My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I..
Hi everyone, and firstly I need to start with an apology for being so quiet recently. So many times I have thought how I need to write something, but found I didn’t know what to say. Silly isn’t it, because it’s not like it’s possible to run out of material, as a brain injury never stops affecting you all together, no matter how far you are into your recovery. But that’s the point…. brain fog!
I’ve tried to describe what it feels like before in Brain Injury Brain Fog. And whilst I do cope a little better these days in some ways, I don’t in others. I am still able to go about my normal business, and hold an intelligent conversation. But recently I have found it difficult to hold on to a thought long enough to be able to write about it. Therefore it has resulted in writer’s block.
But I have started an exciting new project….
Now, some of you who follow me closely on social media will know that there is more to this story. You might have noticed that I have started a regular column with a law firm here in the UK called CFG Law. So I do admit that I have put effort into producing some articles for them. However, they did help me with a few titles to get me going which really helped. (If you want to read those articles head over to my page by clicking here >> CFG Law guest blogger Michelle Munt.)
Perhaps I’ve struggled because it’s given me yet another project to think about. Many of you will know by now I do love to get my teeth into something new. But this blog is still very important to me and so I need to give it the attention it deserves. My intentions to write has never stopped, just I find it difficult to hold a thought long enough. Often as I’ve just got to bed I might think of something to write about but it’s gone again by the morning. Yes I can hear you all screaming “Write it down so you can remind yourself in the morning!!!” and of course you are absolutely right. It’s not that I don’t know that’s a simple way to deal with it, it’s just I can become a bit inflexible when my brain is a bit all over the place. In Stuck in rigid thinking after brain injury I previously explained how this frustrating behaviour can hold me back from getting things done.
Finding a more healthy balance in life.
I am however, trying to find a more manageable approach to my life currently. Life is too short, and even if I was a cat, I think this brain injury cost 8 of my 9 lives. That’s why my partner James and I are trying to fit in some short trips. Don’t worry, I don’t mean I’m dieing…. but life is about the experiences we have so I’m trying to create memories. (Alright, my memory isn’t great so I might not exactly remember them, but that’s what photos are for.)
This has also meant I haven’t been quite as active on social media recently. Don’t get me wrong, the community spirit from the online community is fantastic and I think it’s vital for brain injury survivors. But as I’ve found my concentration as been such an issue recently, I’ve found I needed some space. And in a way my writer’s block has made me feel like I can’t even think of what to say on social media.
Anyway, I know you all will know what I men because we all go through periods like this. However I’m hoping that this is the start of me getting back on it. Thanks for bearing with me.
Are there any topics that you want people to understand better about brain injury? Contact me to either suggest what you would like me to write about, or to write your own guest post. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to a brain injury survivor who has written this guest post.
About the author:
Greaibel Gomez is part-time writer currently living in Quebec, Canada. He works as a barista in a coffee shop. In his free time, he often reads books about health, lifestyle, and just about anything he finds interesting. During the weekends Greaibel plays outdoor games such as basketball and frisbee.
A Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when a jolt, blow or other head injuries such as sports injuries, falls, and road traffic accidents cause damage to the brain. These so bad enough that people accidentally involved in an incident should go to the hospital for medication to avoid severe brain damage.
Traumatic brain injury can affect our psychological and physical activities in our day to day life. It affects how we live. We can’t do the activities we love because we are afraid that it might happen again unexpectedly. But, how did I recover from traumatic brain injury?
Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms
Before going to the steps to recovery, I will run down some of the symptoms depending on the severity of the head injury. TBI symptoms include the following:
Loss of consciousness
Dizziness or balance problems
I experienced these symptoms after an incident when a teenager accidentally hit me in the head with a ball. It made me collapse in the alley. Luckily, somebody was there to help and sent me to the hospital.
Medications and Treatments
I was worried because I was suffering from many symptoms after the accident. So, I stayed in the hospital to undergo a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan. Unfortunately, the result showed I had skull fractures due to the ball that hit my head.
I decided to go through surgical treatment to repair and remove the damaged tissue. I’m thankful the surgery was successful. I was prescribed with medications such as sedation, diuretics, pain reliever, and anti-seizure medications.
I spent a Month in Rehabilitation
After the surgery, I went to rehabilitation for a full recovery. I suffered from psychological and physical problems. The rehab helped me to recover fast from the incident. During the first phase of therapy, it was hard to adjust because there were therapies that I needed to do.
I want to say thanks to the assistance of a brain injury lawyer from Sun Pacific Law. They assisted me with my case by handling all the legal work for me. This meant I got a formal settlement which has been essential to helping with my recovery. Without them, it takes a long process to settle things.
Card Games. I often play card games and electronic-based games to help me identify the numbers, colors, shapes, and images. Card games include Go Fish, Spider, Solitaire, and Free Cell.
Sudoku. An injured person like me finds it comfortable yet hard. At least it helps me to organize numbers. After of couple days of playing, I can form another version of the game.
Tetris. Luckily, my nephew gave his game console and let me play Tetris. I find it therapeutic about lining up those little pieces.
It’s not wrong to play games as I stated above, but pick those games that will help you to aid brain injury. Different ones may work better for you.
Read books and watch movies
Aside from playing games, I often read books before sleeping at night. It makes me practice my cognitive skills and to get better in comprehending phrases. When I read books, I keep a dictionary close by too, to help me with the words that are not familiar to me.
Sometimes, I prefer to watch movies such as controversial, documentary, and based on actual events to be inspired and get knowledge about the things that I didn’t know about.
Staying at home can be quite boring, so instead of laying all day on the bed, I find things to keep me occupied. To make myself busy, I’ll do the household chores such as washing the dishes, preparing the food for dinner, and watering plants.
In the morning, after watering the plants, I’ll go out cycling and wear all the protective gear to avoid an accident that I don’t want to happen again. Breathing the fresh air while cycling is therapeutic to me. I find peace and harmony while I’m doing these things.
Some events are inevitable and no one likes it, but being optimist will help you. Thanks to everyone who helped me when I suffered this traumatic brain injury. At first, it’s hard to adjust and it made me want to quit, but hearing and witnessing others who survive from this kind of accident makes me inspired and hopeful.
What helped you in your recovery from a brain injury? Or what do you wish you had the chance to try earlier?
Today I have for you another guest post by a truly inspirational young man who has written his second post for me. We all know who much a brain injury can alter the trajectory of your life. But Brandon is keen to share his story in order to give hope to other survivors. Previously he explained how he graduated despite his injury, and now he wants to give you the next installment: What happened next with his career….
In April 2015, I was hit by a car while pushing my car on the freeway.
Apparently, when the car struck my friend and me, my body was flung across the road over 20 feet…
I spent a month in the hospital and another month in an intensive rehab center.
I am very blessed to be alive and able to walk as my friend, who was involved in the accident with me, received an incomplete spinal injury.
Although my friend sustained some horrifying physical injuries, I suffered a serious traumatic brain injury.
After the accident, I could not even remember what I had done the day prior and I was having the same conversations with people who visited me in the hospital. I was still in college during this time and I was so fearful of my future.
I suffered from all the symptoms of a severe traumatic brain injury.
I fatigued easily, my short-term memory was abysmal, I had persistent headaches, I slept more than usual, etc.
I overcame such a huge obstacle in my life by graduating from college. Even though graduating from college with my brain injury was a huge accomplishment, I realized it would be an even greater challenge to maintain a full-time job.
My brain injury symptoms made working at my first full-time job after college painfully onerous. It was a struggle every day to get through the work day. I would feel acutely lethargic and mentally weary after 3-4 hours of work. When the workday started in the mornings, I would have mental clarity and vigor.
As the day progressed, my headaches and mental exhaustion would take over.
I would occasionally spend my hour lunch breaks driving home and taking a nap (I was really fortunate I lived really close to the agency I worked at). If my brain injury exhaustions got really unbearable during the day, I would even sometimes sit in the bathroom stall at work, set an alarm, close my eyes, and recharge for 5 minutes. I became especially dependent on coffee or tea to get me through my day.
After nearly a year of working at the agency, I decided to move away from my hometown. I was thoroughly blessed to be offered remote work from the agency when I moved away.
I was quickly appalled at how it made working with a brain injury manageable as I was able to work on my own schedule. With remote work, I was able to work when I had the most stamina, take a nap when I started to fatigue and then continue to work after I recovered from my traumatic brain injury exhaustion.
Working sporadically actually made me more productive.
My work was tracked by data and I noticed that I was getting more work done remotely than when I was working in the office.
I feel truly relieved that I am able to cope with my disability when working a remote job.
For any brain injury survivors who are struggling with work, I would recommend looking into remote work. Remote work may help ease the burden of the injury. There are a ton of jobs you can do remotely. Here is a list of places where you can find remote work.
If you are working, maybe bring up remote work to your employer at your current job. I discovered after I received remote work, that I could have asked for some accommodations. So if they do not allow remote work, I would recommend talking with your employer about your disability and working out some accommodations.
I understand how hard it can be to work a full-time job. Brain injuries are taxing on your body and mind by itself. Working a job can intensify the symptoms and make it really difficult to do your job. Working is arduous, however, with accommodations or remote work, working can be doable.
I hope my story can give you hope in finding a career or seeking help at your job to make working easier after you receive a traumatic brain injury!
Often brain injury survivors suffer with depression and anxiety as a result of what has happened to them. This can be because the brain is operating differently and/or because of how their lives have been affected as result. Many of us aren’t as independent as we were previously, and it can even result in the loss of the chosen career, which often we see as a loss of identity.
But if you are in this distressing stage, don’t give up hope. I’m going to share a story with you about how finding fulfilment can give you a new lease of life.
A year ago I met Emily Annis on Facebook. She told me how she survived a stroke 9 years earlier, and it was so serious that she had to be revived twice in the space of 8 minutes. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was only 27 when this happened to her!
The stoke had affected her brain stem, which is responsible for controlling the bodies organs, so the medical team had to put her in an induced coma. They were having to prepare her family for the worst because this type of stroke has the highest rate of fatalities. But, thankfully she pulled through. Initially the brain injury left her paralysed from the neck down until the nerves began regenerating. Her right side was recovering faster than her left, so she had to use a wheelchair.
Also her jaw was paralysed and the cranial nerve in her left eye was severely damaged, leaving her with sight only in her right eye. Her life had been turned upside down. Emily tried to be positive with her moto, “Hope, faith, believe”, and continue to have dreams of a better future. But I’m sure we all can imagine how difficult it must have been to have a sunny disposition when life had suddenly dealt you such awful cards.
How trust and empowerment can go such a long way.
I had recently started to grow my Facebook group when Emily and I started talking. She was enjoying it and was delighted when I asked if she would like to help me run it. I was going on holiday and so needed some more support whilst I was away. Emily did a fantastic job, and there was no looking back, so even when I returned she stayed on in her new role. She was really enjoying the responsibility and it gave her a purpose again. In the following months the group grew at a phenomenal rate which we were both over the moon about.
And she returned the trust I had shown her by being one of the first people to experience my online course, 6 weeks from surviving to thriving. Emily really threw herself into it, and watched each of the videos a number of times, finding that it really did help her to calm her inner critic so her confidence could blossom. I think her favourite line from it was “remember you’re not a mind reader”, where I was explaining that sometimes we assume someone is thinking badly of us, when that isn’t necessarily the case.
Her new found fulfilment opened new doors for her.
With her restored confidence Emily went from strength to strength as she was flourishing knowing that she was helping other brain injury survivors in the group. That gave her more energy and alongside this the nerves have continued the regenerate. She even has starting to walk a little now!
With this increased energy she knew she wanted to do even more for others by sharing her story. Her journey has been so incredible that she wanted to continue to raise awareness of brain injury, and inspire other survivors. Thus her next step was to launch her podcast where you can hear her describe her journey in her own words.
She now has started her own support group on Facebook which is a big focus for her. This requires her attention and so she has decided to leave my group, but only because she needs to be able to focus in order to reach her new goals.
I respect this because it has proven to her that instead of chasing “happiness”, having fulfillment gives you long term resilience. Where as happiness is something we have in a moment, like when we buy a new gorgeous outfit, the feeling doesn’t last, so we have to good buy another outfit to get that high again. But fulfillment gives you buoyancy . Even when times are hard, like a life jacket it will lift you back up again and again. And this is the point Emily has been able to move into, as she knows that this is her calling.
So even if you are struggling cognitively, mentally and physically, just know that you do have a purpose. Sometimes it’s not obvious and you might need support realising it, like Emily did, but it’s always there.
I know, you don’t have to tell me… It’s a real challenge for most people to resist distractions, let alone when a brain injury has truncated your concentration span. But it’s still worth reminding ourselves that we need to continuously work on developing good habits, because if we focus on the wrong things, it can have a detrimental impact of our health.
The "professional" troll.
As human beings, we will naturally gravitate to some people and not to others. We are individuals and I personally value the different ways people can have an affect on our personal journeys. Often we learn something through our experiences with people without them having that intention, or us particularly realising it.
Recently I had an encounter with a “Certified Clinical Trauma Professional” who has a PhD and is a Business coach AND a TBI coach at the same time. (Not sure why you would choose to coach businesses and brain injury survivors. Unless you believe brain injury survivors can run their own business of course…. but I’m not sure this person’s mindset allows for that possibility as I will explain.) However, I have no interest in defaming this individual. As I have already said, individuals are drawn to different people, so I’m sure she has added value to others lives and I hope she continues to do so. So for the purposes of this I will refer to her as Ester, which is not her real name.
Actions speak louder than accreditations.
Ester joined my Facebook group, and I had hoped that as a professional, she would help other members by answering some of their questions, posting some articles she had written, or something. But she didn’t. And so for a few months I wasn’t even sure she was reading anything that was in the group.
That was until I put a post encouraging anyone who wanted to chat and see how I might be able to help them as a life coach to book a free consultation call. She commented something about without accreditations what I do is “extremely detrimental” to brain injury survivors! Hmmmm…… OK……
So I sent her a message just asking that when she has concerns she should approach me directly before writing something as strongly worded as that. Ester hadn’t looked at any of the work I do, or read any of my 100+ blogs and thousands of positive comments from my readers. Instead she was fixated on her own agenda. She kept telling me that “just having experienced a brain injury, does not make you an expert.” Therefore she was aligning herself as a better option, which I don’t deny that depending on the subject, that could be the case. I’m not a therapist, I am always clear about that. But I have my personal experience and have navigated being a survivor AND a caregiver. Alright, I didn’t “pass” a written exam, but I have conquered one of life’s biggest challenges. It doesn’t come with a medal, a certificate or fancy letters after my name… but it does come with insight.
"Thanks for branding me."
I wrote before in You’re an expert on brain injury? Well I’m the expert on mine. how some people who have “qualifications” just don’t get it. Reading about it in a text book is not the same as walking in a brain injury survivors shoes. But the bit that I found the most upsetting, was that this person had ASSUMED that everything I’m doing must be wrong because it don’t have a PhD. And without looking at any actual EVIDENCE she resorted to threats, that unless I stop, she’ll make me.
Well, sadly, I think that small minded attitude is the sort of thing many brain injury survivors have come up against. But don’t worry, I am not going to let Ester win. She’s no longer in my group, and she can carry on doing what’s she’s doing, and I will continue to serve you all in exactly the same way I always have. With authentic honesty.
Ester, you're extremely detrimental to my health - FACT.
This encounter went on for days, messages back and forth. I was trying to offer her the opportunity to really see what I do, but she was just getting more angry and aggressive. By the time I reminded myself “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” the stress got to me. This behaviour was nothing short of bullying. For several days I was writhing around in pain where my guts were doing their best to abandon ship. I had to take some time out from everything to give my brain and body the chance to recover from her onslaught.
I suspect that the real reason Ester started this is because she spent years and thousands of dollars on her studies, only to find that someone like me is making a bigger impact than her. Well Ester, don’t be jealous of me. I would rather swap my brain injury for the time, effort and money you have had to invest. But I didn’t have a choice like you. But more I’m putting understanding to use, just like you are. Unfortunately there are so many people affected by brain injury everyday, that there still isn’t enough people trying to support them. Let’s not tear each other down, let’s just serve our people.
So there you have it, how I found myself focusing on the wrong thing and I paid the price. We all have negative experiences happen in our lives, just learn from them, don’t focus on them.
Hospitals do a great job at saving lives, and they are under constant pressure to support the public with a variety of health issues. When a patient gets rushed in with a brain injury, they launch into action, working tirelessly to stabilise them. Sometimes this takes hours, sometimes it takes months, but I think it’s fair to say we are all thankful for the work they do.
But what many brain injury survivors, such as myself, too often find is that once they are sent home it’s difficult to get the right support. My partner James had to fight for someone to visit me at home to help me build up enough strength to have some independence. (Whilst I wasn’t shy about him having to help me shower, it wasn’t how I wanted to be left in my early 30’s.) And after talking to my GP I managed to be referred to a speech therapist . Bear in mind that at this stage my GP had no idea what had happened to me. Yes the hospital in London had updated my notes, but GP’s don’t review them unless you are sat in front of them. So why the hospital hadn’t made the effort to make this referral as they kicked me out, I don’t know.
But even after I had accessed this help (and believe me the speech therapist was AMAZING) there was still a disconnect. My world had been turned upside down and I somehow needed to process that. The trouble was, at that stage I didn’t have the insight to be able to work that out for myself.It took months to get support with my failing mental health, and there were times that I wasn’t sure I’d make it.
But thank goodness I did! And now I want to help plug that Grand Cannon sized gap. I’m not a therapist, so if you are being swallowed up by serious depression, bipolar or any other painful mental health disorder there are others out there, such as Betterhelp who can help you. But what I can offer you is the insight that all too often brain injury survivors don’t have.
I’ve been there, walked that terrible confusing road, and found the hidden path home. So now I coach others on how to navigate that journey too. There’s a lot of potholes you have to side step, and hanging branches that you have to duck, so guidance can make all the difference. And I do this online, so we don’t even need to live near each other. I have an incredible Facebook group full with people who are keen to share ideas. But also I use the internet to speak to people via Messenger or Skype, to talk to them privately about what is going on for them and develop a plan to help get them to a more comfortable position.
So my message is this: even if you live in an area where there aren’t many services, you don’t have to fight this on your own. You do have options! For more ideas on online communities I’ve created that you might want to become a part of, visit Brain injury community.
Does online support work?
Here in the UK we have access to health services available via the NHS, which we pay for via our taxes. But it is under continuing pressure to deliver more with less funding. In the UK, mental health conditions make up around 28 per cent of the total burden of disease, but they receive just 13 per cent of the total NHS budget. Meanwhile, the budget for adult social care, which provides ongoing mental health support, has been cut in real terms by 13.5 per cent in England over the last eight years. This makes it even harder to get on the waiting list for talking therapies, and when you do you could be on there for an extraordinarily long time before you see anyone. And for those countries that usually pay via medical insurance, you often are given limited choices about who you can work with. So what if the person you need to open up to, trust and connect with just doesn’t make you comfortable enough to do that?
With online support you can be in your comfortable space at home where you feel safe. There’s no issues with having to work out how you are going to get to your appointment; organising transport, negotiating traffic and the panic of worry that you might be late and then you’ve gone through all that stress for nothing.
I went to a life coach who lives in Canada. I can’t remember how I found her, and she was specialising in helping people run an online business. But I connected with her and felt like she really GOT ME. So even though the time difference meant we both had to do some jiggery pokery with our schedules in order to be able to chat because of the time difference, believe me, it’s worth it! The amount of times I would find myself crying because she had hit the nail on the head about something that I didn’t even know was a problem because I’d buried it so deep. That would lead to me being able to address things that I might not have even know were relevant to why I was holding myself back from achieving my goals. Honestly it’s such a journey of discovery when you connect with the right person. Yes online support does work because it enables you to have so many more options about finding the right person to help you develop yourself. It opens up a whole new world to you.
This post is sponsored by Betterhelp. More online therapists can be found here. All reviews and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.
Have you tried online support for your experience of brain injury? Did it work for you?
Dawne McKay created a Facebook group, Motor Vehicle Accident – Support and Recovery Group and also blogs about her own personal experience as an survivor of a horrific collision. Her online support group for survivors is Motor Vehicle Accident – Support & Recovery group.
Life was great that fall morning. Having just spent the night at my boyfriend’s house, I was watching the sun rise as I drove to a job that I loved. Finally I held a position within an Organization that I had been dreaming about. I was healthy, happy and extremely driven. I was in a wonderful relationship that had just blossomed and I had great friends both personally and professionally. With an exceptional driving record for the last twenty years, I was an excellent driver and I had never been in a horrific accident. As someone who well liked and full of confidence, life was good.
I vaguely remember the first impact from the distracted driver that had hit me from behind, causing me to be tossed around in my vehicle and I do not remember the second impact from a tractor trailer. I remember feeling trapped, cold, frightened and confused. Having been rushed to a local hospital, I was immediately transferred to a trauma hospital where I stayed for a few days mending multiple injuries including a brain injury.
My good life now consisted of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, medical appointments, legal appointments, sleepless nights, nightmares, financial burdens, anxiety and chronic pain. Once mobile, I was introduced to outpatient rehabilitation where I attended twice a week. After a year or so I was told I had reached a plateau which meant I had to accept the fact that I will not fully recover but I would continue treatments. Did I mention my good life also consisted of depression and weight gain? Receiving news that you have reached a plateau in your recovery can do that to you.
Every activity is painful and you are forever mourning the “you” who once accomplished so much in a day. Confidence has taken a back seat and I no longer enjoy being in a vehicle. I can now predict weather and can tell you when it will rain. I can even go as far to tell you when there will be a change in the barometric pressure lucky me! A peaceful night’s sleep is a thing of the past as my nights are now being interrupted with trying to find comfortable positions to deal with the pain. I lost a job I had worked so hard for and close friends disappeared. My good life is now facing the fact that I have arthritis in many areas of my body and I feel like I have aged 10 years.
Financially, this life changing event almost broke me. The battles that take place with insurance companies after a car accident is shameful. Fighting for what you paid into is a full- time job in itself. My good life now consists of hearing numerous remarks from people that seem to know me better than myself. Remarks such as: “Must be nice to not have to work”, “You will feel better once you get your settlement”, “You look fine”, “You need to get over it” and “There is nothing wrong with you” just to name a few. I still get upset and angry hearing these types of comments because people just don’t seem to get it.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not ask to leave my job. I did not quit, get a promotion or get fired. That decision was made for me the morning a driver decided to drive distracted and rear end me at a high rate of speed.
For the people that think I have it easy, I would ask that you change places with me for one day. Live with my chronic pain and tell me if you still think I have it easy.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not choose to have sleepless nights filled with flashbacks, nightmares, chronic pain and anxiety. That life change was made for me because a driver was not paying attention.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not choose to wait over a year to receive any type of income while my insurance company decided if my injuries were significant enough. That decision was made for me because I could not work.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not choose to become forgetful and no longer a multi tasker. That decision was made for me because my head crashed into the windshield of my car which caused a traumatic brain injury.
For the people that think I have it easy, being involved in a car accident is not a sudden windfall. I would prefer to be driving into work today but I am not able to.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not choose to have PTSD. That decision was made for me after being involved in a horrific car accident.
For the people that think I have it easy, I did not choose to stay in bed all day today, that decision was made for me because I live with chronic pain.
For the people that think I have it easy, although I may look fine to you, I ask you to remember that my life completely changed because of my accident. Surviving a car accident is a daily struggle on so many levels and even though you may see me smiling, I suffer from chronic pain, PTSD and I am on my third night with barely any sleep. Unless you have experienced a horrific car accident first hand, you will truly never understand so please don’t be so quick to judge us.
I do like to feature the stories of others as it gives more perspective than just my own. As we all have very different journeys, by covering more stories I hope that more people can relate to the issues raised. Today I would like to introduce you to Mark Whelan who is one of the most active and supportive members in my Facebook group, Brain Injury & Mental Health Support. He is often trying to help others who are trying to work out how to go about starting again after a brain injury.
My name is Mark Whelan. I was born in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in Branford, Connecticut. (An interesting fact about Branford is that in 1974 Connecticut Hospice opened there, which was the very first Hospice ever in America!) Currently I live in Old Lyme Ct, which is best known for it’s community of American Impressionist painters.
I was a very successful Accountant before my TBI, and I’m very happily married to my beautiful wife of 33 years, Monica. We have 2 adult children that are very successful and we are so proud of. Life was good and I now realise that I took a lot for granted.
On Halloween of 2016 everything changed. In the middle of the night I fell down the stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury and a subarachnoid haemorrhage. My wife didn’t hear me fall, but she heard me moaning though. I had made a huge hole in the staircase wall showing the impact! My wife called an ambulance and I spent 6 weeks in the ICU at Yale New Haven Hospital in and out of a coma. I then was transferred to Gaylord Rehabilitation in Wallingford and spent another 6 weeks there. I can’t remember hardly anything from my time at Gaylord, except many hallucinations and nightmares. Next I was transferred to Bridebrook Rehabilitation in Niantic, Connecticut. From Bridebrook I only remember clearly the physical and speech therapy. Also, they made recommendations for my return home. I was still using a walker and a gait belt.
In the beginning of March of 2017, I returned home. First I was in a wheelchair, then a walker and finally a cane. My brother in law installed a hand rail for 3 steps we have from the dining room to the living room. Also, my wife prepared me a nice bedroom DOWN STAIRS! I also had in-house physical, occupational and speech therapy. Fortunately I had a outstanding home health aide for about a year from Companions and Homemakers.
As of father’s day June 17th of this year, I ditched the cane! I’ve had several vision, physical and occupational therapy. Currently I just have physical therapy twice a week. Like I said, I took a lot for granted. Mostly my freedom to be able to walk, talk, etc. without giving it a second thought. I have been blessed with a loving family, lots of friends and I’ve had wonderful Doctors and caregivers. My relationship with my wife has been tested but we just celebrated our 33rd Wedding anniversary so I think we’re going to do fine. Currently, I do not drive but have many friends, mostly from my church who have helped me out tremendously.
The Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut gave me a useful document at my first support group meeting for me to carry with me at all times. Basically it summarises what I would like the public to know about brain injury survivors. It read:
The purpose of this card is to educate you on some of the symptoms of brain injury so that you will understand, if necessary I am not being intentionally difficult or hard to get along with. I am not mentally-ill, I am a brain injury survivor.
Because my speech, vision, hearing and/or sense of understanding is impaired, I may be unable to hear or respond to your questions clearly. My coordination and ability to control my muscles might be impaired so might not be able to perform or complete physical tests occasionally requested by law enforcement agencies.
My injury may also cause me to laugh or cry excessively. I may be restless and exhibit signs of agitation and anxiety. My responses might be very slow and deliberate. If I'm having difficulty with short or long term memory, I may be confused, disorientated or easily angered. I may also have excessive reactions to confrontation.
I will work with you to the extent I am able to and ask that you contact the persons listed on the back of this card as quickly as possible.
Copyright TPN, Inc.
I would not change a thing of what I’ve been through! Today, I choose to view my brain injury as a blessing. It’s like starting over again!
I am a TBI Warrior, and my story begins 3 decades ago.
The Motor Vehicle Accident
30 years ago my life permanently changed when I was involved in a horrific car accident that should have taken my life.
I suffered horrendous multiple internal injuries, shredded intestines & bowels, broken bones … plus a severe Traumatic Brain Injury that went undiagnosed for 24 years.
I had major short term memory loss, extreme learning deficits, vertigo, chronic pain, no attention span, huge visual and audio issues… I had all the “A, B, C’s”… of TBI.
I went from being an independent surfing health nut and young insurance professional… to being a totally dependant, unemployable, low self esteemed, non-confident, hollow shell of a person overnight.
Amazing progress has been achieved by me personally over the years. The past 6 years have been extremely progressive. I have become comfortable with the label “TBI Warrior” and finally have the strength to give back to our CommUNITY and share from the heart.
The Doctors had all but given up on me.
They had documented that I had bruising to the stem of my brain. Doctors told me there was nothing else that they could do to help me get better. It was reported that I had the brain capacity of a 12 year old and to not expect any improvement. My take on that was, a 12 year old is continuously learning stuff and having fun so that is what I desire to do. Today I joke and call myself the equivalent of a female “Peter Pan”. Tinkerbell if you like.
2010 was a turning point for me, after three months of hard work with a team of phycholigists, my short term memory improved by 20% and the head psychologist praised me and likened me to “Rip Van Winkle”. I had been living for the past 22 years in a twilight zone, having small bursts of cognition, to dark traumatised black spots that would go from minutes to hours, sometimes weeks and months. This therapy was called ‘Cogmed”, it has a price tag on it, but it was my key to opening a trapped mind and allowing me to be the person I am today.
This allowed me to take an active interest in researching what I was feeding my body and learnt that by eliminating certain foods and beverages had a major beneficial positive factor on my health and well being. Journal-ling what worked for me and what didn’t helped me immensely for my own unique challenges. For me, the 2 biggest “take aways”… and the 2 most commonly repeated “must do’s” that every doctor and researcher placed as a number one priority to maximise health – was to:
“Reduce Inflammation and Increase Antioxidants”
6 years ago I was officially diagnosed with TBI and CPTSD, put on a disability pension and all the stress of trying to act normal was relieved.
Finally I could put the FUN factor back into my world.
Most people that meet me don’t believe that I have a problem because over the decades I have become a master of disguise. As technology increased, it became easier for me to take notes on a device, in lieu of carrying around notebooks filled with hand written notes, that were neither indexed nor categorised, but roughly put in year order.
I worked for 10 years in the Insurance Industry, went to college to complete a degree which took way longer due to the TBI. At one point I had a teacher ask me if I had help doing assignments as my handwriting changed significantly on every page of the document I handed him.
I chuckle when my girlfriend calls me and reminds me of how she took over all of my accounts and clients when I left a particular job. She never knew me prior to my accident but is still impressed to this day at how meticulous I kept every file on every client. She said my files notes where a pleasure to work with because she could just pick up a file, review my notes and she knew everything about the client before she contacted them.
That was part of my TBI tool kit, to appear normal, in the working environment. My friend did not know the hours I put in at work, starting early and finishing late, so that I could write up all those details. I still do that a lot today, I just do not trust my memory and I am frightened I may miss something.
When the time came that I decided to finish working 9 to 5, that was a lie I started work at 7 and never finished before 10, weekends where generally sleeping off the working week.
I traveled to Bali and lived there for around 12 months, that was appealing to me as I loved surfing and I had staff to do all the things I couldn’t and to me that was heaven.
I returned back to Australia and 15 years after the accident I had a healthy baby boy followed by another child 22 months later.
My children have now grown into teenagers and they both love baseball. This has been a huge challenge to me, never being a ball sport person. After 5 years of baseball I still don’t understand the game. I have slow processing skills.
2 years ago I did the Steps Program https://www.health.qld.gov.au/abios/steps which helped me to comprehend what I need to do to make my life better, living with challenges. This year I have been very active: I wrote a story in a book that will be released in November this year, as well completing a course so that I can be a peer leader in the Steps program. Also I submitted a talk to the 6th Annual Australian Brain Injury Conference.
Interestingly I have come to the conclusion that I have to be my best advocate in educating people about my challenges with TBI and CPTSD.
When I can, I help others understand what to look for to find a solution.
Together we can help each other recover and share our stories so that others may relate and start to comprehend the “undiagnosed” dilemma of this and last century.
I have a Facebook page if you would like to follow my journey: