Although I don’t always agree with her, I admire Hillary Clinton greatly – and we have a few things in common. We both grew up in the Chicago suburbs, are Democrats, and have just one beloved daughter, but now we have one more thing in common. Ironic that when I wrote a press release for a journal article on concussion less than a month ago and mentioned Hillary, that I would be joining her as a concussed patient. I have been researching and writing about this topic since 2004, and I suddenly find myself experiencing this type of traumatic brain injury firsthand. The most underreported, under diagnosed and underestimated head injury is concussion, accounting for 90 percent of traumatic brain injuries, with the number of cases ranging in the millions every year. The brain is a soft organ that is surrounded by spinal fluid and protected by the hard skull. Normally, this fluid acts like a cushion that keeps your brain from banging into your skull. But if you hit your head or body hard, the brain can crash into your skull and sustain an injury.
In the course of my PR career in the health and medical field, among the many things I did was research diseases, conditions, and injuries of celebrities and/or their close relatives. This research fell into two primary clinical areas based on the associations I worked for at the time – vision and neurosurgical, respectively. When I worked at Prevent Blindness America, I actually had the privilege of interviewing quite a few celebrities. These were typically done via the celebrity’s agent and submitted as written interview questions that I scripted. The completed interviews were published in the organization’s magazine. The power of celebrity goes a long way to increasing disease/injury prevention and awareness. Case in point – Angelina Jolie’s recent admission that she underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction to avoid the same tragic fate that befell her mother and maternal aunt. Jolie revealed this in a brave New York Times Op/Ed article titled My Medical Choice, published on May 14, 2013. She carries the BRCA1 gene and her doctors advised her that this fact, along with her family history of breast cancer gave her an 87 percent risk of developing the disease. Jolie has always been considered one of the most beautiful and sexy actresses in America, but it is her charitable, philanthropic work and intelligent frankness that set her apart.
It can be very disheartening when your parents age and are subjected to declining health. One of the most common health concerns among seniors is falling, and alas, this has happened far too many times to my dear mom. Having launched many PR/media campaigns on head injury prevention in my last position over the course of seven years, I know quite a bit about traumatic brain injury, causes, and statistics – and I am passionate about injury prevention. While my mom has fallen quite a few times and sustained broken bones as a result, this is the first time that a tumble has led to a serious head injury. I was quite upset when she called me from NYC (after having recovered sufficiently) and told me they walked back to the hotel after she fell outside the Chrysler Building. She was bleeding profusely from the wound sustained in her head, exacerbated by being on blood thinners. They should have called 911 immediately instead of walking back to the hotel and then calling an ambulance. My mom spent 17 hours on a gurney in the infamous Bellevue Hospital ER as a result of this fall, but the good news is that she did not suffer a concussion. And thankfully there was not a traumatic brain injury such as a subdural/epidural hematoma or skull fracture, which can be deadly.