Dr. Juan Carlos Arango-Lasprilla Talks About his Brother's TBI Story

Dr. Arango-Lasprilla is currently a research assistant professor in the Department of PM&R at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Arango-Lasprilla is also the cultural competency coordinator for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research's (NIDRR) Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems and co-director for the NIDRR-funded Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training Program. This is BrainLine's exclusive interview with Dr. Arango-Lasprilla recorded on June 5, 2008.

Ten years ago, my brother had a traumatic brain injury in Columbia, South America. He stayed in the hospital for almost four months. It was a very sad experience for all of the members of my family, especially because, in South America, there are not too many rehabilitation centers for people with brain injury. And usually after the patient is discharged from the hospital, the family is the-- have to start providing for the patient because, over there, we don't have a lot of rehabilitation centers. We don't have cognitive rehabilitation therapies. Over there, when you have a brain injury or spinal cord injury, the amount of rehabilitation service that you will receive, it's very minimal compared to the United States. We started doing experimental things, trying to make him walk, doing some exercise with him, doing, also, some--I would say--cognitive rehabilitation exercises. We didn't know anything about cognitive rehabilitation at that time. I was doing my bachelor's in psychology, and I didn't know too much about cognitive rehabilitation, but I started practicing doing some attention and memory exercises and working with him every day at home. He went back to university. He finished his bachelor's degree, and he's working right now. He's 25 years old. It happened 10 years ago. I think if he would have been in America, probably he would have more opportunities to receive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services in this country. He probably will receive occupational therapy services, speech and language services, and also probably cognitive rehabilitation. Because, when my brother had the injury, he had a lot of memory and attention problems. In some hospitals in South America or in Columbia, they try to use the same instruments and the same tests that people use here in America. And sometimes they translate these intruments and provide these evaluations using the instrument that we usually use here in America. And some of the instruments, most of the time, are not culturally relevant, and the probability to make mixed diagnosis is very big.
Posted on BrainLine April 1, 2009.