Personal Injury

Birmingham hospital leads Alabama in pediatric brain injury care

The University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and Children’s Hospital will be named as a “Lead Center of Excellence” by the Sarah Jane Brain Project, a national organization devoted to expanding research and awareness of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury (PTBI), which is the leading cause of death and disability for children 15 years old and younger.

PTBI is to blame for 5,000 deaths and about one million hospitalizations every year. Of the pediatric patients hospitalized for PTBI, 17,000 result in permanent disabilities.

The Sarah Jane Brain Project is actively building a network of hospitals and research clinics across the country as part of its National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan. Each state will have one lead center. UAB’s Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and its clinical practice at Children’s hospital will coordinate the project for the state of Alabama.

Patrick B. Donohue established the Sarah Jane Brain Project in 2005 after a nurse shook his 5-day old daughter at their New York City home. The incident left Sarah Jane Donohue with 2 broken collar bones, 3 broken ribs, and a severe brain injury. The injuries went undiscovered for more than a week until Sarah Jane’s parents suspected something was wrong. They returned to Lenox Hill Hospital, where Sarah Jane was born, with a child who was unable to eat or cry. Days later, doctors discovered the horrible extent of her injuries. Sixty percent of Sarah Jane’s rear cortex was lost.

As a result of her injuries, Sarah Jane lives in a constant state of physical and rehabilitative therapies. She is unable to sit, crawl, or walk without assistance, she is unable to speak, read, and understand words, and she cannot eat solid foods. Sarah Jane requires round the clock care and attention.

The Sarah Jane Brain Project’s mission, to create a model system for children suffering from all Pediatric Acquired Brain Injuries, was born out of Donohue’s frustration over a lack of consolidated resources and information about PTBI.

“As a father of a child suffering from PTBI, I have spent countless hours searching the internet and speaking with [Sarah’s Jane’s] … doctors, therapists and other professionals trying to improve the development of my daughter, Sarah Jane,” Donohue says on the Project’s website.

“Whereas, there are a countless number of wonderful and informative prevention sites for Shaken Baby Syndrome and advocacy sites for Traumatic Brain Injury and other Pediatric Acquired Brain Injuries (PABI), there isn’t a central resource for research, rehabilitation and development for PABI,” Donohue said.