Sadness for the Karageorge Family (brain injury impact)

November 30, 2014 By Tom

“A police report says Karageorge’s mother told authorities he has had concussions and spells of confusion. She said he texted a message Wednesday citing the concussions and saying he was sorry if he was “an embarrassment.” -ESPN (full article here)

I’m incredibly sad this evening to read the news that Ohio State University football player Kosta Karageorge was found dead earlier today due to a self inflicted gunshot wound.

He was 22, a year younger than I was when I was in the commercial vehicle accident. Reading that article hits so close to home, it makes my stomach turn and my heart break.

While I’ve never talked a ton about that first year after the accident and the amount of trouble I had, I can’t begin to describe the frustration, anger and depression that goes with having a lingering brain injury. The embarrassment of not recognizing your own family that you haven’t seen in a few months. Of realizing you under-tipped or over-tipped your server because you bobbled the math. Needing to write everything down as a task list because you can’t remember more than a couple of things you must accomplish. Throw on top of that the concussion related vertigo I endured for months and the debilitating migraines that I still endure to this day….it’s not the place for the mind and body of a twenty-something.

I have no idea what symptoms Kosta was specifically showing, but the text message he sent his family, “I’m sorry if I’m an embarrassment”… I can relate–because I often felt that way myself when the brain injury had me at my lowest point.

Even today, I struggle with cognitive facial recall (identifying people I’ve previously met and recalling their names and relationship to me); those closest to me are my support network in many ways. My teammate at work is used to me leaning over and asking who “so and so” is when we’re at a program site. My family doesn’t blink twice when I double check who somebody is that I’ve known for 20 years to make sure I call them by the right name. My friends know that if we’re heading to a party, I’ll triple check the names of the people we expect to see there and they’ll still have to find a way to remind me the name of the person I’m talking with and how I know them.

And I’m in the people business, I’m in the business of building relationships and making sure that my corporate partners and donors feel that they are the most important thing in the world to me…and they are….but it’s so hard to portray that when I can’t recall their name off the top of my head.

It’s embarrassing.

It’s frustrating.

It’s isolating.

When I look back, I feel so fortunate for the support network I had to get through some of the toughest times. There is absolutely no way I would have made it through without the support of my family, my wife, her parents and my partners at Nine13.

I’ve learned to manage it, I’ve learned my limits—but it’s taken more than four years and there are still times I get incredibly frustrated because of a simple task that I get hung up on (don’t ask me to read a map–something I used to be great at–it’s something that can instantly send me into a rage)–but I’m where I am because of those that helped me then and continue to help me to this day work through the lingering issues.

My thoughts are with the family of Karageorge this evening. My thoughts are with the veterans of war that have had their life turned upside down because of brain injury at any capacity or intensity. My thoughts are with those that feel isolated and struggle with the impact having a traumatic brain injury and the daily effects.

It goes without saying that more research is needed. Brain injury research in the 20 something population wasn’t a real focus till the War in Iraq. We’ve got years of research ahead of us to better understand the wiring of young adult brains and the long term impact that accompanies injury.

Please remember that a brain injury doesn’t mean 24 hour care and drinking out of a straw—there are injuries and symptoms, often debilitating in nature, that haunt many of us dealing with brain injuries that don’t leave a scar behind, but instead creep into our minds and cause anxiety of when we will forget something important. How it can impact our professional career. Where it will unexpectedly creep up.