Traumatic Brain Injury: A Basic Introduction
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A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as the name states, is injury to the brain, temporal or cranial areas of the body from trauma, such as the head coming in contact with a violent blow from an assault, a projectile, a blast from explosion, or in the case of motorcycles, impact to a vehicle or the ground. The trauma can affect the brain temporarily or permanently due to bruising, torn tissues, internal bleeding and other complications.
After an accident, the person affected can have many symptoms. But they vary by injury and the person’s particular medical condition. Some of them are: temporary loss of consciousness, mental confusion or disorientation, crania pain (headache), stomach nausea or vomiting, temporary or chronic fatigue, problems speaking clearly, sleep depravation or not wanting to get out of bed, instability while standing or walking, blurred vision, tinnitus, changes in taste or smell, ability to concentrate, mood swings, paresthesia (fingers or toes going numb), seizures and changes in behavior.
Whenever there is damage to the brain or cranial nerves that link the brain to the body functions, there may be loss of the myelin lining to the nerves. I have this problem, for I had a USAF surgeon burn four of my nerve linings in 1992. I had non-stop seizures and excruciating pain. Many of the above symptoms I experience daily for six years, through 300 doctor visits and a month in the hospital. Since one of my prior military jobs was a lead medical instructor, I used my learned medical methodology to do my own testing and developed a medical theory that allowed me to stop the seizures, get off the medications and improve my quality of life. That medical theory is NSDS: Nerve Signal Deficiency Syndrome.
If you feel you have these symptoms, it is important to go to your healthcare provider to get it diagnosed properly. A CT-SCAN and MRI are the first priority to see if there is fluid buildup in the brain, which can cause pressure and swelling. Infections due to tears in the protective tissues around the brain needs to be ruled out. As are blood vessel damage that could lead to blood clots or stroke.
During the treatment for your traumatic brain injury, you may be exposed to many different healthcare providers, including:
- A Physiatrist, who oversees the full rehab process;
- An Occupational Therapist, who helps you improve your day to day life skills;
- A Physical Therapist, who helps improve your balance and walking;
- A Speech and Language Pathologist, to improve your speech;
- A Neuropsychologist, who assesses cognitive performance and coping skills;
- A Social Worker, who works care decisions;
- A Rehabilitation and Traumatic Brain Nurse, who handles rehab in a hospital setting;
- A Recreational Therapist, who assists in time management and leisure activities; and,
- A Vocational Councilor, who helps you get back to a productive workplace.
Some home actions to minimize additional falls and additional cranial injury are: install handicapped rails and nonslip bathtub mats in the bathroom and remove area rugs. If you have a two-story house, add another handrail to the stairs, and remove any clutter on the floor you may trip over.
One key thing is to put yourself as the key driving force in your rehabilitation. Think that you may or may not get back 100%, but realize anything you get is a victory. You must be kind to yourself and know that progress will be slow, but if you try to do things slowly, your progress will be better than if you push your body.
During my years of seizures, I realized that the loss of lining on my nerves made me very sensitive to sound, light, vibration, emotion, i.e. any energy source. I felt extreme pain whenever I tried to speak and had chest pains. I realized I had to be strong and manage that. None of the countless medications that they gave me, which put me into a dream work of pain, helped. I had to listen to my body and go slow with the recovery.
When you feel pain, that is your body trying to communicate with you. You just have to learn what it is saying. Start a log, and document what you are going through. Only you, will know what degradation is affecting you. People around you who do not have your condition will not see what you are going through, for their bodies have not been trained to sense it.
Try to get organized by keeping the log; put down what your desired tasks are for the next day. Follow a routine, and go slow, and remember to take a break, do not push yourself. Most of all be kind to yourself. Do not go by other’s expectations of what you should be able to do. If you push yourself you may, what I call, blow a neurogenic fuse, and your body will want to shut down for a while. You will feel fatigued and feel like there is no way out. Take it from me, I have been living with this for 28 years, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and with proper care, there is no train on the track.
On the web, there is a lot of information on TBI. The Mayo Clinic is a good first step. Read it to be empowered, and do not feel every published symptom is a death sentence. In future articles, I will go into techniques I have employed since my time as an editor for a Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia magazine, a guest editor for a Multiple Cirrhosis support group and a Trigeminal Myalgia support group. I now do motorcycle road tests and product tests and run a magazine. I am also a director for a nationwide consumer advocacy organization. I could not have done that 28 years ago. Be well.
Nicky Theodore Zarras, Captain USAF RR
Joy of Motorcycling, Guest Author
Managing Editor STAReview Magazine www.ridemsta.com
ZMC – Zarras Medical Consultant