Paul Bosworth is on a mission. The Lafayette man who spearheads efforts to raise awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury does so with such passion it could only come from someone who knows firsthand the challenges.
In September 2007, Bosworth suffered a TBI while at his home office in Virginia working for a tech company. He choked while eating chicken fried rice and researching a potential client, blacked out and fell. He struck his head and woke later with problems from vision to balance and headed to the hospital with his then-girlfriend.
They were told Bosworth should take pain pills and his girlfriend should keep an eye on him. More than a week later, as he continued to attempt normal work and life, the symptoms worsened, and Bosworth began the first steps of a journey that would bring him to Lafayette and change his life.
He developed symptoms from cluster headaches and trouble walking, counting and talking to memory loss. It all added up to frustration and left Bosworth struggling without a diagnosis for at least a year.
“Every 13 seconds a brain injury occurs in the U.S.,” Bosworth says. “There are 2.4 million Americans that get brain injuries each year. Most commonly misdiagnosed is mine.”
Eventually Bosworth received the diagnosis of post-concussive syndrome, had to leave his job and moved to Lafayette where he had a supportive friend. From the outside Bosworth looked healthy, but his brain injury was wreaking havoc on his life.
Dr. Matt Holden sees the story all too often. The emergency medicine doctor, who now lives in Texas, treated Bosworth while in Lafayette using Paul Bosworth hyperbaric oxygen chamber sessions. The results are nothing short of extraordinary.
A man who once would have found it impossible to function at times — even in normal settings — talked to me at a Mardi Gras ball with lights flashing, confetti flying, music blaring and enough distraction to cause anyone to pause. And he points to hyperbaric therapy as the key. His proof comes by way of a life changed and scans that clearly show once “dead” areas of his brain alive and well.
Holden explains the process simply as an area of the brain that once didn’t function is now in working order. In most cases of TBI, a patient is given psychological counseling and SSRI meds (an off-label method to treat brain injury symptoms) or a sedative or tranquilizer.
“It’s all very ineffective treatment of a brain injury,” Holden says. “By giving them those things you can make them feel better but can’t actually return the part of the brain that is nonfunctional back into a good functional brain. [With] hyperbaric oxygen … you help the brain grow new blood vessels, and it improves circulation to the part of the brain that is damaged and it helps the brain grow new stem sells that can become new neurons and regenerate lost networks in the brain.”
The doc says you then add psychotherapy to grow new pathways to thinking, and actual healing can occur rather than masking symptoms. As for why it’s not the standard of care? There isn’t a double blind study to make the case iron clad, and time in a chamber is costly with few, if any, insurance companies covering the expense.
That doesn’t stop Bosworth from fighting for it, along with awareness for everyone facing TBI. He heads local support groups and has appeared everywhere from local television stations to the Huffington Post. He heads to D.C. each year to speak with lawmakers about TBI awareness.
“So many live in fear that they will be judged for injuries to their brains,” Bosworth says.
He isn’t one of them: “I do this so the next person will not fall short of understanding like I did.”
The years Bosworth looked normal from the outside but couldn’t function normally are never far from his mind. And he still suffers some symptoms. But he’s found a cause that doesn’t let go — and a purpose far beyond his own symptoms.
BBQ for TBI
An event to benefi t brain injury awareness in Louisiana June 12 and 13 at Parc Hardy in Breaux Bridge. Smoky Breaux’s BBQ in the Parc is a state championship barbecue contest open to the public June 13 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. with live music and plenty of barbecue with a People’s Choice Award. For more information go to bbq4tbi.org.
Traumatic Brain Injury does not heal like other injuries and no two TBIs are the same. Unlike breaking a bone, the injury to the brain can cause symptoms that not only alter the physical part of the brain but change personality and mental abilities. Symptoms can appear immediately or may not be present for weeks or days after the injury.
Symptoms are vast and can include headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swing, frustration, fatigue.
Causes are varied and include head injury, stroke, concussions, lack of oxygen from heart attack or respiratory failure, tumors, infections.
By the numbers
2.4 million TBIs each year in the U.S.
50,000 people die from TBI each year
From 2001 to 2009 the rate of ER visits for sports and recreational injuries with a diagnosis of concussion or TBI rose 57 percent in children under 19
**SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control