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When a person is seriously injured in an accident, life changes dramatically not just for the victim, but for his or her entire family. For victims whose families depend on their income, an accident can lead to worries about how they will survive if they are unable to work. When the victim is a child, parents may have to quit their jobs to take on the specialized care that seriously injured accident victims need.

These problems can be magnified for traumatic brain injury sufferers. Brain injuries can range from mild to severe, and it's sometimes hard to accurately place the injury on that spectrum. Memory problems, for example, may not be immediately apparent. It's also nearly impossible to tell how quickly a TBI patient will recover, and to what extent. These great unknowns can quickly add to existing financial worries over affording the medical care itself.

A Gilroy, California, teen and his family know the struggles associated with brain injuries all too well. The boy, who turned 17 this week, suffered a TBI when he fell off his skateboard last summer. Half a year later, the family is still learning to cope. Now in a wheelchair, the teen is trying his hardest to overcome severe memory loss and regain the ability to walk. Meanwhile, his parents have become completely focused on caring for him and helping him to recover.

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Countless numbers of families have gone through the experience of being told a loved one has suffered a devastating brain injury, and not to expect miracles when it comes to recovery. In many cases, patients have proved their doctors and therapists wrong with unbelievable comebacks. These inspiring stories remind us that there is still much we don't know about the body's capacity to repair itself.

One such case involves a former Marine currently from Sunnyvale, California. Ever since he was involved in a 1991 car accident while he was stationed in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, the 47-year-old has been fighting to reclaim the parts of him that the head-on collision took away.

The man's injuries were so serious that his family was discouraged from visiting him in the hospital in Germany where he was taken after the accident; he wasn't expected to survive. When he finally came out of a coma five months later, he needed a wheelchair to compensate for the weakness in his left side. He was also legally blind and had to learn how to speak again. Despite these brain-injury-related setbacks, he has never stopped fighting. Several times a week he reports for physical therapy at a facility in San Jose, and one of his current goals is to complete a vocational training program that could allow him to work again -- possibly with a police department, a lifelong dream that inspired his decision to join the Marines in the first place.

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Researchers at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health conducted a survey of 1,000 residents of central California, all adults age 35 and older. Of them, nearly 35 percent were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a disorder with symptoms such as tremors and loss of coordination. The study, released last week, found that those with Parkinson's were twice as likely as those without to report having suffered a head injury at some point, and having lost consciousness for more than five minutes.

Those with the disorder were also more likely to live within 500 meters of a location where the herbicide paraquat was used. Paraquat is used to kill weeds and plants.

Either condition could contribute to the development of Parkinson's disease; however, it seems when both factors are involved, the risk is higher. The reason for this appears to be that earlier head injury makes brain cells vulnerable to this particular poison used on plants. This is clearly something for those diagnosed with the disease to consider in their individual case.

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