If I witness someone who sustains a blow to the head, how can I best offer help?
Brain injuries are extremely common, but their detection can be very complicated. Even in the case of mild brain injuries, there are more than forty different variables that might indicate trauma — ranging from changes in speech and vision to memory lapses and dizziness.
The best rule of thumb is if you suspect a brain injury has occurred, call for — or seek — immediate medical help. In most cases, emergency responders are trained to detect brain injury. If the injured person insists he is okay, ask him to please wait until medical help arrives because not all brain injuries are immediately apparent and symptoms can emerge hours or even days later.
It's critical to seek medical attention in a hospital or emergency department if any of these symptoms are present:
- Loss of consciousness, even if only briefly
- Any period of amnesia, or loss of memory for the event
- Feeling dazed or confused
- In addition, for children under 2 years of age, any scalp swelling or abnormality in the way they usually behave.
Michael Paul Mason is the founding editor of This Land, a monthly magazine based in Tulsa. Mason's first book, Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath, is an exploration into the harsh realities endured by people with brain injury.