Son’s story moves family to advocate for TBI victims

After the tragic suicide of their 15-year-old son, a Pennsylvania family has set out on a quest to educate the public about the hidden effects of traumatic¬†brain injury. Behavioral and mental characteristics can drastically change after a TBI, say the family members. Additional education about TBI might help save more young people’s lives.

The boy was riding his bike in 2006 when he was struck by a car. After being placed in a drug-induced coma for two days and undergoing a week of intensive treatment, the boy was released to return home. Physically, he appeared to be entirely functional. Mentally, however, his family began to notice small behavioral changes that caused them some concern.

According to the Altoona Mirror, the boy tended to speak more freely, not recognizing social cues or minding his manners. He also lost his perception of time, his mother said; he seemed unable to tell whether an event had happened a month ago, or just yesterday. The behavioral changes were not identified at school because his teachers were not familiar with his behavior before the TBI. Three years after the accident, the boy hanged himself from a swing set.

More than 1.7 million Americans are afflicted with TBI every year, according to public health officials. Doctors say that treatment in the hospital is generally only the beginning of the recovery process because additional symptoms may not surface until some time has passed.

Brain injuries can fundamentally change a victim’s personality, making daily activities difficult to handle for both the patient and their family members. This is particularly true among younger victims, who are continuing to mentally develop.

The boy’s family has become an advocate of increased education about TBI effects. They are spreading the word throughout Pennsylvania and the nation about the link between TBI and suicide, which is being further examined by researchers.