Brain injuries are focus of activist’s visit to Delray

Sarah Jane Brain Foundation In The News

Five years ago, Patrick Donohue’s baby, Sarah Jane, was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, the result of mistreatment by a nanny. Recently, Donohue visited Delray Medical Center as part of a multi-state tour focused on raising awareness about pediatric brain injuries.

Based in New York, Donohue has started the Sarah Jane Brain Project. He has teamed up with members of the Sports Concussion News Network and visits colleges, hospitals and community centers across the nation, giving town hall-style presentations about concussion awareness and the need to prevent brain injuries.

Donohue said his organization is focused on pediatrics but defines the term in such a way that it encompasses more than just children. “We had a conference with brain experts who agreed that the frontal lobes of the brain develop until the age of 25,” he said.

Donohue appeared on the “Today” show, where he told Sarah Jane’s story: how five days after she was born, she was shaken by a nanny, resulting in a serious brain injury, four broken ribs and two broken collarbones.

The nanny is now in jail, he said, but seeing justice done was the least of his worries after his daughter’s injury. As Sarah Jane was shuttled around among specialists, doctors, medical centers and pediatric hospitals, Donohue discovered that treatment regimens weren’t linked and information wasn’t shared. The disorganization created a roadblock that he felt was hindering his daughter’s recovery. Said Donohue, “It was a crapshoot.”

So he started a national organization aimed at enhancing communication among doctors while also raising funds. During his stop at Delray Medical Center, the entire neurological wing of the hospital came to hear him speak.

“Pediatric [medicine] is near and dear to our hearts,” nurse Maggie Crawford said.

Donohue, a lawyer, has experience raising funds, having lobbied Congress and worked for political parties.

“There are 765,000 pediatric brain injuries in our emergency rooms each year,” Donohue said. “Eighty thousand of those cases become hospitalized. Each year, about $4 billion is raised for AIDS; about $10 million is raised for pediatric brain injury.”

Donohue said the research he is helping to support will not only benefit children but also soldiers coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of whom are returning home with serious brain injuries.

He said brain research is still in its early stages. “Right now,” he said, “we only know about 5 percent of what we’ll know about the brain.”

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April 27, 2011|DAVID DIPINO