The Difference Between Life And Death: Bret Michaels’ And Gary Coleman’s Brain Hemorrhages


Posted on 2nd June 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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The New York Daily News Wednesday posed a question that may have crossed many people’s minds: Why did former child star Gary Coleman die last week of a brain hemorrhage, while rocker Bret Michaels lived?

Coleman, who had a lifelong history of health problems, suffered an intracranial brain hemorrhage when he slipped and fell in his Utah home last Wednesday after undergoing his usual dialysis treatment. Only 42 years old, Coleman went into a coma in the hospital on Thursday, and his family ended his life support on Friday.

Michaels, on the other hand, was at his Arizona home when he suddenly felt an incredible pain in his head. His wife rushed the singer to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. After some shakey moments, 47-year-old Michaels pulled through, and appeared on the finale of “Celebrity Apprentice,” which he won.

Reporter Rosemary Black explains the difference between the two brain hemorrhages. An intracranial hemorrhage takes place inside the brain, while a subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding into the lining around the brain.

Black interviewed physicians who said that the location of brain hemorrhage will determine if it will kill or not, if it will disable a patient in some way, or if they will fully recover. Of course, that’s just common sense: If the part of your brain that controls your breathing is damaged,  let’s face it, it’s unlikely you’re going to have a good outcome. 

One doctor added that Coleman’s poor health, he had two kidney transplants during his life and was on dialysis, likely made his prognosis grim after his brain injury. 

But then Michaels wasn’t a particularly well man. He had just had his appendix removed and he was a lifelong diabetic. And I believe that Michaels’ physician is jumping the gun by telling the press that the singer has fully recovered, that he is part of the small group of people — only 20 percent — who bounce back like new from this type of brain hemorrhage. 

I have written extensively on my blog,, about apparent full recovery brain injury. Problems can develop later on with people who have sustained brain injury and appear to be back to normal. For example, those who have jobs that require their minds to have a high processing speed may find it harder to claim “full recovery” than those with less taxing jobs.  

And in a recent interview Michaels himself said, “I’m just not back to where I want to be just yet.”

 He performed Memorial Day weekend, and in the interview said, “On stage, normally, I go completely insane and kick ass. This time, I gave 100 percent of my 75 percent.” 









Ex-Child Star Gary Coleman Dies Friday From Brain Hemorrhage After Fall


Posted on 28th May 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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It wasn’t an easy life for Gary Coleman post-child TV stardom. And on Friday the actor, 42, died in a Utah hopsital after sustaining a brain hemorrhage in a fall in his home Wednesday.,,20389492,00.html

Coleman had been in a coma and on life support after taking a turn for the worse Thursday, after being diagnosed with an intracranial hemorrhage.

Coleman was being treated at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, Utah, where he passed away. He suffered his hemorrhage, which can be bleeding inside the brain or next to it, after falling Wednesday at his home in Santaquin, which is south of Salt Lake City.

“Family members and close friends were at his side when life support was terminated,” the hospital said in a statement. “Family members express their appreciation and gratitude for the support and prayers that have been expressed for Gary and for them.”

The actor, known for his role on “Diff’rent Strokes,” seemed fine, and was conscious, until the middle of Thursday, when he slipped into a coma.

Coleman has been plagued by health problems, and just this February had a seizure while on the set of  celebrity TV-magazine show “The Insider.” He’s had several kidney transplants, as well.  

 After the accident in his home Wednesday, Coleman was first taken to Mountain View Hospital in Payton. Subsequently, he was transferred to Utah Valley, a regional medical facility, for more tests and treatments.,,20389489,00.html



Familiar Voices May Lift Patients Out Of Comas


Posted on 17th May 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Karen Schroeder would tell the relatives of coma patients not to give up hope.

That’s because her own son came around after participating in a clinical trial that was researching whether hearing familiar voices can have a positive impact on traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.,CST-NWS-coma16.article

When Schroeder’s son Ryan, 22, suffered brain injury after being thrown from a snowmobile into a tree last year, doctors said they doubted he would survive. The youth, who is from Huntley, Ill., wasn’t aware of his surroundings and couldn’t speak, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.

At that point, Schroeder was willing to do anything to help her son, so she enrolled him in the trial. The Schroeder family recorded stories for Ryan and played them for him four times a day, through headphones.    

That program seemed to have had an impact. Just a month into the six-month study, Ryan started to regain consciousness.  Perhaps he would have seen that same level of improvement without hearing the recordings his family played for him. Perhaps not.  

 No one knows at this point. That’s because the study is using  “double-blinded” methodology, so that some of the test participants had tapes with no voices played to them, while others heard their families’ voices played to them. The Schroeder fmaily doesn’t know which group Ryan fell into. They won’t know until the study is finished next year.

Now it’s been a year since Ryan’s accident, and at this point he can text his buddies and have a conversation, although his speech is slurred, The Sun-Times said. But he isn’t ready to return to his life as a civil engineering student at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin.

To be a participant in the study, a person either had to have been in a vegetative state, namely lacking awareness, or just minimally conscious.

The Sun-Times reported that so far three of the five people participating in the study regained consciousness at the conclusion of the six weeks period.

The clinical trial is being funded by the federal Department of  Veterans Affairs, with the work being done in part by researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of  Medicine.

Lead researcher Theresa Pape believes that listening to familiar voices may help repair TBI patients’ damaged neural networks.







Army Preps Implants To Fix Damaged Brains Of Iraq, Afghanistan Vets


Posted on 10th May 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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With an estimated 10 to 20 percent of our troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury, the U.S. Army is trying innovative treatments to help them, according to Wired magazine.

The Pentagon will use brain implants, brain chips, that are meant to act as replacement parts for injured parts of the brain. 

Darpa, which Wired calls “the military extreme science agency,” is spearheading the project. The initiative is named REPAIR, which stands for Reorganization and Plasticity to Accelerate Injury Recovery. 

The project will initially get $14.9 million for its first two years, with the money going to four places, led by Stanford and Brown University.     

There have been great leaps made in terms of understanding brain injury, with scientists now able to create conceptual models of brain activity. Researchers can also track the electrical pulses emitted by brain neurons, and therefore they have gained insight into how neurons communicate.

The REPAIR team will use optogenetics, which entails using light particles to turn “brain circuits on and off,” according to Wired.

The implants that REPAIR is developing will be made of electrodes or optical fibers, and will be placed on the surface of the brain. These devices will “read” the electric signals from neurons, and then emit light impulses to stimulate other parts of the brain to respond.

So these implants are intended to take the place of brain areas that are damaged.

REPAIR, if it is successful, can help more than brain-damaged veterans. The technology can also be used on civilians. 



TBI Caregiver Espouses The Benefits Of Journaling To Alleviate ‘Compassion Fatigue’


Posted on 17th April 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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 I’ve devoted most of my legal career to advocacy for those with traumatic brain injury, as well as being a source of  accurate information for those who have suffered such damage and their families. This blog is a key part of that teaching effort.

Now one of my readers, Barbars Stahura, tells me that she has been studying and will be offering a workshop for caregivers of National Guard members suffering from TBI.  That workshop is not open to the general public. 

In a letter to me, Barbara describes the workshop she will be teaching April 28 on the benefits of journaling.  

Hi, Mr. Johnson

 Thank you, both for making information on TBI available and for the work you do with people with brain injury. Your sites and videos are helpful and informative.

 My husband sustained a serious brain injury in 2003 as the result of a still unknown hit-and-run driver who turned left in front of him as he was on his motorcycle. Fortunately, Ken was wearing a good helmet, which saved his life and saved him from worse injury. His brain scans showed no injury, despite its severity (originally diagnosed as moderate to severe). 

 Since that time, he has recovered with only a few deficits, and I created a journaling workshop for people with brain injury. I’ve facilitated it twice annually since 2007 here in Tucson, at a HealthSouth hospital here. Out of that workshop came my book, “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story,” co-authored with my husband’s speech therapist. It’s the first journaling book for people with brain injury, I’m proud to say. [ ]

 I’m a certified instructor of Journal to the Self and also lead journaling workshops for family caregivers, and will be presenting a workshop on compassion fatigue for National Guard care providers on April 28 in Atlanta, at the “Become A National Guard PRO” conference. It will include some basic journaling techniques, since journaling has been shown in numerous studies to produce benefits on the physical, emotional, and mental levels. 

 Again, thank you for all you do.


Barbara Stahura

If you have loved ones in the National Guard with TBI and have questions about the workshop, please contact Barbara at

Barbara also writes a blog at for survivors and family caregivers that you might want to take a look at.

Georgia Attorney General Faces Possible Impeachment For Refusing Go File Suit Over Health Care Reform


Posted on 1st April 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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More on the politics of no. The Republicans continue to think that if they can continue to paint meaningful health care reform as some breed of anarchy, socialism and treason, that no one will bother to look as to how much better the country will be with fair rules governing health insurance. The old axim of never letting the facts get in the way of a good story, sure seems to apply to this one.

When I studied Constitutional law in 1977, the basic rule was that the Federal government had the power to regulate anything that involved interstate commerce. Well there might be some “commerce” that isn’t interstate, but it is clearly not health care, one of the biggest and most comprehensive industries in our society. If it is constitutional for the federal government to tax working people for retired people’s Medicare, it is legal to require everyone be insured.

Yet, if the Republicans believe there is some political advantage to calling the new Health Care law bad, so they keep doing it. The louder they say it, the more votes they believe they will get. Let us hope that by November, the majority of the country will see that all that they stand for is nothing.

In Georgia Republicans are calling for the impeachment of the state Attorney General, because he has refused to file suit over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care overhaul.

In the Georgia state Legislature 31 Republicans Tuesday signed a resolution seeking the impeachment of Democrat Thurbert Baker. Baker is also a candidate in Georgia’s gubernatorial race, where incumbent Republican Sonny Perdue can’t seek a third term under the law.

Fourteen states have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the new health care reform, according to The New York Times. But Perdue has charged that this litigation is frivolous and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Perdue has indicated that to get around Baker, he will appoint a “special attorney general,” a lawyer or legal team to file suit on Georgia’s behalf.

To be approved, the impeachment resolution would need the support of the majority of the Republican controlled, 180-member Georgia House.

Then there would have to be a trial in the state Senate, and Baker could be found guilty if two-thirds of the 56 senators went against him. But it would be tough for Baker to lose that vote, because the Republicans control just 60 percent of the Senate seats.

Obama Expected To Name Vocal Health-Care Critic to Head Medicare, Medicaid


Posted on 30th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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President Obama’s expected choice to run the nation’s Medicate and Medicaid programs is a maverick who has criticized the U.S. medical establishment for failing to provide better health care at a reasonable price.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Dr. Donald Berwick, who it described as “an iconoclastic scholar of health policy,” would be named administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

It would be helpful to get a breath of fresh air into the Washington health-care bureaucracy, we believe.

Dr. Berwick, who is filling in the void left by the exit of Dr. Mark McClellan in 2006, is president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.

Under the health-care overhaul that the president signed into law last week, Medicaid will be expanded to insure 16 million more Americans. But officials were also given a mandate to cut almost a half-trillion dollars out of the Medicare program during the next decade and to test new methods of offering health care.

Dr. Berwick’s nomination will have to be approved by the Senate.

The good doctor isn’t shy about voicing his opinions on the medical establishment. In one quote, he complained about “the insanity of health care that costs too much and achieves too little.”

Dr. Berwick bases some of his comments on his own medical experience. He has osteoarthritis in his right knee, and said, “It comes from medical error, botched surgery when I was a medical student, aggravated by years of jogging.”

Wisconsin Democrats Nix Attorney General’s Plan To Sue Over Federal Health-Care Reform


Posted on 26th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Wisconsin Democrats have derailed Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s plan to file suit against the federal government over the new health-insurance reform.

If Van Hollen had succeeded, Wisconsin would have joined more than a dozen attorney generals across the nation that are suing to challenge the constitutionality of the health-care reform that’s been approved by Congress.

But Van Hollen couldn’t proceed with a suit unless he had approval from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle or one of the houses of the state Legislature, which are controlled by Democrats. Neither the governor or legislative leaders would give Van Hollen authorization.

In arguing in favor of the lawsuit, Van Hollen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “This is an issue of the federal government overreaching beyond what constitutional powers they have, which is an assault on (the Legislature’s) powers.”

But Doyle shot right back in a letter to Van Hollen.

“The lawsuit you suggest is a frivolous and political attempt to thwart the action of Congress and the law of the country,” Doyle wrote. “The State of Wisconsin will not enter into litigation intended to deny health care for tens of thousands of residents.”

Health Care Reform – Congratulations to Us All


Posted on 22nd March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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If it weren’t so important, it would have been hysterically funny. At 6:34 p.m. yesterday, I got an email that started like this:

Frantic Obama Plan’s Sunday ObamaCare Vote! ALERT: Obama and House Democrats are forcing a “suicide run” on ObamaCare with a Sunday vote but are still short the 216 votes they need to pass ObamaCare. Pelosi’s plan is to break down Blue Dog holdouts in a desperate last ditch effort with a vote on the floor of the House. If they don’t have the votes, they will allow the measure to be defeated.

FAX To STOP ObamaCare NOW!

TELL ALL 261 Democrat/Independent Representatives, Blue Dog Democrats AND President Obama To KILL THIS BILL and CUT HealthCare COSTS FIRST.

I didn’t get it until after the vote. By the time I had pulled myself away from the NCAA tournament and other Sunday activities, I had also gotten an email from Obama’s campaign thanking me for my support in getting health care through, stating:

Gordon —

For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has passed comprehensive health care reform. America waited a hundred years and fought for decades to reach this moment. Tonight, thanks to you, we are finally here.

Consider the staggering scope of what you have just accomplished:

Because of you, every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.

So I guess I now live in a socialist country.   Oh wait, that has been true since I was in grade school, at least if you believe the Republican rhetoric.  According to Ronald Reagan, , we have all lived in a Socialist country since Medicare passed.  He said this about Medicare in 1961, before the days of email and faxes:

What can we do about this? Well, you and I can do a great deal. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms and that you demand the continuation of our traditional free enterprise system. You and I can do this. The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressmen, even if we believe that he’s on our side to begin with, write to strengthen his hand. Write those letters now. Call your friends and tell them to write.

If you don’t, this program, I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country… until one day as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

And if you don’t do this and if I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

Ironically, Reagan spent his sunset years protecting Medicare, when he was President.   I wonder if he felt less free?

For a historic perspective on this change, listen to the podcast from OnPoint Radio of today, which can be found at As my friend Jack Beatty said on this show, the Obama plan is not socialism, but more akin to things that have been proposed by Republican presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, in an effort to stall Democratic proposals to do what Obama finally got done last night.

For those who are advocates for the disabled, this is an important step. It isn’t what American’s should have for coverage, Medicare for all, but it is huge step in the right direction. Ultimately, Barack Obama must get the credit. Often criticized from both the right and the left, he used his intelligent, reasonable and conscientious leadership style to patiently get something done that Presidents Johnson, Clinton and Roosevelt could not do.

Obama deserves the credit because he made “Change” something that galvanized the country. He deserves credit because he found a way, without ever losing the moral superiority of his position, to compromise, cajole and lead his party over every obstacle the “party of no” put in his way. He deserves credit because the excellence of his campaign, the inspiration of his ideas gave the Democrats such a landslide victory in November of 2008, that the Republicans could not stop this.

To echo Barack’s words of last night “Because of you, (President Obama), every American will finally be guaranteed high quality, affordable health care coverage.”

Dodger’s Vin Skully Hospitalized After Hitting Head


Posted on 20th March 2010 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Veteran Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Skully was hospitalized Thursday after falling out of bed and bumping his head.

Skully, 82, was taken to West Hills Hospital and Medical Center observation, and was expected to be released Friday. The accident took place at his home in Hidden Hills, Calif.

The hospital told reporters that Skully was “doing great,” but let’s hope the facility pays serious attention to the announcer’s head injury, no matter how “great” he seems to be doing now.

We fear that Scully, and team officials, may be in too much of a rush to take proper caution with his injury. That’s because the announcer is due at Camelback Ranch-Glendale in Arizona this weekend for an exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians.

A concussion may be a minor problem which resolves in days, or it can be the beginning of a lifetime of disability. What rushing a “return to play” decision can do (even if the “play” is work) is put undue stress on the brain, not only making healing more difficult, but perhaps worsening the organic injury.

The other part of the picture with Skully is his age. Those over 65 have much worse outcomes than a young person would. The chances of meaningful disability from a significant concussion at that age may approach 50%, rather than the normal 10-15% rate with those under 40.

The best thing for a concussion is rest and daily reevaluation. Skully will likely get the second, but not likely the first. A live radio broadcast, even if he can do it, will put unneccessary stressors on a wounded brain.