Where Have All the Brain Injury Rehab Doctors Gone?

People living with traumatic brain injuries require unique medical treatment. 

Angela Leigh Tucker
Angela Leigh Tucker
By Angela Leigh Tucker –

I am discovering that this highly specialized care is very limited and I personally have only been able to find it within larger cities.

I sustained a traumatic brain injury in the summer of 2008, in a car crash that killed my husband on the New York State Throughway. I was in a coma for six weeks and spent another six weeks relearning how to walk, talk, read, and write.

When I was discharged from the hospital, I returned to live with my father in Western North Carolina. My family researched the best rehabilitative options in the area and that led me to a physical medicine and brain injury rehabilitation physician here in Asheville, NC. I began seeing this doctor in addition to my Primary Care physician, and he oversaw my care on a monthly basis, helping me regain a sense of self. I remained my TBI doctors’ patient for the next two years before my desire to return to independent living in New York City.

When I returned to the Blue Ridge Mountains a few years ago, there was no one I considered to oversee my continued brain injury care. I called my former doctor’s office after so many years hoping he would remember me, and my appointment was scheduled for the week I moved back. We have developed a special friendship and I used to tease him that he was never allowed to retire without giving me a year’s notice.

My fears were realized abruptly earlier this year when his secretary called and said he would no longer be seeing outpatients. She helped me secure one last appointment with him where I learned that no replacement had been found, leaving a huge void within the outpatient brain injury community here in the mountains.

I do not know where my friends and I will go, or who we will turn to for medical support and guidance. Those of us living with brain injuries are a small population who require specialized care and not all physicians are capable of addressing our concerns and issues. I now serve on the Brain Injury Advisory Council and I try to advocate on behalf of this important cause whenever I can.

I am lucky because my Primary Care physician sounds willing to help me find a replacement for Dr. Diez. He located two possible options for me: the Peace Center Rehab in South Carolina or the Raleigh area. Neither of those work well for someone who is not comfortable driving great distances.

Unfortunately, not everyone living with a brain injury has access to this kind of help. Who is going to assist them in finding a new brain injury rehabilitation doctor? Without this professional support, many brain injury survivors will be facing their health challenges alone.

We need more brain injury rehabilitation doctors now!

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