Life After Traumatic Brain Injury

Life After Traumatic Brain Injury

By Sonnet Gomes

My Journey Begins

I will never forget March 18, 2019. It’s hard to imagine it has been just one year ago. It was evening when I got a phone call from my dad. He told me my 2-year old daughter Anastasia had been rushed to the ER for convulsion and fever.

We have a family history of febrile convulsion, so at first I was not particularly concerned. But, I was wrong; it was not an innocent febrile seizure. Instead, my dearest Anastasia was seriously ill. Once at the hospital I was informed that Anastasia had viral encephalitis. The doctor explained viral encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus. The result of that inflammation turned my beloved daughter into someone we do not even know.

My journey with traumatic brain injury began that day. Since then I have visited almost every pediatric neurologist in the region to give me insight into the damage done by TBI. The insight I’ve gained has revealed there are many difficulties for those unfortunate humans living with TBI. I have seen both the worst effects of TBI and a few small rays of hope. Now, I feel an obligation to share what I’ve learned with others who are dealing with the results of TBI in hopes that I can help them get through it.

What Is TBI?

The term Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) defines itself. It is associated with significant trauma or injury to the brain or damage done by infection of the brain. Injury from an accident or traumatic event are the most common cause of TBI. The second most common cause of TBI is cerebral infection. According to  ER records, almost 85% of the TBI cases result from one of these two causes.

Injuries

The first category includes injuries from falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports, or physical violence.  Depending on the severity of the incident, the damage can range from mild to severe TBI.  Do not underestimate a fall from your bed. The height may be low, but the impact can be profound. The same goes for falls from ladders, stairways, or bicycles. Please do not wait for symptoms to develop, get immediate help.

Accidents related to vehicles cause most of the TBI seen by physicians. In vehicular accidents concussion is the usual culprit and can result in a severe case of TBI. Another major source of TBI is athletic endeavors. Sports are associated with high speed and collision. Thus, there is a good chance any sports accident or injury can cause severe brain damage. Furthermore, exposure to explosive events like gunshots can cause a severe impact on the brain. The extreme pressure caused by the explosions damages the neurons and their connections.

Infections

Any infection in the brain will undoubtedly damage brain cells.Viral encephalitis causes the brain to swell, effectively squeezing the brain causing often irreversible damage. If the expansion caused by the swelling is low, then the damage may be small and considered mild. Otherwise, with dramatic swelling the damage is defined as severe TBI.

Meningitis infects the three outer layers of the brain causing a breakdown in the connection among brain cells. Encephalitis, another common infection, damages the white and grey matter often leading to death or TBI. Viral encephalitis because it involves the temporal and frontal lobes, is often characterized by psychiatric features, in addition to memory deficits, and aphasia.

Encephalopathy is often associated with a patient’s post injury or infection condition.  Wikipedia defines encephalopathy as “a broad term for any brain disease that alters brain function or structure”.  My daughter fits this definition. It is making her healing after traumatic brain injury tough.

Signs & Symptoms Of Mild Brain Injury

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. (The injury and resulting damage are temporary)

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep pattern (too much, or not at all)
  • Gait disturbance, including loss of balance
  • Anger management issues
  • Blurred Vision
  • Memory issues
Signs & Symptoms Of Moderate To Severe TBI

Moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury is more devastating and permanent

  • Loss of consciousness for a more extended period
  • Seizures or Convulsions (long-term)
  • Long periods of sleep
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness in the limbs
  • Confusion
  • Slurred Speech
  • Loss of speech
  • Mood Swings
  • Behavioral changes
  • Hallucinations
  • Altered mental status
  • Cognitive decline
Is There Any Treatment For TBI?

Adapting to TBI is not easy. I want my beautiful daughter back the way she was, but that is not reality.  All the impact-syndrome and post-traumatic amnesia has overwhelmed me. Quite honestly, such emotions have in many ways made things harder when dealing with my daughter. However, there is hope for people with TBI. Medications and rehabilitation can sometimes bring them back to their pre-trauma condition. For people with severe injury such interventions can at least make life more comfortable. Medication is mostly used to control seizures. Other relaxing drugs are used soothe the brain and help it to heal.

Physical and Occupational rehabilitative therapies can improve a patient’s physical and mental activities. Studies show such rehabilitative activities help in reconnecting neurons in the brain, enhancing the signaling between them.

Difficult to admit, but it is not possible to have the same person back after a severe TBI. But, you can bring to life a new person with proper health care, nutrition, and rehabilitation.

Signs Your Loved One Is Improving From TBI

We all want our loved ones to recover from the TBI. No matter how much they have changed, the new person will be loved with the same intensity and care as before their injury.

Signs your loved one is recovering from encephalopathy or Post-Concussion Syndrome may be small but positive visible signs can’t be overlooked.

  • Improved emotional responses
  • Better coordination
  • Becoming more social
  • Improved communication verbally and with gestures
  • No more constant headaches
  • Regular sleep pattern is coming back
  • Getting involved in the activities, they used to like
Emotional Impact Of TBI

Any Traumatic Brain Injury affects the patient both emotionally and physically. Nevertheless, the emotional impacts are sometimes more long-lasting than the physical ones. You may find your loved one exhibiting symptoms of severe Depression. The happy, jolly person you used to know can turn into a sad clinically depressed person after a brain injury.

People with TBI often become more anxious. Even a small challenge will make them tense as hell. Yes, it is difficult to see them like this, but it is the reality. Anger and irritability are common as frustration and anxiety combine in destructive outbursts with many TBI survivors. You will be required  to deal with poor anger management if your loved one is a survivor.

Insomnia and Mood swings will be the everyday issues. You may also see some mental symptoms with a concussion, including blank stares and seizures.

The Financial Impact Of TBI

I had to re-organize my financial plan after my daughter’s TBI. Now I am saving money to keep up the highest quality treatment for her. It is affecting my professional and personal life; however, family comes first. I have cut down expenses in other areas and increased my contribution to health care. I have not had to take on a second job, at least for now, but honestly, TBI is expensive.

Life With TBI Is Different

Your family will change if you have a member with TBI. Your life will be different from others. Priorities and preferences will change dramatically. It becomes difficult to cope with the challenges of TBI and living a normal life. However, we keep fighting against the odds, fighting to make sure my daughter has every comfort I can give despite her distress. Hopefully the information I have shared will help others confronting TBI.

The Human Need To Reunite

The Human Need To Reunite

By Anna Hessel

 

Getting It Together

We all have a basic need to reunite with those who are important to us; there are many types of reunions: high school, college, and family, being some of the most popular.  We see television, movie, and band reunions, all of which bring together memories which allow us to reminisce about times gone by.

Reunions in the Media

There are a multitude of films about reunions between old flames and friends – I have watched dozens of these movies on the Hallmark Channel, alone.  I am sure we can all remember “Class Reunion”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “Beautiful Girls”, “10 Years”, “The Big Chill”, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”, and “American Reunion”, just to name a few.

Novels Too

Multiple novels about reunions fill the book shelves. “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg, “After The Reunion” by Rona Jaffe, “The Odyssey of Reunion” by Abhisek Pani, “Blake’s High School Reunion” by Marcia Carrington, “Murder at the High School Reunion” by Steve Demaree, “How to Prepare for your High School Reunion, and Other Midlife Musings” by Susan Allen Toth. There is a bevy of books titled “High School Reunion”, and plethora of ones simply titled “Reunion” or “The Reunion”.  There is even “The High School Reunion Diet: Lose 20 Years in 30 Days” by David A. Colbert – this particular book reminds me of my husband’s ten year high school reunion – lots of preparation on our part to visit three hours with many people he barely knew.

How To Survive Your Class Reunion

Psychology Today has dubbed the high school reunion as “psychological time travel”.  Guideposts Magazine offers several tips for enjoying your class reunion.  A good start is recognizing that many of your old classmates may also have anxiety about attending. A great suggestion Guideposts made was to reconnect ahead of time on social media. Another suggestion was to pick up the old year book and leaf through it, reminding you of the faces, the fashions and the vibe of the time.  When at the event introduce yourself, get up and move around, ask others about their current lives, and spend time with people you didn’t know back in the day.

New Eyes

Definitely avoid heated and divisive topics such as politics, instead focus on the memories. Everyone has experienced setbacks and troubles, as well as happiness in their lives since you knew them.  Allow the passing years to disappear by looking at everyone with new eyes and a forgiving heart.  Don’t obsess about losing that last 10 pounds before you reunite; the fact is  we all age physically, even the prom queen, football star, and cheerleaders.  If it is any comfort, Chicago Magazine tells us, “your 50th high school reunion will be much better than your 20th.  Let’s face it, folks, as we age, we learn to not sweat the small stuff”.

African-American Suffering

Whether called reunions or just “family get-togethers” families have gathered for centuries for no other reason than to celebrate family heritage, faith and fun. Reunions not only give a sense of intentional preservation and family bonding for people, but satisfy a need to nurture. In the United States reunions have deep roots in African-American history, painfully recalling slavery and its toll on family units as they were torn apart and sold off to various plantations.  African-American family reunions may well date back to the Emancipation.  “Information wanted” ads were common in newspapers of the day, and may be the root of African-American reunions as people searched for lost and separated family members.

A Shifting Population

Between 1915 and 1940, a period dubbed as the “Great Migration” close to 4 million African-Americans traveled south-to-north, many heading to New York and Chicago.  The enormity of that black population shift encouraged the growth of family reunions in that demographic.  The significance of extended family formed the idea of the need for togetherness at specific times when all could be reunited.  For more information, please visit the website of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture: #APeoplesJourney.

Today, family reunions in all cultures symbolize heritage, fellowship, and a sense of community.

Ms. Hessel is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists

We Wish You A Happy Birthday

We Wish You A Happy Birthday

By Anna Hessel

 It Only Comes Once A Year

Have you ever thought about why we celebrate birthdays?  Is it because everyone deserves a special day of their very own; or do we just want an excuse to eat cake?  Many of us have photos of that momentous first birthday with cake smeared all over the baby’s face. Some bakeries now even sell miniature ‘smash cakes’, for a nominal fee, of course.

No Pictures

I recall birthdays of my youth, complete with frosting pink roses on my cake. And great games like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Was thinking  of reprising the classic pinning game for my upcoming b-day, but alas, I have no picture of our current Oval Office occupant, no insult intended to all the donkeys out there.

The Way It Was

Children’s birthday parties of yesteryear included goody bags with sugary treats and plastic trinkets, and had old-fashioned fun, like board games and music from a stereo set up on a card table.  Today, children’s parties are much more elaborate events, with clowns, bowling, pony rides, bouncy houses, kiddy-size race cars, and a trip to visit that gigantic cheesy mouse.  Every little girl is a princess, and every little boy is a ninja.  School treats must be individually wrapped, unlike the box of bakery cupcakes we all proudly passed around when I was in grammar school. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Memories

Valentine’s Day Memories

By Anna Hessel

Valentine’s Day Memories

The cold days of February bring thoughts of one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day.  Some of my fondest memories involve Valentine’s fun.  We all remember when we were growing up getting those tiny Valentines in their little white envelopes placed in a big wooden box on the teacher’s desk.  Each year my miniature Valentines had a different theme: puppies, kittens, Barbie, and of course, princess.

A Kindergarten Memory

My earliest Valentine’s memory is my kindergarten campaign to give trousers to that little guy with the bow and arrow, since it was cold outside.   Those timeless teddy bears with pink and red bows, and heart-shaped boxes of candy covered in ruffles, bring back many teenage memories.

Continue reading

Be Your Own Valentine-Humor

Be Your Own Valentine-Humor

By Anna Hessel

It’s That Time Again

The cold and blustery days of February are here, once again bringing one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day. Of course, reminders are everywhere.  Just like pumpkin spice in the fall, this month brings us heart-shaped everything, from butter knives to nail files, and the phrase “Be Mine” is emblazoned on nearly every surface of retail establishments.

A Heart Shaped Pizza

This year, my husband and I will be celebrating by attending a screening of my favorite film, “Legally Blonde”, at the library, followed by the requisite romantic dinner, or maybe we’ll opt for a heart-shaped pizza – mine just might be topped with a pair of heart-shaped gold earrings.  Of course I have my story ready, “Honey, I found them by accident, really; I mean I wasn’t snooping in your sock drawer, or coat pocket – I was looking for the heart-shaped butter knife, and just happened upon them”.

Continue reading

Jalapeno Cheese Rolls

Jalapeno Cheese Rolls

By D. S. Mitchell 

 

Life Lesson #2

Recently I posted a recipe for Apple Quake (Cake). That recipe and the “life lesson” shared with that recipe is part of a cookbook-biography I have played around with. I didn’t really have a formalized plan for what I was going to do with the material when I started writing down my mom’s recipes and accompanying life lessons. Not atypical for many writers. The working title; “41 Life Lessons From My Mother’s Kitchen”. Now that I am close to my target 41 Life Lessons I decided I would begin sharing these fabulous recipes and common sense life lessons with Calamity News and Politics readers. Here is recipe 2 from my cookbook project.

Book Excerpt:

While I was growing up my Mom owned a busy café style restaurant in NW Portland, Oregon. The “Fifth Wheel” was located on St. Helen’s Rd.  A lunch time favorite were hot deli style sandwiches served, not on bread, but on mouth-watering, scrumptious, homemade Jalapeno Cheese Rolls. The rolls are actually more like hamburger buns when baked. Her’s were famous. Mom’s original version is Top Secret, but a good option is the one I am sharing here. Once you’ve made a sandwich with one of these rolls you will never want a plain bread sandwich again.

JALAPENO CHEESE ROLLS

Ingredients:

1 bag of Self-Rising Hot Roll Mix (use the 48 rolls recipe)

5 Jalapeno peppers (unseeded)

1 Medium Sweet Onion

5 Cloves Garlic

½ Stick Butter

Salt and Pepper to Taste

24 Slices American Cheese

48 oz, Shredded Mexican Cheese

Directions:

*FYI: Handling Jalapeno peppers can be irritating. I suggest wearing gloves. Be sure to keep hands away for eyes, nose and mouth after handling the peppers. Dispose of gloves and immediately wash your hands thoroughly.

1.) Prepare hot roll mix and allow to rise. (Proof at 120 degrees)

2.) Chop jalapeno, onion and garlic in food processor until smooth but slightly chunky.

3.) Sauté processed veggies in butter until soft and season with salt and pepper.

4.) Combine cooked veggies with hot roll mix.

5.) Divide dough into 2 equal portions, setting one aside.

6.) Roll out one of the divided portions of dough on a clean lightly flour dusted counter top. (A large island is perfect.) Be sure to roll dough out until you have got 12 individual 4” wide x 12” long strips. Repeat with the second half of dough. You will have 24 strips of dough.

7.) Warning! DON’T MIX CHEESE INTO DOUGH, LAY IT ON TOP of the dough!! Cheese prohibits dough from rising.

8.) Visualize each strip of dough as 3 sections. Place ½ slice American Cheese in middle of the strip, fold right section of dough over cheese piece. This will make a section of dough on top of the American Cheese.  On this section place another ½ slice American Cheese and top with 1 oz. Shredded Mexican Cheese. Fold remaining dough over the cheese.  Sprinkle remaining Mexican Cheese on top of dough.

9.) Allow dough to rise a second time in the proofer.

10.) Bake using directions on dinner roll package, but allow an extra 5 minutes to compensate for larger roll size.

Life Lesson:

Short cuts.  Shortcuts can be a great thing. They can get you where you want to go more quickly, or they can get you lost.

5 Ways To De-Stress The Holidays

5 Ways To De-Stress The Holidays

By Anna Hessel

It’s That Time of Year

With the holiday season upon us, thoughts of festive decorations, holiday baking, twinkling lights, caroling, sleigh rides through the snow, mistletoe, hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, Menorahs, Nativities, “The Nutcracker”, Hallmark movies, and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are at the forefront of our minds.

Holiday Stress

However, holiday stress is often a painful, and very real issue at this time of year. Religious and cultural celebrations, such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the ushering in of the New Year, can quickly become more hectic than joyful. Don’t get trapped into thinking that parties and gifts are the only way to celebrate the holidays. Keeping perspective is helpful. There are ways to alleviate the stress, strain and cost.

A Christmas of Another Color

Statistics show that suicides are at an all-time high during the holiday season, as well as familial tensions; the idea of “Blue Christmas” is the truth for many.

Blue Christmas Services

Faking joviality makes no sense. If you are at a painful point in your life, you are not alone. At this time of year there are millions experiencing loss, loneliness, illness, or depression. The sadness is recognized by many churches and some have opted to hold “Blue Christmas Services” where they offer comfort, hope, and healing to those who are struggling with these, or similar issues.

Winter Solstice

These devotions, with peaceful music in a calming atmosphere help soothe folks who are frazzled during the Yuletide. Many times “Blue Christmas” is an evening of reflection for the longest night of the year (winter solstice), around the 21st of December. The shorter days and lack of sunlight can even lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a category of major depression that emerges in the winter months.

5 Things We Can Do To Relieve Stress

There are many easy ways to avoid the trap of seasonal stress, strain, and ensuing depression:

1. Avoid visiting your family if it causes fights or jeopardizes your mental or emotional well-being, avoid spending time with them.
2. Go for it. Enjoy the cup of eggnog, eat that Christmas cookie, and ignore snarky comments about your weight or calories. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for.
3. Stop creating debt. It is not necessary to overspend or create debt to let your loved ones know how much you care. Hand-made presents, or a gift of your time, will be cherished more than an expensive, store-bought item by those who truly care about you. Don’t forget to give yourself a small gift that you can afford.
4. Take care of your health: stay hydrated, eat fresh fruits and veggies in addition to the
party fare. Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation, add a cup of a seasonal herbal tea to help relax. Enjoy the out-of-doors, if weather permits. Get a massage; take a hot bath by candlelight.
5. Relax. Stop striving for perfection. None of us are perfect – simply enjoy what you are able to do.

Give Peace A Chance

Holidays were not created to cause stress. They evolved to celebrate faith, friendship, family, fun, and hope for an often tired and seemingly hopeless world. They are not meant to be aggravating or tension filled.

Relax

Please relax. Hopefully the tips I have suggested will help you enjoy the holidays. I wish you a bless holiday season.

 

The Last Goodbye

The Last Goodbye

By D.S. Mitchell

As we hurry through life, we meet many people. Some are just a touch on the sleeve, quickly forgotten, while others become part of the fabric of our lives. Becoming enmeshed in the life of another person can be a good thing, but just as often it can be a bad thing.

When a once healthy relationship sours, whether after five years or forty, we are often left confused about what happened. In other cases, we know exactly what happened and wonder why we let ourselves continue a relationship that was not only unhealthy, but harmful to us, for as long as we did.

With the holidays coming at us like Richard Petty heading into a straight away, I am cleaning out my relationship closet. Sometimes the holidays magnify everything that you know is wrong with that broken friendship.

But for a thousand reasons, you keep fussing with it, nurturing it, feeding it; hoping it will surge back to life. Sometimes it does fire back to life, but usually the relationship is on life support by this time and is sputtering toward extinction. The end-time; being the only unknown.

Let me explain. I am a rescuer,  I mean, a rescuer on steroids. The worse the situation; the bigger my cape. I have spent most of my life working as an RN. Most of my nurse buddies have the same affliction.

I guess when I think about it, it makes sense. Nurses want to make everything and everybody better.  We’ll fluff and buff, arranging everything just so. That personality quirk might be okay in the hospital, but when carried into life it can be painfully unsuccessful.

In my case, the end came last weekend. After knowing Dave for 35 years I am finally done.  I have severed all communication. I cannot and will not resume the relationship. His illness has reached a point that I can no longer be of any help. In fact, my involvement may be contributing to his worsening symptoms.

I finally recognize he is worse for me than pneumonia. No tears, no anger, just acceptance and relief. When the burden of another person’s mental illness becomes too heavy to drag another inch you have to put the burden down. There should be no guilt. At this point, your only goal should be to preserve your own mental well-being.

The only reason I am sharing this with the world is that I thought it might help someone else who is struggling with mental illness in a relationship.  I know you hear it repeated, but there is a great deal of truth in being able to put yourself first.

Maybe not always, but at some point if you can’t be number one, you won’t be able to help him, or you. No matter that it is Christmas, somethings can’t wait to end. Sometimes the last goodbye is the sweetest, the most honest, and the most necessary.

**I have no safety concerns with Dave. He is  a non-violent person. That is not always the case with those suffering from a mental disorder. The assumption in my article is that the person you are separating from is under the care of a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner and has made no recent suicide threats, or threatened your life.

If the person in question has made recent threatening statements, please let the person’s mental health providers know about the situation and involve them immediately. And, yes, in some extreme circumstances the police may become involved. Don’t under any circumstances put your safety at risk.* *

HEROISM

HEROISM:

It’s Not Just About Your Cape

By D. S. Mitchell

Heroism: Sometimes being a hero is as simple as:

  • Showing up for your child’s school program when it isn’t convenient.
  • Speaking up when you see a person being teased or bullied.
  • Visiting a dying friend, or family member no matter how hard.
  • Donating money to a political candidate who has heart and passion.
  • Adopting a homeless pet, (only to find that adoption, saved your life).
  • Sending a pre-paid phone card to a deployed soldier.
  • Never forget to say, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. It builds bridges.
  • Stopping to give a hug when you are running late.
  • Recycling and reusing.
  • Donating time for a favorite charity.
  • Putting flowers on the grave of a soldier that you never met.
  • Never being too proud to say you are sorry.
  • Giving up your seat to someone who needs it more than you do.
  • Being forever grateful.

Being a daily hero doesn’t require mammoth effort, but it does need ‘consistent and persistent effort”. I don’t remember who said that, but I think it is true. Consistency and persistence overcomes most obstacles. If you want to be a political hero I suggest you believe in your ability and power to effect change. I challenge you to effect your corner of the world and show your heroism.