For most people, a traumatic or acquired brain injury starts in the car.

Two million Americans will get a brain injury this year.


If there is lots of blood or broken bones on the car accident scene, or if someone is in a coma, a severe traumatic brain injury can be diagnosed on site.

At first glance, however, you need to know that a mild traumatic brain injury isn’t so obvious, like a giant train just fell out a window.

No, not at all. But the brain damage can be immense.

Here’s a looking-glass view of the brain and how it’s encased in the skull with the spinal cord. So you see?

Everything can seem perfectly normal.

Perfectly normal.

But after days and weeks go by, the internal damage reveals itself. It has to do so, and others need to be on watch for subtle signs. A mild brain injury doesn’t ‘jump out at you.’ It is frequently a diagnosis made after a long time has passed by, qualifying it as an ‘invisible disability‘ that is virtually unseen.

For example, I slept on the sofa the night of our car accident (i.e., my daughter and I were hit by a distracted driver, at high speed). No one noticed how strange that was for me, as my bridesmaid happened to stop by for a visit and no one woke me up to eat. I slept much of the time, for days and days, and only was tipped to this not being normal when my friend said,

Margaret, call us day or night if you need anything. This is not normal for you.

The brain can swirl. This can cause lots of damage. You don’t even have to hit your head on the windshield or steering wheel. The airbag does not ‘need’ to have been deployed.

  1. 10 Common Signs of a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury:

    1. Fatigue, LOTS of sleep (I’d like to emphasize this)

  2. Nausea and vomiting
  3. Headache
  4. Eyes sensitive to light, ears ringing
  5. No hunger, no thirst
  6. Forgetfulness, confusion
  7. Pupil dilation
  8. Nervous or distressed personality
  9. Loss of coordination, balance or accident-prone to fall
  10. Unable to do Activities of Daily Living. Watch if a parent is unable to care for children well. This is a key sign.

If you or someone you know was in a high-speed accident and came out “unscathed,” wait and watch for signs of mild traumatic brain injury. Stay vigilant.

Be vigilant to watch for changes in your friend, your mother or your spouse who just “changes” after a car accident. It may be a puzzle that you could actually put together. On your own. Go ahead and be a rebel for the one you love. Get answers if you think something is wrong. Get a diagnosis. And if you have to do so, fight for your diagnosis.

Fight for your diagnosis.

~ Dr. Margaret Aranda

Thoughts: I suffered a traumatic brain injury in a high-speed car accident, when my head never hit anything and I walked away thinking everything was normal. I have been disabled and bed-ridden for over 10 years, so I’m speaking from personal experience and a hefty medical background. I graduated Keck USC School of Medicine and then Stanford’s anesthesiology residency and critical care Fellowship. My first research manuscript authored was, ironically, a Rapid Communication in the prestigious journal, Neurosurgery. So that makes me a brain expert.

No one was there to tell me all the things I just told you; I figured out my own brain injury on my own. Please stop and think about this:

If you know someone who was in a car accident and auto(a) bodies were severely damaged, then something in a human body was probably damaged, too.


If it’s just a fender-“bender,” then maybe no body parts “bent,” either. Get it?
But if the car “body” is severely damaged, then a human “body” is probably damaged, too …
and that ‘damage’ may be internal, on the inside. Keep watch.

Two cars were totaled in my car accident. All the officers, police, firemen, and ambulance drivers let me drive my own truck home. It’s incredible that they let me drive with my baby in the car (see her), but that’s what happened.

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Thank you for reading my writings.

There is more on this subject in my new book, The Rebel Patient, Coming Soon!

Join “The MD, PhD Is In” mdphdisin-on-twitter

The Collection: Brain Injury

#1 – Ten Signs of a Brain Injury

#2 – Five Tests to Diagnose a Brain Injury

#3 – Sweet Urine and DI

#4 – Four Ways to Treat DI

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The Rebel Patient book by Dr. Margaret Aranda

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