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A hug is duct tape for the soul.

 
From The Frederick News Post
(Originally published March 31, 2009)

In July 1995, Jean Berube's father, a professor at Old Dominion University, was involved in a car accident. Soon after, he appeared completely recovered from relatively minor injuries.

"It was months later, in October, when he started slurring his words and showed symptoms that looked like he was having a stroke," Berube said. "My mother knew something was wrong."

Rushed to Virginia Beach General Hospital, Berube's father underwent emergency brain surgery. A subdural hematoma, as a result of brain injury, after weeks of slow, undetected bleeding, suddenly reached a critical mass.

"It took months, but my dad got better and eventually went back to work," she said. "In the end, he was fortunate."

The event changed her life.

A lawyer and legislative assistant working on health care issues, among others, on Capitol Hill for former Virginia congressman Owen Pickett, Berube returned home to Virginia briefly to take care of her family. She, of course, became very interested in what had happened to her dad, and in the nature of brain injury itself.

In 1997, she left Pickett's office to become director of public policy and government relations for the Brain Injury Association in Alexandria. Since, Berube, who now lives in Frederick , has been an independent consultant and lobbyist for a variety of brain injury organizations, including the International Brain Injury Association and the National Brain Injury Research, Treatment and Training Foundation.

Today she's recognized as a leading lobbyist specializing in work on behalf of nonprofits providing research and care in the traumatic brain injury field. She works with everyone from Dr. Rick Hunt, director for injury response at the Center for Disease Control, to Col. Michael Jaffe, M.D., the national director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, to leaders of health care reform and the Wounded Warriors Project, to congressmen such as Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., a leading advocate for brain injury research, and Frederick Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who joined the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force last summer.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and the all-day fair March 25 featured presentations on mild traumatic brain injuries from the battlefield to the football field, a congressional briefing and reception. The next day an all-day seminar included panels on the costs of brain injury from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, health care reform and preventing disparity in civilian, military and veterans health care.

National Guard troops, for example, Berube said, once their tour of duty is done, often visit civilian doctors unfamiliar with diagnosing and treating issues such as mild traumatic brain injury.

Even before actress Natasha Richardson died earlier this month after initially rejecting medical attention following a seemingly minor fall while skiing, traumatic brain injury research and care has been receiving more attention in recent years because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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