Beyond survival

By PEGGY FUKUNAGA State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Mike Cunningham, 43, died on July 21. "His body just wore out," said Janice Cunningham, his mother. "He had come through so much. He was a very brave, happy person. He would never give up," she added as her eyes misted.

When their son died, the Cunninghams had lived two distinct lives with him, both precious. In May 1978, before his 18th birthday, Mike had been traveling on a country road. He went around a sharp curve and his car flipped.

In the accident, he seriously injured his head. "You know bad things happened but you always think they'll happen to someone else," she said. "After the accident, something just keeps you moving to do what you think you need to do."

The Centers for Disease Control report says that each year 1.5 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. causing everything from brief change in mental status to a long-term disability.

According to the CDC this number is eight times the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer and 34 times the number of new cases of HIV and AIDS."

In addition, the CDC said at least 2 percent of the population or 5.3 million Americans currently live with disabilities from traumatic brain injury. Forty-four percent of these injuries are due to vehicle accidents and another 26 percent are the result of a fall.

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