Posts Tagged ‘Health’

This Idea Could Save Millions of Lives





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TBI Holiday

Traumatic Brain Injury Everyone concerned about Traumatic Brain Injury would like to see TBI take a holiday from our lives.

Like … go away on holiday … and never return.

But we know that won’t happen.

People affected by TBI don’t get a break. It is always a part of their lives. Maybe it is easier to be flexible and resilient during holiday or on a weekend, but TBI is relentless. It doesn’t go away. It is something you must learn to live with …

During the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I enjoyed the hospitality of a friend living with TBI.

It was a good time for us to talk about TBI … and what we could do to draw attention to TBI that would help more people understand and appreciate how TBI affects our lives.

Our time together included opportunities to live with TBI and consider its affect on people’s lives.

Overall … we had a good weekend.  It was great to be together. Good to share and be together.

My friend has told me that “focus” is what he misses or needs most. My wife and I experienced examples of this need during our stay at his house.

We found that our friend is inclined to switch direction frequently when involved in a story, explanation, or demonstration of something. The resulting tour of possibilities is often confusing and inconclusive.  I guess the most reassuring part is that most of these disorienting discussions circle back to a point of “no change.”  That’s good and bad. I guess it’s good that no “big” decisions are made, but it’s bad because my friend misses an opportunity to make a change he might like to make and because we are left wondering, “What do you want me to do?”

Many of these circuitous excursions are brief and have a low impact. Some are more intense and take 20-30 minutes to resolve.  It is important to know is that most conversations with my friend are quite normal.

Several times I found myself comparing my own mental excursions to his and wondering if I was attributing normal distracted behavior to TBI, simply because I know that sometimes his behavior is affected by his injuries. I’m concerned that my thoughts might be stigmatized by my knowledge of his injuries. He tells me that is a real concern, because most people think “mental illness” when they hear “brain injury.”  That is a serious misconception.

To provide an example I will describe a fictional event based on several conversations our friend in which both my wife and participated.  He usually started these conversations with “What do you think about this?” or “Hey, I’ve got something I want to show you.”

The apparent intent of the conversation moved through the following list:

–  Show-and-tell

  • I want to show you this. It’s pretty special.

–  I need to downsize

  • Boy, I need to get rid of some of this stuff.

–  Would you like to have this

  • I’m going to send this home with you.

–  Who in the family should I give this to

  • Maybe one of my kids would like this someday.

–  How much to do you think I could get for it

  • I’ll bet its worth at least a thousand dollars.

–  Here’s how I might put it to good use

  • I know what I can do with this.

–  I’m going to put it on eBay

  • I always do well selling stuff on eBay.

When this conversation ended, the item went back into its storage box and our friend went on to another topic while we looked at each other thinking, “What just happened?”

I think what we experienced with him was what he has called his difficulty with focus. Yet, in recent weeks he has made great progress on maintenance for his rental property, moved his parents to an assisted living complex, cleared his garage of much that needed to go into storage, helped several friends with special projects, made repairs on his own home, and coordinated a couple visits from his kids. So, just think what he could accomplish if he had that focus he seeks!

He is dealing with many of the stresses life throws our way:

  • Parents in failing health
  • Underemployment and uncertain economic conditions
  • Loss of friends and family members
  • Stressed and often fractured families

The morning of our departure he summed it up with …

I can’t think, hardly.

 I get tired and stressed out. Extra rest and some down-time are what help me deal with the added load. When I get through a busy time, it takes 3 -4 days of sleeping and … a pause …

Then I get my focus back on track and become more … he gestured and gave me a wide-eyed look that suggested … alert.

This man is an experienced professional healthcare provider. He has three degrees and has specialized in geriatrics, adolescent development, and substance abuse recovery. When my friend reviewed the first draft of this blog, he offered several refinements. He pointed out that over the years he has cared for several clients suffering the affects of brain injuries.  The affects of TBI seem to be different for every person.

To help understand the thought processes in the scenario described above, he explained that TBI has diminished his ability to filter and ignore distractions. He now must make a more conscious effort to avoid distractions. Another affect is diminished impulse control, causing some of those unfiltered thoughts to get more of his immediate attention than he might otherwise want.  Think about it. This isn’t much different from how the rest of us act when fatigued or under stress. Rest and down-time are his most effective methods for enhancing his filtering mechanisms and strengthening his impulse control. I suspect that is how the rest of us must deal with the world. For example, I try to go to bed at about the same time each night, and I meditate as often as I can.

We have talked many times about the shortcomings of the medical profession, our legal system, society, and other potential support mechanisms when Traumatic Brain Injury is involved.

  • Not enough research has yet been done.
  • Not enough medical professionals understand brain injuries.

    Gabrielle Giffords photo by Nigel Parry for People magazine

    People Magazine Photo

  • Not enough people appreciate that a concussion is serious.
  • Too many people hear “brain injury” and think “mentally ill” or “crazy”.

That is changing and we want to help accelerate improvements.

More attention is being focused on the issue …

… as our soldiers return from Iraq & Afghanistan with IED injuries

… as we watch Senator Gabrielle Giffords recover from a gunshot wound

… as we show more concern for football players and participants in other sports recovering from concussions.

We also need to be aware that car accidents, falls, and other “smacks” to the head cause injury.

Doctors and researchers are learning that these injuries have a cumulative effect.

It also appears that EVERY person’s situation is unique. This makes understanding and care more difficult.

Afghanistan_Troops Clearing IEDs

Thought Patterns seems like a good place to address the issues of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). As pointed out and illustrated by my friend, TBI changes an individual’s thought patterns.

A person with a brain injury doesn’t think like they did before they were injured.

Please join the conversation. I welcome your thoughts.

How can we improve the lives of people affected by Traumatic Brain Injury?

We think it happens with increased awareness and education regarding the issues.

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Links to TBI information and resources will be found on our Links We Like page.

Let us know if you have suggestions for additional links.

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