Diffuse axonal injury is a nice, clinical way of saying massive brain damage. This term was introduced to me in the intensive care unit while I was looking upon the complicated network of tubes and needles and machines that were keeping my daughter alive; it was a little difficult to comprehend at the time. It is also called shear damage, which sounds deceptively simple when you first hear it.
Considering that she was hit by a car traveling 45 miles per hour when it hit her, Annette was surprisingly “intact.” I hate to say she was lucky, but her body was amazingly free of visible injuries after the accident. Now it is apparent that her head took the brunt of the damage that fateful evening. Her brain did a lot of bouncing around inside her skull when she hit the ground, not to mention any damage inflicted when she was hit by the car.
The “shear” part of the damage comes when the brain is bouncing around inside the skull. Some parts of the brain of the brain stay in motion while other parts stop. This results in neuron connections (axons) being ripped apart from each other. The diffuse part means that this is happening throughout the entire brain.
The wikipedia entry where I got most of my initial information was exceedingly grim. I have since reviewed other sources of information, though none of them were any more hopeful. I am cautiously hopeful, but it is heartbreaking nonetheless.