Black Music Impressario Don Cornelius, His Brain Surgery And Suspected Suicide


Posted on 3rd February 2012 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Don Cornelius was a successful African-Amercian entrepreneur who made his fortune by bringing undiluted black music to mainstream America in a hit show, “Soul Train.” The era was the 1970s, and Cornelius was the black Dick Clark of soul music and R&B.

It’s a shame that his story didn’t have a happy ending. And perhaps  it didn’t have a happy ending because of the brain surgery he once underwent.     

Cornelius, 75, was found dead in his California home Wednesday, an apparent suicide. He died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Cornelius had fallen into some difficult times, a downward spiral. His career faltered when he couldn’t contain his disdain for rap music and hip-hop.

And according to several press reports, he underwent brain surgery that had a dramatic, and apparently negative, impact on him. It wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to consider it a factor in his ultimate decision to take his own life.

Cornelius had his brain surgery in the 1980s, “and was quoted in newspapers at the time as saying he didn’t feel quite the same after,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

The Star-Ledger of Newark’s account of Cornelius’s experience also portrayed that brain surgery as a life-changer for the former broadcaster.   

“Cornelius suffered severe personal setbacks, too,” Star-Ledger music critic Tris McCall wrote. “In 1982, he underwent brain surgery to correct a life threatening congenital defect. He was back on ‘Soul Train’ six months later, but never really recovered.”

Cornelius and his first wife, his high school honey, divorced. His second marriage was no picnic: He was charged with domestic violence in 2008, eventually pleading no contest. He got 36 months probation.

“He had alluded to health problems in divorce papers,” The Times wrote.

I’d bet that at least some of those health problems were mental issues arising after his brain surgery. It’s a shame that he apparently decided to end his torment with a bullet. 


Princeton Freshman Football Star Dibilio Recovering From Stroke

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Posted on 1st February 2012 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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So far, the prognosis is looking good for Princeton freshman running back Chuck Dibilio, who suffered a stroke Jan. 19. But there is still no answer yet why this athlete, at the peak of his facilities, had a stroke.   

Dibilio, a 19-year-old from Nazareth, Pa., underwent surgery to have a blood clot removed from the main artery of his brain at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, according to the Associated Press. He had to be transported by helicopter to that medical facility.

Keith Groller, a columnist for the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa., interviewed Dibilio 10 days after he had his stroke, and the star player seemed to be making good progress.,0,2305917.column

Dibilio, who was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, was back at home and undergoing therapy three times a week. He told Groller that after the stroke, he couldn’t  speak or move his right arm and leg. Now, he says he is OK physically. 

But in a disturbing aside that rings alarms, he added, “I just need to work on my speech and some mental things.”

Dibilio is still waiting for the results of tests that are trying to pin down what caused his stroke, according to Groller. But apparently, doctors think there is some kind of  link between the stroke and a spleen infection that Dibilio had last year, something that is causing “a clotting disorder.”

The young athlete’s mother said that Dibilio’s therapy is meant to improve his cognitive and language skills, as well as his reading comprehension. One would imagine he would need all those abilities to succeed at Princeton.

There is no timeline yet for when, or if, Dibilio will return to either school or football. He said that he is optimistic. I wish him well.       


Illinois Man Thinks It’s A Joke When He Learns He Shot A Nail Into His Brain


Posted on 22nd January 2012 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, especially when it comes to the brain. Take the case of Dante Autullo.

Autullo was using a nail gun to put together a shed in his hometown of Orland Park, Ill., Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, he had the nail gun above his head and fired it. He thought he felt a nail fly past his ear, and in fact his common-law-wife, Gail Glaenzer, cleaned a cut on his head afterward.

But the next day Autullo, 32, felt nauseous, and went to the hospital. Imagine his surprise when doctors showed him an X-ray of his skull, which showed a 3 1/4 nail in the middle of his brain.

AP reported that at first Autullo thought the doctors were trying to pull one over on him.

“When they brought in the picture, I said to the doctor, ‘Is this a joke? Did you get that out of the doctors’ joke file?” Autullo said, according to AP.

But it was no joke. The nail was there.

Autello remained remarkably cool even after he learned that he had a nail in his head. As an ambulance took him to a second hospital for surgery, he posted his mind-blowing X-ray on Facebook, AP reported.

Autello was apparently lucky in terms of where the nail ended up in his brain, barely missing the area that controls motor function, according to AP.

Surgeons removed the nail and Autello was doing well. As one neurosurgeon explained, being shot in the head with a nail is a lot different than being shot in the head with a bullet. The nail is thin, so does minimal damage, and doesn’t explode into pieces like a bullet.

AP’s report said that surgeons removed the nail by putting a hole in Autello’s skull near each end of the nail, and then fished out the nail. Part of the skull came out, too, and that was replaced with titanium mesh, the wire service said.

I’d suggest that Autello lay off the do-it-yourself home projects for awhile.   


Therapists Try To Find Ways To Help Married Couples Cope With TBI


Posted on 12th January 2012 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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I’m been working on a career-capping passion project: Conducting video interviews of those who have suffered traumatic brain injury, as well as their families.

One of the sad refrains I hear again and again, and have heard throughout my many years working as a lawyer,  is that they — TBI victims and their loved ones — want things to be the way they were before the car accident or fall or surgery or bomb blast or whatever that caused their injury.

In some cases, that happens. In most, it does not. 

A few days ago it was the first anniversary of the horrendous supermarket massacre in Tucson,  where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot through the head. While Giffords has made amazing progress, it’s doubtful she will ever be the same person she once was. Yet her husband, ex-astronaut Mark Kelly, remains at her side.   

 What is their marriage like now?

The New York Times Tuesday did a fascinating story on the impact, and strain, that life-changing TBI puts on what was once marital bliss. The headline was “When Injuries To The Brain Tear At Hearts: Marriage Counseling Is Evolving To Help Couples Survive Personality Changes And Physical Challenges.”

The Times story said, “Contrary to conventional wisdom, many relationships do survive  after a spouse suffers a brain injury.”  In fact, the paper claimed that research indicates that the divorce rate was 17 percent for couples where one spouse had TBI, a statistic that’s below the national average.

But researcher and psychologist Jeffrey Kreutzer of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond put a  damper on that good news.  He told The Times that the quality of the relationships two people once had can be “seriously diminished.” Wives and husbands can feel like they are living with a stranger because of the profound impact of brain injury. 

Kreutzer is part of a group of therapists at Virginia Commonwealth who are trying to tailor marriage counseling to couples impacted by TBI.

The story offers two cases studies: One of a couple where the wife is struggling to cope with her husband’s personality changes and depression, and a second couple that seems to be adapting fairly well to the husband’s TBI.     

It circles back to what I said at the beginning of this blog, that most people with TBI will never be the same as they were before their injuries, and that the emotional tenor of their relationships will likely not stay the same.

Kreutzer’s role “means teaching uninjured spouses to forge a relationship with a profoundly changed person — and helping injured spouses to accept that they are changed people.”

The idea is to keep people looking to the future, not the past.

I wish Kreutzner and his colleagues success in their work, helping troubled couples impacted by TBI.

Ex-Sen. George McGovern Hospitalized After Hitting Head In Fall


Posted on 3rd December 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Former Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern remained in stable condition Saturday after falling and sustaining a head injury on the way to a TV telecast yesterday, according to numerous press reports.

McGovern was hospitalized and resting Saturday at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The 89-year-old ex-senator was airlifted to the hospital Friday night after he fell down and struck his head outside Dakota Wesleyan University’s McGovern Library, according to The Daily Republic. McGovern was going there to appear on a live broadcast of “The Contenders,” a C-SPAN series about candidates who unsuccessfully ran for President but still had a dramatic impact on politics and history. 

McGovern was the Democratics candidate for President in 1972, losing to Richard Nixon.

According to The Daily Republic, Dr. Michael Elliott, chief medical officer at Avera McKennan Hospital, said, “Sen. McGovern is alert and resting comfortably but, as with any head injury, it is important that we observe the situation closely.” 

In a press release, Avera McKennan said that McGovern’s family extended its gratitude and appreciation for the many prayers and well wishes it has received.

But the family also requested privacy so it can focus on McGovern’s recovery.

McGovern is a native and part-time resident of Mitchell, S.D., and a DWU alumnus.

C-SPAN went forward with its two-hour “Contenders” episode without McGovern.  A panel discussed McGovern’s 1972 race, and the series aired video clips of him, according to The Daily Republic.





High School Football Players Accused Of Knocking Youth Unconscious Barred From Playing


Posted on 27th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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It looks like the Wayne Township Board of Education in New Jersey finally grew a pair

Maybe it was the pressure of having their town assailed, not just locally but across the country, for allowing high school football to be king — the disgraceful actions of the youths who play the sport be damned. It all involves the aftermath of the beating of two students, an attack that left one of them unconscious and lying on a road.

Here’s the long and short of it. In a fight that happened at a party Oct. 29, nine football players for Wayne Hills High School — including wide receiver Andrew Monaghan — were accused of beating two students from rival school Wayne Valley High.

When school officials at Wayne Hills allowed the nine players, who have been charged with aggravated assault, to take part in two playoff games after the Oct. 29 incident, some Wayne residents were “outraged,” according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

It’s a surprise any residents were outraged, since high school football players are often given special treatment, and often get a sense of entitlement, namely that they can do whatever they want. 

The accused players had their advocates. Some residents, and the lawyers for the players, argued that the accused youths should be able to play. After all, they have not been convicted of any crime and are innocent until proven guilty, proponents for the players argued, according to The Ledger.

But on Friday the Wayne school board changed its tune. It unanimously ruled that the nine accused Wayne Hills players won’t be able to play in a state championship game next Saturday. The board said that the Oct. 29 incident “has left a black mark on our community.”

Until the case against the players is resolved, they should not be allowed to take the field, that’s our take. 

Interim School Superintendent Michael Roth several weeks ago ruled that the accused players couldn’t be suspended because their alleged actions took place off-campus. But then Roth had a change of heart, and reversed that decision Nov. 16, The Ledger reported. But then school school board voted to stay Roth’s decision.

On Friday the board lifted that stay.

The assault case is under criminal investigation, and the school board made some smart suggestions in the interim.

It wants a code of ethics written that will govern all schools in the district. It wants the state to precisely define when a school district can suspend a student for off-campus activities. And it wants the state Attorney General to follow the case to determine “whether it falls under the harassment, intimidation and bullying statute,” The Ledger wrote.

The story didn’t mention what happened to the youth who was knocked unconscious.    


Mistrial Declared In Parking-Punch Case, Guilty Pleas In Shopping-Cart Case


Posted on 26th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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We recently wrote about two grizzly attacks in Manhattan that resulted in traumatic brain injury for their victims. There has been news on both cases.

In the first case, a large man was on trial for punching a 4-foot-11 woman in the face in a fight over a parking spot. The woman sustained brain damage, was in a coma for days and is now wearing a helmet to protect her skull until she undergoes additional surgery.

In the other case, two youths allegedly dropped a shopping cart from a mall railing onto a philanthropist who had gone shopping in Harlem for Halloween candy. The victim is in a coma.

In the punching incident, on Nov. 14 a mistrial was declared in the case of Oscar Fuller, who delivered a full-force blow to the face of Lana Rosas of the Bronx. A sole male juror held out on the jury panel, resulting in the mistrial.

Fuller struck Rosas as they were arguing nose-to-nose because she was trying to save a parking spot on East 14th Street in Manhattan by standing in the middle of it. The woman was knocked down and hit her head on the pavement.  

Trying to hold a parking space in Manhattan is a no-no. But it obviously doesn’t warrant a punch to the head.

Rosas was in a coma for nine days, underwent surgery and had part of her skull removed, and now has to wear a helmet until that piece of bone is put back.

According to the New York Post, the prosecutor’s case for felony assault was hard to prove because Fuller only hit Rosas once, raising reasonable doubt about whether he meant to do serious harm to her. Fuller will be retried.

In the shopping cart incident, both youths who threw the cart on top of Marion Hedges, 47, have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their Oct. 30 “prank.” She remains in Harlem Hospital in a coma from her head injuries.

On Wednesday a 12-year-old, identified only as Raymond H., pleaded guilty to a reduced assault charge for throwing the cart off a four-story elevated walkway. He can be held in a detention facility until his 18th birthday, according to the New York Daily News.

The other youth involved in the prank, 13-year-old Jeovanni R., pleaded guilty to the same charge a week ago, the News reported.

The judge refused to release both youths to their families pending their sentencings. 

Maybe being incarcerated until they are 18 will make this idiotic pair figure out why it’s not funny to hit someone in the head with a parking cart.      


Dangerous Manhattan: A Sucker Punch And A Shopping Cart Spell TBI


Posted on 5th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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New York City can be an unpredictable, dangerous place when it comes to traumatic brain injury.

Just look at two recent cases: a petite woman was struck in the face with a knockout punch by a man during a argument over a parking space, and a do-gooder socialite who was buying candy in East Harlem for underprivileged kids was hit in the head by a shopping cart that two 12-year-olds purposely dropped on her.

The New York Post and other New York City newsapers reported on both incidents,

In the first instance, a jury now has the felony assault case against Oscar Fuller in Manhattan, according to The Post . He is charged with giving 4-foot-11 Lana Rosas a punch directly in the face, a blow so hard that she was knocked to the sidewalk.

What prompted Fuller’s vicious attack on Rosas? They got into a fight over a parking space in February.

Rosas was badly hurt. Her head injury caused her brain to swell, and to relieve the pressure doctors had to remove part of her skull, implanting it in her abdomen until it can be returned to her skull.

The victim wears a helmet all the time to protect her head and unprotected brain, until the skull piece gets reattached. She is now suffering from memory loss and mood swings, according to the Post.

In the other case, Marion Hedges, a 47-year-old Manhattan real estate agent, remained in  a medically induced coma Saturday, the Post reported. She had gone to a Costco in East Harlem last Sunday with her 13-year-old son to pick up Halloween candy.

When she was leaving, two 12-year-old boys — who both laughed after their action — dropped a shopping cart from a fourth-story mall walkway on Hedges, striking her in the head. Her young son witnessed the tragic event.

The 12-year-olds have been charged with first-degree assault.

The mother of one of the young defendants, Rosemary Rosario, cried and apologized for her son’s actions as she left court Friday, according to the Post.

Here’s hoping that and Rosas and Hedges recover from their brain injuries as swiftly as possible.      


Iraq War Veteran Still Recovering From Brain Injury After Being Hurt At Occupy Oakland Protest


Posted on 29th October 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Scott Olsen survived military duty in the war in Iraq, only to come home to be hit in the head by something allegedly thrown by police during last week’s Occupy Oakland protest.

As of Saturday, 24-year-old Olsen was in fair condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., and is impoving, according to the San Francisco Examiner. The Daly City veteran “is breathing on his own and is able to write notes to doctors and loved ones, but has trouble articulating his words,” according to the Examiner.

Olsen, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was at an Occupy Oakland protest Tuesday when he was hit in the head with a projectile “that apparently came from police lines,” the newspaper reported. Olsen suffered a fractured skull and fell down on the ground.

Oakland police apparently made no effort to help Olsen. Some of the other protesters took him to Highland Hospital. The Examiner reported that Olsen was unconscious for 12 hours. His brain was bruised and has swelled.

On Friday Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan visited Olsen and his parents in the hospital. At a press conference, Jordan said he told them that he was sorry for had happened to Olsen. The chief added that there would be a review and internal investigation.

We’d like to be optimistic and believe that the cop culprit that hit Olsen will be found. We’d like to. 

New York High School Football Player Died Of Brain Hematoma


Posted on 19th October 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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An autopsy has detemined that a 16-year-old New York State  high school football player died from a massive subdural hematoma, blood collected on his brain,  last weekend,  and that his death was an accident.

But that determination, that a cerebral hemorrhage killed him, doesn’t really explain why Ridge Barden died.

The demise of Barden, who played for a high school not far from Syracuse in Phoenix, N.Y., is tragic on many levels, as outlined by a story in the sports section of The New York Times on Monday. The article was headline “Sudden Death of Player Raises Difficult Questions.”

The Friday night game that became Barden’s undoing was his team’s final game this season, and it was Barden’s first varsity start, according to The Times.

“How could a ceremonious moment turn terrible?” the paper asked. How indeed.

In the play that took Barden down, all the other players got up from a pile-up except Barden, who was face down on the field. Barden’s coach, a physician and two EMTs ran onto the gridiron, and found that Barden was conscious but dazed.

But the youth’s condition went south fast. He attempted to stand up, but collapsed. He was gone a couple of hours later.     

The perplexing thing about Barden’s case is that he was not directly hit during the play right before he became ill according to The Times.

“On the play that left Barden on the ground, he did not have contact with another player,” The Times quoted coach Jeff Charles as saying, adding that the youth had “missed a cut block.”

According to The Times, Charles said, “It was on a previous play that Barden had some helmet-to-helmet contact when he was blocked by a offensive lineman. He got up gingerly…”

While Barden may have appeared OK after that play, in retrospect it lookes like he wasn’t.  

According to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, Cortland County Coroner Kevin Sharp said that an autopsy determined that Barden’s hematioma, and the discovery of some bruising to his brain, was consistent with helmet-to-helmet contact.

Barden didn’t have any prior injury that was a factor in his death, nor did he sustain a skull fracture from the helmet-to-helmet contact, The Post-Standard reported.

The paper also wrote that Sharp said, “There also was no indication the injury resulted from any series of impacts during the game… It appeared the injury resulted from the single impact on that one play in the game.”

Sharp said officials are still investigating to determine Barden’s fatal injury came about, and will likely include looking at video of the game.

Barden’s coach, Charles, told The Times that the youth’s death was “the most bizarre thing” he’d ever seen in his careet.

Let’s hope it is the last time he sees anything like it.