(SACRAMENTO)

When Liz Carbone went out for a bike ride in December 2020, she didn’t expect to end up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Liz Carbone had a bike accident in Davis and received a traumatic brain injury.
Liz Carbone had a bike accident in Davis and received a traumatic brain injury.

“I was riding on the beautiful Davis bike loop and had an accident,” said Carbone, 37, a Davis resident. “I woke up in the Emergency Room and didn’t know how I got there. The first thing I remember is the doctor telling me I had a small intracranial hemorrhage. I heard later that a witness told first responders that I went over my bike handlebars, hit my head and was unconscious. But somehow I was able to tell the witness to call my husband.”

Carbone was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center for additional tests and observation. The next day, doctors told her that the hemorrhage was stable and there was no progressive trauma.

“I was discharged from the hospital and referred to the TBI Clinic,” Carbone said. “It was strange to think of myself as a TBI patient because my injuries weren’t that severe. Also, I was wearing a bike helmet when I had the accident, so I never expected to get a TBI.”

The new multidisciplinary TBI Clinic, which opened in October 2020, is designed to provide care to patients across the full spectrum of brain injuries – from mild concussions like Carbone’s to patients with more severe injuries, such as vertigo, balance problems, seizures, slurred speech, loss of coordination and memory and concentration problems.

The clinic is headed by director Ryan Martin, a neurocritical care physician and assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery.

“Our goal is to improve the function and quality of life for every patient no matter the injury severity,” Martin said. “We want to treat patients from the beginning of their injury all the way to their recovery and follow up and bring them through the whole process instead of just having an isolated clinic. We’re big believers in the potential of TBI recovery.”

Ryan Martin“We want to treat patients from the beginning of their injury all the way to their recovery and follow up and bring them through the whole process instead of just having an isolated clinic. We’re big believers in the potential of TBI recovery.”

— Ryan Martin
neurocritical care physician

Located in the Neurological Surgery Clinic in the Midtown Ambulatory Care Center, the clinic has served more than 350 patients since opening.

Currently Martin collaborates with other departments to make sure TBI patients get the best care possible based on their individual needs. Eventually he hopes to also have psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers all within the same multidisciplinary clinic space.

Martin is also working with Kiarash Shahlaie, director of the UC Davis TBI Program and professor of neurological surgery and neurology, on a proposal outlining the details of the expanded clinic as well as the larger TBI Program, which will encompass research, education and outreach to TBI patients.

The multidisciplinary TBI Clinic evolved after Martin started seeing patients with concussions in 2019. “There was a need for a doctor in neurology to see concussion referrals, and I started seeing those patients,” Martin said. “Before that, TBI patients were dispersed between several departments, including sports medicine, primary care and neurology. Now we can see patients throughout the recovery process and follow up to ensure they’re getting the care and services they need.”

For Carbone, the focus on recovery from her injury was critical. She made a telemedicine appointment a few weeks after returning home from the hospital and had a lot of questions about the next steps in the process.

After three virtual appointments, Carbone and her doctor determined that her injury had healed, and she could completely return to normal activities. Carbone credits the TBI Clinic for her smooth recovery.

“My recovery was only beginning when I left the hospital,” Carbone said. “The clinic helped me get back to normal. Every patient has unique experiences and concerns. What’s so valuable about the TBI Clinic is that it provides space for whatever those different concerns and experiences are. I hope every patient who has a head trauma has an opportunity to participate in the clinic.”

For more information and to refer patients to the multidisciplinary TBI Clinic, please call 916-734-4300. Appointment wait time may vary based on demand.