The Many Faces of Brain Injury

The Many Faces of Brain Injury

John Muir Health’s medical teamwork brings about extraordinary recovery  

For brain injury, stroke, brain/spine tumors, acute and/or chronic back disorders, the John Muir Neurosciences Institute (NSI) provides a continuum of expert care. The NSI integrates the clinical expertise of neurosurgeons, neurologists, interventional neuro radiologists, radiation oncologists, neuropsychologist and physiatrists in one of the most comprehensive programs in Northern California for diagnosis, treatment and consultation.

Last October, Eddie Stegge, one of the principal dancers of the Diablo Ballet lay unconscious and near death on a Concord street after being mugged and beaten by two teenagers. In February, he returned to dancing thanks to the neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists and the rehabilitation team at John Muir Health. His excellent physical condition aided his astonishing recovery.

“Our Brain Injury Program is hospital wide streamlining our treatment of traumatic brain injury dramatically. The Brain Injury Program involves many services, Neurosciences, Trauma, Rehab and others. Very few other hospitals have a program of such depth. Patients are out of the hospital in fewer days and at a higher functional level. Rehab takes them earlier and they ‘graduate’ as close to their previous healthy state as possible,” says Terence L. Chen, M.D., Medical Director of Neurosurgical Services and current Chief of Staff at the Walnut Creek Medical Center.

In 2005, Henry Brooks, an Air Force reservist, was airlifted from Travis Air Force Base in Vacaville after he collapsed from a massive hemorrhage caused by a rare vascular malformation in his brain. The entire NSI team was involved with his care. He went through months of intensive treatment learning to talk and walk again. Recently he and his family flew from Texas to attend the 2009 annual rehabilitation reunion.

“What’s interesting about neurological recovery is that it takes a long time. In a case like Henry’s, it’s really great to see how much function and cognition is restored over time. We don’t always get to see that,” commented
Dr. Chen.

In March of 2008, 16-year old Brian Gee was hit in the head with a baseball. After nine weeks of medical and rehabilitation treatment, Brain came home and started on his outpatient course of recovery. Brian made up his sophomore year school work during the summer and returned to high school full-time as a junior with his class at Miramonte High School in Orinda.

Recently Brian received his acceptance to UC Berkeley and will be studying economics at Cal next fall. “While we thank staff at John Muir for your medical and technical skills, we most want to thank you for your caring and humanity - the hugs, encouragement, and kind and hopeful words,” reminisces his mother Darlene Gee.

A key recent acquisition used in the NSI is the powerful 3T MRI scanner which allows advanced neuroimaging of the brain. Recommended by Interventional Radiologist Dr. Ira Finch because of its multiple uses and superior imaging, the functional MRI “helps us figure out how the parts of the brain work. Now we can correlate function with anatomy. This makes brain surgery much safer,” remarked Dr. Chen.

Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff Contra Costa Times