Help!

A close friend was in the vehicle. He couldn’t find me after the crash. He ran about, spun on his heels, but he couldn’t see me. What he could see was a house. He ran there to get help. Someone was home and they phoned 911,

It was a small town, so I imagine you could hear the sirens almost immediately.

Someone, I’m not sure whom, found me in a ditch some 30 feet away from the upside down vehicle. The paramedics began assessment, then treatment and moved me from the site to a gurney to the ambulance and then to the small local hospital where the team identified that my injuries were beyond their ability to treat in that facility. Another, or the same, ambulance took me to a better equipped hospital in a nearby city. There, a bevy of doctors and nurses and orderlies looked after me, staying close by my side to make sure I remained alive.

My family came as quickly as possible from a province away. They remained there for a week until my condition stabilized and I was transferred to a yet bigger hospital in my home town.

My mother said the stream of friends through that hospital room was endless. People she’d never met showed up and tried to make me laugh. Ron came every day.

During my stay in four different hospitals over a four years period, a cluster of professionals, friends and family supported me. They drove me places, took me with them, fed me, clothed me, helped me walk and learn speak and write, patted my back, and gave me hope.

Why am I telling this story? Simple.

You can’t do it alone.

Accept advice. Accept support. Ask for help. Ask for help. Ask for help. People want to help. They will do whatever they can to help.

You are not alone.

So tell me … who will you ask for help 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, completed four marathons and his CBC Ideas program “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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

Finding Time

I worked on my webpage last Sunday morning while my family slept. Before my wife and kids woke up I made them a breakfast of crepes with maple syrup with slices of pear. I made coffee and tried to find a few moments to update the Seven Steps Facebook page. While doing this I looked at my diary and a long list of tasks I needed to attend to during the day, the week, the month. I felt a tinge of frustration that I couldn’t simply focus on finishing my book The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain. I’ve been working on it for nearly five years, but life seems to jump out every time I try to settle in.

The truth is, life happens.  It can’t be stopped. So how does one find the time to do the things the need to do?  Here are few helpful techniques I try to employ.

  1. Focus on the important not the urgent: My MBA father-in-law once said this to me in relation to my job. What is important for a recovery, may not be important for a job. The important focus during my recover was personal  health and included changing my diet, exercising, playing and listening to music, learning songs (memorization), reading, and pushing myself to achieve more. You need to focus on you.
  2. Don’t get distracted: In my LinkedIn article Eating a Frog will Increase your Productivity. Here’s How. I suggested focusing by shutting off devices, closing the door, shutting off the smartphone and slotting off a chunk of time to work on one specific thing. “By focusing we limit the numerous opportunities there are for procrastination. [….] Choose one prioritized project from your task list and complete it.”
  3. Set goals: Write them down, remembering that the best goals are “out of reach, but not out of sight.” For example, don’t set your goal to run a 42km marathon if you can’t run 1km. The first goal should be to run the shorter distance. Then when you accomplish it, set the next goal to run 2km, and so on.
  4. Forgive yourself: You many not accomplish your goals within an allotted time period, but that’s OK. Don’t “beat yourself up.” Keep going. Don’t stop. Even if you stop for an extended amount of time, you can always start again. That’s OK. Forgive yourself.
  5. Be Grateful: Remember that every distraction typically requires energy and effort. Even the most banal chores are necessary for life to continue. So be grateful that you can actually do them.

The Gratitude Project 61

I’m looking forward to finding the time to finish The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain by the end of 2018. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll regroup, reassess, and continue on. Every moment I spend on the project brings me closer to finishing.

Find the time to do the things you need to do to recover. And be grateful for the journey.

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and 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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

What fears to you want to overcome?

Sometime letting go of fears is liberating.

I began setting up allanboss.com in the spring of 2017. It took a long time to decide to publish the webpage and blog. I felt that “it’s not ready,” or “it’s not good enough,” or “do I really want people to know this ‘dirty little secret?'”

But the truth is, the brain injury was never a secret. It is a lot of who I am. I’ve changed and grown since the coma and I’m no longer that person, but that person will never leave me.

After the accident I felt different. I felt people saw a diminished me, one with physical and mental deficiencies. For a long time I didn’t want people to know about the accident. After the TBI I felt people were always looking at me with curiosity and suspicion.

So publishing a blog about it — even though my accident was nearly 30 years ago — was like stepping into a crowd naked. I was exposed.

But then people began to tell me their stories, exposing their injuries afflictions, concerns, or fears. The sent requests for the outline for the The Memory Box and made me feel as though people were ready to learn about how I healed myself. It was time to let people know.

So I ask you: what do you fear most and how will you conquer that fear?

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has completed four marathons, and 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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

Memories with Brain Injury

I don’t remember the accident. What I know of the vehicle crash has been stitched together with stories from others: people that were there, those that saw the aftermath, family and friends who’d heard stories. The actual memory isn’t mine; it has been created because memory is often affected after brain injury.

Memory is a complex thing as it involves gathering information, storing it, and retrieving it.  If there is an injury to any part of the brain responsible for these functions the result can negatively impact memory.

Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain that touches on memory after brain injury.

“I had trouble speaking. I would know what I wanted to say but couldn’t remember the words to express those thoughts. So, I would say things out of the ordinary. I don’t remember this, but once while I was in the U of A hospital my uncle Leonard and Aunt Barbara visited. In my room they were greeted by clinical blue light and walls devoid of expression. Machines hummed and snickered at the hulking mass of bedridden fat and quickly atrophying muscle. My dirty blond hair, which had grown to shoulder length during the 6 months as a ski bum and bar fly, lay spread out on my pillow.

I don’t remember the visit. I can’t remember, for the most part, the people who visited me. I know of this story because it became popular in my family.

When the aunt and uncle left my mother asked me: Who was just here?

I said, “well … you know.”

“No,” she said. “Tell me who was just here.”

I said … “You know.”

“Who was just here?”  She was testing me.  Perhaps the nurses suggested this. I think feeling pressured into giving an answer was a good thing. If I were hurt worse, I likely wouldn’t have been stressed to answer. But I felt the pressure. And I replied, saying “Big Dog and Chicken Finger. Big Dog and Chicken Finger were here.”

Funny, yes. Especially now, looking back. Still there was something else going on that no one could understand, including myself at that moment. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s consider some of the theories my family had about this comment.

When I was a boy aunt Barbara and uncle Leonard had a large German Shepherd. The dog´s name was King, and he was that. A grand beast, big for a shepherd, with a head the size of a small horse. The dog made an impression on everyone, and that – they thought – must have been what I was talking about when I said Big Dog. And they were farmers. They had chickens. That explains the chicken thing. Who knows what the finger comment was about, but that one can float away on the breath from which it floated.

What this did was provide family a rational explanation of why I said what I said. Perhaps the speculation made them feel better about me and my recovery. See, at that time, I was just out of a coma and slept most of the time. No one knew if I’d recover and if I did to what level. While in the U of A hospital, the prognosis wasn’t great. Likely, they thought, preparing for the worst, that I’d spend the rest of my days in an institution. Yet there was hope. Hope that I’d become a functional member of society. Get a job, hopefully. Maybe I could get my license and drive. Or at least I could get around the city in a bus. So maybe putting meaning to the absurd comment gave them hope. Perhaps it allowed them to cling to the hope that my brain was making connections. But it didn’t explain anything.

I likely knew who was there. My mother said I called my aunt and uncle by name when they arrived. The truth of it is more likely this: though it was true that my short-term memory was affected and I forgot things as I became more aware I discovered that the things I forgot weren’t really forgotten, rather they were trapped in my mind. It was as though the words were imprisoned. What seemed like me forgetting, was actually the inability for me to speak what I knew. It was likely that way with my aunt and uncle. I knew who they were, but I couldn’t say it. I could only say big dog and chicken finger.”

— Excerpt from The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain by Allan Boss.

So what can one do to recover their memory after a brain injury? One of my favourite guides is called Memory problems after brain injury by Professor Barbara A. Wilson, OBE. It’s a practical booklet that was put together by Headway: the brain injury association for the care givers of people who have had a brain injury and are experiencing memory problems. Have a read. Maybe it will help.

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and 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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

TBI + Death and Disability

On World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) I posted to raise awareness about #WSPD2018. Why?

New research shows that for TBI survivors, death and disability are more likely than previously thought. The Telegraph’s Sarah Knapton reports that One in 20 suicides may be triggered by a brain injury.

After my accident and brain injury, I didn’t have suicidal thoughts, but I certainly did live with serious depression. Among other things, I used music and exercise to combat the demons. My question for you is, what can you recommend as a way to battle depression?

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and 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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

World Suicide Prevention Day

2016_wspd_ribbon_500X500Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Every life lost to suicide represents somebody’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. Let’s all play a role and work together to prevent suicide.

For more information or if you need help in Canada please check out this link. For friends around the world, please contact a local community mental health association to learn more about support and resources in your area. 

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I can’t do it (Excerpt from The Memory Box)

“The superior [person] makes the difficulty to be overcome [the] first interest; success only comes later.” – Confucius

After my car accident I spent nearly four years as a patient in four hospitals. During that time I focused on one thing: healing. One important aspect was my physical self. What was clear was that I needed to strengthen my body. I tried running, but it was impossible as I suffered from hemiparesis — half of my body was paralyzed and lingered behind with each step. I couldn’t do it. So what did I do?

Here’s an excerpt from a chapter from my forthcoming book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain. Please enjoy, and I welcome you to share your comments once you’ve read the excerpt.

“The tax return was $500. Despite having little money and no source of income, there was only one way to spend it. I couldn’t run, but I could pedal. I could pedal. I knew I could pedal; months of riding the stationary bike a the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital proved that. I needed to buy a bike. After visiting three or four shops, and looking at a few dozen bikes, I finally settled on one I believed to be the best deal for the money. It was a black BRC mountain bike that was on sale, leaving just enough to buy a helmet. Somewhere along the way I heard a statistic that 75% of traumatic brain injuries happen to men under 24 years of age, and 75% of those came from falls off of bicycles. It was frightening to think about re-injuring the brain, so a helmet would be mandatory. When I got it home, I threw on the “skid-lid” and pedaled around the subdivision and a neighboring one. I could do it! I was ecstatic.

The next day, after breakfast, I put on some shorts, the Freddy Frog Diver T-Shirt, some running shoes and filled a water bottle. I mounted the bike and rolled down the driveway. Gravel crunched under the knobby tires and the sound changed as the gravel transitioned to pavement, becoming a constant hum of a particular frequency that changed in pitch depending on the energy transferred from my legs and feet to pedals. Picking up speed, shifting gears, the wind felt cool on my face. My legs were fresh as I turned a corner and began to climb a gradual hill that lead to the main road.

As a kid, I rode to F. R. Haythorne Junior High once or twice; it’s just over 7K to the school and the same back home, so about a 15K route. I rode west on the narrow shoulder of a quiet secondary highway, then turned north on a busier four lane highway where the shoulder was comfortably wide. The route then turned back east along a busier road that led into the hamlet of Sherwood Park but I felt safest here, as there was a sidewalk. Finally, it was one more turn to the south along the same roadway on which I began the ride. That’s the route I planned to follow.

I was so excited about the bike and the ride that I barely felt anything until reaching the school and started heading back home. Then my legs began to burn as I pedaled up a merge ramp. My butt was suddenly saddle sore. My mouth had grown dry. Pedaling was more and more difficult and my breath laboured and lungs burned. A trickle of sweat rolled off my forehead and into an eye, stinging, and blurring vision. Leaning forward on the handlebars caused my hands to fall asleep; they tingled and grew numb. I shifted in the narrow seat, and changed the position of my hands. The sun shone hotly and the temperature seemed to rise a degree each second. I felt I was going to die; it was certain. I was out of water and wanted to stop.

“There’s a gas station just ahead,” I thought. “I’ll take a break and buy a soda.”

Then another thought ran through my brain: “If I don’t keep going then I will be defeated.” I recalled a poster I’d once seen of a woman running on a trail in the green hills and the caption that read: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” I dropped my head and kept the cadence constant, although every cycle required a larger effort. Only 7Km to go….”

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and 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 his book, The Memory Box.

What is a Brain Injury?

Eric A. Roy, a Clinical Psychologist, professor and director of the Centre for Habilitation Education and Research at Ontario’s University of Waterloo, says “the most common brain injuries in our society are sustained from a blow to the head. Around 700,000 people in North America suffer traumatic head injuries each year, and between 70,000 and 90,000 are left permanently disabled.”

Traumatic brain injuries fall under the broader classification of head injuries, which include anything from a facial cut while shaving to a fractured skull. A damaged brain is indicated by a loss of consciousness. Researchers don’t yet understand the reason for loss of consciousness, but they do know that if you pass out, even for a moment, it is an indication that your brain has been affected. Other indicators are: confusion about time, date, and location, and/or if you can’t remember the events surrounding your injury.  Researchers believe that increased pressure on the brain stem (from edema or swelling) probably accounts for the respiratory system slowing or temporarily stopping. Brain injury victims will initially have various symptoms including reduced pulse rates, pale skin, sweating, and lowered blood pressure. When or if they return to consciousness, they might experience dizziness, nausea, and/or a dull and restless feeling. They might have headaches and can be nervous for several days, weeks, or even years after the injury. Brain injuries can also permanently damage nerve tissue, possibly resulting in amnesia, irritability, fatigue, memory impairment, and the list goes on.

The injury can also occur from a lack of oxygen (like drowning), or as a result of a lack of blood supplied to the brain (perhaps following a cardiac arrest). Most often, traumatic brain injuries result from blow to the head, which can be from a fall off a bicycle or a crash while skiing or getting thrown from a rolling vehicle.

Recoveries from brain injury vary from person to person, but there are certain things patients can do to help themselves recover. Be passionate about recovery; educate yourself; exercise; and laugh at all challenges faced. Gain energy from those who want to help. It’s a long and unenviable road, but the destination is worth the journey.

*****

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 went on to achieve three university degrees, has written/edited four published books, has run four marathons, and 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 his book, The Seven Steps to Healing your Brain.

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