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The occurrence of a traumatic brain injury in a traffic accident is devastating; life changes for that person in an instant, often due to circumstances beyond the victim's control. Whether an animal ran out onto the road or another vehicle suddenly collided with the victim without warning, there's usually little that can be done to stop the accident from happening.

But when the brain injury is caused as a result of a hospital or nursing home staff's negligence, it's even harder to accept the victim's fate. Medical errors or lapses in care are inexcusable when the patient expects to be in good hands. The state of California appears to agree, having recently fined the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center $100,000 -- the maximum fine allowable under state law -- for an error that led to the severe brain injury of a patient.

The patient was a vibrant man in his early 80s who was taken to the hospital after a fall at his home. Once admitted to the transitional care neurosurgery unit, he was hooked up to a heart monitor. But somehow the man fell out of his bed and landed facedown on the floor. Nine minutes passed before a nurse discovered him, even though a technician who kept track of the man's monitor signals paged for help as soon as he fell and became disconnected from the monitor. Getting no response, the technician made a second announcement on the overhead page system, right around the time the nurse found him.

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Injuries from animal bites can be traumatic, especially facial injuries. The most common such occurrences in the U.S. involve dog bites. Government statistics reveal that about 2 percent of all people in the country are bitten by man's best friend each and every year, many of them in California. All told, there are millions of injuries, some quite serious, resulting from dog bites.

Over the past 16 years, federal statistics also show, the number of people having to be hospitalized as a result of dog bite injuries has skyrocketed, increasing by 88 percent. The seriousness of such injuries can be seen from the startling fact that around 15 people each year actually die as a result of dog bites and their subsequent complications. And not all of the victims are children, by any means. About two out of thee are minors, but the rest are adults of varying ages. Children under the age of 5, however, do make up around 70 percent of those suffering facial injuries from dog bites.

Treating such injuries is tricky and expensive, and frequently involves the need for very expensive cosmetic surgery and facial reconstruction in addition to the initial medical treatment. Precautions also must be taken against rabies and other diseases and infections.

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One of the many devastating outcomes possible in an accident is a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries are highly complex, and people who experience a blow to the head, whether in an auto collision, a fall or some other type of accident, often have symptoms that present themselves in unpredictable ways.

One common effect of a brain injury is the inability to make decisions, particularly immediately after the injury occurs. This can be especially harmful, considering the complex medical choices that need to be made as the victim is recovering. Usually the more severe the injury is, the more difficult it is to make decisions. These might include the choice of rehabilitation programming or what type of psychiatric treatment a patient needs, which could have an impact on the rest of his or her life.

Researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham have been studying these effects more closely to help TBI victims and their families make decisions about patient care. Using a group of 86 patients, the researchers divided the group according to injury severity: mild, complicated mild and moderate-severe. One month after injury, the patients' ability to make complex medical decisions was mostly intact for those with mild TBI, but still quite impaired for the more severely injured subjects. This was especially true when it came to the aspects of appreciation, reasoning and understanding in decision making.

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Baseball season had arrived. The season opener game between the Dodgers and the Giants had concluded and fans were heading home with the incident occurred. A Giants fan was attacked by two men and beaten severely. He suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result and was immediately hospitalized.

Since the attack six weeks ago, the man is still in critical condition and has not regained consciousness. His family is hopeful that he will wake up soon. Hospital officials are uncertain as to how his recovery will go; his loved ones have noted that he is responding to certain stimuli. But brain injury victims have a tough road to recovery.

The man is being moved to a medical center closer to his home and ultimately will be moved to a rehabilitation center. But thus far, hospital officials are just trying to make sure that he remains in a stable condition during the first move.

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