Living with a Traumatic Brain Injury

Meet a handful of people with brain injury who give courage and tenacity new meaning.

[♪mellow music♪] [Living with a Traumatic Brain Injury] Having a head injury ended my life, the way it was before. There were times when I thought it was just so absurd, so unfair, that I had some real moments of despair. The thing that I miss the most is having the capabilities and ability that I used to have. I was just in shock. Why am I here? Why am I speaking funny? Where am I? [female narrator] Anita, Zsche, Allen and Brian have had traumatic brain injuries or TBI. Almost a quarter of a million Americans are hospitalized every year with brain injuries. TBI can alter an individual's physical abilities. Even more devastating are the potential personality changes and loss of cognitive skills. People may have paralysis, they may have problems with speaking or understanding language, they may have problems with double vision, they may have difficulty with moving about. The most common problems that people have, and this stretches across mild to more severe brain injuries, are problems with thinking and problems with managing behavior or emotions. Even for people who have relatively mild brain injuries, they often have a more difficult time with thinking. They may think slower. It takes them longer to process information. They may have problems with their memory. Since I had a head injury, it doesn't take very much pressure to make my mind go blank. It just sort of shorts out and you can't think. And so I have to do a lot of things to sort of organize the way information comes in and control how much comes in so I don't get overwhelmed by too much at once. If I'm able to do that, then gradually I've been able to return to the kind of work I used to do, which is really important to me. [♪♪] You know all the people who are running the park? >>Yeah. [all laugh] [narrator] Four years ago, a car accident left Anita Kay with broken bones in her pelvis and lower back. [Anita] Being physically strong and athletic was part of my identity. The day before the accident, I ran around Discovery Park, for example. So it was hard to go in one day from someone who does that to someone who can't even stand up. [narrator] Anita regained much of her physical abilities through rehabilitation therapy and a lot of determined work. But she had a brain injury as well, and that has been the longest part of Anita's recovery. [Anita] I had no idea going in how long it would take, and I think it's really important for people to be realistic or to know they're in for a long haul. About nine months after my wreck, I had a neuropsych evaluation. The neuropsychologist said that with the kind of head injury I had, it could take four and a half years for it to be better. And I got very angry when I heard that. I thought he was a quack. I thought he didn't know what he was talking about. I was in complete denial, and I completely pushed that information away. [narrator] Anita was a health policy system analyst who worked with a lot of data. Immediately after the accident, she couldn't read and she couldn't do math. [male speaker] In traumatic brain injury, oftentimes there is damage to the neurons. And those neurons carry out our vital functions of thinking, of emotions and all of our physical behaviors. When there is damage to certain of our neurons, there's inefficiency in how the brain processes information. When I'm working on a problem in data analysis, in the past I could track mentally the steps in the process. Now it's difficult for me to do that, so I've had to change the ways I do my work. On a computer I open up a separate window and I write notes about each step that I go through even for sort of relatively simple processes because I can't trust myself to get a line of thought going again and hold it after I've been interrupted or follow it all the way through if it's really complex. [narrator] Learning to make adjustments and preparing to go back to work are part of rehabilitation. [Bell] There are people called vocational rehabilitation counselors who can help sit people down and work out what are they good at, what kind of work or productive activity is out there that they might be able to take their old skills and learn some new things and apply them to a new kind of work or a new kind of volunteer activity so that they can have productivity in their life and feel accomplished. [narrator] Answering those questions is the first step. Next is fitting an individual's new abilities into the workplace. [male speaker] Sometimes they're very, very marketable. And then also some things have to be worked around or in certain cases we're going to have to get resources and assistive technology and other kinds of things to help you work around your barriers. The job is going to have to be done differently procedurally, or we may have to modify the work station, or we may have to use a certain type of computer program to help you do the work better. They helped me work toward those goals, and they would adjust the therapies that would help me to develop abilities that would get me back to what I want. And those things for me again were to be able to go back to work, doing something like my former work, to be able to go back outside and enjoy athletics again. And so that helped a lot. I think support groups are helpful also. Hopefully it's a support group that really has a focus about optimizing community adaptation. But feedback from your peers, sometimes that's easier to accept from another person with a brain injury than even loved ones. [narrator] Anita continues to recover, continues to define the way she lives now. Recently after all the weather with all the big wind storms, I've been watching an osprey nest. There's a tall pole along Marine Drive. There's an osprey nest up there. So I've been watching a situation where roofs have blown off, trees have fallen over, all of this destruction, but that nest is still up there. And that's what I do now. It's like I want to look around me every day and find things that are an inspiration to keep going. [all laugh] [♪♪] [narrator] Traumatic brain injury happens when force is applied to the skull. What happens is that the force is transmitted through the skull, and the brain, which is a very soft material, kind of on the order of cottage cheese, gets this force applied to it and, not surprisingly, deforms, has bleeding, has swelling, and that ends up either destroying or at least partially damaging the neurons that make up the brain. It's ironic it's a fragile item. It's this three-pound substance with a nice tough skin-like covering. I love the Latin term for that. As someone with a tough Italian mother, I like the notion of dura mater-- tough mother is what protects it. And the cerebrospinal fluid protects it. The skull is very thick. It protects it. There's really a tremendous amount of protection, but there are also a lot of things that can go wrong in a severe traumatic brain injury. [narrator] The frontal lobes and temporal lobes are most vulnerable in any type of brain injury. Damage to those lobes affects a person's executive functions, including analyzing information, problem solving, decision making and much more. The temporal lobes overlie two really important deep structures within the brain, the hippocampus that's really important for memory and the amygdala that's very important for rage reactions. So people with temporal injury are often, or can be, quite irritable. People may say things very impulsively or may do impulsive things that they would not ordinarily do. They may not be able to manage outbursts of anger because that sieve that usually helps them to react more appropriately may not be working very well. So they may say or do something that they later regret. [♪♪] [narrator] Three years ago, Brian Morseberg was injured in a fight. He was in a coma for three months. When he woke up, he found he could barely communicate. [Brian] When I first came out of the coma, my speech was atrocious. You think it is hard to understand me now? You should have heard me when I first got out. [narrator] Through rehabilitation therapy, Brian has improved his speech. Because of his brain injury, he is learning a new way to live. [Brian] Before my injury, I was always negative and always looking at why life wasn't easier. And after the injury, I don't ask. I tell myself, "Make it easier! Work harder!" [narrator] A former high school dropout, Brian recently earned his diploma. I graduated in the year 1995, and they held my diploma for that long. [narrator] Brian's parents help him with his rehabilitation. [Brian] My dad works with me on some of the physical aspects of my recovery. And my mom, she works mostly with my mental and emotional comeback. [narrator] And his son makes him feel like a very special dad. It makes me feel like Superman. When I go visit him, I take my manual chair and get on the floor to play with him. He then turns in the chair and gets in it and says, "Hi! Hi!" And then when I'm sitting in the chair, he runs around behind and tries to push. And it's so funny! [narrator] For Brian, traumatic brain injury led to a life philosophy he hadn't experienced before. [Brian] I may sound different, look different, but I still matter. In my opinion, self comes from here and here. Even though this is not all the same, this is constant. [♪♪] [narrator] There are three main types of brain injuries: contusion, axonal injury and bleeding. The first one is contusion to the brain, which is essentially a bruising of the brain matter where there is some bleeding inside the actual body of the brain. Then there is a diffuse axonal injury. In the brain the neurons actually have very long stalks that travel through various parts of the brain. And if the brain is twisted, if there is any kind of torque placed on the brain, these very delicate fibers can twist and they can break. And that means that you can get damage that's widespread across a large portion of the brain from this twisting motion. And the third kind of injury that you can see with the brain is a large collection of blood which can happen if a blood vessel is injured in the brain or if the lining of the brain is torn so that you can have large collections such as subdural hematomas or subarachnoid hemorrhages. [narrator] Those injuries may be mild, moderate or severe. So I'm going to be doing a kitchen evaluation today to look at your safety in the kitchen. [Goldberg] In a mild brain injury, typically the person has not lost consciousness or has lost consciousness only for a very, very brief period of time. The prospects for recovery relatively rapidly are quite good. And within several weeks, a good number of people have recovered entirely. The majority of people will recover with a mild brain injury within several months to a year. When we get up into the moderate and severe injuries, the difficulties become accordingly much more significant. [narrator] Severe traumatic brain injuries are usually caused by a high speed impact followed by 24 hours or more of unconsciousness. The first stage of treatment is to get the person stabilized medically. [Goldberg] There is a host of things that need to be treated emergently to save the person's life. Once that person becomes medically stable, the second phase of treatment may start, and that is in rehabilitation. Maybe a message of hope for everybody who is trying to get back on their feet whether from mild, moderate or severe that the appropriate treatment can really make an important difference in how people cope and to not give up on getting that treatment. [♪♪] How many is it? >>Nine biscuits. Nine biscuits? Okay. So I'll get the milk out. [narrator] The success of treatment depends a great deal on the individual and of course on the nature of the injury. Another important factor is support from friends and family. [Pepping] Coping with this kind of injury is one of the toughest things any person could ever be asked to do because they're really coping with an alteration in such basic components of who they are as a person that it creates a huge challenge to their identity as a human being and their sense of meaning and value. It can challenge all of their roles within a family and in the community and in a workplace. Place on a surface generously sprinkled with Bisquick. Okay, so I've got the board over there for you. >>Okay. [narrator] It's been four years since Allen House crashed his motorcycle. His helmet saved his life, but it didn't entirely prevent brain injury. [Allen] The short-term memory comes and goes. When it goes, something else fills it up and then it goes, and it's hard to recall what was there before. And she has been very good in keeping me on track to do different things. She uses a computer to print out a list from our calendar that today is Tuesday and at 10:00 you walk the pups, at 11:00 you eat lunch and take a rest. So that gives me an idea of what her expectations are or what's on the schedule for the day. And sometimes I stick pretty close to that and sometimes I don't. [narrator] Allen always remembers that he loves his wife Arlene and they both love their pets. The strong bond they share has made it possible to work through the changes in Allen and in their relationship. [Allen] I was depressed because of the accident and how it had affected me, and I didn't want to be a burden. I know that I made her feel bad a lot. I found that the worst thing that I could do was say that I wish I was dead because she didn't like that. But it was a real thought that crossed my mind because I didn't feel good about myself at all. He certainly has gotten better. But it hasn't been all sweetness and light. It's been tough. But I think that for me personally, it's been a journey that I certainly didn't ask for, but we've done it together. It's one of the most daunting things to say to someone, "You've had all these injuries, physical and cognitive and behavioral, "and now you get to try to tackle the toughest set of symptoms you've ever had "with a compromise in your intellect or your memory or your attention "or your endurance or your speed." "But we still want you to try to get it fixed, and we want you to take a productive place "back in society and not be overwhelmed by what's happened to you." People may seem to have problems with get up and go. They have difficulty with initiating activities so that they look lazy. And it's not that they're lazy, it's that the brain is not giving them that impetus to do what needs to be done. They can tell you what they have to do, but getting to do it is a whole other story. [Arlene] While you're doing that, I'm going to see that the soup is cooking. >>Okay. [narrator] As Allen relearns the tasks of everyday living, there can be frustrating moments. I think I usually cope by banging my head against it or getting into it more to see if I can figure it out. And sometimes I can and sometimes I think, "Well, I guess I'll try that later." [Arlene] Sometimes, yeah, you just walk away from it. We do a time out and you just kind of walk away from it for a while. And sometimes I get tired of walking. >>Yeah. But I can usually tell, and I'll come in and distract him. For the family member, my main message to them in the course of the recovery is patience, is patience. Recovery from traumatic brain injury takes time and takes treatment but oftentimes time. Sometimes the families kind of take it on the chin because all of the frustration and maybe anger or disappointment that people have is sometimes directed at the people that they feel safest with, which are their family members. And it's important for families I think to understand this, to remember that a family's job is to provide love and support and to help someone get professional help but not to do it all by themselves. They can't carry the whole world on their shoulders. They have to get help. This is the timer, right there. >>Okay. [timer beeps] What did I say? Eight minutes? >>Yeah. [timer beeps] [Arlene] Ask for help. Ask people, ask your friends, because if you're not taking care of yourself, you're not going to be able to take care of your survivor, your loved one. Recovery is possible, and I think that's important for everybody to know, that as hard as it is, people get better, people get a lot better, and life doesn't stop after a brain injury. Join a group when you're ready. You have to be ready to do that. Join a survivor group or a support group, rather, to have other people to talk to. You have to talk to other people. To be exposed to other people and to learn about their injury and be able to compare it to other people. I think that's been very helpful to me. [♪♪] [Bell] Traumatic brain injury is an injury that really affects the whole person. It affects everything they do because your brain is who you are. I just wanted to prove to myself and the world that I still had something upstairs. So I read and played chess and just did mental things to try to prove to myself that I could still do it. [narrator] Twenty years ago, Zsche Nevar was a high school honor student in eastern Washington. [Zsche] I was riding in a car with my friend, and we were coming back from Lake Chelan headed to Wenatchee, and my friend bent down to get a tape, drifted into the oncoming lane and went off into the rough on the oncoming side, swerved back into the lane to hit the oncoming car head-on. [narrator] He was airlifted to the trauma center in Seattle for surgery then taken to Seattle Children's Hospital for three months of rehabilitation. That was occupational, speech, physical, all the therapies. I was partially paralyzed--I think they call it hemiparesis--on the left side, so I had to learn how to use my left side again, had to learn how to talk again, learn how to walk again, learn how to eat again. So there was a lot to do. [narrator] Zsche returned to high school and graduated with his class. As a student, it was discouraging to be intelligent but not always be able to demonstrate it. It was the typical symptoms of head injury like executive function problems like organizing and keeping track of things and focusing, stuff like that. And I would intellectually know stuff, memory permitting, but the actual application of those skills was holding me back. [computer game noises] [narrator] The physical effects of Zsche's brain injury are nearly invisible now. And that makes it harder for other people to understand his ongoing concerns. [Zsche] As you walk down the street, nobody looks at you and says, "Oh, he's head injured." "No wonder he's on social security disability." "Why doesn't he have a job? He seems fine to me." And that's part of the insidiousness of head injury is that nobody can look at you and say, "Well, he's got a broken leg. There's no way he could be a construction person anymore." Nobody really knows where your problems are or what your problem is. [narrator] Zsche began studying philosophy to help him move on and accept his new life. [Goldberg] If a person can learn the idea of accepting their difficulties, I think it reduces down their emotional difficulties with the injury. At the same time, acceptance by no means means not to participate in activities, including treatment, that might improve their situation too. Really it's just making a new life for yourself. It may sound dumb, it may sound glib, but you just find you're not the same person, so you've got to find things that interest you now, not the things that interested you at another time or as another person or before. There's one person I can point out that I worked with some time ago who was a fly fisherman, and his great delight before he had his brain injury was to tie flies, and they were beautiful works of art. After he had his brain injury, he no longer had the use of one of his arms, and it was very difficult for him to see what he was going to do in life because he could no longer work, there were many things he couldn't do and he couldn't tie flies. One day I walked into my office and went into an examining room, and the entire office was filled with canvases, beautiful oil paintings all around the office. And he was smiling and sitting there and saying, "Look! I love to paint!" So he found a new outlet that was just wonderful for his creativity and was a changed man. [narrator] With help there's more to life after a brain injury than simple survival. It's always a new beginning. You just keep going moment by moment or day by day and you dare to think that what you used to think was impossible might be possible for you to do if you just keep going. [♪♪]
Posted on BrainLine January 26, 2009.

From the University of Washington TV/Research Channel. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Comments (45)

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Hello, 9 years ago I was shot in the right side of my head; the bullet first went into my eye, causing left-sided paralysis. Let me tell you it does get better! I was not a Christian prior to my injury, but I am now! God saved my life!! Now I am living in my own apartment; God has shown me ways in which to handle the day to day things with only half a functioning body, although it’s sometimes difficult and frustrating I keep pressing forward. Now I’m 33 and I am finally living! Even with this disability I have done so much that doctors and others have told me was impossible, but as scripture states: nothing is impossible with God! He has been my hope and my salvation. I actively use this testimony to encourage others going through tough times. As Genesis 50: 20 says: “what man had meant for evil, God meant for good.” He had taken me away from living on the streets and being a full blown addict to become His daughter, off the streets and sober! And even though there was pain involved amid other difficulties; I would do it all again. Please friend I urge you turn from the ways of the world and turn to Christ!! Allow Him to change your life for the better, you won’t regret it; please understand that I’m not some bible thumping preacher trying to convert you; I just wanted you to read how God had changed my life during my brain injury on to today, it is amazing what can be done when you have God walking right by your side and the Holy Spirit residing in your heart

My daughter was 14 when a car hit her and had brain trauma. She had to relearn to do everything. Now at 29 yrs old, she is dependent on me her mother had two kids and a boyfriend. But things didn't work out cuz in her brain all she wants to have male friends nothing else matters. I'm worried that I die what will happen to my daughter? Her boyfriend took the kids. I just hope and pray.

7 years ago, my husband fell 45 ft and lived. He was in a medicated coma for the first month. He broke both his legs, suffered 2 TBI’s, Frontal lobe and brain stem. He lost sight in his left eye and his right foot was amputated. He also spent 9 months in an in-house rehab facility. He only wanted to learn to walk and did not participate in any activities. He was an extremely active alpha male with very little filter. Now he says things, to me, that are very hurtful. We are moving to TN in a few weeks and I am hoping that him being able to be more active will make him less cranky. He is only 56. Will he be happier or will it just get worse? He will not go to any doctor. He thinks he has seen enough. He takes no medication or is willing to take any. As his wife, I cannot convince him to do anything that might make life less miserable. How can I deal with him and not lose my mind? My daughter was extremely affected by his accident. I can’t get either of them to go for mental health help. Whether it be talking or taking medication. I am at a loss. Neither believe that anyone has dealt with issues that they had to deal with. I am at a loss. Any helpful suggestions would be appreciated.

I’m 44yrs old and I suffered a TBI with a concussion. I fell over 9’ and smashed the right side of my head on concrete. I had a major artery burst inside my head between my skull and brain. I cracked my skull open enough they used the opening to fix my artery. I don’t remember anything from the accident. It happened on 8-23-19 and I immediately went into a seizure and almost died. My co worker saved my life. I was fortunate enough to awake knowing my family members and able to walk and talk. I’m no suffering ringing in my ears,severe migraines,memory loss,eyes tearing up for no reason other than watching tv or my computer and phone. I struggle with remembering to eat I need a cane to help me walk around for balance. I get aggravated and agitated easily. I was hoping to be recovered by now but my symptoms are getting worse. I just started getting ringing in my ears and most recently I had a seizure with my 7yr old daughter in the car. Fortunately we were at a red light when it happened. I get fatigued easily and I was a very active person before my accident. My thoughts are mostly negative and angry. I’m depressed and full of pain throughout my body. Is this the life I have to look forward too? The migraine headaches are severe. Since the accident this is my 2nd seizure after 44 years of never having one. I’m unemployable and now unable to drive for 6 months. I guess I’m looking for something to give me hope that things will change for the better or are my symptoms normal for a severe TBI. My memory is awful my cognitive skills as well. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

I completely understand your feelings and am coming up on the two year anniversary of my injury.

The thing that's helped me the most has been talking to a neuropsychologist experienced with chronic pain (Dr. Phil Appel, he does video visits). He introduced me to the book The Power of Now, and I listen to it on a slower speed. The author Eckhart Tolle also has a bunch of YouTube videos.

Make sure you're getting lots of sleep and taking medication if you need help falling and staying asleep. I also wear ear plugs, an eye mask, run a fan, and stay cool at night.

An antidepressant can also help to get out of these hardest months.

Lastly, I feel a million times better when I drink lots of water and eat a whole foods plant based diet. I only eat homemade food and cook everything from scratch -- no boxes, preservatives, MSG, flavorings, fillers, etc. Check out

Sending you healing energy

They will vary at times, you will have good and bad days. My husband had TBI 3 years ago & has very similar situation as yours. He gets aggravated too at not being able to do what he used to & he also has to remember to bring a cane for his balance. Eyes , Ears he has a hearing aid (3 yrs after TBI ) be patient with yourself & try to keep positive helps. Wish you well

1973 I fell from a 2 story window and landed head first on cement patio. I shattered the left side of my skull and lost my two front baby teeth. I was only 5. I have long term issues now I cannot even start to mention. I had a good life, but at the age of 30. I began to fall apart. I need a doctor who will listen to me and help

It is good to know we are not alone.
My history of head injury is substantial as well.
Fortunately all were closed brain.
From rolling down the stairs and cutting my head on a beer bottle. Age 2.
To cracking the windshield with my head on return from my drivers test during a car accident as a passenger when a 87 year old driver died at the wheel and hit us head on. Age 16. To being knocked unconscious as a friend fell asleep at the wheel hitting a parked car and knocking it over 30 feet. Age 22. At age 26 I took the mensa test - passed it. So tbi has not affected my intelligence.
But it does create emotional inconsistencies. My most dominate being myself diagnosed disinhibition. Followed 2ndly by critical recall of info, most often I eventually get it.
Things that helped me IMHO - I am not giving advise BUT stating history.
Lots of list making & goal setting. Writing everything down. More than one fellow at college found my notes were better than going to class. Self help gurus Earl Nightingale and Tony Robbins methods are excellent tools for those of with limited critical recall. I started taking Msm at age 45. I have several electro current devices that calm me. Including microcurrent & pemf. But not Tens.
I limited my stories to just 3, I have 7 more just as “impactful” to my skull. I have survived, and thrived. You can too.
The hardest rule, be kind to yourself. Rule number two, talk about it with your friends. Keep trying. Set goals. Enjoy things - find that security blanket. At age 60 I mastered the Rubiks cube. Patterned learning. I work hard at extreme sudoku - average time 25 minutes.
To quote the Sunscreen song - The race is long and in the end, it's only with yourself. Study all the lyrics to that song, it’s just a good tonic.
Oh, and be careful at there.....

Can I use these stories to my presentation? I will leave a source on my PPT

I fell from the top shelf of my house’s kitchen when I was 3 years old. I remember being in the hospital while they were stitching my forehead.
My hard working single mom never followed me up to see if my head was ok. My mom said I had a couple more mild accidents involving my head. I was ok in middle school, until I turned 11. Then, after that, I kept feeling like I was being left behind. By 8th grade I was one of the most bullied kids in high school. I kept messing things up, incoherences happened to me all the time. I knew I had something wrong. Nobody could tell what. One teacher told my mom that I was not supposed to be in that school. That means everyone knew about my condition. Everyone turned a blind sight as years went by. I was always the person people would take advantage of. I struggled went to a University. Struggled the hell out of it. Still nobody could give me a hand. I kept thinking I had a disability but how I could explain it?. I isolated myself. I moved to my grandma’s house who at that time was dying from cancer. I graduated. Barely, after 6 years of over studying in order to not distract myself or losing information. I couldn’t have real friends, nobody would trust me because I would reflect so many insecurities. I went looking for jobs but nobody would hire me. I ended up getting mediocre jobs who would take advantage of me every single time, I have been fired more times than I can count with my hands. I moved out of my country, angry and disappointed. I came to the US. And guess what, same story. Multiple dismissals. Depression, anger, anxiety. Hospitalization for depression. Nobody would help me but myself. I went to the doctor after seeing a documentary against Adderall and ADHD. And fell identified with the symptoms. I wouldn’t care about the side effects. I got it prescribed. And my life changed. I was 29 years old. I lost my twenties, my teens, friendships, multiple opportunities. Not too long ago I wanted to confirm how underrated my life has been. I have an IQ of +140. Yikes. So much wasted potential. The tons of things I imagined that I could’ve done but didn’t figure out how to achieve because of my neurological blockage and trauma could’ve been someone different. A traumatic brain injury causing ADHD was my eternal scar. Is my stigma, my loss. My life. Now a year after and a half the discovery. I lay depressed, with PTSD. And somehow I look like am 23. Confused and reborn.

This post looks like it has been written by me. The difference is my age; I am 45

i belive that this story is the closes thing to my life that i have ever read about it is my words exactly
i can not add anything , i will say this my injury happening when my sick brother threw me into a studd wall at age of 5 years old then my head went threw a windshield at age of 14 years old with other head injurys your Story has motivated me to get on some meds. thank you.

Wow. Seems like a mirror of my life. I hate myself

Within 9 years I suffered 4 Trumatic brain injuries two of which the doctors thought I would never survive. The first injury that I sustained was in the late summer of 2001 while waterskiing , I fell on my face breaking my jaw and having a bad head concussion along with ligament & muscle tears to my right hip. By the winter of 2002 my doctors had given me large doses of steroid injections to my back injuries & multiple combinations of drugs for pain, mult forms of anxiety, sleep deprivation, etc. etc. This was the beginning of the end for me. By Thanksgiving vacation I was on so many meds that at 2pm in the afternoon in freezing weather, wearing nothing but house clothes, I became confused and disoriented and wandered out my back door and into Deschutes National Forest. Apparently I had stumbled and fallen down multiple times due to the many contusions I had on the back of my skull. By 8 o’clock the next morning when I didn’t show up for work there was a search and rescue party sent out to look for me. I wasn’t found till that afternoon. When they found me I was in respiratory and coronary failure. I had been pronounced dead at the scene but because I was making gurgling Sounds they began rescue CPR I was later told that the doctors believed that if I did survive, I could possibly be a vegetable because they had no idea how long my brain had been without oxygen. My kidneys and liver had failed.....creating a state of acidosis.....few people survive. The temperature that night had dipped down to single digits and the side of my body that was laying on the ground had solidified my blood. Trying to get my blood thinned out without blowing a clot to my lungs they thought was nearly impossible but somehow I managed to get through it and I survived. Recovery was long and slow lasting nearly a year and a half. My short term memory was extremely impaired and I had emotional problems stemming from the brain injury. I was forced to retire from my nursing position because the possibility of putting a patient at risk due to mathematical errors in calculating drug dosages was to great a risk. I never went back to work again. In 2005 a friend and myself headed out to the desert for a horseback ride. An hour into the ride we encountered a sick and dying mountain lion that had stumbled out onto the trail not too far in front of us. I remember nothing after that. Apparently my horse went totally berserk and I ended up on the ground underneath him and he stomped on my forehead cracking my skill wide open in the front, Just barely missing my temporal artery. The friend I was with just happened to have an Ace bandage In her saddle bag. She wrapped my head wounds tightly and took off racing for home to call for a air life helicopter. My cell phone unfortunately was in my saddle bag but my horse had made it back home in record time. I sustained a profound head concussion and stitches nearly the length of my forehead. “Air to the brain....Never the same!” That was head trauma three. By this time my marriage was becoming unhinged due to the changes in my personality. I had outburst of anger and rage because my active lifestyle had turned into a life of #1 couch potato in the family and I could not stand it another minute. I suffered from social anxiety and spent most of my time home alone becoming more and more depressed and my husband becoming more and more abusive because all of these head injuries had changed me and changed our relationship forever. In 2010 A domestic argument led to the physical struggle over a gun I had in my nightstand that was loaded. Unfortunately that bullet ended up going through my frontal sinuses between the eyes, leaving shattered pieces of bone into my brain. By the time I was brought to the hospital I barely was alive from loss of blood but they took me into surgery removing all of the pieces of bone and putting a plate in my forehead to repair the damage from the bullet. I was in the hospital ICU for two weeks and for a total of two months. My husband by this time was served a restraining order and for the first time in years I was able to start to rest, heal and work on getting my life in order. When I read medical articles about Trumatic brain injuries and see which ones apply to me it’s sad to think that I could probably check most of them off. I happily remarried and my husband does a great job of keeping me on task because without his help my functioning from day to day would be nearly impossible. I’m easily distracted, I’m exhausted most of the time because of the extreme amount of physical energy it takes to think and move and multitask. I have one girlfriend that has gotten me through so much by being there for me emotionally but outside of that I am socially inept. I have anxiety leading to panic attacks being around people, my memory is the worst, reading recipes just to cook can take hours whereas before it would take me 15 to 20 minutes to throw something together for dinner. Now my husbands dinner menus are pretty limited as to what I can do myself. I used to have so many hobbies now my interests hold no real enthusiasm for me anymore, everything seems bland, boring, and depressing. I do have a psychiatrist I see every 4 to 6 weeks since the day I was admitted in 2010 and he sets me straight when I start becoming too negative about things or I don’t understand the things that people say to me. Unfortunately freezing to death in 2002 changed my personality but it also brought on massive arthritis in practically every one of my joints connected with Cartledge and I’ve averaged two surgeries a year since 2002 getting artificial joints. All the joints in my fingers have been replaced. I had my left knee joint replaced and the joint in my Big toe was operated on six times before they finally just amputated it. They have done nerve ablation‘s in my neck and low back and I have had five surgeries on my shoulders. I know there will be more and I have to mentally prepare for those. But I do believe that against all odds I did survive for a be able to help those people who are going through physical and emotional health issues by supporting them and letting them know that even though it seems hard at the time and overwhelming there is always a little glimmer of hope Just around that corner.... we just have to believe and to look for it. In these last nine years I have been able to find things in life that bring me joy that I never used to give much thought to before and the things that are most important to me now are the people that I love and that love me.

In February 2011, I was in a severe car accident. I had a 10% chance of survival the first night. My injuries were shattered femar, elbow ankle, bones in the forearm, eye socket, internal bleeding in my pancreas & liver, broken jaw. my ear was hanging on by only a 1/2 inch of skin, & a skull fracture. Obviously, I shocked my doctors & beat that 10%. I now have metal & pins in all the places I said were shattered after many surgeries that caused other problems like my right tear duct no longer working & nerve damage in the right side of my face due to going through my sinuses to duck out bone fragments in my face, my left eye socket is now metal, my ear was saved though they said I'd never hear out of it, I only have 30% hearing loss, internal bleeding stopped on its own, I was told I'd likely never walk again (4 months in a wheelchair, 2 months with a Walker, 1 more with a cane & I'm fully able to walk with only a slight limp. Due to all these injuries, I was put into a two week medically induced coma so my body could heal as much as possible before the surgeries started. I was in a morphine haze until the end of my nearly two-month hospital stay. I had a trachea so I couldn't communicate much but by chance my doctor had me follow his light on his pen with my eyes (a week before I was released to a physical rehab hospital for a month) & he realized that my eyes were going in opposite directions & thus the TBI was discovered & after some scans revealed I had damage to my left frontal lobe as well as other places, but that was where the main & most significant damage occurred. I was basically told they wouldn't know how much it'd affect me in day to day life until I was not in a hospital setting with all four limbs casted or bandaged up (144 staples & 24 stitches total). The physical rehab place was a joke. It catered to elderly folk who broke a bone, not to a 22-year-old with metal in all four limbs that couldn't even fit up when I arrived. They could only get me strong enough to learn how to get from my bed to my wheelchair or portable toilet. But they took horrible care of me in every other way. Took my staples out 4 weeks too late so my skin had healed around them, so all 144 had to be dug out of my skin, they changed my catheter ONCE the whole 6 weeks o was there & only because I wouldn't stop complaining that even though I had a catheter that urine was still leaking onto the pad I had to lay on. They didn't believe me even though I couldn't get out of bed & there were yellow wet spots on the pad. The day I was released when some nurses aide removed the catheter there was pink in my urine & the tube she pulled out was covered in blood, she just kinda looked at it & threw it away with no mention in my chart (had to have an outpatient surgery due to the infections caused due to their negligence) & the pad was there for when I needed to poop & its already humiliating having strangers wiping your bum after a bowel movement but they'd make faces & my mom would have to reclean me when she'd come because they never cleaned me thoroughly. This has turned into a story of poor treatment. Sorry. Once I was walking again & didn't have constant care, I was so impulsive. I put myself in very risky, dangerous situations. 10 mins after making a decision, I'd think to myself "wtf were u thinking?!" because the decision was to do bad. The part of my brain that turns short term memory into long term is damaged so I remember things from 3 years old but not what I ate for lunch two days ago. I say whatever pops into my head without thinking it through. I interrupt people when I think of something because I have to say it immediately even if you're talking. Still impulsive but not nearly as bad. Decision-making skills are poor. I now have severe anxiety, worse social anxiety. I have a few OCD tendencies about certain things. I could not focus for very long or complete a task before starting a new one, but I'm now on medication that helps tremendously. Sometimes it's hard to think. I know the answers are there, like on the tip of my tongue but the best way I can describe it is my thoughts are slippery inside my head & just when I'm grasping a thought, it slips through my fingers. I'm more depressed than I was before TBI. No one in my family understands or has tried to understand until my dad recently after 11 years of watching me make bad decisions, not be who I was before, etc. I'm raising a 12 & 7-year-old on my own & besides reminding me constantly about school projects, functions, or homework & the need to go to the dentist or eye dr. I'd say I'm doing pretty well because I have two well behaved, respectful, considerate, compassionate, loving kids. They get annoyed with me sometimes for forgetting things, but I put notes everywhere around the house & on my phone to help with my forgetfulness. I just wish I had people in my life understand & realize how hard things they take for granted are for me to do. My emotions are affected a lot with nothing to set me off, out thr blue feelings every few months that last too long to not affect my life & my kids. But that's my story. I'm 33 now & have had to co.e up with ways or tricks to handle the things that are affected due to TBI but it was a hard 11 years figuring it out & I still dont have it all close to figured out.

Hi my daughter suffered a frontal lobe Tbi 12 years ago and has struggled every since. It was no where as severe as yours however her mental health has declined severely. It’s being treated as a psychiatric condition and the meds prescribed are not that effective. May I ask what medication you are on?

Thank you for sharing your struggle. It sounds like you have a lot figured out in my opinion. The notes and visual aids are good! What really helped me with all of that was a structured routine. I made a routine that forced me to check all of my notes daily lol. I was so bad with note and reminders that I would forget to use them. I called myself and left myself voicemail instruction. I finally setup a structure and routine using outlook calendar and pop up reminders. It worked so well that I started to rebuild a new life around routine, goals, tasks and self awareness. I have had an additional TBI since my first one and having the routine has accelerated my recovery and helps me stay positive. The hardest part about TBI after the event is over, people do not see your injuries and in my case, I don’t want them to. Please keep sharing your success stories and any tricks you find that work for you! God bless,

Your story - as sad as it is - made me feel so much better. I have frontal lobe damage as well and everything you said is spot on. May I ask what medications you take?

When I was 16 (2004) I fell off of our roof (15ft) and hit head first on concrete. I was in a coma two weeks and life support for one week. I had to learn how to walk and talk again. I tried and still try to ignore symptoms because physically I look normal and I don't want to use it as a crutch. I joined the Army at 22 made it through the clearing process and finished my contract out with no issues. I used my GI Bill and got my Bachelor's Degree. I kept so many feelings to myself and decided to see a doctor to save my relationship because my mental health was/is a mess. My depression and anxiety hit me so hard some days it's hard to function and I have really bad mood swings. I also have bad tinnitus and trouble sleeping. I'm just really scared because I need to take care of my family and I know I have to take care of myself as well and don't know if everything is going to be ok.

It's good to hear that other people have a few of my problems and how they live with them. I'm 58 years old and approximately 30 years ago I wrecked my motorcycle and hit my head on something at about 80 mph. I got a helicopter ride to the hospital and spent 6 months in a coma. All I can remember is the exit ride from the hospital in a wheelchair. A nurse was pushing and my mom was next to me. I still have to laugh at when I got to the exit door still in the wheelchair I looked to the right and looked to the left and asked my mom where is my motorcycle ? She told me you can't ride it right now it has a flat tire. And anyways I had to go to a rehab center so I could learn how to do a lot of things all over again. I was in rehab for another 6 months. By the time I came home everything was new to me and I mean EVERYTHING. I was doing good for approximately 10 years with no problems that I could tell. And then I came up with a seizure disorder that really rocked my boat. It was hard to accept. Very hard. And seizures are very bad for your brain. Make sure you take your pills. About 15 years ago I'm pretty sure that I was pushed from a balcony and I landed on my head. This time I was in a coma for 3 months. My seizure disorder was much worse than before. So far the doctors and paramedics have had to use the paddles and jump start me back to life 6 times. It's hard to keep going sometimes. Poor memory. Depression. Loneliness. I found out that a man that called himself a doctor here in Bristow Oklahoma is really a veterinarian. Yes it is hard to keep going sometimes.

Gil, Resources are available for you and your family -- especially given your service in the military. One of these orgs may be a good place for you and your family:

Cohen Veteran Network & Military Family Clinics

Military One Source
Military OneSource is a free service provided to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns including money management, spouse employment and education, relocation, deployment, reunion, and the particular concerns of families with special-needs members.

Veteran 2-1-1

I'm writing this in search for some sort of study that specializes in TBI or trauma and the aftereffects.

My son has seen every kind of specialist there is for the many physical issues that he has. He has chronic pain in his neck sometimes causing severe headaches and now has GI problems that are debilitating — also high blood pressure. No doctor can diagnose him. He has been tested for everything including infectious disease and rare disease. Hep A, chrones, all those stomach diseases. Prolotherapy, massage, chiropractors, ortho, pain management, neuro, cervical epidurals, acupuncture. There's more I just can remember it all. We have spent so much time and money trying to live with his pains. And still nothing. No diagnosis. I need to find someone that can help. There has to be someone out there that can figure this out. Please help. Thank you. Here's our short story:

My 17-year-old son (now 23) suffered a TBI while playing high school football. He's pretty good now after a long time rehabilitating. He was on life support and then a breathing machine as he also ended up with pneumonia and pneumothorax because they had no idea that his lungs had collapsed. He was bedridden and couldn't talk or get up on his own. I had no idea what the outcome would be. He then suffered a DVT in his left arm and neck (the jugular). This was from being in bed not moving. Six years later my son is about to get his BA at San Marcos state. He has come a long way.

Please look into chiropractic for your son. Mine had ear infections, tonsillitis, GO problems and neck pain. Until we discovered he had upper cervical subluxations and started him seeing a chiropractor that use the Gonstead Chiropractic Method. Literally ALL his problems have corrected themselves. Please look into it. Your brain uses your nervous system to relay messages to run your whole body. If it can’t, things don’t work right.

Did he get tested for Chiari Malformation?

I was tboned with my car totalled in 2016. I recently found out i have severe tbi. My way of getting through each day has been gratitude. I also think of small tasks the night before that i can accomplish the next day. I do not put my mind and focus on what i cant do. Its what i can. Being gentle and loving to myself first and having a value approach to life. God bless

My daughter was in a auto accident back on Father’s Day 2015. It’s definitely life changing for her and all of us. She was 10 years old at the time with no issues and now at 14 she is still unable to walk, speak or be independent with any normal task. The hardest part is not having a clear path or a for sure answer on what to do or where to go or if she will ever be able to speak to us again.

Hi all,

On 31st July 2018 my husband who is 55 years old was on his mountain bike riding on the road coming around a roundabout and just a matter of 2 minutes away from home when this car overtook another car and went straight into my husband. All he remembers is hitting the bonnet, the windscreen, seeing a car wheel, then nothing. Luckily for him, he was right by his doctor's surgery and a district nurses station, so he was attended to within minutes. All I was told was that he was out cold for 8-10 minutes. He came around in the ambulance but didn't know his name, where he lived, where he was, where he'd been, where he was going or what had happened.  Luckily again he had his passport in his jeans pocket.

The police came for me and as we were on our way the hospital parked at traffic lights, one of the policemen jumped out of the car over to another car parked at the lights, lights changed so off we drove. I asked "are you not waiting for your mate?" and his reply was to "that's the car that's just hit your husband, she left the scene telling people she will meet the ambulance at the hospital," but she had no intention of doing that as this was 1 hour after the accident. My husband had not even come around and she drove off but her reg was taken.

His injuries were severe head injuries. The doctor explained that when he landed his heads hit the road and exploded. Tthere were bits missing but they had stitched him up the best they could. He had 4 internal stitches and 24 external. It looks like a round spiders body with 4 legs. They had to drag his scalp to join up so its bumpy. Also he had a broken rib .

The main problems started when he got home. He has no feeling in his lower back, buttocks and the top of his legs, no feeling of when he needs to go and use the toilet. He's staggering and slurs his words every so often as if he is drunk. He's depressed but is denying it. His eyes seem to roll in his head now and then. He's nasty and angry. I can't talk to him.

What makes matters worse is that he is my carer. I suffer from mental health issues plus other health issues and it's putting a real strain on our 20-year marriage. He tells me he hates me and for me to get out. He doesn't want me anymore and because of the way I am it's making me worse.

I don't know what to do. He's had another cat scan and the bleeding on his brains stopped. I've been reading up and it said he might never recover fully.

I don't think our marriage will survive.

Sorry my post is so long .

I'm actually the brain injured one in my relationship and related to your husband. I know it's my mental health issues that cause the outbursts. I tell my wife the same things and she has done nothing but be there for me and encouraged me to get help. Alot of feelings get suppressed because I am embarrassed of my actions. Just hope things get better for you guys and that you can figure it out.

Hi Liz,
Please hang in there. I had an injury like your husband, unfortunately pribably worse but frim what you said in your post we sound similar. I am about 5 years post injury and my wife was there during my recovery. He Sounds like he is doing the same things that i was doing. Telling her I hated her because of XYZ (whatever the reason, just fill in the “xyz” with anything) . It made complete sense to me back then, but i dont remember now what or why I was saying any of that . There is one thing I can tell you to do for sure. Not in a mean or condescending way, but more of a documenting recovery fashion , video record interviews with him on a weekly basis. Do this OR almost better, have HIM interview himself, ot just give a basic recount of everything that is going on in his life that day and/or the past week. Almost like a weekly video diary. When he looks back after time he will be able to view himself as an outsider and realize how much you have been there for him and how much he has come along. I cant promise you anything, but I am so so so so appreciative that my wife hung in there. Im not sure i would have done the same for myself. Here is the silver lining- he will inprove, outbust will subside but it is a longer (unfortunately) slow process., Also, he will be able to view himself through an “invisible mirror”, where now it might not reallt seem possible to you. i could not do this close in time to my TBI. If you have calm collective interiveiws with him on video , he will be able to view them later as he improves. This will also make him happier to see his improvement , even though right now he will most likely say things like “I’m fine! (I did).
Also, I would recommend going to counseling (physchatrist/ physologist) who has alot of experience dealinf wiht traumatic brain injuries, they will help tremendously and know what you are goinf through and help YOU (and him , of course).
Best of luck to you guys.

I hope you & your husband make it!

In 2015 within 6 months of each other I had three TBI’s. I slipped on some ice on our deck and fell backwards hitting my head severely. A month later I was rear ended and again hit my head. Then two months later I was on a fishing trip bent down to pick up something I dropped and stood up. According to my two friends I suddenly fell backwards and hit my head in the same area as before, only this time I lost consciousness and did not come to until the next morning. I do not remember anything other than bending down. By the time we left three days later I could barely walk, talk or keep my balance or put together a sentence. I ended up having to take an early retirement and go on disability. I had been an accomplished artist but found I could no longer remember how to draw. After nearly four years I have relearned most of my daily skills but still struggle on most days. People look at you and think nothing is wrong. But they do not see how much you have to struggle to remember words, let alone put them in a sentence. They do not see how much of a struggle daily living is. I have learned to draw again but not nearly as well as before, but at least I can. No longer can I sit for hours working on a piece but instead I do several minutes until my eyes cross or I get fatigued. I am very grateful I have come so far but it has been a long, long journey. I thank God, my wife and all my friends for all their support. Without it I don’t think I could have come as far as I have.

I was in a bad car wreck in 2006. My brain split apart and I have a cyst in the middle of my brain. I can't drive, live alone, work or have a normal life but I'm still here. I was told I was paralyzed from my neck down but I'm not. I cook now and remember things. Doctor's gave my parents no hope of me living or when I did they said I would never walk. I've been told I was probably gonna have seizures but it's been 12 years and not one. I was a new baby at 20 years old. I had to relearn everything all over from walking, feeding myself, dressing, and even wipe my own butt. I have gone through a lot but I'm still not stopping

Your story is very similar to my daughter's who also had an auto accident in 2006. She was 19 yrs old when on her bike (w/o helmet) she was hit by a car — five months in the hospital w/lots of rehab needing to relearn all — now living at home, but working p.t. in father's office. She doesn't like to talk about where she has come from and what she has accomplished; it makes her depressed. But she keeps pushing forward. I would love to see her have more joy in her life. Your ability to describe your progress is admirable. Keep on moving on!

My first brain injury was when I was a year old I fell two stories on concrete. They did know about traumatic brain injury back in 72 my eyes swelled and the doctors told my parents that I'd be lying in that I could see if they can find it cuz they couldn't find my eye but I was not I didn't start wearing glasses until I got older for reading. But back in 2001 I got into a car accident and I was in coma for three and a half weeks and had to learn to do everything all over again I was exactly the same because I always had traumatic brain injury this one just made things a little bit more harder for me. And in 2010 we moved to New Mexico which they hit me five times within a year-and-a-half and all those accidents just made my somatic brain injury worse. But like I tell people it is what it is

Years ago I was beat into a coma
Had learn how do everything over again
Off balance, difficult sleeping, depression, thoughts of suicide, I tried go college but I couldn't do it (concentration) short-term memory loss, mood swings, I just learning how to deal with it. Good thing I live on my, I can cook, I was raised in church I remember everything

In 2003 I had T.B.I brain injury to my head my head smashed the windshield and I had a bump behind my head, a cut and I lost consciousness, I have arthritis in my right leg, lower back, and I have pain on both sides of my jaw and behind my ears.

I have TBI had a serious trauma event I was comatose on life support. I certainly have issues but I’ve adapted well as a matter of fact I’m proud of how I’ve adapted. I wish though the stigma associated with these disorders would go away

I was 22 when I had a severe TBI. I’ve had 33 surgeries over the past 13 years. I was in a coma for 2 months and in the hospital for a year. I tried to work and go back to who I was, it took time, but I discovered I would never be the person I once was. It was terrible in a lot of ways, but it also changed my life in the better for the most. The main thing is I’ve learned to appreciate life and everyday I’m given. I’m now in an electric wheelchair at the age of 35 with 2 teenagers but I continue learning new ways to continue and I even started a nonprofit this year called Arrive Alive giving rides to people who have been drinking. Driving is the only thing I can do between the TBI and physical problems, but I get enough in donations to get by and still feel like I have self worth. It took me a long time to get here, but it can be done. I wasn’t married and never did. I also had no living parents. With the help of my team I learned how to find recourses and that has also been great for helps others who have become disabled and don’t know what to do or where to turn.

Klair, I also have had several TBI's and you happened to type your blog on my birthday. I am now struggling with what I plan to do for my future and I am currently working with a team of others to come up with this. My brain injury causes me not to find pleasure in anything anymore.
I wanted to let you know that I was not only encouraged by your message but you are amazing. Keep blessing others with your God given gifts.

I had a severe TBI at age 16, was in a coma for 44 days, lost my sense of smell, my lung collapsed and I have the worst memory ever. I get depressed all the time. Is there any hope or help...?
My future is ruined bc I can't even remember people that I meet and that know me

I know what u going through I had a car wreck n 04 hit by a drunk driver I was n a coma two months couldn't breath on my own I have brain injury I have to live with it to stan

I had a tbi at age 5. Now I'm 73 still living with repercussions of that injury, and dealing with how it is affecting the normal aging process.

I had a tbi at age 5 also , but Now I’m 20 years old. And my life feels worthless . I’m like Trap in my own mind .. what should I do ?

Hello Yvonne, I too am living with life after TBI's. The experiences I had working previously in nursing were with some people who were living with Alzheimer's had previously at some point in their life had a head injury (different degree of TBI's) I have always wondered if I would be a victim this is not a proven fact but it does happen. Just curious are you dealing with any issues with this disease. I am currently attending workshops on this topic as well. May your future be blessed.

I had a bicycle accident at 11 yrs old myself and suffering from the results from my surgery -- pain in my head, memory, cognitive issues relating to impulses.