Resolve is Relative.

New Year’s resolutions are generally well-intended but often unkempt. You want to change your physique, walk the dog more, keep better organized, control spending or make myriad other upgrades to your life, but when it comes down to it, it just seems so darn hard. For perspective, consider how hard it might be for someone with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who resolves to step off the curb without stepping into moving traffic; manage walking on different surfaces without falling; distinguish flour from sugar or put parts of a sandwich together so it makes sense.

Simple and automatic tasks for most of us; but for some people with TBI, the acts of daily living present enormous challenges. Looking both ways before crossing the street, which as adults we do without thinking, requires relearning that thought process for someone whose TBI has disconnected parts of the eye’s field of vision. In that case, even chopping an apple could be difficult and dangerous.

We’re hearing a lot about TBI in the news as the staggering numbers of diagnosed service members make it a continuing, sad story. With the recent end of conflict in Iraq and service members returned en masse, the pervasiveness of the injury is coming into clearer view, though most of us really don’t understand what TBI is or how it manifests itself in daily life. We read the stories, but if someone was stumbling around on a corner trying to cross the street we might assume he was drunk, not suffering from TBI. That’s a societal challenge for the victim, layered on top of cognitive, behavioral and medical challenges.

There’s a facility in Johnstown, Pa., one of two in the country that uses some unique therapies to help service members with TBI re-learn daily skills so they can reintegrate back into community life. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, has a machine where patients press buttons as they light up, strengthening their physical response to visual stimulation and teaching them how to accommodate the field of vision they do have through movement. The center also has an underwater treadmill to help patients regain strength and balance without putting extra stress on the body. Outside are various walking surfaces to help patients negotiate different terrains.

For service members receiving extensive treatment for TBI in order to return to their daily lives and have their own roles in the community, typical New Year’s resolutions are easier than a walk in the park. So, if you’re thinking about how hard it is to put down that bag of chips, think again.