Articles Posted in Brain Injuries/TBI

For four years now, April has been designated Parkinson’s Awareness Month by resolution of the U.S. Senate. We’d like to make you aware of some of the issues surrounding Parkinson’s and how Louthian Law might assist you or a loved one afflicted with the disease.

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What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder which affects motor functioning. The symptoms include shaking (tremors), rigidity of muscles, problems with walking, difficulty speaking or an inability to speak, diminished higher brain functions, loss or slowing of physical movement, and depression.

How common is Parkinson’s?

As many as one million individuals in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. There are 50,000 new cases each year. Approximately four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50, but incidence increases with age. In fact, it is estimated that 1 to 2 percent of the population over the age of 65 suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

The disease itself is not fatal, but people who have Parkinson’s often die at a relatively young age because they are more susceptible to choking, contracting pneumonia, and having accidents. The symptoms do get worse over time, with decades sometimes passing before the disease is clinically diagnosed.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

While the cause is unknown, many experts think that Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – from vehicle accidents, falls, or sports injuries — also increase the risk of developing the disease.

What things in the environment could increase one’s risk?

Epidemiological research has identified several factors that may be linked to Parkinson’s, including contaminated well water, some insecticides and herbicides, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added Parkinson’s to a list of diseases possibly associated with exposure to Agent Orange.

Exposure to the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) appears to greatly increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. One study found that exposure to TCE may result in a six-fold increase in the risk of developing PD. A 2011 study led by researchers at The Parkinson’s Institute pointed out the “considerable public health implications” of the fact that TCE has been detected in up to 30 percent of the nation’s drinking water supplies.

How does TCE get into the water supply? TCE is a common agent in paints, adhesives, carpet cleaners, dry-cleaning solutions and degreasing solvents. In the United States, millions of pounds of TCE are released into the environment each year.

TCE contamination of drinking water has been the subject of concern here in South Carolina. The compound was used extensively at Shaw AFB in the aircraft degreasing process. Contaminated groundwater has been found in six locations, identified by the government as sites FT001, OT-16B, OT-16C, SS-35, SS-36 and CG-38. Clean-up efforts have reduced the off-base affected area from 211 acres to 105.

For more than a decade, electronics manufacturer AVX illegally dumped groundwater laced with TCE into Myrtle Beach’s sewer. The company signed a consent order with the Department of Health and Environmental Control to clean up the site, and numerous lawsuits have been filed.

How can the Louthian Law Firm help someone with Parkinson’s disease?

As personal injury attorneys, our job is to seek justice for those who have been harmed by the negligence of another person or corporate entity. Car accident victims who suffer traumatic brain injuries may have lifelong disabilities, including neurological disorders. Motor vehicle accidents comprise a large part of our case load, and we are proud to advocate for those harmed by drunk or distracted drivers. You might want to read about those services here.

We also handle litigation involving pollution and environmental damage such as that found in Cannons Campground.

Finally, our firm helps people with the Social Security disability process. Most people in the early stages of Parkinson’s are still able to work, but the tremors and loss of movement control may expose some workers to a higher risk of injury. If Parkinson’s disease affects one’s ability to earn a living, the disability benefits available through SSDI may provide some security for the family. It is important that the progression of the disease be well documented in the worker’s medical records.

With eight decades of combined legal experience, the Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, SC, knows about the difficulties a prolonged illness or debilitating condition can cause. Call us at 888-440-3211.

Sometimes it takes a mental picture to get across an important message. Try this one: Visualize the end zone of USC’s or Clemson’s football stadium; now imagine that 3 out of every 4 seats are occupied by individuals who have a permanent disability due to a traumatic brain injury. That’s how many South Carolina residents are living with physical, cognitive and behavioral limitations due to a TBI which they survived . . . 61,000 in the state of South Carolina.

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Did you know?

  • When installed and used correctly, car seats and restraints can reduce fatal injury by up to 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.
  • 7 out of 10 child safety seats are not installed correctly.
  • Of the children who died in a crash in 2011, 33% were not buckled up.
  • Children 2 to 5 years of age who are allowed to ride with just a seat belt are 4 times more likely to suffer a serious head injury in a crash than those in car safety seats or booster seats.

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We wrote here about proposed revisions to car seat regulations, which would require more protection from side-impact crashes. Regardless of the regulations, however, if you don’t use the appropriate device, or install it correctly or properly position your child in it, you won’t be getting the full benefit of the device. Here are some tips.

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There are many things responsible parents do to protect their children, including buckling them in when riding in the car. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for children between one and 13 years of age.

Columbia SC Child Safety

More than a third of children under age 13 who died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2011 were not in car seats or wearing seat belts. You know that these parents’ grief was complicated by regret that they did not insist that their child be safely restrained. Sixty percent of crashes involving children occur ten minutes or less away from home, so they should be buckled up even for short trips.

Children should be kept in car seats or booster seats until they are 12 years old or of sufficient size to wear a regular seat belt. You can find the specific age and size recommendations here: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/RightSeat.htm

In the news this third week of January 2014 is the recommendation of NHTSA that standards be upgraded for car seats designed for children weighing up to 40 pounds. If the proposed regulation is adopted, child car seats would for the first time have to protect children from death and injury in side-impact crashes. New car seats in this category would have to pass a test simulating a T-bone crash where a vehicle going 30 mph strikes a smaller vehicle going 15 mph.

For many years, safety advocates have sought tougher standards for children’s car seats to protect against side-impact crashes. The current regulations for child restraint systems are found in Section 571.213 of the Code of Federal Regulations (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.aspx?reg=571.213). The new regulation proposed by NHTSA won’t take effect immediately. The public will have 90 days to comment on the proposed regulations, then the agency will review the comments and address issues which might be raised; after that, car sear manufacturers will have three years to meet the new requirements.

In the meantime, parents must simply do their best to provide their children with car seats and booster seats that meet current guidelines and must be vigilant about their use. The American Academy of Pediatrics publishes a listing of car seats which meet federal safety standards as of 2013. It is here: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Product-Listing.aspx

Additionally, here are some tips that could help you determine if you are using the best protection while transporting your children:

  • Never use a car seat that is too old. That bargain you picked up at a yard sale may be outdated and have outlived the manufacturer’s recommended usage.
  • Discard a child restraint device if it has any visible cracks in it.
  • You need to read the instructions so you can install and use the seat properly. A used device probably won’t come with instructions.
  • Do not use a car seat that was recalled. Recalls for the last ten years can be found here: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

The federal regulations setting standards for car seats are aimed at manufacturers. However, state laws are aimed at drivers, and a violation of South Carolina’s Child Passenger Safety Seat Law can land you with a $150 fine. This state law is found in Section 56-5-6410. It requires “an appropriate child passenger restraint system” for children 5 years of age or younger. The law gives specifics according to age and weight and states whether the seat must be backward or forward facing. The South Carolina law can be found here: http://www.scdhec.gov/administration/library/CR-008006.pdf

As South Carolina’s law states, “Child safety seats are the most effective occupant protection devices used in motor vehicles today. If used correctly, they are 71 percent effective in reducing fatalities in children under the age of 5 and 69 percent effective in reducing the need for hospitalization.”

Some of us remember the days when kids piled into the family station wagon and were concerned only with complaining that a sibling was unfairly taking up too much of the seat. But the “good old days” weren’t good in all ways, and we need to take advantage of the modern safety requirements imposed on manufacturers of car seats and other consumer goods.

Any surgery has risks, even those we think of as routine. We often don’t think twice about scheduling some procedures for our children because they are so common they seem to be harmless; and, of course, the vast majority of us would never knowingly subject our children to harm. But even “routine” surgeries can have complications, as these recent news reports show.

South Carolina Surgery Mistakes

A 13-year-old girl in California was declared brain dead three days after undergoing a routine tonsil removal surgery in December 2013. The child’s physician recommended the surgery because she suffered from sleep apnea. During the patient’s recovery, she experienced excessive bleeding and trouble breathing, went into cardiac arrest and was declared brain dead. Whether or not she will remain on life support is a continuing issue before the courts.

Tonsillectomy is the most common surgical procedure in children. More than half a million tonsillectomies are performed in the United States each year. According to The Journal of Family Practice, mortality rates for the operation range from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 35,000. The most common complication is postoperative bleeding, which usually occurs within the first 24 hours after surgery. About 1 in 200 patients is returned to the OR so that bleeding can be controlled. Other complications can include pain, nausea and vomiting. Many tonsillectomies are performed on an outpatient basis, but the Journal recommends that patients with sleep apnea, coagulation disorders, or other underlying diseases, and anyone younger than 4 years of age or living a long distance from the hospital should be admitted for overnight observation.

Earlier this year, in February, another teenaged patient died after a routine tonsillectomy at a surgical center. After the surgery, she was given Fentanyl, a strong narcotic pain reliever known to depress respiration. Her failing respiratory condition went unnoticed and she sustained significant brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. She died 15 days later. The family filed a medical malpractice case against the surgical center and received $6 million in settlement.

Another common surgical procedure for children and young adults is the removal of wisdom teeth. In March of 2013, a 24-year-old California man died unexpectedly after undergoing this routine oral procedure in a doctor’s office. A former football player, he had no known health problems. During the procedure, the patient woke up coughing, so he was given more anesthesia. (The medical records later showed he received five kinds of sedative medications, including propofol.) He went into cardiac arrest. Responding EMTs took him to a hospital, where he died three days later.

Another death from the administration of propofol during wisdom tooth surgery occurred in 2011, when a 13-year-old girl from Ohio died of brain damage. She never awoke from the sedation given in the doctor’s office. The girl was taken to a hospital, where she died two weeks later. The parents won a $1 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit.

In April 2012, a 17-year-old Maryland girl went to her doctor for removal of her wisdom teeth. Just 15 minutes after the procedure began, she experienced respiratory complications. Her brain was severely damaged and she died 10 days later. The oral surgeon and the anesthesiologist were named in a lawsuit, which was settled for a confidential sum.

Although these kinds of tragic outcomes are rare, there are some important questions to ask your doctor or dentist before you or your child has a “routine” surgical procedure:

• Is the office the right setting for the procedure, or are there medical issues that might make it safer to go to the hospital?
• Who will be giving sedation or anesthesia?
• What type of sedation or anesthesia will be used?
• Will someone other than the surgeon be monitoring blood pressure, heart rate and breathing? (The answer should be yes.)
• Is equipment available if the patient stops breathing?
• Is someone on staff certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support?
• What is the doctor’s plan in case of emergency?
• Who will monitor the patient’s recovery and supervise their discharge?

If you or someone you care about has suffered complications from a “routine” procedure, contact the Louthian Law Firm today by using our online form or call toll free at 888-662-0434 or locally at 803-454-1200. We have been helping injured people find justice since 1959.

 

Twice recently I have written about sports injuries — here http://www.louthianlaw.com/blog/2013/09/field-safety/ and here http://www.louthianlaw.com/blog/2013/07/brain-injury-teens-uncommon-2/.

Cheerleading Brain Injuries

But a recent accident with my own child caused me to take an even closer look, through the lens of my family’s experience. My 12-year-old daughter, who is in the seventh grade, is on the junior varsity cheerleading squad at A.C. Flora High School in Columbia. In addition to cheering at games, they compete in cheerleading contests.

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Teen Head Injury, Brain TraumaYou may have seen the old Bill Cosby comedy routine in which he explains the goofy way little kids act as being on account of “brain damage.” It’s a funny routine, but brain injury is no laughing matter, and a recent survey shows our teens may be suffering more concussions than we realized.

The Canadian survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 20% of Canadian teenagers report having had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at some point in their life. More than half occurred as a result of a sports injury.

In this study, TBI was defined as “an acquired head injury in which the student was unconscious for at least 5 minutes or hospitalized overnight.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a concussion more broadly, as “a type of TBI caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works.” We might project that if the Canadian teens were not limited to reporting only head injuries of more than 5 minutes’ duration or requiring overnight hospitalization (i.e., using the CDC broader description instead), the percentage having had a TBI would be vastly greater than 20%.
As you might expect, the Canadian survey indicated that more than half of these TBI incidents were from sports, such as ice hockey, skateboarding, and soccer. In South Carolina, every year there are 1,165 non-fatal TBI cases related to sports/recreation, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Millions of girls and boys play team sports like hockey, soccer, lacrosse and football where blows to the head from collisions and falls are part of the game. And it doesn’t take one major impact to cause a damage to the brain; a series of smaller jolts can result in head injuries as well.

We want our children to benefit from the physical activity involved in sports, as well as the less obvious benefits of learning teamwork, good sportsmanship, and a competitive spirit. Naturally, we don’t want them to suffer the effects of a brain injury, which can be both immediate and long-lasting. The journal Brain Injury reported a study which showed that concussions can impair short-term memory in teens for at least six months, and these symptoms are worse in teens than kids or adults. Researchers from Ohio State University found that concussion-related memory problems in children aged 8 to 15 can last even a year after the concussion occurred.

If your child plays a sport in which concussions are a possibility, make sure the team’s coach is experienced and one who discourages unsafe play. He or she should be aware of and watching for the symptoms of concussion. South Carolina has a new youth-concussion law on the books, which will be in place for the 2013-2014 school year. It requires distribution of information to players and coaches, but does not mandate concussion training for coaches or trainers.

Both parents and athletic officials should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a concussion:
* Being dazed, confused, or stunned
* Experiencing a brief loss of consciousness
* Headache
* Dizziness
* Memory loss
* Tiredness or listlessness
* Irritability or crankiness
* Changes in eating or sleep patterns
* Loss of balance or unsteady walking
* Vomiting.

Is there an app for that? Actually there are several apps to help screen athletes when a concussion is suspected. See more here: http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/07/top-4-concussion-screener-apps-for-athletes.html
If your child suffers a traumatic brain injury which should have been preventable, the Louthian Law Firm will be glad to advise you. Call 888-662-2897 or 803-454-1200.

Millions of people suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) each year, causing tens of thousands to die and many others to have their lives dramatically altered. Although these injuries can affect people in numerous ways–from physical disabilities to cognitive difficulties–recent studies have highlighted the troubling fact that traumatic brain injuries may be linked to the development of deviant, or criminal, behavior.

Facts About TBI and Criminal Behavior

While many people are aware that personality and mood changes can result from TBI, medical professionals and researchers have only recently uncovered a link between traumatic brain injuries and deviant behavior. Some facts regarding this link include:

  • Psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis found that all the death row inmates who participated in her mid-1980s study had previously sustained traumatic brain injuries
  • Numerous studies have shown that traumatic brain injuries often decrease a person’s control, causing him or her to act out or become deviant
  • Traumatic brain injuries often lead to mental disorders or problems like paranoia that can later result in violent behavior

In his 2003 article in Medical Ethics, Vol. 10, Issue 3, William J. Winslade, professor at the Institute for the Medical Humanities University of Texas Medical Branch, states that people who are the victims of traumatic brain injuries often suffer from serious consequences that can have devastating effects on both their lives and the lives of others.

Sadly, many traumatic brain injuries are the result of people’s negligent actions rather than sheer accidents. In situations such as the former, the party responsible for the injury might be held legally accountable for their actions by the victim and his or her personal injury lawyer. Whether a person who has been the victim of a traumatic brain injury has become violent in the wake of his or her injury or has suffered other effects, the victim and his or her family should not have to bear the burden of the TBI alone.

Victims of traumatic brain injuries will often develop epilepsy later in life. Researchers are trying to determine why this is the case and if anything can be done to prevent this development of epilepsy. One of the efforts involves trying to determine if seizure medications will work to prevent the development of epilepsy.

Victims of traumatic brain injuries often develop symptoms months or even years after their injuries. These symptoms may include symptoms such as memory loss and attention deficit as opposed to loss of motor skills.

Physicians are finding that many veterans are developing epilepsy as a result of head trauma experienced in battle.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury, please contact a South Carolina brain injury lawyer at the Louthian Law Firm for a free consultation.