Once again, I am reflecting on the events that led up to my severe brain injury, but it hurts because I cannot recall everything from my accident. When I was in the hospital, it was hard talking about the accident because I did not remember the details. I did not remember how fast I was going, how I hit my head on the mailbox, and how I ended up lying near a fire hydrant on 167th Street. There have been days when I wish I remembered those accident details. Because the pain from my accident left me in a coma for 4 weeks, I am grateful for not saving those memories. However, when I have tried to forget about my life-altering day, I run into accident reminders that are haunting, at times.
I sometimes wonder why don’t I remember my accident?
Here are some facts I found regarding Memory and Traumatic Brain Injury:
- Memory problems are very common in people with moderate to severe TBI.
- TBI can damage parts of the brain that handle learning and remembering.
- TBI affects short-term memory more than long-term memory.
- People with TBI may have a tough time ‘remembering to remember’. This means remembering to do things in the future, such as keeping appointments or calling someone back when you have promised to do so.
- People with moderate to severe TBI may not remember the incident surrounding the injury.
- With the help of certain strategies, people with TBI can learn to work around memory problems and get things done every day.
After coming out of my coma, I struggled with my short-term memory. I was able to recall things from my long-term memory. For example, I was unable to remember the home address of the house I purchased 2 years prior to my accident, but I was able to remember names and faces of family members and old friends who came to visit me.
As my brain healed, I was able to recall some short-term memories, but I had difficulty remembering to do things planned or asked to do. For example, my wife will asked me to go to the store to pick up a couple items. When I get there, I have to call her to remind me why I went to the store. I remember getting frustrated. Now in those situations, I laugh at myself instead of getting frustrated since I know that my injury has an effect on prospective memory.
Here are some prospective memory problems that are common in people with moderate to severe TBI:
- Forgetting to keep appointments or showing up at the wrong times.
- Telling someone you will call or visit at a certain time, then forgetting to do so.
- Forgetting what you were supposed to do or intended to do at home, work, or school or in the community.
- Forgetting important occasions, such as birthdays, holidays, and family events.
- Forgetting to take medicines at the right time.
- Forgetting to pick up children at a certain time.
Although TBI affects new memories more than old ones, people with TBI may have trouble retrieving the correct information when needed. For example, you may recognize your aunt and know who she is, but have trouble remembering her name. Or you may be able to define all the words on a vocabulary test, but have trouble remembering the exact word when you are talking.
Early in my recovery, I had issues with word finding and recalling the names of new friends and acquaintances. I had to develop strategies using my iPhone notes and contact applications to assist with remembering names, small grocery lists, and keeping up with random thoughts. For example, while writing this memoir, I was not able to instantly recall every thought I had from my early days in rehab. I would remember details in blocks of time, not all at once! But, when those thoughts came to me clearly, I had to enter them into my smart iPhone before I would forget them!
I do not think that I will ever forget about my life-altering event from 4/13/2003. Unfortunately, there are things I face daily (TBI Leftovers) that remind me I am not the same person I was. My first example, is when I wake up and walk to the bathroom. When I take my first steps, I am reminded to slow down because I feel off balance and my left leg feels heavier than my right. After a few steps, my left leg wakes up, and I remind myself to pick up my left foot along with taking a longer stride. Walking did not take this much thought previously!! While walking back to bed, things get back to feeling normal because my strides are now equal.
My second example came when I saw a new dentist for my teeth cleaning. After my teeth cleaning, they recommended I have x-rays of my teeth. I never remember seeing this before, but this was the first time viewing my x-ray with horror:
My first thought was, what is that in my chin?? After taking a closer look, I was reminded that I had a couple of screws inserted into my chin after my accident. Fortunately, I do not have a visible scar on my chin like I have on my stomach and neck (feeding tube and tracheotomy). I do not understand why I feel the way I do about the screws in my chin compared to the healing holes in my stomach and neck. These are my TBI leftovers!!
Do you have scars on your body that are not visible to the public, but give you a bad memory of your TBI accident?
“Memory and Traumatic Brain Injury | Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC).” Home | Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), https://msktc.org/tbi/factsheets/Memory-And-Traumatic-Brain-Injury#:~:text=The%20loss%20of%20memory%20from,did%20not%20store%20those%20memories. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.