Healing from a head injury is a gradual process. It can take months or years for someone to completely heal. In some cases, the individual never completely recovers and has ongoing physical problems, personality changes, emotional difficulties, or loses some of their mental acuity.
When some of my mental fuzziness started to recede, I became hungry for information about brain injuries. I found many websites with the same basic information but not the detail I was searching for. I discovered that much of the brain functions remain unknown. Brain injury and function research is still evolving. The treatment for TBI is still evolving. One website I find useful is the Brain Injury Association of America.
I have re-read the sections about living with brain injury and treatment many times. Each time, I try to absorb more information to understand what is happening and what my symptoms may mean. I am lucky that my brain injury is more on the mild/moderate scale. The prognosis is for full recovery.
Treatments focus on symptoms and restoring as much function as possible. It begins with medical evaluation and stabilization and continues through rehabilitating function as much as possible.
My major difficulties right now are: visual/spatial acuity, balance, pain (headaches), fatigue, and sensory input overload. I also still have problems with language facility, especially in speech. There is a delay (slight) in my processing input and being able to verbalize. Writing is easier than speaking but still harder work than before. I have to take frequent breaks and generally end up with a headache and feeling nauseous.
I am still off work from the accident. I consider my recovery my “job” right now and approach it as such. I attend my Physical Torture (PT) sessions, do the home exercises, and work on areas of challenge. It is interesting the overlap. As my PT for the shoulder injury has progressed, several of the activities also involve balance. I enjoy those: I like the additional challenge of working on the brain injury at the same time. My experiences as a musician, Soldier, and athlete have aided in the recovery. I had a higher level of base fitness. And many of the balance exercises I have been introduced to so far are activities I already did in resistance/weight training. Muscle memory and physical fitness has helped to offshoot or compensate for some of the balance issues. The other area they’ve helped is discipline and willingness to be uncomfortable. I leave PT sessions nauseous and usually with a killer headache, if not a migraine. I go home and sleep at least an hour. But… I know this process helps aid me in recovery. I’m willing to manage the discomfort.
The treatment I receive now focuses on “rewiring” my brain and managing symptoms like pain, fatigue, and nausea. I am on several medications to help; anti-nausea/ dizziness, and pain medication to manage the migraines/ headaches.
Balance and vision are addressed in vestibular therapy; part of my Physical Therapy program. I have a combination of eye and balance exercises. It starts for me at what is instinct for you. For example, smooth pursuit. Watch a moving target without moving your head. Your eyes should track smoothly. Mine didn’t at first. My eyes would have a jerking motion, called nystagmus. I had to relearn how to track. It has improved: it’s smooth now, on slow objects. But, still, I can only track slow moving objects. If I try to track a moving car, I can’t keep up and I either turn my head (getting sick in the process) or lose the target. “Saccades” is moving your eyes between targets; again without moving your head. Think about driving: you move your eyes from rear view mirror, looking front, and side view mirrors. You don’t move your head; just your eyes. And you do it without thinking. I have to concentrate. The exercise is to look between two stationary targets; moving only the eyes. I have improved some: I can move between the targets, but slowly, and only 10 times before my eyes stop tracking and I feel sea sick. Most people can just bounce back and forth without difficulty. The third eye exercise I fail at miserably. Focus your eyes on a target and move your head, maintaining focus on the object. You can probably move your head to the point you are “looking out the corner of your eye.” I can only move my head a fraction of an inch and often not even that. My eyes and head move together. When I first started PT three weeks ago for the head injury, I couldn’t do any of those exercises at all. There has been improvement. I keep track of what I do in a notebook. How many reps can I do with saccades? What tempo? (I use a metronome). Seeing (no pun intended) progress, even small steps, brings hope.
There are other exercises that just target balance. I’ll talk more about them later. I am overdue a break. lol. I wrote: no pain, no gain. But, I feel sick and my head is pounding. Sometimes, I don’t listen to the warning signs in time. And I learn the hard way that isn’t a good idea.
Have a good evening or day! Remember to focus on what you have that blesses you.
Please, pass my blog onto others. There are many people whose lives have been touched by TBI. Often, it helps to connect with others. =)