Traumatic Brain Injury - My story
My helmet was broken, and probably saved my life. I was given morphine for the pain, and transported via ambulance to San Francisco General Hospital. There I was given an MRI, where it was determined that no severe bleeding was occurring. They kept me for several hours for observation, and released me to my wife around 7 PM. I don't remember much for the first few days after, and my brother came out from Tennessee to help.
I saw my primary care physician about a week after the accident, and was given another MRI, and a referral to see a neurologist. I was having double vision, and vertigo, along with much confusion. The double vision subsided after about a week or so, but the vertigo continued several months. I could turn my neck a certain way, and the room would start spinning.
The neurologist I saw advised me to return to work, to "use my brain", after a very short time away from work. I really noticed that I had changed drastically when I went back to work. Everything was confusing to me, and I had to constantly ask for clarification, even though I was just given an explanation. I would get distracted all too easily, and would forget what I was doing even when just going to the bathroom and back. Someone could walk by, and I would start talking to them, and then be following them to the other side of the building, forgetting about work I needed to do.
I had to ask for accommodations at work, which were given, but I was still having issues getting things done. I had trouble starting tasks, and deciding what to do and how to do it. I was trying to do the same things I had done before, without changing my approach. I was banging my head into the wall, getting more and more frustrated, worried that I couldn't do my job. I became angry and enraged at times, and depressed. I had problems reading, and had to read something over and over again, and still not get it. I felt like I was connected to the world, and yet somehow in my own "Bubble".
I felt connected to everyone and everything, and was much more compassionate and forgiving towards others. I felt a sense of euphoria most of the time for the first year or so. Everything was new to me, and everything was right in the world. I now noticed every tiny detail of the world around me, and became significantly aware of the people around me. I became much more sensitive to sound, which made me much more aware and distracted by my surroundings.
Before the accident, my eyes were pretty sensitive to light. After the accident, I found that I could tolerate much more light, and didn't find the need to wear sunglasses.
After working for about a year after my accident, I went to see Dr. Mary DeMay at UCSF for a consultation, and she gave me a neuropsychological exam. She determined that I had a Traumatic Brain Injury. She was concerned that I had gone back to work too soon, and advised that I go on disability before I lost my job. I was having what was called "Executive Functioning" problems, and was having trouble focusing and paying attention, making decisions or following through on tasks. I had trouble communicating. I could think of what I wanted to say, but it wouldn't come out right, and I was much slower in getting my point across. I was also having bad headaches, and would get very fatigued, quickly and easily. I could only work on issues that required thinking for a short time, before getting fatigued. I was also experiencing debilitating depression. I would also get angry very quickly. Much more quickly than before, and had many instances of flying into a rage.
The doctors I had seen up to this point either had no training about Traumatic Brain Injury, or really had no facilities to deal with it. Dr. DeMay at that time worked in the UCSF Memory and Aging Center. She referred me to a psychiatrist, to help with depression. This doctor had no experience with TBI, and I stopped seeing him. Around this time, I learned that the VA had more facilities and experience with this type of trauma. I hadn't even thought of the VA before, but it was probably the best thing that has happened with my treatment since the accident.
In addition to the VA, I took a class at the College of Alameda called Improving Cognitive Skills. Becky Stone was the instructor, and was very helpful in my healing process. I also took a Traumatic Brain Injury class at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, where I met other people who had brain injuries. I think that realizing that other people had the problems I had helped me to feel less isolated. I had no idea that what I was experiencing was common for people with brain injury.
I believe the key to finding health care professionals that can help you, is to find providers who specifically deal with Traumatic Brain Injury. Part of the problem with this type of injury, is that you look normal, and don't appear to be injured. There is a tendency by people treating you who don't have TBI experience to downplay issues you know you are having and are valid.
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