What is a TBI?

“Sure,” she said, “I know what TBI means…” and the her chin drops to her chest, she squints her eyes to clarify her vision, then glances up in the air, searching from to one side then to the other and then back again then down to the ground, desperately trying to find meaning. Finally, she stops and says. “No, I’m not sure. What does it stand for?”

“Traumatic brain injury,” I say.

“Right! I knew that. I totally knew that. And you thought I didn’t. It’s a term that describes what happens when somebody gets a brain injury from trauma.”

“Right.” I say. “Do you know what the main causes are? Or who is most likely to suffer a TBI? Or do you know what the symptoms are?”

“I know that you’re giving me a headache.”

“Right. That’s one of them. And if if this conversation is confusing you, you should get checked out because that’s another one…. You’re not nauseous, are you?”

“Not yet,” she says. “Keep talking.”

Joking aside, if you have questions about TBI — causes, effects, definitions, etc. — here’s a link that will answer many Frequently Asked Quesitons about TBI. Learn the signs.

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

An Uncertain Future

When it comes to brain injury, or really any debilitating injury, one automatically thinks of the victim. Sometimes, though, it isn’t the victim but the parents or family that bears the greatest pain.  Here’s a segment of my book The Seven Steps to Healing Your Brain where that becomes clear.

“The ambulance sped as fast as safely possible from Enderby past Yankee Flats and Falkland, Westwold, Monte Lake and Monte Creek. The flashing flashers alerted people in these small towns that it was spring and perhaps another young man had fallen to its allure. The fleeting thought passed through onlookers minds as the vehicle sped by. It was a moment that could linger just long enough to impact the days. The vehicle headed to the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. There, staff assessed my level of coma with the Glasgow Coma scale in which fifteen is normal, and three is lifeless. I was a six.

Mom sat on a chair and stroked my long dirty blond hair. Dad took my hand in his, squeezing lightly in pulses. There were tears in their tired eyes. They’d driven the ten-hour trip over night on treacherous winding highways over the Rocky Mountains, through Rogers Pass and the long, long snow shed tunnels with cliffs descending to a river that flowed west to the prairies.

Peggy flew in that day; Dianne was at home with two small boys but was given frequent updates. Siblings, K and T and W visited, the latter wearing a sling for a dislocated shoulder and sporting bruises and cuts. “I told you my head was harder,” he said, smiling and trying to bring levity to the room, but no one laughed. My mom stood up and gave them all a hug, W the longest. They all learned that my prognosis was grave. Medical staff were discouraged by the Glasgow coma score and my unresponsive state. Based on similar cases, and if I survived, my future would surely involve years and years of relearning base functionality and perhaps a life-long residency in an institution.

After a week my parents requested that I be transferred to the University Hospital in Edmonton. A Medical team loaded my body, and a corpus of machines, onto the air ambulance while my parents picked up my car and belongings from Vernon. Tracy and W were waiting at the condo. They’d loaded everything into the car and handed keys to my father.

There were three vehicles that day, one in the air and two on the ground, journeying to Edmonton and what looked like a life of uncertainty. The outlook was discouraging: a life in a care facility. They may not have talked about it but it must have been a niggling thought. If the remaining days of my life were to be spent in an institution, how would that may bear on them, their lifestyles, their finances? Would they have to sell the house? Would they have to keep working into their old age? Would I have to live with them, like an adult infant? Likely, my friends would disappear. They’d move on and I would become a shrinking memory. The future was dim. No one expected miracles.”

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

#SilentEpidemic

Brain Trauma Survivors may look like everyone SilentEpidemicelse but many struggle to simply keep it together. Don’t judge the “book by its cover.”

The Realizations

Looking back I realize that certain choices made all the difference. These are some of my realizations.

Realization 1: Make a decision.

I’d been in the hospital for over one month, in coma for most of that time. I have only a few memories — visitor’s faces, mostly — from the weeks, months, in the bed. This one is the most important: I remember sitting up in the hospital bed and saying, I’m 24 years old and I’ve done nothing with my life.It wasn’t that statement but the subtext that was critical. The unspoken thought beneath those words was: it is time to do something.Life had been a failure to that point. It was time to change.I didn’t know how.  I didn’t know what. I simply knew … it was time to change.

Realization 2: Rely on those around you.

I was determined, but couldn’t do what I wanted to do. My mind and my body were separate. I’d want to ask for lunch but would say my shoe needed to be tied. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t put on my jacket. I couldn’t walk for more than about 100 metres without getting tired. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t support myself.

Doctors and nurses and therapists were imperative. Family and friends were crucial. They provided in so many ways it’s impossible to list them all. They provided shelter, clothing, cash, taxi service, meals, laundry services, a home, comfort and love. My friend Ron visited the hospital every day and always provided a laugh. Family said the hospital room was a constant stream of my friends. I relied on them; that made all the difference.

Realization 3: Play an instrument.

The Doctor asked, Do you have any problems?I can’t play guitar, I said.Well, she replied, base your recovery on your guitar. The right side of my body was paralyzed. I was having difficulty with manual dexterity and depth perception. After the brain injury I slept up to 18 hours a day; my body needed to recover. But when I wasn’t sleeping I played guitar.I played guitar all the time. I needed to improve, after all, it was a gauge for my recovery. I relearned how to play the instrument. And I recovered.

Realization 4: When all else fails, laugh.

One night, about three months after the accident, I wandered from the bedroom in a stupor. I was incoherent and mumbling. Mom asked what I needed. I slammed my fist on the table and said, I need a piece of black paper and some white pencil crayons. She asked why. Angrily, I said they were for an art project and they were essential.

Ok, Allan, mom said, I’ll get them in the morning; the stores are all closed nowGo back to bed.

In the morning, at breakfast, she told me the whole thing and asked why I wanted the black paper? I had no idea what she was talking about. I had no memory of the night.

She shrugged it off, laughed, and said, Do you still want me to get the paper and crayons?

No, I said, but if there’s any coffee, I’d love a cup of that.

Realization 5: Work on your physical self.

I needed to lose weight, work on coordination, and heal lungs suffering from years of smoking.

The bike cost $500. It was the all the money in the bank account. The first route was about 1.5 kilometres. I rode it every day. The more the body responded to exercise, the farther I rode: 5km, 10km, 15km, 40km.

Within three years I rode 115km in one day on steep, high altitude, roads in the Rocky Mountains: from Jasper, Alberta, up the mountain to the Angel Glacier, out to Athabasca falls, and back.

That night I ate a healthy supper beside the fire, played guitar with a fellow camper, and then slept long and deep in the fresh, cool, mountain air. Exercise. It is the fountain of youth. It can be the catalyst to recovery.

Realization 6: Everyone is different.

The most important realization is that everyone is different. What works for me, might not work for you and vice versa. Just always keep positive. Thrust your chest out, pull your shoulders back and toss your chin up. Be proud of even the smallest forward step and even the stumbles; for those are learning experiences.

While this isn’t a definitive list or pedagogy the realizations are another tool for use in recovery. Here they are again

  1. Realization 1: Make a decision.
  2. Realization 2: Rely on those around you.
  3. Realization 3: Do what you know.
  4. Realization 4: When All else fails, laugh.
  5. Realization 5: Work on yourself.
  6. Realization 6: Everyone is Different.

You can heal yourself. Start today.

*****

In the spring of 1990 Allan Boss was in a motor vehicle accident. He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. The attending neurosurgeon informed his family that he would never walk again or talk again. He recovered and finished three university degrees including a Ph.D., has written/edited four published books and his CBC Ideas docudrama “Updrafts” about recovering from brain injury won nominations for multiple international awards including the Peabody and the Prix Italia. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about his recovery.

Want to learn more? Email info@allanboss.ca  with the subject Send Me the Free Outline to the book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

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