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As a Miami brain injury attorney, I was pleased to see Representative Gabrielle Giffords recent appearance wherein she recited the Pledge of Allegiance with a stirring emotional reminder of the tragedy that took place in Tuscon and claimed the lives of six people and injured twelve others. As I watched her hobble to the lectern I appreciated the miraculous recovery that she was making. What I found equally, if not more touching, was watching her husband, astronaut Mark E. Kelly fighting back tears. In his words, “For the past year, we’ve had new realities to live with”…”pain of letting go of the past.” What Mr. Kelley has endured as the spouse and loved one of somebody who has suffered a traumatic brain injury is hard to comprehend.

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Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are defined as a blow or jolt to the head, or in the case of Representative Giffords, a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Recent studies have shown that divorce and separation rates increase for couples when one spouses has sustained a brain injury. The University of Virginia’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation recently published a study that highlights the effect brain injuries have on typical marriages. The divorce and separation rate appear to be directly tied to the number of years that partners are together as well as their ages prior to the brain injury.

One of the most common consequences of TBI is the strain it has on a relationship particularly the loneliness of the non-injured significant other. There is no research showing that special marriage counseling techniques should be considered to help enforce the relationship of a brain injured partner.

TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes in its victims: short- or long-term memory loss, difficultly in thinking, language, learning, emotions behavior and or ostentation. It is commonly understood that a TBI can result in profound personality changes in victims.

Brain injuries are typically categorized as mild and serious. A mild brain injury is sometimes diagnosed as a concussion. That is one where an individual may lose consciousness, lasting from a few seconds up to 30 minutes. Typically, victims of mild TBI may also suffer from post-traumatic amnesia.

Typically, TBI victims can demonstrate erratic and unusual behavior that can leave partners feeling baffled and confused. This translates in some marriages to a feeling that the non-injured spouse is married to a complete stranger, leaving the non-injured partner or significant other, feeling confused and alone. TBI victims also have been found to have higher rates of depression due to an inability to contribute financially and emotionally to their partner or spouse.

Over 200,000 Floridians suffer from some form of traumatic brain injury. Estimates are that by 2020 the number will be over 250,000. Each year nearly 100,000 TBI are sustained in Florida, with nearly 4,000 resulting in death. In Florida the the majority of Traumatic Brain Injuries happen in fall downs. The remainder of TBI injuries in Florida are caused by car and truck crashes, pedestrian-related incidents and violence, in that order.

Our Broward roll-over car accident law firm is devoted to the prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment of those who have suffered a brain injury. We believe that with proper training, families, partners and health care providers can be educated to help provide greater support and care for individuals with TBI. We recommend reviewing Florida’s Traumatic Brain Injury Resource and Support Center’s website which provides excellent educational tools to help those in need.