These things take time

The great wave

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I was poking around Google Insights this morning, and I found something interesting — Japan has been searching Google for information on “brain injury” pretty regularly since mid-2008. There was a big spike in searches on “brain injury” in February, 2006, then they stopped.

The patterns are remarkably wave-like. There are huge surges of interest, followed by lulls of… nothing.

Here’s what the hits looked like in 2004-2006;

Japan searches for “brain injury” 2004-2006

Then all was pretty quiet for a while. I’m not sure what happened in 2008, but the searches picked up. Then, at the beginning of 2011, the searches dropped off dramatically. See below:

Japan Google Searches for "Brain Injury"
Japan Google Searches for "Brain Injury"

Also, looking closer at the last 12 months, here’s what I’m seeing:

Japan Google searches for "brain injury" over the past 12 months
Japan Google searches for "brain injury" over the past 12 months

And I wonder if the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear events simply exhausted everyone, so they just wanted to go back to work, instead of spending time online. Then again, it could be that the drastic reductions in electricity have kept people offline more and more, so they can’t get to the online information, even if they wanted to.

And that worries me a little bit. Because as time goes on, TBI continues to cause issues. And given the earthquake and all those aftershocks, it seems to me that traumatic brain injury may very well be an issue now and in the future. One of the best ways to get information out, is over the internet, so if people have diminished access, what does that mean for support for people when they need it most?

Especially in the case of mild traumatic brain injury, ongoing support is critical, as the effects can be lasting — and they can compound. Plus, with MTBI, you’ve got an increased potential for post-traumatic stress, which is related not only to the initial injury, but the subsequent issues that emerge over time… all those little problems that snowball and eventually become truly troublesome. Not good.

And if people in Japan aren’t getting sufficient information about how to deal with TBI, then it seems to me that you’ve got a potential problem “time-release capsule” that starts unleashing the biggest challenges in 18 months after the initial event — just when everyone thinks things are settling down and chilling out.

I really feel for the Japanese people. As I understand their culture (and that’s probably very marginally and with a lot of flaws), composure, restraint, and self-possession are highly prized. And if there’s one thing that TBI (especially mTBI) can screw up, it’s your composure, restraint, and self-possession. No matter how you try, if you’re not giving your brain and your body the chance to heal, and you’re not changing how you approach your life to allow for the changes that took place in all your synapses, it can be pretty easy to go off the deep end and land in some deep trouble. Interpersonally, professionally, personally, emotionally, spiritually, and more… MTBI is a “gift that keeps on giving.

I do come across realizations of this, more and more online. A few months back, this article was written about Kevin Pearce, the snowboarder who sustained a life-threatening TBI during a training run. He’s still working his way back to being functional, and he’s relinquished plans to return to professional snowboarding. Seems smart to me. He’s cleared to surf, not snowboard, so he’s doing his thing in liquid water, not on the frozen stuff.

The remarkable thing about Kevin Pearce’s experience is that his family has been with him the whole time. At no time during his hospitalization was he left alone, which may have contributed to his recovery. He had the full support of his family, which makes him an exception to what is often a very sad “rule” of TBI — people tend to scatter, when they find out you’re injured or impaired somehow — especially if you’re potentially impaired for the long term. This doesn’t just happen when you’re on a sports team or you’re in the military — in everyday civilian life, too, people have a remarkable lack of resilience and tolerance for people who are “not 100%”. Sad, but true.

And the definition of 100% tends to change and differ from person to person, as well, so that’s another wrinkle to deal with.

Anyway, it’s good to see that Kevin Pearce is on the mend. I wish the same could be said for all of us. That’s my hope, anyway.

But back to Japan. I’m sure there are public education programs in place to teach people about traumatic brain injuries. Certainly, there must be. And I hope that the programs will keep strong — even strengthen — over the coming months and years, as the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury become increasingly evident. If your culture is centered around the qualities of composure and self-possession and impulse restraint, then TBI — especially MTBI — can wreak havoc on the fabric of all society, one brain-injury survivor at a time.

Because as so many of us know, TBI never affects only one individual, rather everyone who comes in contact with that individual.

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