Every nine seconds, someone in the United States suffers a traumatic brain injury.
Currently, 5.3 million people – that’s one in every 60 – are living with a TBI-related disability.
As alarming as those statistics from the Brain Injury Association of America are, they do not tell the whole story.
Paul Bosworth, 56, who is from New Orleans but currently lives in Lafayette, suffered a traumatic brain injury on Sept. 11, 2007, after choking while eating chicken fried rice for lunch.
In the early days of his recovery, Bosworth said, his injury was compounded by the fact that his family found it difficult to understand his inability to control his anger, fear, depression and anxiety.
“I come from a family that believes no matter what happens, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go to work,” said Bosworth, who was living in Arlington, Virginia, at the time of his injury. “My family just did not understand what I was going through.”
The disconnect almost proved tragic, Bosworth said. One particularly bad day, he decided he was going to use a baseball bat to help his family understand his struggles.
“I got so upset, that I was going to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods and buy a baseball bat,” Bosworth said. “I was going to show them what it’s like to have a traumatic brain injury.”
Fortunately for Bosworth and his family, it was after 10 pm and the store was closed. After returning home, Bosworth decided to take a bath, however the realization that he was doing so fully clothed was a turning point in his recovery.
“When I lost it with my family and being in that tub fully clothed, I knew it was time to change things up,” Bosworth said. “I wanted me back. I wanted at least some part of me back. ”
Bosworth’s experience is not uncommon, but each brain injury is different, doctors say.
“If you see one brain injury, you’ve seen just one,” said Dr. Alan Appley, who is the medical director at Ochsner Lafayette General Neurosurgery. “TBI or ABI is not something you can just put a patch on. We’re learning, but we’re way behind the game in terms of brain injuries. “
BIAA defines an acquired brain injury (ABI) injury as an injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative or induced by birth trauma, while a TBI is caused by trauma to the brain from an external force.
Brain injuries are more common than previously thought, Appley said. “We used to think that you had to be knocked out to have a concussion and that obviously has changed.”
In 2012, after five years of struggling to perform what he described as “basic life functions,” one of Bosworth’s friends suggested he research hyperbaric oxygen therapy. HBOT is a procedure that utilizes the physics of increased pressure and the movement of gasses to assist in developing an ideal environment for healing, relaxation and detoxification.
“It took me five years to find it, but it has worked for me,” Bosworth said. “It’s controversial, because it has not been approved for brain trauma. I had to do something because I did not want to live a life of being fat, unhappy, and sitting in a doctor’s office getting more drugs. ”
Over the next six years, Bosworth, who has done 80 dives in a hyperbaric chamber, said he has his regained ability to speak and control his anger and emotional outbursts.
“Too much oxygen can hurt you and the first stories you hear about something are the worst stories,” Bosworth said. “There is a danger factor to it, but for me it is something that got me off pharmaceuticals. Before the dives, I was on three medications and looking into two more.
“In 2012, when I did my first dive, there were probably 100 people in the world who had done it,” Bosworth continued. “But when I finished my 80 dives in 2018, there were 10’s of thousands doing it. It does not heal everything, but it helps a whole lot. ”
“It’s not widely accepted yet,” Appley said of the procedure. “Probably because of reimbursement and that you have to pay out of pocket for it. There have been some small studies done on it, but the problem is for people to say it works or for insurance to pay for it, there has to be data .
“But, yes I think it is turning into something useful,” Appley continued. “There just isn’t enough data to make insurance and real scientists believe in it.”
One reason Bosworth wanted to speak out about his journey is because March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and his story could help others.
Every year more than 3.6 million people sustain an ABI, according to BIAA, while at least 2.8 million people sustain a TBI. The leading causes of TBI are falls (47.9%), struck by / against (17.10%), motor vehicles (13.2%), unknown / other (13.2%) and assaults (8.3%).