Some of the greatest activists begin their fight after unexpected, life-changing moments. Tate Mikell and his family are extraordinary individuals whose advocacy for individuals with brain injury began on June 13, 2005.
Tate Mikell was a police officer in Charleston, South Carolina, known as “…the blond-haired cop with the glasses; don’t run from him because he’ll catch you,” according to his mother, Marsha Mikell. Tate, a track and cross-country runner in high school and college, still regularly ran long distances.
It was after lunch with his parents and his usual 12-mile run that disaster struck in 2005. Tate, who had always been fit and healthy, suffered a stroke. Doctors found a large aneurysm (an abnormal, blood-filled bulge of a blood vessel) in his right cerebral artery. En route to the Medical University of South Carolina from the hospital, the aneurysm ruptured. After a six-hour surgery, Tate was still in critical condition, suffered multiple strokes and continued hemorrhaging. Doctors were forced to remove a large portion of Tate’s skull in addition to performing a front-lobe lobotomy.
The intervention of the doctors saved Tate’s life. For six weeks following the surgery, Tate lay in an induced coma. When Tate woke up, he and his family discovered that he suffered paralysis on the left side of his body. It was time for recovery to begin and it did, with two months of inpatient rehab and nine months of outpatient rehab.
Rebuilding a Life After Brain Injury
Undaunted, Tate and his family decided to rebuild their lives, facing new challenges together. Along the way, they became determined to help others like themselves. Tate has served as president of the Trident Head Injury Support Group and served with both the Charleston County Disabilities Board and the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. Tate is still an athlete; he competes in the Special Olympics as a swimmer.
Asked about his advocacy, Tate said, “Being able to talk to people with disabilities and without disabilities, and teaching them about brain injuries and people with disabilities, it makes me feel like I’m helping them to help us.”
Support for Caregivers of People with Brain Injuries
Tate’s mother Marsha advocates for a group of people who rarely realize that they need a helping hand, too – the caregivers. “The more people we meet, we realize we’re not in that bad of a situation,” Marsha said. “And if there is anything that we can share with those people that will help them through their situation, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I did when this all happened.”
The Mikell family’s advocacy is needed in South Carolina. Traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of death in people from age 1 to 44. In South Carolina, 61,000 are living with a TBI-related disability.
At the end of January, Tate and his family attended the annual Shuck-A-Rama Oyster Roast, benefitting the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. Attendees enjoyed dancing, music, beer and wine while raising money and awareness for a great cause. The event was so popular that tickets sold out before the big day. We hope that next year’s event is even better and that people like the Mikells keep fighting the good fight.
We need oxygen so much that even a brief interlude without it can cause lasting brain damage. Brain damage caused by the total deprivation of air is called anoxic injury; brain damage caused by partial oxygen deprivation is called hypoxic injury. For infants that suffer hypoxic brain injury around birth, the standard of care is now hypothermia treatment.
Our first instinct with a new baby is to bundle them up and keep them close and warm. But for babies that don’t get enough oxygen during birth, a chilly incubator is the best option.
Survival Rate of Hypoxic Brain Damage
One to two infants in 1,000 live births are affected by a lack of oxygen in the brain around the time of birth. Luckily, less than one of these three infants develops brain damage. Twenty percent of infants that have hypoxic brain damage die. The babies that survive have a 50 percent risk of cerebral palsy or related injuries that may permanently cause a significant handicap.
When babies are deprived of oxygen at birth (or suffer some other brain trauma) some brain cells start to die during the injury and for days afterwards, after the infant appears to recover. The inspiration behind hypothermia treatment, which helps the brain for reasons that still aren’t fully understood, came in part from the surprisingly good outcomes of people who nearly drowned in cold water. For babies that are undergo “head cooling,” the main goal is minimization of further brain damage.
The Process of Hypothermia Treatment
Hypothermia treatment generally lasts for 72 hours. An injured baby’s body temperature is lowered to 92.3 degrees as they lay on a quilted blanket with cold liquid between the layers. Since the cold could lead to shivering (which could raise body temperature) babies are given a sedative to minimize the shivers. Medical staff monitor brain activity with electroencephalograms (EEGs) and watch for abnormal brain activity or possible seizures.
When the chilly 72 hours are complete, the baby is slowly warmed over a six-hour period. Warming is considered a high-risk period, so medical staff watch carefully for abnormal activity that could indicate a seizure. If the baby’s temperature goes up (about half a degree per hour) without any trouble, and their metabolism gets back to normal after the drugs they’ve been given leave their system, they’re free to go home. Some babies may be given an MRI to look at brain structure and check for injury.
Thanks to improved technology, premature and other at-risk babies are more likely than ever to survive. But rates of brain damage and long-term brain damage are unchanged from 20 years ago. We hope that new techniques, like hypothermia treatment, will change that.
An unexpected power outage in Berkeley, California and the surrounding area left 38,000 people in the city without power recently. Though the outage was relatively short (people were without power for a little over an hour) it was a busy time for first responders.
While the power was out, there were five separate elevator rescues by Berkeley firefighters. One rescue occurred at City Hall, according to a report on Twitter.
We’re glad the elevator rescues were successful and no one was hurt. An unexpected elevator stop can be frightening, but there’s no reason to panic. Remember, help isn’t far away, so stay calm, follow a few simple rules and you’ll be fine.
Steps to Take When Stuck in an Elevator
- Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Do not try to open the doors. You could fall down the shaft or get crushed when the elevator starts moving again. Begin pressing the elevators buttons one by one. The elevator may have gotten mixed signals. Pressing the buttons may clear up the crossed wires and get the elevator moving again.
If you determine that the elevator is not responding the best thing to do with attempt to contact help and wait it out. Efforts to escape may actually put you in more danger.
- If pressing the buttons fails, look for the call button or handset if you are in a commercial building. Every elevator is the United States is equipped with this system. The emergency system is usually red and should be easy to spot. Pressing the button will connect you with the building’s security or maintenance staff. They’ll come to your aid and should get you out in a reasonable amount of time.
- If the emergency system fails and you have cell service, use your phone to call 911. Emergency services will come and release you. Stay calm, as it may take up to 30 minutes for someone to get you out. If you are in Europe, try 211.
- If you are unable to call from the elevator for help, try to get the attention of people outside. Use a key, a shoe, or some other hard object, to rap firmly on the door.
- If you are with others, try to keep everyone calm. That is the most important thing to do when you find yourself in this situation.
In January, the inspiring story of Basma Hameed, a young woman making a difference in the lives of burn victims, was picked up by various media outlets. As a toddler in Iraq, Basma was badly burned in a kitchen accident. She survived with severe facial scars, starkly pink against her pale skin. After more than 100 procedures to minimize the look of the scarring, she was told there was nothing more to be done.
But Basma had her own ideas. She began to research a form of cosmetic tattoos after using the procedure to tattoo on the eyebrow she had lost to the burns. If tattoos could replace her eyebrow, why couldn’t they be used to replace the pigment she was missing in her burned skin?
“This idea came to my head. I thought ‘why can’t we just get skin tone colours, something that will match the rest of my face, and we match it to the burn?’ At the time nobody was sure about it. I did whatever I needed to do to understand it,” said Basma.
Clinics, a Product and a Foundation to Help Burn Victims
She attended aesthetician school to learn the tattoo trade for herself. Then, she began to test out her ideas on her own face. Thrilled with the results, Basma set out to help others like her. She opened her first clinic in Toronto, Canada in 2011 and recently opened a second clinic in Chicago.
Through her foundation, the Basma Hameed Survivors Foundation, she provides paramedical tattoo services free of charge to patients who can’t afford her services. The Foundation also educates fellow survivors and the public by advocating available treatments for burn and scar survivors.
She also developed a unisex Scar Camouflage Concealer as an alternative to the micropigmentation procedure. The product is designed for burns, scars, birthmarks, acne, viriligo and can be used as a base foundation.
Basma is an inspiration for her determination and advocacy. We hope she’ll be able to continue helping burn victims for many years to come.