Toronto Tragedies

homeless woman in Toronto
Although I started Where Did My Brain Go? to write about traumatic brain injuries, I rarely do, because most of the news is depressing. Living with a traumatic brain injury is a daily struggle. Just something I have to live with. It cannot be “cured”, and will never improve.

Ready for more bad news? A recently–published study by Toronto’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, shows that traumatic brain injuries cause homelessness.

In 2004 and 2005, they interviewed 904 people at homeless shelters and meal programs. 53% of homeless people had traumatic brain injuries. 70% of those injuries occurred before the person became homeless.

Stephen Hwang, co–author of The effect of traumatic brain injury on the health of homeless people, said:

“I think that this article doesn’t make the link definitively, but it is hypothesis generating. It raises a possibility which has not been discussed by researchers before.”

In a recent interview, co–author Angela Conatonio, said traumatic brain injuries, are the leading cause of death, among people under 45 in Canada, and added:

“Cognitive rehab [may be beneficial to those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries] for example, or they might benefit from some assisted technology, such as help with their memory”

The Worst Part

If it took Dr. Conatonio three years to figure out that homeless people, with a TBI “might benefit” from “help with their memory” — how long it will take for Canada to actually help these people?


Photo of woman, is by Spirited Angel from her Toronto Life collection.



Greetings –

I’m a long-term multiple tbi survivor (1972, 1973, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1995, 2004) who has had to deal with a whole lot of hassle over the course of my 40-some years. I have to say my TBI’s have made my life more complicated, but they haven’t stopped me from living my life. My injuries were technically “mild”, since I had no open head wounds, and I didn’t lose consciousness for longer than a few minutes, but they let to a tremendous amount of cognitive and behavioral issues, run-ins with the police, repeated financial issues, and yes, I was homeless back in 1990 — long story. But I have to tell you, I did work my way back from the brink. I am now in a long-term, healthy marriage that has weathered a lot of ups and downs, I own my own home, I have a good-paying job at a multinational health care corporation that literally keeps people alive, day after day, and while I am not rich, I am doing well, and when everything around us here in the States seems to be going to the dogs, I’ve got far fewer worries and fears than most people — probably because I’ve already lost everything, several times over, and I know how to battle back from the brink.

Don’t give up hope that things can get better. They can – I’m living, breathing proof of it. Every head injury is different, and while my memory isn’t nearly what it “could” be, so what? That’s what lists are for. And friends. And family. I think when we give up hope… or expect others (like the government, for example) to do for us, we don’t help ourselves at all.

So, don’t just throw up your hands and quit. Keep at things. The human mind is amazing — read “The Brain That Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge (another Canadian) for proof positive that the brain does indeed change — often in ways that nobody expects it to.

In many ways, we tbi survivors (or “thrivers” as some people say) are beyond help. No one can see our injuries, and they often cannot tell the extent of them or figure out just what’s going on — or how to help us. But we can help ourselves!

That’s important.

So, give yourself — and your brain — some credit and keep at it. I’ve been amazed, time and time again, at how my cognition and behavior can shift, quite suddenly, unexpectedly, and sometimes with just with a slight alteration in how I perceive/do things.

Never, ever, ever give up! You deserve better than that.


First, it is nice to hear that your marriage survived.

Although I was married to a physician, I went undiagnosed for 12 years. I knew something was wrong, and I used to ask people if I had changed. But I never even heard of a TBI until I was diagnosed by a “closed head injury specialist.”

You can read my story here.It took me years, but I have finally accepted TBI. and will not give up.