When you or a loved one suffers a traumatic brain injury, you are in it for the long haul. In the week’s following a traumatic brain injury, bleeding, swelling and changes in brain chemistry can affect the way that a healthy brain functions. The person who has been injured may be unable to open their eyes, and that person may not show any signs that they are aware of their surroundings.
Once the swelling in the brain begins to subside and brain chemistry improves, function improves as well. In time, the injured person’s eyes may open, they may be able to follow simple commands, and a sleep-wake cycle often begins. In the best cases, these patients regain the ability to speak and interact with family members. During the early stages of recovery, medical professionals may use several terms. These include:
Coma: The patient is unconscious and does not respond to various forms of stimuli. The injured person is not able to communicate and does display emotional responses.
Vegetative State: A person who is described as being in a vegetative state has sleep-wake cycles. They also startle and can briefly orient themselves to visual stimuli and sound.
Minimally Conscious State: A patient is described as being minimally conscious when they are able to display an understanding of where sights and sounds are coming from. They may reach for objects, respond to commands, vocalize and show emotion.
When a person suffers a traumatic brain injury, they may display confusion and disorientation. Their ability to maintain attention is affected, and they may display nervousness, anxiety, restlessness or frustration. Their sleep patterns may be negatively affected, and they can become increasingly sensitive to stimuli and physically aggressive. This stage is often the most stressful for families as they watch a person they love behave in ways that they did not before the injury.
People who suffer with traumatic brain injuries are often inconsistent.