Dr Coralie Graham.
Dr Coralie Graham.

Mission to provide Australian-based brain injury support

DR CORALIE Graham's life changed forever when her three-year-old son, Joel, was admitted to hospital suffering from gastroenteritis.

A reasonably common childhood illness, most children fully recover with no adverse outcomes.

In Joel's case, however, complications arose during rehydration treatment, resulting in the young boy's brain being flooded.

The impact of this injury left Joel requiring 24-hour care, unable to swallow, suffering from seizures, unable to communicate and struggling with mobility.

Medical practitioners presented Coralie with a pretty grim picture of what Joel's life would be.

However, the registered nurse could not help but wonder if such a limiting prognosis was a true reflection of her son's capabilities.

Time and time again, she observed Joel doing things doctors said he should not be capable of and this set Coralie on a course of research, learning and hope that continues today.

It was a 2011 feature story on Channel Nine's current affairs show Sixty Minutes that alerted Dr Graham to pioneering treatment being carried out in the United States by Dr Edward Tobinick.

Operating out of the Institute of Neurological Recovery in Los Angeles, Dr Tobinick specialises in brain inflammation research and has developed a Perispinal Etanercept treatment to reduce the swelling of the brain.

According to Dr Graham, "Inflammation not only increases symptoms of brain tissue injury, but is responsible for a whole range of symptoms, quite separate to the initial injury."

Although Griffith University now has approval for clinical trials, such treatment is not yet available in Australia.

As such, Coralie, at considerable cost, took her now 27-year-old son to Los Angeles for treatment.

Upon their return, Coralie reported considerable improvement in Joel's condition - he can now walk unassisted for 30m and has shown improvement in his speech, swallowing, concentration and memory.

Returning Joel to the United States for further treatment is financially prohibitive, however, just as it is for the families of the many other Australians suffering from the impact of brain injuries. Ideally, treatment options such as this would be available here.

With this in mind, the Stroke Recovery Trial Fund was formed.

Aiming to raise awareness about stroke and other brain injuries, their impact and prevention, the fund also hopes to fund and support medical research and trials such as that being initiated at Griffith University School of Medicine.

The fund has received approval from the university's ethics committee and is just awaiting funding to kick off the trials.

If you would like to find out more about the fund and the research being undertaken in this area, visit http://www.strokerecoverytrialfund.org

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