Rediscovering yourself, healing your physical wounds, and recapturing your mental faculties is possible and achievable. I have listed several that are indispensable to me.
Aphasia is the partial or total loss of the ability to communicate verbally or to understand written words. It is communication impairment and affects the ability to speak, understand, read and write. It is not an intelligence disorder as this is caused by injury to the brain from head trauma or stroke. In the rehabilitation hospital my dear mother stayed with me and when I started to talk, I asked ‘Can I have an electric flower’. She knew that I wanted to sleep with a fan! I began reading at a third grade level but due to the incredible help from speech therapists I gradually progressed to a ninth grade reading level within one year. Despite this, I still have difficulty speaking, reading, writing and understanding what I read. I am still mispronouncing basic words because they are hard for me to remember. Speech therapy is an invaluable tool and with patience and effort you can regain your abilities and put yourself on a path of recovery.
Resources for support include:
I needed help re-learning to walk and using my right arm effectively without pain, due the breakage of my right clavicle. Additionally, I have balance issues and when I accidentally hit my head I develop extreme dizziness and vertigo. Some physical therapists were trained at St. Luke’s Hospital to treat Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) which results from a damaged inner ear and is secondary to brain injury. They used the Epley and Semont maneuver which amazingly helped alleviate this vertigo. Here is a website to look at this maneuver: http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/benign-paroxysmal-positional-vertigo-bppv-topic-overview. When I had the worst vertigo I’ve ever had, I could barely walk, was nauseous, and could barely read. This physical therapist used the Epley Semont maneuver in addition to the Electrotherapeutic Point Stimulation and Primal Reflex Release. This was an amazing experience as it improved my symptoms but also helped me let go of my fears, sadness and tenderness I was feeling! I cried out of pure joy with this experience!
I was taught how to bathe, dress and feed myself. I was guided in following directions and safety awareness and was instructed on strengthening my upper and lower body. Money management, medication, cooking, cleaning, memory tasks, problem solving and attention skills for driving were also addressed. They helped me overcome the pain and weakness from the breakage of my right clavicle, and provided me with games and pictures to help improve my aphasia. I continue to work on finances, taking medication as prescribed, cooking recipes effectively and memory loss.
Once I started to regain the weight I had lost, I began craving dark green vegetables, fish and chicken. I then went to an incredible nutritional class provided by Dr. Terry Wahls. Terry is an amazing survivor of multiple sclerosis with a severe disability. Her multiple sclerosis was progressive and she quickly ended up in a wheelchair. She began studying and implementing macronutrients and micronutrients and by following the special diet that she researched, she is now able to walk again! Based on Terry’s experience on her own nutritional recovery she recommends that those with brain injury need a diet filled with 9 cups of dark green vegetables and fruits per day, and also need to eat fish, such as salmon, and chicken. You can view her amazing website: www.terrywahls.org
My chiropractor, Dr. Jane Bourgeois, has used her therapy to heal my brain, neck, back, right clavicle and arm trauma. In addition, she has recommended liquid nutrients to help me keep my diet high in fruits and vegetables. These include: sea aloe with multiple nutrients, dynamic greens with mangosteen, and a natural anti-aging supplement with berries. Dr. Jane Bourgeois can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at (319) 337-3890.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a natural healing method that improves functioning using inserted needles and heat or electrical stimulation at various points on the body. The Chinese believe that channels of energy called meridians are like water flushing through the body to neutralize and nourish the tissue. Acupuncture stimulates the body to release chemicals in the nervous system, spinal chord and brain. These chemicals will either relieve your pain or trigger the release of beneficial chemicals or hormones which stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and provide you with physical and emotional wellness. During my 2nd grand-mal seizure I quit breathing. I was placed on a ventilator and developed left-sided weakness, numbness and tingling. This impacted my ability to walk effectively. I worried that this was the beginning of a stroke. The neurologists felt this was a neurological reaction from my seizure. The symptoms continued for over a month and I didn’t know what to do. With desperation, I saw a medical acupuncturist, Dr. Ahn. He explained that I had the beginnings of a stroke, secondary to the lack of oxygen to my brain when I quite breathing during the seizure. The weakness, numbness and tingling stopped within four weeks of acupuncture care!
To learn more about acupuncture, visit this website: www.medicalacupuncture.com
I slowly started walking outside wearing a helmet and assisted by others. Eventually, nine months after the trauma, I was able to jog on a treadmill! I started re-learning how to ride my bike 10 months after my accident. On the one year anniversary I became very despondent. To face my grief, I rode the 14 mile trail where the accident occurred all by myself! I cried with joy as I made it back up the hill without any trauma! It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment for me! I try to exercise 6 days a week and my regimen includes weight lifting, running, spinning class and yoga.
Music and Dance
Interacting with music can have incredible healing powers for brain injury patients when they are ready to hear the music. It is very restorative to reconnect with music in the way you may have done before the trauma. I re-learned how to play the piano again with guided help!
On a physical level, dance is a great form of exercise, but it also improves overall health, coordination, movement and muscle tone. Dance therapy can also enhance your thinking skills, motivation, and memory. Dance helps you feel joyful and confident. It provides a safe opportunity for you to explore anger, frustration and depression, which are often difficult to communicate verbally. I enjoy ballroom and Latin dance but Latin is my favorite. I re-learned how to Latin dance four months after my accident. Amazingly, despite my vertigo, I performed at the Iowa Dance Fest nine months following my accident.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety and depressive disorder that occurs after exposure to a terrifying event in which physical harm occurred or was threatened. It occurs in people who have experienced violent personal assaults, natural or human caused disasters, accidents, or military combat. 1.4 million people develop brain injury annually and 77,000 have severe brain injury.
The most important people in my life are neuro-psychology therapists and those who have suffered from brain injury as they understand all of my experiences and share with me opportunities further heal. Connecting with fellow survivors gives me hope and strength. We all learn the best from others whom have experienced the same trauma and how they found their path to recovery. Learning how to face the day-to-day challenges of life, is the most important aspect of my recovery. Writing my personal brain injury story and speaking publicly to others has healed me in an incredible way!