March 30, 2013
Each year, 1.7 million people suffer a brain injury, and the Traumatic Brain Injury Quality Support Team at UVa. teamed up with nine local organizations to bring awareness to the Charlottesville community.
More than 100 people stopped by the first TBI Education Awareness Fair at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion Saturday to pick up a free helmet and learn about brain injury symptoms and prevention.
"There are a lot of different types of brain injuries. I happen to be a survivor of a brain aneurysm," said Charlottesville resident Christine Forbes. "It's nothing to be afraid of. It's not a contagious disease. It's something that we just happen to have, some of us, and we can survive."
Since her brain aneurysm, Forbes has found comfort at the Charlottesville Brain Injury Support Team. About 30 brain injury survivors gather on a monthly basis to share their experiences.
Charlottesville resident Maggie Smith is one of them. Smith worked as a nurse for 30 years at UVa. before she had a stroke in 2011. She no longer works or drives a car, but she says, even though it has impacted her day-to-day life, many people may not realize it.
"The thing about brain injury is that it's kind of a hidden difficulty in many cases. People look and they say, 'You look fine,'" said Smith.
At her table, UVa. occupational therapist Melissa Creighton emphasized the importance of spotting the signs of a concussion.
"Any time you hit your head, even if there's no visible signs, you can have a concussion," said Creighton. "There are many different symptoms, whether it be blurry vision or changes in your thinking or if you're just having trouble paying attention."
Creighton says, more often than not, people suffer concussions while doing housework like cleaning out gutters or tripping down stairs at their home.
While no two brain injuries are the same, organizers of the event say fewer injuries will occur as more people become educated and take action.
"Prevention is key. We don't want to have to see you with a brain injury. We love to see patients and take care of them, but we want to see you prevent any injuries from happening," said TBI Quality Support Team co-chair Stephanie Reed.
This was the first time the group has held the fair, but Reed says they are hoping to make it an annual event.