The tissue in the brain does not heal in the same way as the tissues in the rest of the body. A traumatic incident such as an accident involving the head, a fall or a gunshot can damage and destroy brain tissue. The extent of this damage depends on the force exerted on the head. Recovering from such accidents can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. No two people recover in the same way and hence it is difficult to set a universal timetable to this recovery. Some people make a full recovery and go back to living their normal lifestyle while others may need help throughout their lives.
- In the first few weeks after the injury, the tissues inside the brain are likely to be swollen and the patient may have internal bleeding. As a result, the person may be in a coma and unaware of the happening around him or her. In this state, the patient will not be responsive to external stimuli of any kind and will be unable to communicate with others.
- As the swelling subsides, the brain tissue functioning will improve. Though the patient’s eyes may still remain closed, he or she may begin to show signs of responsive behavior. With time, he or she may open their eyes and they may begin to experience irregular sleep-wake cycles. At the point, the patient may be said to be in a vegetative state.After some time, the person may also begin to respond to family members and display an ability to follow simple commands. This is known as a minimally conscious stage.
- Caregivers will need to be very patient with the person as at this stage as inconsistent behavior is very common. The person may appear nervous and restless and may often feel frustrated with his or her inability to do things they were able to before the accident. Some days could be very productive while on others, the person may not be able to pay attention to commands or complete actions that they could do on the previous day. The patient may also turn aggressive or overreact to stimuli.
- These first few stages of recovery usually happen within six months of the accident. Between six months and two years from the accident, the brain will slowly regain its functionality. Improvements slow down after two years but may still continue for many years. It is important to remember that the rate of recovery varies from person to person.
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