Brain Injury — An Unexpected COVID-19 Consequence

David Grant and his wife smiling at the camera.

I recently read a piece in the New York Times that hit a bit too close to home for me. Writer Melinda Wenner Moyer was reporting on a COVID-19 survivor’s newfound neurological challenges. The survivor shared about having intense brain fog, something that I am intimately familiar with. She went on to share about memory problems and word-finding challenges. Both are something that I've lived with for many years.

But it didn’t stop there. The article continued on with another alarming statistic – one third of patients hospitalized in Wuhan had accompanying neurological symptoms. The implications are stunning to me.

From all aspects of the pandemic, societal as well as scientific, we are still only months into learning the full scope of life after COVID-19. But I have a feeling that some people may be dealing with cognitive challenges for the rest of their lives.

Years ago, in my naiveté, I assumed that all brain injuries were traumatic brain injuries (TBI). I know today that a large segment of those within the brain injury community have what they call non-traumatic brain injuries, caused by things like stroke and drug overdoses and diseases like meningitis. It looks like we'll now be adding COVID-19 as a cause of non-traumatic brain injury.

In the midst of the pandemic, we, within the brain injury community, are faced with fewer resources than we had back in our pre-pandemic world. How will we handle what might be a tidal wave of new brain injury survivors? It’s been said that history is our best teacher. Over time, I have found that most of us learn to coexist with brain injury. For me, it took many years, but thankfully I am okay today with my life and all that comes with it.

But from a survivor’s standpoint, I can’t help but feel heartbroken about this. There will be many people who find that getting over COVID-19 was not the end of their challenges. I can only hope that there will be others within the peer and professional brain injury support community at the ready to welcome them with the same warmth, sincerity, and spirit of support that greeted me after my own brain injury.