VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER
FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY

Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation Psychology Division Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Pat #6

DEAR PAT:

I was in a serious car accident and sustained a major blow to my head. The CT scan came out negative, but I had a lump literally the size of an egg on my forehead, two black eyes and bruises to the rest of my body and head. I have been evaluated by a neuropsychologist who states that there is nothing wrong with me that was not present before the accident, and that I am complaining of problems for which there is no physical evidence. The neuropsychologist has many academic degrees, so I am questioning myself! It is so hard to put my finger on what is wrong, but it takes me ten times longer to do things now than before the injury. My house used to be immaculate and now it's a disaster. Is it possible that this professional, who is apparently highly trained (and has written books and given lectures), is wrong?


PAT'S RESPONSE:

It is not uncommon for someone who sustains a mild brain injury to receive a clean CT scan. You were smart to consult a neuropsychologist for more diagnostic information. And, the neuropsychologist's conclusion that your problems were present before your injury makes sense. If you stunk in math before your injury, you'll still be counting on your fingers after the accident. A person with depression prior to the accident probably will emerge from the injury with depression. In fact, the depression may be worse because you are reacting to the fact that you experienced a traumatic event. There may be no physical/organic cause for your depression that did not exist prior to the accident. You simply would be reacting normally to a traumatic event. What you need to do is find out why you take longer to get things done, to clean house, etc. if these problems did not exist before the accident. Feeling slowed down is very common after a brain injury, by the way. You may benefit by getting a second opinion from another neuropsychologist or a neuropsychiatrist if you feel that you need medication. This does not diminish the opinion of the first neuropsychologist; a second opinion simply gives you more information.

DEAR PAT:

At the age of 18, I sustained a severe head injury when I was hit by a driver in a pick-up truck, and I was as messed up as a Don King hair-do. I was in a coma for 8 weeks, and I really don't remember much of my recovery except that the food sucked. I guess I'm either too stupid to realize the severity of my injury or too stubborn to let it keep me down, because I'm in college now trying to get into the field of cognitive rehabilitation. I'd like any information you can provide on this topic. By the way, the best advice I can give others: NEVER GIVE UP!


PAT'S RESPONSE:

The Don-King-hairdo syndrome is one of the most disturbing results of a head injury. It's ugly, it's humiliating, it ruins lives...don't even kid about it. Thank heaven you were granted entrance into a college in spite of it. Some good sources of information on cognitive rehabilitation include university libraries (look at the scientific journals), medical college libraries, and university- and hospital-based federal research centers such as the Model Systems of Care and Research & Training Centers. For specific information on resources near you, contact your state Brain Injury Association or the national Brain Injury Association at 1-800-444-6443 . A wealth of information exists.

DEAR PAT:

My friend was caught in the cross-fire of a gun battle between gangs here in L.A. just 2 months ago. A stray bullet passed all the way through his brain and lodged in his skull. The bullet was removed and after a couple of weeks he was moved to a rehabilitation center. He has made a miraculous recovery, but now that he's back home he's not getting the valuable therapy he needs to continue making good progress. He doesn't need my help for motivation and enthusiasm, but I would like to help him with practical therapy to get the left side of his body functional again. He is exhibiting improvement already, so I think it's just a matter of time and appropriate therapy for him to regain function. He cannot afford professional help - any advice?


PAT'S RESPONSE:

A periodic consultation with a professional, such as a physical therapist, might be a good idea. . A physical therapist willing to come to your friend's home would be best. Check with rehabilitation clinics versus major hospitals for therapists that do some private work. You could attend the consultation with your friend and his family and learn some techniques to help him at home. The therapist could be hired to come once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month to assess your friend and give you guidance on helping him with exercises. Of course regular, frequent physical therapy that tapers off as the person makes progress is best; however, you can be creative and at least get some guidance from a professional who can help you keep your friend active. Some help is better than none, in Pat's opinion. Also, think of ways to help your friend fund more therapy. He should apply to social services for help, at least. Maybe you and his other friends could get together and hold a small fund-raiser. If nothing else, your being there and helping him use his body and mind (instead of lying on the couch all day) will be extremely beneficial.

DEAR PAT:

I teach pre-school children with disabilities. I have a student who is developmentally delayed and has serious emotional/behavioral issues. He has a history of banging his head on hard surfaces. I am curious if all those years of banging his head could have caused some sort of brain trauma which has affected his behavior and his ability to process information.


PAT'S RESPONSE:

Emphatically, YES. Children's brains are very vulnerable. The effects of a brain injury in a child may not show up until months or years after the actual injury. This is because pediatric brain trauma injures a developing brain. There is a wealth of information on pediatric brain injury and positive, effective behavior shaping techniques. You may want to start by contacting:

May Institute Center for Education and Neurorehabilitation
Ron Savage, Ed.D. (Specialist in pediatric neurorehabilitation)
35 Pacella Park Drive, Randolph, MA 02368
617) 963-3600

Research and Training Center on Rehabilitation and Childhood Trauma
New England Medical Center
750 Washington Street, #75K-R, Boston, MA 02111
(617) 636-5031

DEAR PAT:

I was a teacher for many, many years when I was beaten unconscious by one of my students. I am now learning to accept my brain injury. My husband walked out and has a new girlfriend. My school is trying to make me retire early, but I cannot afford that. I have lost my creativity as well as my spelling ability. Everything seems so pointless. I do not know who I am; will I ever?


PAT'S RESPONSE:

Who You Are: a human being with innate value who is deserving of compassion and kindness. There are others who have experienced what you have. They want to help you. Consider contacting the Florida Brain Injury Association and attending a support group for people who have sustained brain injuries. Telephone the Florida Brain Injury Association in Pompano Beach at 954-786-2400 or 800-992-3442. And send your ex-husband a box of chocolate-covered grasshopper heads from Pat.

PAT'S FINAL WORD:

From a very wise site visitor: "One thing I have learned since recovering from amnesia: to ignore is worse than forgetting."

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