Pediatric Brain Injury: From Heartbreak to Hope
Touring Awareness Campaign Gets Help from Center for BrainHealth
May 14, 2009
A 15-city tour stopped in Dallas at the UT Dallas Center for BrainHealth on Wednesday to raise awareness about Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI). A dad who is all too familiar with the tragedy of pediatric brain injury is leading the way.
Patrick Donohue’s daughter, Sarah Jane, was only 5 days old when a nurse shook her so violently that she was left with broken bones and severe brain injury. Today, she is 3 ½ years old and is unable to walk, speak or eat solid food.
Donohue is fighting back. With his help, the nurse was sentenced to prison. He also created the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation. Through this foundation, he has brought together the most respected scientists in the field of pediatric brain injury, including Dr. Sandra Chapman, chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and Lori Cook, a longtime researcher from the center.
The team of researchers created a model system of care and treatment for all children suffering from pediatric acquired brain injuries. Now, Donohue is asking Congress to pass the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Act of 2009, which will ensure the plan created by the researchers is funded, followed and fulfilled.
Chapman has researched this subject for more than 20 years and has tracked more than 850 children with pediatric brain trauma. She joined Donohue at the news conference to raise awareness about pediatric acquired brain injury – the leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in the U.S.
Pediatric acquired brain injury is caused by traumatic events such as motor vehicle and sports-related accidents, blast injuries from war, assaults, child abuse and falls. The causes can also be non-traumatic, including strokes, brain tumors, pediatric AIDS, meningitis, infection and substance abuse.
Donohue says it is a problem that has not been given enough attention. “Over 3 million children suffer from brain injury each year, with most going undetected and therefore untreated,” he said.
Chapman argues that even children who have detected brain injuries are not given adequate long-term care. “When you injure a developing brain, 10 years later there is going to be an emerging deficit; no one is addressing that,” she said. “Children with brain trauma have to recover again and again as their brain develops.”
Donohue hopes the Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Act of 2009 is passed by Congress so that “PABI centers of excellence” will be established in every state. These centers will facilitate care, work to improve rehabilitative services in the community and use research to better understand the effects of the neurological insults on the developing brain.
To raise awareness for the Act, the 15-city tour includes panel discussions and music competitions, at which each performer sponsors a PABI survivor. The tour will end at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on June 5 – Sarah Jane’s fourth birthday.
Donohue is confident that Sarah Jane will one day walk and talk.
“Patrick has turned a horrific event into the most good imaginable,” said Chapman. “We’re honored to support his mission.”
Dr. Sandra Chapman, chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, joined
Patrick Donohue, founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, in calling for greater awareness of pediatric brain injury issues.
Hit by a drunken driver at age 4, Craig Bennett spent three weeks in a coma and was not expected to walk or talk again. His success, chronicled at the Center for BrainHealth, inspires parents of children with traumatic brain injury.