The EDUCATIONAL CORNER
LIFE AFTER BRAIN INJURY
published September 2018
Living Unlimited helped me find my “new normal” after brain injury.
Imagine for a moment feeling as if you were 8 and 88 years old at the same time. That’s how I felt at age 59 after a 2011 car accident left me with brain and spinal injuries. My 8 year old self read at a simple level, set hot pads on fire when cooking, lacked social graces and impulse control, and didn’t remember to look both ways when crossing a street. My 88 year old self had head and back pain, memory problems, needed rest, couldn’t see well, and no longer felt safe driving a car. Every night, when acute pain kept me from sleeping, I thought of suicide.
My primary care doctor didn’t know how to help me with my recovery, so I searched out resources on my own. Physical therapy, chiropractic care, and exercise diminished my pain. Vision therapy took away vertigo and motion sensitivity. Hyperbaric oxygen and neurofeedback normalized my speech, took away my sensitivity to light and noise, and returned lost brain functions. Cognitive therapy and neuropsychological counseling helped me accept limitations, pace myself, and learn compensatory strategies.
Over seven years, 1400 therapy sessions, and with the help of many kind, skilled therapists, I came back to life. Even so, everyday life was hard and few people understood. Meeting other people with brain injuries and attending an adult concussion support group helped me.
Support group members inspired me to attend the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania annual conference. Brain injury survivors and providers spoke about the Pennsylvania Head Injury Program (HIP), a one-year intensive program where a rehabilitation specialist comes to your home. I decided to apply and was happy to discover that the HIP application process included receiving help filling out the forms.
Once I was approved for the program, supportive Living Unlimited rehab specialists came to my home twelve hours a week. From the beginning I felt as if Living Unlimited staff understood brain injury. They helped me set goals I wanted to reach during my year of services: to exercise regularly; improve my social skills; make decisions more easily; continue to develop compensatory strategies; and re-integrate myself socially.
As a result of Living Unlimited services, I exercise regularly, speak more clearly and succinctly, make decisions readily, enjoy new hobbies, and have a well-organized home. Working intensely with rehab specialists increased my cognitive stamina and flexibility so I am more socially active. I have new friends and new goals for the future.
The improved awareness I gained through HIP and Living Unlimited helped me move on in a positive new direction in my life. I began the year seeking volunteer work as a precursor to paid employment. Over the course of the year, I decided that at age 66 it was time for a joyful retirement. This is a huge change. Everyone has to find a “new normal” after brain injury and I have found mine — seven years post-injury. I have a feeling of momentum in my life with many new joyful activities and I thank Living Unlimited for serving as a catalyst to my growth and healing.
To learn more about Living Unlimited and head injury services, contact us at 1-800-310-7776.