Open Head Brain Trauma Injury and Recovery - JFK and Gabrielle Giffords - Miracle Recovery

President Barack Obama with former Representative Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords and her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, in the Oval Office after they testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence on 30 January 2013.
President Barack Obama with former Representative Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords and her husband, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, in the Oval Office after they testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence on 30 January 2013. | Source

Prevention

Upon hearing the words that Representative [D-Arizona] Gabrielle Giffords had been shot in the head, I flashed back to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, another official shot in the head. I'll remember both days.

I thought truly that public figures were taking better safety precautions over 45 years after the JFK shooting. From this day in early 2011, I think they need to take more precautions. Open air events are not safe. We may not have a larger percentage of psychopaths or individuals suffering psychotic breaks in the USA of 2011 than we did in in 1960s, but we hear more about the ones we do have, and more quickly. Giffords's attacker killed a greater number of people at a much smaller event than surrounded JFK's Dallas autocade as well.

Happily, the Arizona Representative's chances for recovery are measureable. President Kennedy's were nonexistant and the conflicting stories of physicians and others in his operating room have clouded the picture too far to be parsed.

However, the Giffords story keeps changing: I've heard that the bullet went side to side, back to front on the left side of the head, and now front to back. The Internet is full of news that 45+% of mental heathcare recipients lost their coverage and treatment in the Giffords district. What will be done to help the mentally ill and save lives?  A full report at the end of this nightmare could answer a lot of questions.

MILESTONES

January 20, 2011


Rep. Giffords was able to get out of bed and take a few assisted steps with help of hospital staff. This, on the 50th Anniversary of President JFK's famous inaugural speech.

Some of the media focus on comments that make the furthest outlying (politically) Democrats and Republicans seem to blame each other's political party for Giffords's injury. Be this the case or a result of media focus, I do not know; but it wastes time -- Both sides claiming the other to be evil does not help victims like Giffords or those with Severe Mental Disorders that attack them. Who will be next?

Eerily, Giffords's husband Mark Kelly was scheduled to pilot the last US Space Shuttle Mission, his wife's attack pulling him away in another blow to our continuing Space Program, a dream of JFK's. That a child born on 9/11 - or any child - should perish in the attack of a psychotic is horrendously incredible. The stress of the Congresswoman's attack is no doubt taking a toll on Kelly's brain as well. I am beginning to feel that public figures and their audiences should wear bullet-proof space (bubble) helmets and body armor.

The Injured and Aging Brains

During work as a biofeedback specialist and psychology assistant in private practice and at the rehab division of our state Workers' Compensation (WC) department, I worked for approximately 10 years with a number of closed head and open head brain trauma clients. Some of these cases were extremely difficult to gain progress, while others seemed to miraculously recover in a few weeks. The WC division featured a head trauma rehab computer lab in which clients used PCs loaded with exercises and games in order to increase brain function. They worked very well for a number of clients. for the more severely injured, there were days of high frustration followed alternating with days of progress.

From the late 1980s to 2011, we've found that the brain, once injured, continues to heal for the life of its owner. We've also found that the white matter of the aging brain continues to grow (Giffords is at about the right age) after the grey matter stops growing, helping the individual to synergize and make more logical connections with new information input into the brain and the data already resident there. The older brain can be a better problem solver and this may help Giffords in her recovery..

Healing does not stop, then, in the brain, but the human body sometimes cannot live long enough for the brain and the rest of the Central Nervous System to attain full healing. For instance, Christopher Reeve had regained the use of his hands and was beginning to be able to walk with his legs submerged in a swimming pool of water, the pressure of the water helping to support his legs. A sequence of infections that attack a patient whose immune system is compromised (immobility adds to this compromise) ended in one that killed him before he was completely healed. He did have some electrical implants, to help his CNS, but his CNS was still healing - to me, it was like wearing braces until one's teeth are straight. Still, his case and cases at Wright State University (Dayton OH) since the late 1970s and in France have made inroads to our understanding of the healing and recovery of the brain and the rest of the CNS.

USSR even experimented with dog-human brain transplants (sections of brain) before the 1960s - we are hearing about similar research in 2010 - 2011 as if it is a new thing. Nazi Germany was home to brain/CNS research as well, much of it lost, destroyed, or just coming to light. There is brain research everywhere, not all of it ethical.

Overall, I think there is a lot of hope now for brain trauma patients, even with gunshot wounds to the head.

Passive and Active Exercise

Many have questioned why the media was so quick to announce that Gabrielle Giffords had died -- Yellow journalism perhaps. Sensationalism to gain more listeners and viewers.

The fact is that her physicians feel that she will definitely survive her hospital stay and hope that she will not be left in a vegetative state. A bullet passing back to front through a benign area of the left hemisphere should not result in a vegetative state to my knowledge, but I'm not a doctor. There may be some chance of the loss of speech or of understanding the spoken word, but this cannot be determined yet. 

The representatives hospital stay may be weeks or months, followed by time in a rehabilitation center. Exercise is important, and passive exercise might be considered before she even comes out of the medically induced coma, although brain swelling should likely subside before the application of passive exercise. The Chinese are users of passive exercise in infants and the ill and it works to increase coordination and the function of both sides of the brain.

What I've found in psychological, rehabilitation, and martial arts work is that exercising the non-dominant body half twice as much as the dominant half often brings the non-dominant up to the skills of the dominant, sometimes even in handedness (the client or student becomes ambidextrous or nearly so). This exercise can enhance the assigned functions of both sides of the brain to varying degree as well.

In the Giffords case, I would take the left side of the brain (right side of the body) as non-dominant, even if she is right-handed. Passive exercises of the right limbs throuhg their full range of motion could be begun after brain swelling had subsized; followed by active rehabilitation exercises later. All this would be adjunct to other treatments and could help those treatments work better.

See the accompanying video for another case of brain injury and successful treatment.

Patients can hear in a coma...

We have known this for a long time. Wednesday 1/12/2011 was a miracle day when legislators in the Giffords hospital room, including Nancy Pelosi, and husband Mark Kelly continued to talk to Gabrielle and she opened her eyed. She came out of her medically induced coma without medical help, to my knowledge. If so, this is unusual.

The related memorial service at Tuscon later the same date was excellent. The seeming Giffords miracle may bring people of all parties together as humans instead of party members, as the President asked that night.

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Comments and Experiences 36 comments

fishskinfreak2008 profile image

fishskinfreak2008 5 years ago from Fremont CA

This is gonna take a long time


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Yeah, it might.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 5 years ago from Northern, California

Remarkable, informative and timely article Patty. As always, top-notch work.

K9


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks K9! We had a patient that lost her math skills with a closed head injury in an auto accident. She did some physical therapy at the hospital and the doctor in our practice did relaxation and concentration exercises with her several weeks and she regained her maths.


pointblank009 profile image

pointblank009 5 years ago from Buffalo

Good commentary on Giffords and brain trauma. I too remember JFK's assassination athough I was only 5-years-old and mad that continuing coverage made me miss "Heckle & Jeckle."


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 5 years ago

Dearest Patty,

Thank you once again for such a timely and informative Hub. You are just the BEST!

This sad event has me focused once again on so much senseless violence in the U.S. as well. When compared with other developed countries, the U.S. violence rate, especially with guns, is astoundingly high.

I live in California where carrying concealed weapons without permit is illegal. (Not that that would stop anyone hell-bent on causing harm.) I was stunned to see a map on CNN showing the majority of states in the U.S. allow the carrying of concealed weapons. No permit needed.

I too was surprised to learn our Government officials are out in the open and so easily accessible; that has not been my experience in California. In addition to JFK and RFK, the memory of the assasination of Harvey Milk in SF lingers to this day.

I join everyone in the hopes that Gabby Giffords beats the odds like Bob Woodruff. Bob said in an interview that he could do none of the small things Gabby is able to do at present.

Thank you for reminding everyone that white brain matter does continue to heal and grow and can even improve for the entire life of a person.

I did not know Captain Kelly had stepped down from his April mission? In my optimism that Gabby will make remarkable strides forward in the next month or so, I thought he might still go.

I always know to check in with you for the lastest and most complete coverage of a subject! Thank you!

Blessings always, EarthAngel!


SUSIE42 profile image

SUSIE42 5 years ago

It make me feel really bad, we no longer live in a free country, we are no longer able to be unafraid.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

In Ohio, gunowners must take and pass a shooting and gun safety course before being issued a concealed carry permit. That, however, did not keep a felon from purchasing guns a few years back and opening a gunstore here, then holding himself hostage in a mental health episode. The police were able to close him down after 24 hours.

I heard that Capt. Kelly might be able to fly after all, depending on Gabby's progress. We'll see. I pray that nothing goes wrong on the last mission and none of the astronauts are harmed. One wonders if one event prevents a worse event from happening sometimes.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

@pointblack009 - for JFK I was in a singing class and disturbed by all the crying. For Gifford's shooting, I was writing on HP with a Yahoo news window open. I won't forget either one.

Thanks to all for comments!


TheMMAZone profile image

TheMMAZone 5 years ago from Kansas

It's amazing how there are still so many breaking news flash study reveals exercise is good for your brain type stories there are. I love the point you make here: "What I've found in psychological, rehabilitation, and martial arts work is that exercising the non-dominant body half twice as much as the dominant half often brings the non-dominant up to the skills of the dominant, sometimes even in handedness (the client or student becomes ambidextrous or nearly so)." Great job and explanation of the facts.


okmom23 profile image

okmom23 5 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

Patty, Excellent detailed hub on this unimaginable senseless crime. Thank you for the access to the up to the minute progress. Such a sad event in history.


IWILLCLEARMYNAME profile image

IWILLCLEARMYNAME 5 years ago from Greenville South Carolina

The story regarding Ms. Gifford, nicely done.

No, they are not taking the precautions they should. I wish they would all do better.

Let's just pray that the powers that be are taking better care of the Nation...meaning us.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! Keep a good thought and prayer for Gabrielle Giffords - her recovery could help unite the nation and end some useless arguments.


quuenieproac profile image

quuenieproac 5 years ago from Malaysia

Excellent info, it will be a remarkable recovery for her.

Incredible medical history here, extremes of the human brain!

Well done Patty!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks quuenieproac! Sounds to me like she turned just the right way to avoid the shot doing sever damage or death. How often can that happen? Not very. Glad you read this, and posted your comment!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

@TheMMAZone - You know what I'm talking about!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for sharing your medical knowledge with us. I certainly hope Mrs Gifford will make full recovery. Mr Obama's speech was absolutely perfect. So well wroded, it was amazing.


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

Wow! You are one smart lady! Thank you for this. It's bookmarked for further study with my daughter.

This was a terrible tragedy, and a sad day for everyone. I'm so glad Mrs. Gifford's recovery looks hopeful, it will be the shining light of hope in an otherwise dark and terrible day.


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

Thank you for delivering this timely and informative report on open brain trauma and recovery. It could be touch and go from here out and here's to imagining everyone including Gifford, has a healthy recovery. Well done and researched. :) Katie


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the new comments! -- Gabrielle's eye socket was rebuilt by surgeons yesterday, so I am anxious for her first words to the world sometime soon.


resspenser profile image

resspenser 5 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub. My stepson was hit by a car in the early 70's and had a closed head injury. His family was told to pray he died. They did not. Check out my hub on Mark Greene if you want to see how ell he has done. He is an inspiration.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

In just 12 days, Rep. Giffirds was able to get out of bed, take a few steps with help of hospital staff. This, the 50th Anniversary of President JFK's famous inaugural speech.


tvpuram profile image

tvpuram 5 years ago from India

I have my own experience to explain where one of my relatives met with an accident years back. He was in coma after emergency surgery when I took over charge of by-stander. He had a head injury after his head dashed to a pole or due to fall from a moving train. He never survived to explain. His skull was depressed and due to lack of skill or carelessness the entire rubbish was not removed from inside brain while stitching after surgery. One small piece of skull bone remained inside inadvertently near the speech control nerve and except a pinhole, entire wound healed. And occasionally puss used to come out through this hole.

Though This piece was removed later the condition of patient worsened further. But during the course of his treatment, progress of his mental function was remarkable. His eye lids opened second day and he started recognizing objects subsequently. We could see emotional reactions subsequently. He started walking and all other normal activities except speaking. What ever he wanted to convey, he used to write and show but his pen rested on last alphabet repeating it till his hand was pulled out. The patient succumbed after three months in spite of this gradual recovery.


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 5 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

This was an excellent, informative article, thank you for this Patty, as its good to read from someone like yourself who has experience with brain trauma patients. I am not an expert on the brain, but love to read books about the brain, and I wonder if a pet scan were to be done on the attacker, if his brain would show abnormalities; Dr. Daniel Amen has indicated that he has studied the brains of criminals and they are compromised. Just thinking aloud...

Just read your comments, and wow, it IS amazing that Rep Giffords was able to take a few steps after 12 days, what a strong lady!


Kelley Eidem profile image

Kelley Eidem 5 years ago from Panama City, FL

Thank you for your article.

One solution would be to reduce the amount of schizophrenia. That might sound like an odd suggestion, but it is possible. In fact, the results are quite astounding in many cases.

Look into Dr. Abram Hoffer, M.D., for more information.

Emanuel Revici., M.D., (The Doctor Who Cures Cancer) also had great success with schizophrenia. One patient he treated who had been catatonic schizophrenic and hadn't spoken in two years began to talk and joke with the nursing staff from one injection.

The best to you.

Kelley Eidem


MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 5 years ago from Henderson, NV

You know one of the major News Networks... I don't recall which stated that as many as 10% of Tuscon's population has some kind of mental illness. That would be in the neighborhood of 80,000 people. It really makes one wonder if there is any way to EVER prevent this kind of thing from happening. Throughout history Mankind has always had an inclination towards violence.

What upsets me in this kind of story is that in everyday life if an average Joe is gunned down on the street it's just another day of violence that means nothing. But when a high profile person is gunned down suddenly we have to enact congressional change.

It's sick and sad that this occurred but it's not a new phenomena.


mannyrolando profile image

mannyrolando 5 years ago

Excellent... thanks for this very informative hub! I feel that based on her recovery so far, Rep Giffords has a great chance of reaching full recovery, I hope so anyway!


kaoskakimu profile image

kaoskakimu 5 years ago

Dear Patty,

Thanks for sharing this. Really a great and detailed hub!

Cheers!


dpatullo741 profile image

dpatullo741 5 years ago from UK

The information you have given about head brain trauma is quite informative. It has helped me a lot as one of my native is suffering from this trauma.


mike6181 profile image

mike6181 5 years ago

A very comprehensive and well written treatment of this major event. I remember what I was doing the day JFK was shot, and RFK, Martin Luther King, as well.

You've given a beginner a great indicator on how to use available media resources, your own expertise, and how to keep a lively logical thread through it all. Thanks for this hub!


DrAMROF profile image

DrAMROF 5 years ago

Thank you for delivering this timely and informative report on open brain trauma and recovery. It could be touch and go from here out and here's to imagining everyone including Gifford, has a healthy recovery. Well done and researched


Scott_Grigg profile image

Scott_Grigg 5 years ago from Midwest USA-Southeast

Patty,

Excellent article on brain injury. This will be an interesting case because we know very little about how she is really progressing. As someone who has intimate knowledge of closed head injuries, I'd be surprised if she doesn't have some serious long-term effects from this.


lender3212000 profile image

lender3212000 5 years ago from Beverly Hills, CA

Wow, what an interesting article! Nicely done.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

I have been following President Obama's advice on this travesty, and guiding my heart with prayers for Gabrielle Giffords.

Thank you for the positive light about Christopher Reed, I had no idea he was gaining movement in his limbs. This bring a lot of help and hope to those with brain damage.

Ben


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 5 years ago from Michigan

It's good to know our brain keeps working towards health and healing for the duration of our lives, especially after an injury. Seems a great amount of the focus should also be on increasing the power of our immune system as well so we will not succumb to infections during the healing process. And that's just it really, it's all a 'process' and these things take time and dedication. Great info and thanks for sharing. v/r


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

I liked Christopher Reeve. I guess a lot of folks did. Great hub. Maybe someday they will find more solutions to problems. Our Becky could use a few. GBY.

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    Patty Inglish, MS profile image

    Patty Inglish (Patty Inglish, MS)6,759 Followers
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    Degrees in medicine, psychology & sports. Recognized contributions/Tx in allopathic & alternative medicine, brain research, space medicine.



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