Some 20 percent of people with a brain injury never recover, and the ensuing loss of memory, personality changes and other symptoms can prevent them from continuing at their jobs and interfere with their personal relationships.
Karl Curtis, the speaker at the Aug. 31 Waunakee Rotary meeting, became familiarized with brain injury when his son was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Karl prefaced his talk by saying he’s not a doctor, but if the symptoms he describes are familiar, you should see one.
Karl is the director of the Wisconsin Brain Injury Alliance of Wisconsin, an organization offering more than 20 support groups that also provides information to those affected by brain injury.
The brain uses 20 percent of the body’s energy and controls emotions, physical movement, memory and cognition. When thinking of the brain, he advises people to remember that it has the consistency of a Jello mold, is not fit perfectly in the skull, and is unattached to anything.
The two types of such injuries are Acquired Brain Injury, that can arise from a stroke, cancer brain tumor or aneurysm, and Traumatic Brain Injury, caused by an external force, say on the football field or in a car accident.
Each year, 1.7 million people in the United States sustain TBI, and 52,000 die. Falls are the leading cause, followed by car crashes, collisions and assaults in domestic violence. A growing number are caused by lack of oxygen due to opioid overdose, Karl said.
Karl said when you hit your head, the brain rushes toward the front of your skull then bounces to the back of it. Most people simply rest after it, but they can suffer from a great deal of damage.
Eighty percent recover fully, but 20 percent experience life-changing symptoms afterwards.
Symptoms of brain injury include aphasia, defined as the inability to put names to things, an inability to concentrate for long periods, fatigue, headache, dizziness, emotional problems and personality changes. People with brain injury may be prone to tears or anger they can’t explain, he said.
Damage to the frontal lobe is also linked to blunted emotional experience, apathy, poor judgment, lack of planning and social inappropriateness by saying unacceptable things. Sometimes, this is confused with dementia or in young people, autism.
Often, people with these symptoms may self medicate by drinking or using drugs. Many don’t want to admit they’re suffering these symptoms to others.
The upshot is, if you’ve suffered a brain injury, seek medical help.
“If you hit your head and see stars, see a doctor,” Karl said.
Other news:
–Phil Willems said he will bring a printed sign-up sheet for Wauktoberfest volunteers so people can sign up. Volunteers are needed at the beer tent.
–Linda Olson said Jim Schmitz has promised a $100 contribution to the club if a member will sing and dance during her treasurer’s presentation at the Sept. 7 meeting.
Guests: Liz Diehs, guest of Allison Feldbruegge.
Visiting Rotarians: Stephan, BMO.  
Birthdays: Sept. 5, Gordy Meicher; Sept. 10, Kevin Kearney; Sept. 12, Robert Sachtjen.
Anniversaries: Sept. 8, Randy and Jennie Marie Herbrand; Sept. 9, Linda and Don Olson; Sept. 12, Jim and Phyllis Jukes.
Greeters: Sept. 7, Tom Kennedy and Bob Klostermann; Sept. 14, Ryan Knight and Tyler Knowles; Sept. 21, Neil Kruschek and Nancy Kuehn-Thomas.