Kevin: An Island of High Functioning in a Sea of Severe Brain Injury

The Story of Kevin’s Brain Injury

Kevin Part One

Several years ago, the Brain Injury Law Group, S.C. tackled a project called TBI Voices, an initiative to record the voices and stories of about 30 people who survived brain injury. Our participants ranged from those with the most catastrophic of outcomes to a few that were classified as mild. Most of the participants in our project were survivors of severe brain injury who had outcomes where they were able to engage in our interview process. In many cases, we also talked to the family members of the survivors to get perspective on the recovery from brain injury from the families’ perspective, what researchers in the field of brain injury would call “collateral sources.” Over the next month on this and related blogs, we will revisit those stories, but this time told more in a narrative standpoint than from the question-and-answer format we used in 2010.

When doing these interviews, we used a somewhat structured interview, trying to ask the same basic questions of each person, so that if this archive of brain injury voices was ever examined by researchers there would be a basis of comparison. Thus, each story begins with information about how the person got hurt, the immediate impact on the family. We also tried to provide enough information on what the objective parameters of the brain injury were so that readers would be able to get a sense of how severe the brain injury was. In doing so, we focused on amnesia more than strictly Glasgow Coma Scale scores, as we believe that the length and depth of amnesia are the most important criterion.

We have chosen to begin this retelling with the story of Kevin’s brain injury. Though Kevin survived a severe brain injury, the injury destroyed his family, and he now lives in a sheltered environment. The profound sadness of his story is contrasted with an intriguing idea for future therapy that comes from our observations of the dramatically improved cognitive functioning that Kevin displayed when talking about sports. From that, we advocate for a form of therapy, which we labeled “spectator based cognitive therapy,” which would use areas of high interest to help those with cognitive challenges to get better. Here is Kevin’s story.

A twist of fate brought about Kevin’s brain injury. Kevin was a festival with his wife and daughter. They wanted to leave, but Kevin wanted to stay and listen to the music. He stayed behind and got assaulted by someone wielding a crow bar. He doesn’t remember the event and no witnesses to the injury came forward. The last thing he remembers is his wife and daughter leaving before the assault. He remembered his activities of the day of his injury and going to the Chili Fest.

He was med-flighted to UW-Madison and was in a coma for 12 to 14 days. The date of his injury was September 10, 2001. He stayed in UW-Madison Hospital for one month, and then he was transferred to Mercy Hospital in Janesville from October 15 through January 12 of 2001. His amnesia starts to end in the first couple of days he is at Mercy, so his amnesia would be for more than 30 days.

Although the primary injury was to the back of his head, they had to put a tube in his head to drain the fluid. He still retains scars from the incident on the back of his head to this day. As discussed in later parts, Kevin’s brain injury created problems that ended his marriage. While she would have been his most important collateral sources, she was unavailable for our interview. Thus we did not have a collateral source for this story. See part two for what Kevin was like before his brain injury.



Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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