attention, learn, speak and be moderately active. As those two hours ebb, he can feel a flurry of signals telling him it is time to get quiet and rest.
His memory blurs, the electric impulses of the brain seem to scramble, and a sense of exhaustion and inability to cope comes over him. He honors that window of time and schedules his life around it. Babb calls it his “two-hour battery life in which there is just no more room for information in my brain. Thank goodness for Smart phones. They give me an external hard drive!”
“Just that fast,” said Babb, about the accident that left him with brain trauma, “life changes forever.”
Often, depression is a major factor in the healing processes as the ability to do even simple things becomes impossible. To cover pain and depression, drugs become a source of help.
Many get hooked on the drugs they thought were their panacea — that gave them freedom from pain, and a sense of well-being. Then, they discover addiction is also a factor in their recovery.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report recovery from pain-numbing drugs turn out to be just another enemy to fight in the process of learning to live productively and free of addiction.
“There is just so much grief over your lost self, the one that’s gone and won’t come back,” Babb said.
He turned to the Nevada Community Enrichment Program (NCEP) and since graduating from their program has become a volunteer.
There, he learned how to cope through neuropsychological counseling, life skills training, exercise therapy, physical and speech therapies and much more. Each individual has a program tailored to their unique needs.
NCEP literature reports that “Through special legislative allocations … NCEP is able to provide full residential and/or day treatment services to brain injury survivors with third-party payor support (at highly competitive rates) to those with Nevada Medicaid or to those who have more limited financial resources.”
Babb has taken the initiative to start a local support group for those who share his experience.
Pahrump Traumatic Brain Injury support group will meet once a month. He tells those interested in being part of the group there is no fee, and people with any kind of brain injury are welcome.
“Whether your trauma is from a stroke, a car wreck, a fall or a war, you’re welcome.” “But there’s no drugs, no caffeine, no alcohol, no guns and no fee; just people supporting and learning — and healing.” The support group is also open to family and friends of anyone dealing with a TBI diagnosis.
More information can be found on Babb’s Facebook page TBI Pahrump.
March is Brain Trauma Awareness month in the U.S. and Babb said, “What better time?” There will be announcements prior to the first meeting but it will take place at Wulfys in Pahrump on March 13, at 6 p.m.