Brainstorming: What is the aftermath of a brain injury?

Colleen Butler Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Colleen Butler, author of “Concussion Recovery: Rebuilding the Injured Brain,” is offering practical advice to help with the recovery from brain injury.

We hope you find this Q&A helpful, and we look forward to hearing from you. If you have a question or comment, we want to hear from you at

What is the aftermath of a brain injury? — Natalie

Hi Natalie,

That is a really loaded question, but I will do my best to answer it. There are many layers to the aftermath of a brain injury socially, personally, physically and emotionally. Let me try to break these down for you.



Brain injuries are a huge toll on our society.

According to studies in conjunction with the University of Toronto, 70 percent of homeless people had an injury to the brain prior to becoming homeless. In the U.K., studies claim that prior to being incarnated, 85 percent had an injury to the brain. The costs of brain injuries are enormous, and often are hidden costs that get slipped into different categories such as addiction, mental illness etc.

Through better diagnosis and education, I believe we can lower these statistics. Once we are able to diagnosis the problem, we will be able to ward off future problems. Then we can work on what to do when you have an injury.

When it comes to an injured person not being able to walk or talk, I think the medical world gets a triple-A in this area on open head wounds. It is the area of a closed head wound where there is concern.

If we capture the art of properly diagnosing an injury, we are halfway there. Problems arise when we go to doctors, expecting them to cure everything with a pill or operation — a brain injury does not work that way. There are few medical schools that teach about the brain to this day. There are great specialists, but few know what it is like to experience the trauma or direct recovery.



You are told you are fine, you look fine and your family believes you are supposed to be fine because the medical test came back negative — this is one of the major issues. The stress of “trying” and “the expectation” to be normal when you are not is where the stress begins, keeping us in the flight-and-fight state.

The ability to successfully diagnosis concussions 100 percent is not known. Studies have found that a simple MRI performed vertically rather than horizontally can detect 45 percent more concussions.

Conflict begins within the family, this stress of the conflict delays the healing of the brain. The message centers in your brain are simply not sending and receiving messages as they once did, often we make stupid decisions, mistakes and misguided comments.

When people think you are fine, often your comments are thought to be uncaring, rude, out of line — or simply you are a hypochondriac. These comments or new behaviors may well be out of line. But you aren’t choosing to be rude or difficult, the messages are being diverted to other parts of the brain, giving you mixed up messages and comments — like calling an apple a banana, or having no filters on your comments.

Your new behavior may well result in losing employment and financial stress. When we are well-rested with minimal stress, we may be able to function well, which again raises confusion to this injury.


The long-term effects of a brain injury on your body have not been studied in-depth enough, but we do know that an injury to the brain does bring on premature aging.

Our brain is a gluten; it takes a lot of nutrition and energy. If we are not supplying what it needs, the brain steals the nutrients from other parts of the body. Cracked teeth and easily broken bones are a result of lack of minerals in the body, the brain simply took what it needed to maintain. This may result in osteoporosis later in life, and diseases that are started from the lack of minerals or vitamins can be expected.

The brain does take quite a toll on the body. When the chemicals in our brains are mixed up and not working efficiently, the side effects are many. For example, depression is associated with a lack of serotonin naturally produced in the brain; it is our “happy drug.”

Serotonin also affects the production of melatonin, affecting our sleep as well as our digestive system. We are not able to digest and absorb the nutrition in our food. To compensate we simply need to take digestive enzymes to enable our bodies to absorb the nutrients in our food to feed our brains.


As humans we either adapt or die. Often we overcompensate for our new shortfalls, however, we do find a new way and do adapt.

To be honest, I do not know if we ever recover 100 percent. The three things I do know:

  • The rebuilding of the brain is possible
  • It takes much longer than anticipated
  • The repercussions are more complex than what is being acknowledged today

Given the right environment, the brain is an incredible organ and can rejuvenate.

We learn to adapt to our situation with our new tools, and there are many things we can do to help make our lives better that will not aggravate the healing of the brain. Pacing and balance is a must to keep us on the path of recovery. Perhaps the new skills and experience we have learned have made us different people, and we do not want to fit into our old mold.

Hope this sheds some light on your question, Natalie.

The Brain Navigator

Where do I go for help? — Rene

Hi Rene,

There are many local brain injury groups, as well as the Brain Injury Association of Canada (BIAC).

The funding is so limited for the brain injury groups that it is difficult for them to keep up with the demand. Continuity and opportunity between organizations varies. Perhaps some will focus on teaching you how to tie your shoes or go to the store or offer resources, while others will let you just come and hang out with each other, which is also important.

With the lack of funding and education, you will need to be proactive and perhaps even be your own advocate. Just because you have a brain injury does not mean you avoid being active in promoting awareness in your own way.

Until you have had experience with this injury, it is difficult to advise or guide someone to recovery. There are limited resources and knowledge to guide you through recovery. No two injuries are the same, so there is no cookie-cutter recipe for recovery or a one-size-fits-all recovery method.

Up until the last few years, our brain has been one of the most ignored organs in our entire body. Yet it is the command center for our entire body, operating our thinking, smell, touch, feeling, motor and verbal skills, etc.

There is not a lot of education to date for recovery. There is no magic drug or machine that will rectify the damaged brain, nor do I believe there ever will be. Hard work and listening to your body will get you the greatest success.

There are some resourceful sites which will lead you to others:

Listen to your body, become intuitive with your body and keep being proactive with your own recovery. You are your best asset. Step by step you will get better. Be kind and gentle with yourself.


The Brain Navigator
Did you know?

  • Before ancient Greeks, the mind was not considered to be a part of the human body, but was to exist as some from of ethereal vapor, gas or disembodied spirit
  • Aristotle concluded that the center of the sensation and memory was located in the heart
  • 14th century Renaissance realized center of thought and consciousness located in the head
  • 20th century was the start of understanding what our brains were made of, and 95 percent of the internal workings of the brain have been discovered in the last 10 years
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