Concussion treatment clinic opens in Kelowna

Unique Okanagan health service initiated by BrainTrust Canada

A unique clinic for treating children and young adults for concussion symptoms has been opened in Kelowna.

The BrainTrust Canada Concussion Clinic will provide medically supervised, one-on-one care to help those between the ages of five and 25 heal from a traumatic brain injury.

Mona Hennenfent, chief executive officer of BrainTrust Canada, said this non-profit venture is groundbreaking for B.C. and likely across Canada.

At this point, the clinic concussion recovery care program is not covered by BC Medical and the clinic is taking on patient referrals from doctors and hospital emergency rooms. The initial cost for a 10-day care intensive recovery program to start is $250.

“Our dream is for this kind of care to be covered here in B.C., and perhaps that is not so big a dream when you consider that Alberta health care does already cover concussion recovery costs,” Hennenfent said.

“To me, it totally makes sense that concussion recovery is covered at an early intervention stage because of the array of debilitating symptoms that can occur if not treated properly. The days of sitting in a dark room or at home for two weeks, or pushing your way through and not listening to what your brain is telling you…the health consequences of not listening to your body can become longer than they should be.

“We had identified 22 symptoms related to concussion injuries and how they interact with each other is complex. You have to understand the nuances of how they relate to one another in order to get better, otherwise there are symptoms that can last with you a long time.”

The clinic is partnered with the developers of the P.A.C.E. (Progressive Activation and Concussion Education medical action plan to manage a child’s concussion recovery.

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Concussion medical physician Dr. David Rhine and occupational therapist Rose Kristiansen serve as advisors to the clinic program and worked on developing the P.A.C.E. initiative.

Hennenfent agrees that concussions sometimes don’t get the respect of other health illnesses when trying to understand why someone is feeling sick physically or mentally. Young athletes in particular feel pressured to get back into their sport, students may return to class too soon and employees can require more time off-work.

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“We tend to want to blame something else, but concussions are a serious injury. That is why they have started be referred to as traumatic brain injuries because a lot of people feel the word concussion is too common an expression.

“It’s not about fear mongering as you can recover, but there are methods to help you recover quicker and faster which our program is all about. It’s about giving yourself a short period of time to recover in order for your longer-term health benefit. ”

At present, that program is being administered by clinic manager Christine Atkins, a certified athletic therapist with training and experience in concussion management within a clinical setting.

Hennenfent says the hope is that Atkins will build up a large enough client base to where she can work full-time at the clinic.

“To begin with, we are taking patient referrals from within a two hour radius but the hope is we can eventually become a provincewide service. At this stage, it’s about getting used to people paying for their health care when it comes to concussion recovery,” she said.

“We have a form online you can fill out but part of that form is first requiring you to see your doctor.”

While concussions suffered by seniors who fall is a huge concern, the clinic’s initial resources are focused on young people because their brains are still developing and especially repeat concussions can increase the risk of children and young adults suffering long-term effects.

Hennenfent says one statistic claims that one in five children in sports sustain a concussion every year, and that leads to issues of when a young athlete is both ready to return to their sports activity or even to school.

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“With a typical concussion, you might feel any different for the first hour, and start to feel physical symptoms such as nausea, slurred speech or dizziness two to six hours later,” Hennenfent said.

Hennenfent said the medical profession generally is improving in its awareness of concussion symptom protocols.

“One doctor told me it’s getting better but we’re not quite there yet. The difficulty is the symptoms related to concussions are also common in other illnesses,” she said.

BrainTrust Canada, which is located in Kelowna, has taken on a supportive fundraising role for the clinic and Olympic gold medallist skier Kelsey Serwa, who has overcome concussions in her ski racing career, has signed on as spokesperson for the program.

“Kelsey’s concussions care was covered as a high level competitive athlete, but recreational athletes don’t have access to that level of care, so she personally understands what the level of recovery can be and what’s involved,” Hennenfent said.

For more information about the BrainTrust Canada Concussion Clinic, check out the website www.braintrustcanada.com/concussion-clinic.

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