Pilots set minds to creating brain awareness

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 16, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Every 21 seconds someone in the United States incurs a brain injury and every 16 seconds someone in the world sustains a brain injury.

In the U.S. approximately 90,000 people experience a life-long debilitating loss of function due to a traumatic brain injury each year.

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Most frequent causes of brain injuries are vehicular crashes, falls, sports and recreational injuries and assault, and brain injury is the most frequent cause of death among young people. Annually, 30,000 children become permanently disabled, 150,000 are hospitalized and 7,000 deaths occur due to brain injury in the United States.

&uot;No one is immune from brain injury, and those injuries could even come from near drowning, or some type of medical emergency,&uot; said Margaret Smith, a member of the Pilot Club of Suffolk. &uot;Also, up to 50 percent of the American public is unaware that shaking a baby is dangerous, and an estimated 3,000 children are diagnosed with the traumatic brain injury known as shaken baby syndrome (SBS) each year.&uot;

All this month, the members of the Pilot Club of Suffolk would like to help educate the public on the prevention and treatment of brain disorders. They would also like the public to know of about the scientists who are helping these people.

To bring attention to these facts, Pilots recently joined Suffolk Mayor E. Dana Dickens III as he signed a proclamation marking March as &uot;Brain Awareness Month&uot; in the city. The mayor presented that document to Sara Walden, a member of the Pilot Club of Suffolk.

As noted in the proclamation, many great technical advances have already benefited thousands of people incapacitated by spinal cord injuries, depressive disorders, epileptic seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and other life threatening disorders

Another Pilot member, Margaret Smith, noted that each year thousands in Virginia are diagnosed with devastating disorders of the brain. Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism and communication disorders are among those.

Smith said hundreds of scientists at Virginia’s colleges and universities are making efforts to understand the complexities of the brain and to alleviate the pain associated with its disorders. They are also working to reduce the cost of treating neurological diseases, she said.

As part of their Brain Awareness focus, the Pilot Club of Suffolk also works with the Alzheimer’s Association’s &uot;Memory Walk.&uot; And, they focus on their signature project, &uot;BrainMinders,&uot; which was introduced at the International Convention in Denver, in July 2001. This public service campaign features public service announcements promoting awareness of brain injury and prevention messages.

Pilot International, founded in 1921, is a service organization. Over the past eighty years local, national and international communities have benefited from Pilot International’s involvement.

Since 1991, Pilot International has raised millions of dollars in financial support of charities and organizations benefiting brain disabilities and disorders.

Also, the Pilot International Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants assisting Pilot club communities and scholarships for individuals pursuing careers in research, medicine and therapy for brain disorders and disabilities.

&uot;As members of Pilot International, we do plan to expand our BrainMinders campaign each year,&uot; said Smith. &uot;We want to broaden the educational programs and public service opportunities in all the Pilot Club communities.&uot;

The Pilot Club of Suffolk is one of more than 530 clubs of Pilot International, a global organization of executive, business and professional leaders working together to improve the quality of life in communities around the world.

Pilot provides guidance and encouragement to those communities through sponsorship of brain-related disorder safety and security awareness programs.