BY ADAM STELMACH
Author of Adam Reborn: A Family Guide to Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury
EDITOR’S NOTE: Adam Reborn: A Family Guide to Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury has answers to questions about TBI and head injuries that victims and their loved ones don’t even know to ask yet.
The Betty Clooney Center for Persons with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), located near Los Angeles, California, was established in 1983. It was named in memory of Betty Clooney, who was Nick Clooney and Rosemary Clooney’s younger sister — and the aunt of George Clooney. Betty died of an aneurysm in 1976.
HOLLYWOOD | Popular film actor George Clooney’s family has long been supportive of those with TBI (traumatic brain injury). His Aunt Rosemary Clooney had a younger sister, Betty, who died of brain trauma caused by an aneurysm. Because of Betty’s untimely death, the Clooney family in 1983 established the Betty Clooney Foundation to help those with traumatic brain injuries.
Ironically, it was George Clooney himself, in 2005, who experienced, firsthand, a traumatic brain injury that left him both depressed and suicidal.
At the time, Clooney was filming the movie Syriana in Morocco — for which he ultimately won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar — playing out a scene where he is tied to a chair and tortured. [In Syriana, Clooney plays a CIA agent caught up in a complex plot involving global greed and corruption, oil intrigue in the Middle East and terrorism.]
SIDEBAR #1 | In a related comment about Clooney’s head injury, Michael Mason of Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital wrote:
Various news reports indicate the he tore the dura surrounding his spinal cord, which began leaking fluid. He also sustained what he calls a “bruised brain” which brought with it long, excruciating headaches that tormented him throughout the past year.
Mr. Clooney eventually underwent several surgeries which remedied his pain, but he also reportedly experienced memory and cognitive problems, suggesting that the injury was more severe than the press may understand.
Whether it was the whiplash movements of his head in the scene or the fact that the chair was accidentally knocked over and Clooney hit his head on the floor, shooting the scene caused a rip in George’s dura, a disturbance in the sac of fluid surrounding his brain.
Battling against excruciating headaches and serious memory loss, George Clooney contemplated suicide. Click here to read in a U.K. The Guardian newspaper about George Clooney’s head injury. It was published in September 2005.
It wasn’t until Clooney flew to Los Angeles to see a neurologist specialist, who noticed that spinal fluid was seeping from his nose, that doctors undertook emergency surgery to pin his spine back together with plastic bolts and relieve the excruciatingly painful headaches he was experiencing.
SIDEBAR #2 | George Clooney speaks of the scars he’s got which threatened his career. In 2006, Clooney said: “That [scar] starts from the top of my neck and goes all the way down to the base of my spine.” He tore the dura — the membrane that surrounds the spine and brain and holds in the spinal fluid. This caused excruciating pain which he says was like having a “severe ice cream brain freeze that lasted 24 hours a day”. After being examined by a specialist he had to have surgery, but he still suffers agonizing headaches. He said: “You can’t live like that. You literally can’t survive like that because of the pain.”
After the injury, the actor suffered short-term memory loss, wore a neck brace for a while, and had to begin “exercising” his brain by doing counting exercises and leaving post-it notes in order not to forget simple things — and he was directing Good Night, and Good Luck at the time.
ABOUT ADAM STELMACH | After his son’s tragic forty foot fall and subsequent Traumatic Brain Injury, Alex Stelmach vowed that a struggle for life would not go in vain. And thus, a practical guide informing TBI victims and their loved ones of how to cope with and conquer the effects of TBI was written.
Adam Reborn: A Family Guide to Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury is an intense, personal account of a small family banding together when one of their own falls 40 feet into darkness and is diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury. Included are pages and pages of practical advice and information regarding TBI and how to cope with it.