Car accidents can exert tremendous forces on the human body. The deceleration that occurs when two vehicles collide on a street in Hawaii, or run off the road and strike a tree or other object is staggering. While crumple zones, seat belts and air bags have greatly contributed to reducing the number of fatalities that result from car accidents, they can’t reduce the shock the brain experiences when it moves within the head and strikes the skull.
Of the numerous types of traumatic brain injuries that an occupant of a vehicle can suffer during a car accident, a persistent vegetative state is one of the most daunting. The person is alive, in that their heart beats, they breathe and their digestive system works, but they appear to have no consciousness.
The family must deal with having to make arrangements for their 24-hour-a-day care and have the emotional struggle of trying to determine if the person they knew is still present. Doctors have been little help, being unable to determine the actual damage to the brain until after death.
Recently, a report comes of research that appears to indicate that a doctor has been able to identify some degree of consciousness among patients in persistent vegetative states. The team of researchers in Canada was able to ask questions of patients and determine answers by using neuroimaging technology.
This would help in the determination of which patients retained some degree of consciousness and those whose brains were damaged irretrievably. It could also allow those patients with consciousness some say in the types of treatment they receive.
Source: NBC New, “Brain scans reveal which ‘vegetative’ patients are alert, trapped in bodies,” Maggie Fox, August 15, 2013