HEYBURN, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are about 153 people who are dying per day with an injury related to TBI.
"I'm a different person than I was before the car accident. My personality changed," said Diane Davidson, who had a traumatic brain injury.
Heyburn's Davidson said 17 years ago, her and her family were in a car accident near Idaho Falls.
"We had gone to dinner and a movie and on our way home, we were T-boned at an intersection. The rest of my family was OK, but I ended up going to the hospital with severe injuries," she said.
She explained that her liver had gone up into her diaphragm and punctured her lung, she broke some bones and had bleeding in her brain.
"My memory is very different. I have a lot of short-term memory problems," she said.
Davidson said it took many years to rebuild her life again.
"I had to learn how to read and write and swallow, walk, talk, everything all over again," she continued. "I had to start all over."
Speech language pathologist Mel Graber, with St. Luke's, said brain injuries are often an invisible disability.
"It can be associated with physical impairments, but a lot of times, people who have brain injuries don't look like they are impaired, like they ought to be having trouble," Graber explained.
She said sometimes those who do have brain injuries are generally perceived as dumb or drunk.
"Oh, that happens all the time. All the time," Davidson concurred. "They expect you, they look at you and they think you can do anything."
There is a broad spectrum to what a brain injury can do to a person.
"From a little bit of trouble of concentration to movement and knowing where you are and who you are," Graber said.
However there are multiple types of therapies available to help someone with a brain injury.
"Everybody is different in how they recover. Some people feel completely back to normal after some work, some rehab, some people always have deficits and it’s really impossible to predict," Graber said. "One good thing to remember is that things are always going to change, the brain is not stuck, it’s what we call plastic, so we can always make progress, make changes in how the brain is functioning, but sometimes there will be long-lasting effects of an injury," she said.
Davidson said she doesn't remember much two years before the accident and a few years after it.
"My family lived with two different moms and that's hard on them sometimes," she said.
She hopes others can be a little more compassionate and not be so quick to judge.
"We can lift each other up instead of hurting each other and expecting everyone to do more than they're capable of," she said.
Now, Davidson advocates for other survivors who had a brain injury. She said she's also done some legislative advocacy at the state capitol as well.
"I know that sometimes you go through things so you can speak for others and people with as a severe as a brain injury that I have, usually can’t communicate," she continued. "I'm trying my best to use my words to help bring awareness."