Q&A: How a TBI Champion Talks with His Children About Brain Injury

As a veteran who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during military training, Ed Rasmussen understands how it affects him and others. At home, he makes sure his kids know what TBI is, and how it may impact his behavior.

Ed will share his story in an upcoming “TBI champion” video series for A Head for the Future, a TBI awareness and prevention initiative of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). TBI champions are members of the military community who have experienced brain injury in noncombat settings — such as in motor vehicle collisions or training incidents — and who are sharing their inspiring stories of recovery and hope with the military community.

Below, Ed describes how he helps his children understand brain injury and what people should know

  • When did you first start talking to your children about your brain injury?

    I have twin daughters who are almost 10 years old. I didn’t begin talking to them about TBI until I had a better understanding of what I was dealing with. After I was diagnosed at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence and was educated about TBI, I felt I could talk to them about it. We used to run around every day after they got home from school, but I stopped being able to do that with them because of headaches. I said to them, “I want to do this with you, but I can’t at this point because of my injury.” I let them know I may need to rest more because of headaches or bad moods. I told them not to blame themselves for any changes, and not to think, “Dad doesn’t like me because we spend less time playing together.”

  • How did you explain what a TBI is?

    I explained to them that because of being around explosions during training, my brain wasn’t working properly. I told them it was like having a bruise on my brain — just like a bruise on the body — but that this kind of bruise can take a long time to heal, or sometimes may not heal at all. The areas of the brain that are bruised may “fall asleep” and treatment can help wake them up. My daughters know I go to physical therapy and other appointments. I said that therapy will help me get better, to be a better father and person.

  • As an advocate, what do you want the military community to know about TBI?

    Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms and if you think you have sustained a TBI, get help. Knowing that I had a TBI was the biggest thing that helped with my recovery process. When I talk with others in the military community, I tell them, “Hey, this is my injury, and this could easily happen to you.” There was no single or sudden moment when I started having headaches — I dealt with the symptoms, such as memory loss and mood changes, over time. If you’re not the same person you used to be, go and talk to somebody. Seeking help doesn’t make you a weaker person.

    Connect with your family this Father’s Day. Download the DVBIC booklet, “Talking With Children About TBI” to help you start a conversation with your family. Visit Military Kids Connect to access resources to