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story.lead_photo.caption Shalon Schonhardt

Do you have a traumatic brain injury or know someone that has sustained a TBI? A TBI does not discriminate and can happen to anyone at any time. TBI is known as the invisible injury, and no two injuries are alike.

A TBI is defined as a sudden insult or damage to the brain or its coverings, not of a degenerative nature. Such insult or damage may produce an altered state of consciousness and may result in a decrease of one or more of the following: mental, cognitive, behavioral or physical functioning resulting in partial or total disability.

Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults. The effects of a TBI are different for everyone. Your treatment and recovery will depend on the cause of your injury, the location, and its severity.

Symptoms of TBI can include:

- Poor balance and muscle control

- Blurred vision, impaired hearing and difficulties with speech

- Impaired attention, memory and understanding

- Difficulty controlling anger and aggressive behavior

- Confusion, disorientation, dizziness or distractibility

- Delayed thought processing and response time

- Depression, irritability, anxiety, or impatience

- Inappropriate behaviors, poor judgment, and compulsive behaviors

- Seizures

According to the Missouri Brain Injury Association, every 9 seconds someone sustains a brain injury. Of the 1.4 million people who sustain a TBI, 50,000 people will die, and 235,000 people will be hospitalized each year. In Missouri, there are more than 118,000 people living with a long-term disability due to a TBI. The top four reasons for TBI include falls, the head struck by or against an object, motor vehicle crashes and assaults.

There are many ways to help reduce the chances of sustaining a TBI, such as:

- Wearing a seat belt

- Wearing a helmet or appropriate head protection when doing activities such as riding a bicycle, motorcycle or snow mobile

- Wearing head protection when you play a contact sport such as football, hockey, baseball, boxing, etc.

In older adults, reduce the risk by:

- Ensuring the home is free of items on the floor that could be a tripping hazard

- Having regular eye exams

- Asking your physician to review medications that could cause dizziness

For children:

- Make sure gates are in place around stairways

- Ensure playgrounds have mulch, sand or a soft material in case of falls

There are resources available to individuals with a TBI.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Bureau of Special Health Care Needs has statewide programs to help individuals who have sustained a TBI. SHCN programs include the Adult Brain Injury Program, Brain Injury Waiver, Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, Healthy Children and Youth, and Medically Fragile Adult Waiver. If you are interested in any DHSS SHCN program, contact the toll free number at 800-451-0669.

The BIA-MO can provide support groups, referral services, peer mentoring, education, recreation, and advocacy to individuals and families. To reach the BIA-MO call 314-426-4024.

The Brain Injury Association of America is a national organization serving and representing individuals, families and professionals who are touched by brain injury. For more information, contact 800-444-6443.

Shalon Schonhardt, BA, CBIS, has worked with individuals with disabilities for more than 20 years. She is the Adult Brain Injury Service coordinator at Cole County Health Department, serving 15 counties in Central Missouri.

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