Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury on the minds of many thanks to inspirational snowboarder, Kevin Pearce.

Kevin Pearce was a charismatic, fun loving, world class snowboarder who was favored by many to win the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  Sadly at just the age of 22, an accident occurred while he was attempting to perform a trick that left Kevin Pearce in a week-long coma and critical care for 27 days.  March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  With the 2014 Olympics recently taking place, Kevin’s recovery from his traumatic brain injury have been on the minds of many.

“It was crazy how I just kind of had to relearn everything,” he told the Huffington Post. “I had to learn how to talk and walk and swallow and eat and do everything all over again.  I was one of the best in the world at competitive snowboarding, and to be one of the best in the world and then be dropped down and you know, not even to be able to walk anymore — it was so crazy how quickly this happened. And how such a huge shift in my life had to happen so drastically, so quickly.  It’s just been kind of amazing having gone from being so good and such a top-level athlete at something to being so low and, you know, at the very bottom.”

Kevin admitted that he will likely never compete again. “I think the scariest part for me was finding out what the result was,” Kevin said about the injury. “For so long, I didn’t know how severe things were. I didn’t want to believe or accept that it was that bad. When I found out how real it was, when I found out I wasn’t going to be able to do what I love anymore, that was the hardest.”

Since the injury Kevin has worked to raise awareness about traumatic brain injuries and Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which affects a large number of brain injury survivors. “It’s this condition where you have uncontrollable laughing and crying. That’s awkward. If you try and go out with your friends, and you just start laughing when they tell a joke and you can’t stop, it gets really awkward and really weird.”

Through his own experience with his traumatic brain injury he has had the opportunity to meet other survivors – but he states that not are all as luck as him.  “I kind of learned how to rebuild my life and redo everything, and now I’ve found that I have a huge possibility and a huge awareness to be able to help people,” Pearce stated.  “There’s so many different things that [are] involved with the brain, and one of the big things is this disease called PBA.” Pseudobulbar affect (PBA) is a neurological condition marked by sudden, uncontrollable episodes of crying or laughter that affects more than 50 percent of patients who suffer a traumatic brain injury. It can also occur in stroke patients and those with certain conditions like multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

“It’s hard if you go out into a situation, and maybe someone tells you a joke and it’s funny, but you continue to keep laughing, and you can’t stop laughing,” Kevin said. “It’s really hard to be out in public and be with friends … if you don’t really know what’s going on and you’re doing these really weird things.”  PBA is often misdiagnosed as depression or other mental disorders, so Pearce recently partnered with Avanir Pharmaceuticals to raise awareness about the condition and to let people know that there are treatments available.  “I was on that side of the 50 percent that didn’t get diagnosed with this condition, and I was so extremely lucky with that,” he said.  “But it takes a lot, and you do need to get a lot of support and a lot of love and a lot of help, and if I can help somebody that’s going through this, that would really kind of be amazing for me.

Kevin’s identity was snowboarding, but it took losing his identity to actually find himself. He started a movement called “Love Your Brain.” There is even an HBO documentary titled “The Crash Reel” that documents the story of Kevin Pearce and his recovery.  It shows how his traumatic brain injury in 2009 sent shockwaves through the tight knit snowboarding community and drew an outpouring of support from fans around the world. Kevin’s recovery has inspired countless others, and “Love Your Brain” encourages people to make more mindful and healthier choices in their active lifestyle, specifically focused on preventing brain injuries.

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