From the initial accident to the hospital room, to the recovery clinic, the courtroom, and beyond, the healing process is a journey.
When you suffer an injury, you want to be sure the professionals you encounter at every step along the way have the best information available to help you heal.
On June 6, 2019, Bergeron Clifford welcomed 40 medical and recovery professionals from across Kingston to a conference aimed at sharing information about their profession. During a half-day conference, staff from hospitals and clinics across the city heard from leading experts in neuropsychiatry, physiotherapy, surgery, and injury assessment.
“We see ourselves as all part of the same team,” says Chris Clifford, partner at Bergeron Clifford. “We are all working together towards the same goal of helping victims of accidents recover. By bringing in speakers and hosting events like this, we are providing the local medical community an opportunity to improve their knowledge and clinical skills.
Dr. Elvina Chu of Queen’s University’s Department of Psychiatry opened the conference, speaking about neuropsychiatry and the consequences of brain injury on patient recovery.
One in every 200 Canadians has a reported brain injury, and the cases are disproportionately found among young and otherwise healthy people. It is important to know when trying to treat someone with a fresh or pre-existing brain injury, how the condition of the patient’s brain might affect their treatment.
“Your brain is like a gelatinous mass and it moves around inside a rigid structure,” Dr. Chu explains. “When the brain is rattled about and bumped up against the skull, that is when the damage occurs. The skull doesn’t give way if there is swelling from bleeding inside and this predisposes people to suffering a worse brain injury.”
Dr. Chu notes a patient with a brain injury could be physically recovering, but their brain can be losing function at the same time. This decreased function has longer-term consequences – when the patient attempts to return to work once they have completed their recovery process, for example, some of them find they can no longer cope or succeed in that environment due to the physical or mental changes they have undergone. They may be physically healed, but mentally they are not the same as they were before.
Next up was Dr. Milos Popovic of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, speaking about an invention he has been working on to help victims of central nervous system injuries such as strokes and spinal cord injuries. The MyndMove provides electrical stimulation to the muscle to help retrain the body and rebuild fine motor control in the arms. Previous devices focused just on stimulating the muscles – bypassing the brain rather than working with it.
“Rather than fire all the muscles – which previous devices did – our device works the way the brain works,” says Dr. Popovic. “And, eventually, after 40 hours with an occupational therapist, the patient can do it all on their own without the assistive device.”
Much like other therapies, progress can be slow at first – taking minutes in the early days to accomplish simple tasks. And Dr. Popovic stresses that it is important to have the device, the therapist, and also the patient’s active support and participation in order for the therapy to be successful.
A participant asked Dr. Popovic about the cost of the MyndMove device, and he replied that clients pay an ongoing fee for the device along with support and upgrades. This ensures the patient always has the most up-to-date technology. Dr. Popovic also said he constantly works to try and make the technology cheaper.
Dr. Aaron Campbell, an orthopedic surgeon at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, took over behind the podium next. The focus of his presentation was on the types of ligament and soft tissue injuries and how to recover from them. He stressed the importance of therapy in healing from many of these injuries, particularly for older patients with degenerative conditions such as arthritis.
“If I have a pet peeve, it’s that ACL injuries are lumped in together when they are all quite different, with different outcomes and responses,” he says. “There are a lot of variables and you can’t always use the same recipe to address the injury.”
Dr. Campbell noted that young females, in particular, tend to need follow-ups after these types of injuries, likely due to looser ligaments and smaller ACLs.
Closing out the conference was Dr. Darrin Milne, a chiropractor and clinical coordinator with Makos Health Associates. The goal of his presentation, leveraging his 20 years of experience as an independent medical evaluator, was to help rehabilitation practitioners understand catastrophic injury designations.
The number of these catastrophic designations has been on the rise in recent years, and Dr. Milne has evaluated cases that range in the hundreds of pages to one which featured 17,000 pages. Part of Dr. Milne’s work is to summarize these cases for insurers, employers, and lawyers.
Dr. Milne reviewed a number of changes and refinements to the definition of what it means to be catastrophically impaired over recent years. For instance, the definition of whether someone is a paraplegic or tetraplegic is now based on a set of criteria and tests instead of a short and subjective evaluation.
“It is important to answer the question as it is posed by the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) – if you cannot use your arm, for example, it is important to say total, not substantial,” he says.
Dr. Milne says cases involving children can be the most difficult. Following an accident, the children can demonstrate a change in their behaviour or performance at school. Dr. Milne says, when he is evaluating cases, he asks for school records to help assess the child before and after – to help ascertain whether the mood or behaviour changes are related to the accident.
His key takeaway to the room was that the SABS updates have led to an increase in catastrophic impairment applications and have also made that status harder to attain due to the tight time window and the increasing requirement for tests and validation of a patient’s condition.
At the conclusion, attendees were provided with a certificate to acknowledge their participation in professional development purposes.
Thanks to Drs. Chu, Popovic, Campbell, and Milne for their thought-provoking presentations!
To learn more about Bergeron Clifford’s continued efforts to expand our expertise, contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Have Emotional Trauma Without a Brain Injury?
Going through an accident and understanding your catastrophic injury can be difficult to manage physically and emotionally. Just because one part of your body is injured doesn’t mean it can’t impact other parts of you. Mental health is a serious concern after sustaining any kind of bodily trauma and can manifest in different ways through behavioural changes or depression and anxiety. Emotional distress is possible even if your injury is sustained through a broken bone or results from a burn or laceration. It is best to seek professional care and undergo recovery for your physical and mental health.
Does Physical Healing Determine Emotional Well-Being?
Your injury has likely permanently altered your life. Throughout recovery, your medical team’s goal is for you to restore movement and function to the area of your body that has been hurt and ultimately heal it as best as possible. Certainly, progress on this journey may help with feelings of sadness or depression. The adage of getting better can offer you a renewed outlook on life, but it is vital to still do the work with mental health professionals.
There is a chance your injury will only heal so much before progress plateaus, which can be challenging to deal with. Ensuring you’re committed to all steps of the process can help with your emotional well-being no matter the outcome of your physical health.
If I File a Personal Injury Claim, Will My Doctors and Lawyers Work Together?
During your recovery, you might work with numerous professionals as you heal and secure fair compensation. Your doctor and lawyer want what is best for you to continue to live your life with dignity, and in many cases, they will work together to ensure that is possible. Your medical records, combined with their expert opinion, can help move your case forward when detailing evidence of your condition.
Additionally, your lawyer will likely have connections in the medical community that can highlight the distinction of your injury and verify your doctor’s findings. This can help ensure that your case is strong and viable should you need to go to court.
How Important is Recovery When Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
Victims of serious accidents often file personal injury claims because they cannot live how they did before the accident, including lasting effects on their ability to work. Understanding the unique circumstances that led to this result can be difficult. You might feel unmotivated to continue or even start recovery after choosing to hire a lawyer and pursue legal action. However, it is vital to commit to this process—both for yourself and your case. An initial diagnosis isn’t always a permanent conclusion, and you may be able to make strides through physiotherapy and other medical rehabilitation processes that focus on improving your burn injury and conditions
Moreover, your claim may falter without pursuing ongoing care because you appear to seek fair compensation without investing in improving your health. This could lead an insurance company or court to believe you aren’t willing to do the work that could positively impact your condition.
What Can I do to Manage My Stress While Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim?
Undoubtedly, the stress caused by filing your claim can be immense. At Bergeron Clifford, we work with our clients to ensure they feel confident about how their suit is progressing. While we do our best to be there every step of the way, there is the possibility that our clients will experience anxious emotions that we are unable to soothe. We recommend focusing on different outlets to help reduce and manage the stress you might be feeling.
The first is to focus on your mental health. Consult with a psychotherapist regarding your accident, and schedule ongoing appointments to begin healing and prevent stress from becoming too intense to handle. They might recommend stress-relieving techniques, including breathing exercises or listening to music to help you relax outside of your sessions with them.
Also, connecting with family and friends can help you feel more settled. Even a simple conversation might set your mind at ease because you can talk about something other than the accident.
Finally, stay active in your recovery journey. While this may be difficult depending on your injury, engaging in day-to-day routines and activities can help keep you busy. While you heal physically, it is also important to consider meeting with a mental health professional who specializes in cases similar to yours. This can help with approaches to cope while you are going through the legal processes.
While your stress will likely be present on your mind throughout the process of your claim, reducing undue stress can help soothe your nerves and make you feel content that things are progressing as they should.