Dozens of athletes and luminaries - including ABC journalist Bob Woodruff, known for his own rehabilitation from traumatic brain injury after being wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq - will gather Tuesday to launch a national alliance to help raise awareness and research funds toward treating the condition. NY1's Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
You hear about it increasingly with famous sports stars and war heroes returning home. But unless you hear their stories its still hard to believe. Nick Colgin, a 27-year-old Afghanistan war veteran, has one of those stories.
"I helped rescue a friend who has been shot in the head. I rescued 42 local Afghans from a flooding river and I earned a bronze star," recalls Colgin. "But at the same time, a few weeks later, hit off the right side of my humvee, it kind of dazed me, knocked me out, broke my nose. But the worst part was I didn’t know how it affected me, affected my brain."
As a result, years later, Colgin says he can no longer read or write. He suffers from traumatic brain injury, or TBI, something that impacts about 1.7 million Americans a year. It can happen anytime anyone experiences a bump, blow, or any other injury to the head and can lead to irreversible brain damage or death.
"Traumatic Brain Injury isn’t recognized sufficiently in terms of the types of problems that it causes," notes Dr. Bruce Schwartz, Chairman of the Professional Advisory Board at the Mental Health Alliance.
As a result, the Mental Health Association of New York City is working with partners to form the National TBI and Emotional Wellness Alliance.
"The overall goal of this initiative is really to build awareness, disseminate science-based information and develop sound policy initiatives around this convergence of traumatic brain injury and emotional well being," says Kimberly Williams, Director of the Center for Policy Advocacy and Education at the Mental Health Association of New York City.
Because sports athletes and war veterans make up a concentrated pool of patients who experience TBI, the alliance will focus its research on them to gather information and help improve services for those in need.
To find out more about the alliance, visit mha-nyc.org.