As an 18-year survivor from TBI, I have come a long way since April 13, 2003! But… My struggles continue! After fighting through 4 weeks in a coma, I continue to work through left side weakness, memory, and emotional issues today! After my TBI, I did not know much about it, but now when I see statistics on the injury, I want to see how I fit into those statistics:
TBI in the United States
- An estimated 2.8 million people sustain a TBI annually.1 Of them:
- 50,000 die,
- 282,000 are hospitalized, and
- 2.5 million, nearly 90%, are treated and released from an emergency department.
- TBI is a contributing factor to a third (30%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States.1
- Every day, 153 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI.1
- Most TBIs that occur each year are mild, commonly called concussions.2
- Direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost productivity, totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000.3
At first glance, I see how damaging this injury can be, but I know all about it, as I have my own statistics! Also, if you saw me at the beginning of my rehab journey, compared to now, you may think that I’ve had a pretty good recovery. I wish I could say my determination and work-ethic were responsible for my progress, but I cannot. I’ve seen and experienced too much in 47 years, and it has educated me that my existence is out of my hands. I thank God for allowing me to live through my brain injury. Second, I want to thank my therapists for helping me to navigate through my brain injury. Finally, I want to thank my friends and family for keeping me in their prayers, sharing and showing me a lot of love and support!!
When I first arrived at the rehab hospital, I did not know what I was up against. I knew nothing about brain injury, and my first months included asking questions and looking for answers, but I thank God for my therapists! They were instrumental in MY recovery. They worked with me, regardless of what I had to complain about. They provided just enough motivation to push me forward which kept me trying to do things when body parts were not working!
I like to brag about the chemistry I had with my therapists. They may not believe it, but I thought we clicked like teammates on the basketball court! I’d like to think they were my point guard and every step I made during my recovery was due to them giving me a great assist! They were the ones who re-taught movements and how to perfectly execute them. They provided technical information, along with functional execution to satisfy my curiosity. Finally, when I regained feeling on my left side, they were the ones who received the report and became responsible for taking me down a new path of rehab.
Resolving brain injury deficits is like solving a murder mystery. My rehab goals became my therapist’s hypothesis, and the therapies given to me were their ways of testing the hypothesis per their prior experiences with other TBI patients. For example, I was a living hypothesis when I learned how to walk again. This was not an overnight discovery for me and my therapists, it took months of practice. It evolved from therapists casting my left leg, to me walking with a quad-cane. Once I was fit to use an AFO (ankle-foot-orthotic), I began walking with a single cane, followed by independently walking.
I do not want to belittle my recovery steps… Rehab was hard and I worked hard! I experienced pain, shots of botox, numbness, and lots of sadness and sometimes tears. I spent a lot of time in rehab: 2 months as an inpatient, 9 months in Day Rehab, and 3 months as an Outpatient. Unfortunately for the majority of TBI survivors, all of this time participating in rehab does not equal the same recovery for all brain injury survivors. This is another way we are all like snowflakes…
My rehab process included setting goals with my therapists and doing my best to achieve them! I heard that achieving your goals proves that rehab is working, so you have a better chance to participate in rehab longer with insurance covering the cost. Because of that, I would encourage setting goals that are attainable and not too far-reaching. While you recover, keep it simple. Focus on the easy things to master, followed by things that challenge you. For example, I was not able to mirror everything I could do with my right hand on my left. But, if I could do the task, and it did not look the same as when I did it with my right hand, I was first, proud to perform the movement. My next goal was to get better with the movement, with practice. It’s all about making progress!
In closing, we survivors need to start advocating for ourselves!! Therapists are directly related to your progress, and they’ll only push you as much as you want to be pushed. I dare you to push your therapist to make you better… I’m sure they’ll appreciate you for pushing them! Also, goal setting should not be what your therapists wants, but what the survivor wants! Speak up!
“Overview of Rehabilitation – Fundamentals – MSD Manual Consumer Version.” MSD Manual Consumer Version, MSD Manuals, https://www.msdmanuals.com/home/fundamentals/rehabilitation/overview-of-rehabilitation. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.
“Get the Stats on Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States | BrainLine.” BrainLine, https://www.facebook.com/brainline/, 27 Apr. 2017, https://www.brainline.org/article/get-stats-traumatic-brain-injury-united-states.