Guest blogger: Jessica Burke
I could be a web developer anywhere. So, why do I choose to work at CDC’s Injury Center?
It’s because I know what it means to suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). And I know how important it is to help prevent other people from going through what I went through one Thursday in August 2005.
That evening, I was in a car crash. As I was driving down a street in my neighborhood, another driver missed a stop sign on a cross street and struck me from the side. That set off a terrifying series of events – my car spun around, flipped upside down, and skidded at least 100 feet down the road. When the car finally stopped, my friends and I ended up suspended upside down in the car – the seatbelts the only things holding us in. Since it was late at night, we found ourselves even more disoriented in total darkness. The windshield was shattered, and the airbags created a curtain around the inside of the car. It must have been adrenaline that helped me manage to get myself and everyone else out of the car.
Bad enough were the glass pieces embedded in my leg, which later needed to be surgically removed, and the damaged discs in my neck. But most worrisome was the deep bleeding gash in my scalp, causing pain in my head like I had never experienced before in my life. Paramedics arrived, strapped me to a backboard, and took me to the emergency department, where I continued to be in pain with dizziness and nausea.
Before the crash, I had never had any type of head injury, but the excruciating pain let me know this injury could be very serious. Fortunately, my doctors told me that I would eventually recover from my concussion, but that the recovery would “simply take time.” For more than 6 weeks, my thought processes were slower, my short term memory was impaired, and in general I felt like I was trying to find my way through a dense fog while wading through molasses. The most difficult part of the recovery was not knowing when and if my brain would ever return to normal. This not knowing, combined with the constant pain and disorientation, increased my anxiety and aggravated my struggles with depression.
In my experience, TBIs really are a silent epidemic. People in my daily life had little or no knowledge of it, and could provide me with little or no support during my recovery. I wish I had known about the CDC Injury Center’s many TBI resources then. The information on our Concussion Recognition page could have helped me know that what I was feeling was completely normal. The Feel Better page would have been incredibly helpful in giving me instructions on how to care for my concussion. I also really wish my doctors had more information from the Clinical Diagnosis and Management page.
In my current position as a web developer, I am proud to be part of the development of the CDC Heads Up Facebook Page. This social community reaches multiple audiences with all aspects of TBIs: recognition by coaches, teachers and caregivers; clinical diagnosis and management; and a supportive community of survivors that share their stories, encourage one another, and share resources.
At the Injury Center I get the opportunity to work with the world’s top scientists and public health professionals in injury and violence prevention. Our work can help prevent car crashes that cause TBIs and other tragedies, provide prevention resources to parents to keep their kids safe, and help medical and public health professionals sharpen their expertise with the latest science on prevention and treatment.
Mainly, I work at the CDC Injury Center because I want to help the world prevent TBIs in the first place. But if they do happen, I never want another victim of TBI to ever have to go through their injury and recovery without the right information and support!