Traumatic Brain Injury: A Lifetime of Recovery

Traumatic Brain Injury – A Lifetime of Recovery

Early on, in the months after I sustained a traumatic brain injury, I heard a saying that I am now quite familiar with – recovery from a brain injury lasts a lifetime. While so many have found this to be encouraging, I did not. In fact, the very concept appalled me.

Before being struck by a teenaged driver back in 2010, I spent many years in Corporate America and went on to start and run a successful web design and business marketing company. I lived in the reality of hard and fast deadlines. Projects had a start date and a firm completion date. Always one to meet committed project completion dates, it was a safe bet to say that projects began and ended on time. My corporate clients counted on me – and I consistently delivered.

So this concept of something that had no end date; no date to circle on a calendar; something that would go on as long as I had a heartbeat was NOT something that I embraced. Taking it one step further, I made up my mind early on that I was going to be that one-in-a-million person who recovered back to 100%. I was going to get back to where I was before my accident.

Fast forward to today and time has shown this to be a fallacy. My 2016 reality is vastly different than my 2011 reality. Now well into year six as a survivor, I have found that I am a very average “TBI Guy.” The challenges that I face today are in lockstep with the millions of Americans who live daily with the long-term effects of a concussion. Typical of so many, I have ongoing memory challenges, often more significant than most realize. Word-finding challenges and aphasia are my constant companions. Add a splash of vertigo and half a cup of tinnitus and you have the perfect recipe for a pretty average post-concussive life.

And amazingly, today I am okay with that. All I really need do is look around me to see that, although challenging, the after-effects of my accident pale in comparison to those faced by other survivors. I am able to work, albeit at a reduced pace. I can walk on my own and drive a car. My marriage survived – not always a guarantee after trauma strikes. I have a smaller circle of souls who love me unconditionally. When I take a step back to look at my life through the prism of this perspective, I can easily see that I am blessed beyond measure.

In a recent conversation, my wife Sarah and I discussed reaching out again to the medical community. My last experience with the medical community was less than stellar. A well-intentioned doctor let me know in no uncertain terms that after the one-year mark, any meaningful recovery was over, and any gains to be had would be minimal at best. It was a harsh life sentence, it was discouraging, and it was wrong. I hold no ill-will toward this doctor as he was doing the best he could, though he was part of the TBI old school of recovery, one that is quickly being replaced by new science-based treatment.

Over the last few years, there is an emerging body of hard data—factual information—that brain injury does indeed continue for a lifetime. New treatment protocols are evolving for what is called “late stage recovery,” meaning recovery that is tangible even many years after an injury.

This brings me full-circle to our choice to reach deep into the medical community again. It is my hope that I’ll be able to tap into some of the newest information available and use it to continue my own recovery.

Gone is that feeling that a lifetime of recovery is something to be dreaded. A new hope has emerged that I can continue to make more gains, like the gains that have already come to pass over the last five years. I fully understand now that the brain is plastic, and not elastic. It won’t bounce back to where it was. Rather, as remapping continues, and neuroplasticity works its silent wonders, I will continue to grow, to evolve, and to become who I am supposed to be.

Comments (62)

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I have a nephew who had a tbi last year. I love him so much. His mom is taking care of him. He had a very hard life before his accident. He was a very heavy drug user. He remembers his old friends now and calls them. He is very loving and trusting. He sleeps with the "just" he says. He has no addictions now. However I am very concerned about his mom pushing hime to see old friends. Of course they tell him they are off drugs now. Some are I am sure. I know his mom is trying to keep him happy but you have to be careful with stuff like that. He is supposed to go to a tbi center and stay to help him more but he has not gone yet. Do you have any advice to help me help him and my sister? I am very concerned. Thanks. KDH

I could relate to this so much. It's been almost 8 years of recovery for me- a rollercoaster most of the time, mind you, but still recovery. Life is very full today and I am overwhelmed with gratitude more days than not. I had the opportunity to study abroad the summer of 2015, I graduated with a BA in education for early childhood through 6th grade this past summer, and got engaged to a wonderful man last Christmas. Life has played out in my favor in ways I had never even imagined. I truly believe the key is to stay positive and never give up. While reading your article I looked up the words aphasia and tinnitus. I most definitely relate to experiencing both pretty frequently, even today. Thank you for enabling me to expand my vocabulary!

This makes me want to cry, with happiness. I'm not alone with TBI. And to know there is hope for more improvement Also very informative. It's been a little over a year for me. Thank you for sharing!

The stories sound so familiar to mine. I was on a scooter victim of an illegal left hand turn SUV only 2yrs ago. Misdiagnosed and sent home with a TBI. I have also heard all the talk western medicine has to offer. This is your life now get used to it. I too came from professional position and not at all happy with no time line of recovery. One thing that did help with my speech, language, word finding was High Performance Neurofeedback. This is what they have been using on the NFL football players and it seems to be helping me. Dr Rozelle look him up, cranial sacral therapy with meditation is also working. What to do with Headaches, dizziness, balance, and back pain. though just had another round of epidural injections . I hope to find a replacement for these too. I am always looking for natural way to treat myself to get rid of the poisons they try and have you take.

I think I did read once you accept yourself and get rid of the anger and the questions why you can move on. Some people never get a second chance to recreate themselves.

I believe cranial sacral therapy saved me, along with eating sea vegetables and nutritional yeast, taking vitamins B12 and D3, as well as an alga supplement. Also, a gluten free diet has helped tremendously.

Every word you wrote about your past experiences was like a smash in my face. My name is Irene and I have been struggling ever since I became a 'survivor' of my Traumatic Brain Injury. I don't feel like a survivor, because everything that could go wrong in my rehabilitation process went wrong. Doctors never took my case serious, focused on the wrong symptoms. It feels like a never ending battle and I crave for some peace and quietness. 

Every day is a struggle and I'm still in the middle of the whole legal circus. I'm fighting on 3 fronts at once, I've been suicidal and what not, but thanks to the continues support from my husband I'm still fighting.  

For more info on me or my story I invite you to check out my story at Once again thank you for writing this down it sheds a small ray of light in the darkness that surrounds me. 

After reading I get hopes from my husband he is 11 months post TBI and faces same problems memory issue aphasia but things will improve and each day is new. Thanks for the write up its inspiring.

My husband is 13 years post TBI. After 4 months I was told to look for a personal care home placement for him as he wasn't going to get any better. It was like the Doctor drove a ram into my stomach. I was never one to accept that "the doctor knows everything" and so I fought to keep him in rehab and ongoing therapy. Today he still has memory issues and aphasia but made a full physical recovery except for loss of taste , smell and hearing in one ear. He learned to walk, talk, read and write and got his drivers license back after much hard work to pass the written test. We have traveled to many different places and have had a good retirement together, although it is certainly different than it would have been without the TBI. The medical community still tells people that a year is the end of improvement. We are sure there are still subtle changes occurring and encourage everyone to keep hopeful and don't ever think that there won't be any more improvement.

My husband David had a tbi January 20 , 2020 he's not in a coma anymore his doctor gave him a CT Kat scan he said my husband don't have anymore swelling or bleeding on his brain he opens his eyes every day but he just goes right back to sleep I don't know what that mean for my husband recovery he can't talk or walk yet an he has a feeding tube and a tract on his not giving up on my husband we have a beautiful 9 year old daughter she so sad she mis her dad so much we are keeping our faith in God.we can't even go an see him because he way out in Kenosha Bay at water's edge an we in Milwaukee WI I can't find a rehabilitation place that take the tract an feeding anyone out there with some words of encouragement an advice it would be very helpful. Thank u! God bless you.

Wow, what a great piece of writing that mirrors my own experience. My TBI was nearly 16 years ago, here in Switzerland & no-one even mentioned 'TBI' to me. Once I could use a computer again I found out on my own. No rehab, no great understanding, just 'go back to work & forget it'. After a seizure, insomnia & depression I'm unable to work and in a new place now. And I'm learning to like this place. The feeling of 'surviving the day' has gone. I'm fortunate that I didn't suffer much physical damage & my wonderful plastic brain continues to do its best to help me recover. I'm enjoying getting fit, walking my dogs & spending time with my daughter. Thank you 💚


Thank you for the thoughtful post. I, too, think the medical community needs help in improving the outlook for TBI survivors. After reading several memoirs and connecting with other survivors, I'm shocked and at a loss to know how terribly different my post-care was as a patient in Charlotte, NC. Obviously, my surgery and acute care were top notch, as I'm still here, but the after-care was awful. I'm hoping to group together with some people who have blazed this trail and bring better after-care options to those who need it. I'll continue to follow your posts and learn from you.

MH - 2 year TBI survivor

August 10,1980,age 19 and was riding on the back of a motorcycle that was hit by a car.I gave the police the phone number I had as a child in New York state but I was in Tucson,Az.Spent 6 weeks in the hospital.Was in a coma,paralyzed on my right side,couldn't speak,had aphasia something terrible and 2 big black eyes! I had to learn how to walk,talk,think,regain any kind of normalcy.It's been a long,hard fight and accepting the fact that I am different is still difficult.Many people don't understand the battle that is fought daily to be "normal".My temper is often tested;sometime daily and it's difficult to deal with.I feel blessed to have survived an accident that I should have died from but will have to deal with the aftermath forever.I feel blessed to be a survivor and now I know I am not alone.Thank you all for your posts