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Sask. woman part of international study seeking to improve healthcare for those with brain injuries

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Barb Butler was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 1993, resulting in a brain injury.

She was in a coma for almost three weeks afterward, and then spent six months in hospital, and then rehab, and as an outpatient at the rehab hospital for almost six years.

“It's affected my life in that I have a really bad short-term memory. I have to write everything down,” said Butler. “It's also affected me physically in that I do walk with a limp and I have really bad balance.”

Butler participated in a proposition proposal conducted by Brain Injury Canada and the Canadian Traumatic Brain Injury Research Consortium. The report looks at traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a lifelong condition. It aims to have the Government of Canada and the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System designate moderate to severe traumatic brain injury as a chronic condition.

“Unfortunately, it's not recognized as a chronic disease, because it's trauma once patients are discharged from their rehabilitation, then often the burden falls on the person or the caregivers, the family members,” said co-chair of, the Canadian Traumatic Brain Injury Research Consortium Dr. Jamie Hutchison.

A feeling Butler knows all too well.

“It impacted my family a great deal in the beginning because I wasn't around. My son started kindergarten without a mom. I think over the years, I've just learned to adapt as I have to my injury,” she said.

The report cites that according to a “2020 Public Health Agency of Canada review, between 2002 and 2016, approximately 235,471 injury deaths occurred in Canada, and 22.6 per cent of these (53,200 deaths) were associated with a TBI diagnosis.”

“Traumatic brain injury is the most common cause of death and long-term disability in the young population, even up to age 40. But it can occur at any age,” said Dr. Jamie Hutchison.

The report wants TBI to be a chronic condition, which would allow Canada’s health and social systems to access “updated data for better tracking of incidence, prevalence, mortality, healthcare utilization (e.g., hospitalizations, physician visits), and co-existing health conditions,” the release read.

“It would permit us in Canada to collect data to see how big a burden it really is, and it would permit a much more efficient healthcare system to actually provide appropriate support for these patients and their caregivers. That support is just not there right now, and it's needed,” said Dr. Hutchison.

Researchers are working to meet with the Public Health Association of Canada, which houses the chronic disease surveillance system database.

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