Tips For Professionals Working with TBI

On Saturday, September 30, Patti Foster (www.PattiFoster.com) and I will be presenting at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Nashville. (www.worldconference.net) It is a God-cool opportunity to share with other mental health professionals about how they can best support and help those in the brain injury community. So, I thought I would share a few tips that may be helpful to all of us.

  1. Listen with patience.
  2. Include the family in therapy.
  3. Educate yourself about brain injury.
  4. Be mindful of sensory issues…make adjustments in your office.
  5. Celebrate small victories.
  6. Hold on to hope as a life preserver.
  7. Know community and medical resources.
  8. Don’t step on silence.  Allow for cognitive processing.
  9. Develop coping strategies.
  10. Write things down.

Cheers,

Deana Adams, Ph.D., LPC-S

President/Founder

Hope After Brain Injury

Ten Things I Learned After Brain Injury

by Dr. Jeff Huxford

Jeff Huxford

I would like to share ten things I have learned after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But before I tell you what they are, I should first tell you something else.  I don’t deserve credit for any of it!

You see, for all of my life, I used my mind to learn new things.  My mind served me quite well during my many years of education which ultimately resulted in a successful career as a family physician.  Then without warning, TBI roared into my life and took away away much of my “brain power,” the power I had counted on for so long.

But my learning was far from over. And for this, I am grateful because there was still so much I needed to be taught.  This was only possible because God changed my heart, giving me the ability to learn what I am about to share with you.

  1. If I allow Him to, God can make me strong in my weakness. –  I spent the majority of my life trying to do things by my own power.  My brain injury took away much of the power I had depended on for so long.   But it was replaced by something much greater, a changed heart powered by the Holy Spirit, which has given me more strength than I could ever muster on my own
  2. Life is short.  –  My life changed in an instant, but it could just have easily ended the morning of May 3, 2012.  I am learning to treat everyday like it’s my last.
  3. Actions speak louder than words.  –  This one is pretty self explanatory, but I need make sure what I am doing matches what I am saying.  If it doesn’t, then I lose my credibility and my chance of having a positive influence is greatly diminished.
  4. I have learned the power Jesus can have in my life and have come to realize I must share it with others.  –  I truly believe that Jesus is my source of strength and purpose in this life, and not just my free ticket out of hell.  Out of love, not out of an effort to earn God’s favor,  I should want to live for Him and share with everyone what I believe and why I believe it.
  5. Treat others like people, not as projects, and engage with people that are different. –  As a follower of Jesus, I am called to treat all people with love, kindness, and respect.  I am called to display the love of Jesus to everyone in all that I say and do, and leave the heart change up to God.  And I am learning it is important to engage and befriend those who look, act, and think differently than me.
  6. I learned to stop asking the question “why me” and  instead started asking “why not me.”  –  God used my wife, Jacqui, to teach me this valuable lesson.  She developed this mindset early on in my recovery,  while I was still laying in the hospital in a near comatose state.  People would tell her they didn’t understand why something this bad happened to us.   They said it just didn’t make any sense.  She would just respond with, “Why not us?”   She understood God was in control and knew that He could somehow use what we were going through for good. “Why me”  is a question I still wrestle with at times, but I am learning to be confident in the God I serve and that the plans He has for me far exceed any I may have.
  7. God gave me a story and I need to use it to help others.  –  I used to complain that I didn’t have a story to tell, or at least not the kind that would have an impact  on others.  Looking back, this was faulty thinking, because we all have a story to tell.  But after May 3, 2102, I could no longer use that as an excuse.   God gave me a story and and I feel I need to tell it, not with the intentions of bringing attention to myself, but to point to the author of my story and to help others.
  8. I am not supposed to do life on my own.  –  My brain injury was humbling.  I could no longer do certain things on my own power.  I started using a lot of new tools and tricks (i.e. AppleWatch, schedules, reminders) to help me function in my daily life.  I also learned to accept the help of others.   But most importantly, I learned to accept God’s help, the loving God who had been there all along just waiting for me to give up on doing it myself and simply ask Him.
  9. Don’t judge where someone is at because you don’t know where they started.  –  I have learned to pass less judgement on how someone is choosing to live their life.  This is something that I am still learning and don’t always do.   But it is something that is important to remember if I want to understand, relate to, and help others.
  10. It is important to regularly check my list of priorities and make changes when needed.   –  After my brain injury, this was something that I had to do almost immediately, because I could no longer do all the things that I used to do.  I had  to figure out what I could still do, decide what was important, and focus on these.  This involved saying “no” to a lot of good things so I could say “yes” to the more important.

Without a TBI, I may have never stopped relying on my own “brain power,”   never understood the power of a changed heart,  and never learned these invaluable lessons.    I am sure you have heard it said that “God works in mysterious ways.”  Growing up, I know I had heard it a countless number of times.  It wasn’t until my brain injury that I learned the truth behind this statement and the true wonder of how God works.

– Jeff

Jeff Huxford M.D. lives with his wife (Jacqui) and his children (Jayse, Jenna) in Franklin, TN. He had previously lived with his family in northwest Indiana where he had been a doctor for ten years. In January of 2016, Dr. Huxford had to stop practicing medicine due to complications from a traumatic brain injury. Jeff has moved on to become a blogger (jeffhuxford.com), writer (currently working on his first book, Finding Normal), and speaker who is passionate about sharing how he was able to find and keep the kind of perspective that is needed in overcoming adversity or any life-changing event. He wants to share his story so other people will know about the God who saved his life and changed his heart.

Feel free to contact Jeff at newnormal5312@gmail.com

Suffering Produces Endurance…

By Michelle Cable

“Can you tell me your name?”

Silence.

“Do you know when your birthday is?”

Nothing.

I didn’t know my birthday. I didn’t where I was or why I was there. I didn’t even know who I was. These thoughts flamed tears of sincere frustration that rushed down my face.

It was beyond remembering. I did not know who I was. With every question nurses were prompting me in the ICU to gauge the severity of the brain damage, it slowly started to click that something was wrong. I did more than just fall from a 10 foot ladder. The MRI scan of my fractured right temporal bone and bruised left frontal and temporal lobes was the start to my long road of traumatic brain injury recovery.

As painful as the first couple of months were, and feeling like my 27 year old brain was frozen trying to reboot, God was at work. He has used my pain and my confusion and my hurt and my frustration to draw me into His arms. I was confused and bitter that I wasn’t the same as I was before, and scared of what my new normal was going to look like. I was like a child who was physically and emotionally drained from kicking and screaming, that I just needed to fall into the arms of a loving Father to embrace me and walk me through every minute of the day. Neither my husband nor friends nor doctors could fix me, as much as I desperately wanted to be fixed.

As odd as it might sound looking back over the past 7 months, I am thankful for my brain injury.  Not just for the recovery, or the community God purposefully placed to walk alongside me, or all the steady improvements along the way, but for the actual accident and all the ugly, raw pain that came with it. Even though gratitude was not my initial response, my heart has grown to thank a God as loving to choose me in this manner to bring me back to Him. The road to recovery has not only pertained to my brain. This verse explains it best. “Not only this, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4. God is working through suffering to draw you closer to make you more like Him for His kingdom purposes. You first need to ask God to help you. And you need to let Him help you.

 

Fraction of Accomplishment

By: Robert Lyons, Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor – 1990

It has been almost 27 years since my traumatic brain injury. On October 14, 1990, I fell down two flights of stairs and hit my head on a steel door at the bottom of the stairway. I was in a deep, non-responsive coma for seven weeks. Miraculously, I came out of my coma on December 8, 1990. This date is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! I firmly believe that there are no coincidences in God’s perfect World!

My original prognosis made by my chief neurologist was this: 1) I would always have both short & long-term memory deficits; 2) I was destined to live a very meager life most likely in a nursing home environment; 3) I would never regain the mental capacities of someone who was of 5th Grade age; 4) Finally this doctor told my dear Dad (God rest his soul! ) that this was all presuming I even survived the initial ‘touch & go’ early stages of my recovery. I have been told that when Dad mentioned this to my neurosurgeon, he vehemently challenged this prognosis by saying; “how would he know??? I was up there, so I know what was & wasn’t affected. Bob will certainly have some residual effects, but the brain is an amazing organ, in that it has the ability to heal itself. The brain cells per se weren’t destroyed, rather it is the connectors which were damaged. Over time, they will re-connect!! Further, I am very optimistic that Bob will regain some-most of his abilities!!”  So, the most challenging aspect of my recovery has been my memory. I would like to share with you some of the helpful organizational skills that I have developed during my life-time recovery.

The first skill that I wish to write about is my extensive use of note pads. Just before I write to someone or make a long distance phone call, I ‘jot down’ the various topics that I wish my letter/conversation to express. Then, when I have written/discussed a topic, I will put a check mark next to it. I feel that using this system allows me to cover more thoroughly all the various topics that I had noted.

The last skill is my use of a “Day-timer,” i.e. my daily dairy to record medications, appointments and other important events. I will review my “Day-timer” three to four times a day. Using this system, I am better able to remember what I have planned to accomplish!  I have developed symbols to highlight the various entries that I write in my “Day-Timer.” Basically, when I have accomplished something I will show that I have done it by putting a check mark besides my entry. When I have not done something that day, I will enter a circle besides my entry that indicates that I will be carrying that entry over to ‘Tomorrow’s To Be Done list’ in my “Day-Timer.” My final step before I will say my prayers and go to bed is that I will tally my various symbols to determine what I accomplished that day. I will enter my ‘fraction of accomplishment’ near the bottom of my “Day-Timer.”

Using this system of organization, I go to sleep with a good idea of what I have accomplished. I usually end my day with an optimistic thought, as well as anticipating what I have planned for tomorrow. I believe that God spared my life for a good reason. I intend to live the rest of my Earthly life by always trying my very best in every situation I am faced with! By living my at times challenging, hopeful, promising, blessed life this way, I will be showing God by my actions just how extremely grateful I feel to be alive. 

 

Hope After Injury

by Lauren Medel

When I was young my parents would constantly praise my for my intelligence.  Not one day went by when I wasn’t reminded that smarts are more important than looks because “looks don’t last” and smarts do.  Not one moment in my life did I not feel smart first and something else second.  Always.  And that was what was important and that’s what important people do- they value intelligence above all else.

In June of 2004 I was a 24 year old mom and wife who was headed to Grandma’s house when someone ran a yield sign.  We were merging onto the highway so the impact was about 120mph on our bodies.  My 16 month old son was in the back seat, and as we learned later, had broken his leg from my seat detaching and hitting it as well as his wrist- from the shear impact.  I was trapped in the passenger seat for well over 45 minutes before the jaws of life were able to cut me free from the vehicle.  I was flown to the hospital in Austin Texas.

Three days later I woke up in the ICU.  There were these huge sausages where my fingers used to be.  My head hurt and I couldn’t hardly move.  My friends and family were by my side:  “you’ve had a horrible car accident.”  “do I have to go to work?”  “no, not for a long while.”  “Oh, good!  I can catch up on Oprah!”  I fell back asleep.  After 6 days in the ICU and 50% of my liver re-growing, I was sent to the orthopedic floor.  My dad and Step-mom came in from California to be by my side and help my husband deal with the madness.

I had over thirty surgeries over the next decade.

After a year, I had learned how to walk again and my husband starting using.  I was fine so my son and I left.  I had been working on my MBA at the time of the accident, so I continued to do that.  I decided that I wanted to go to law school and my son and I went to San Antonio and I went through three years of law school.  I moved to Dallas in June of 2011- six years after my car accident.  And, even though I worked full time during Bar study, I passed the Bar exam on my first try.

It was not until 2014, when I was deep in post-partum depression- that I learned I had sustained a brain injury in my accident.  My left temporal lobe was knicked and I’ve had to watch TV with subtitles ever since.  I would constantly complain about not being able to hear things, but my hearing was fine.  What I was really complaining about was an inability to PROCESS sounds.  My auditory processing zone had been hit.

As much as my life made more sense, I was devastated.  Did this mean I wasn’t smart anymore (a later IQ test shows my IQ has gone down over 35 points since I was 7 years old)?  Does this mean I can’t be a lawyer anymore?  Will my friends ever learn to enjoy tv with subtitles?  Will I ever be able to understand a movie in the theater?  An already depressed and anxious mind grew only more depressed and anxious.  I had an absolute identity crisis. 

My entire value was built around my brain and there I learned that it was now only average and DAMAGED.

I spent the next two years trying to come out of the depressed hazed.  During that time it dawned upon me that my friends and family knew I had a brain injury and withheld the information from me.  As I grew healthier and happier, I became more and more appreciative of them hiding that information.  I know me, and they clearly know me, because I would have likely given up at that news.  I certainly would have never gone to law school.  And as it turns out, going to law school is what helped heal my brain injury (to the extent that it can heal) and kept my mind sharp.

In 2015 I broke my limbs because of a thyroid issue and decided to change my life.  I write now, December of 2016, a fully changed woman from the one last year.  I attribute a huge part of that change- for the better- to my injury.  How so?  Well- it lead me to volunteer for Disability Rights Texas and to volunteer for the Office of Acquired Brain Injury.  That lead me to learn more about brain injury and disabled folks and their needs in Texas.  I now run my own full-time law firm where I cater to those who are disabled or suffering from brain injury as well as other normal Texans.

If I went back and could advise my friends and family about discussing the injury with me- I would tell them to do it just how they did.  They had my back.  That’s clear.

www.laurenmedel.com

lauren@laurenmedel.com

Thursday, September 22 NTX Giving Day

ntxgiving

Please take a moment and check out Hope After Brain Injury info!  Consider giving to our non-profit to provide assistance (counseling, education, consultation, conferences) for brain injury survivors and their families!

So, highlight your calendar for Thursday, September 22 and swing by https://northtexasgivingday.org/npo/wwwhopeafterbraininjuryorg!

Your donation will be matched by an anonymous donor up to $5000.

Oh, and btw, you will be making a difference to brain injury survivors in the future by helping us consult with all levels of medical and healthcare professionals!

See you Thursday the 22nd!

HOPE

HOPE is something that we all must aspire to achieve in our lives that will bounce off of our shoulders of someone like sunshine & become affixed to our minds.  We can gather hope, like I have for most of my life, from the negative situations that prevail in society at large.  There is discrimination, prejudice, stress, hatred, etc., however I never allowed this negativism to stop myself, because there are others to consider who are younger & not as well equipped as ourselves. Recovery from a coma, provided the hope I needed to assure my dreams in all the things, that I’ve been able to participate within over the last 40 years, beside teacher education at Southern Arkansas University.

My journey has not been one of fame or fortune, but has posed several difficulties.

Every job that I’ve had, which I’ve lost has been due to the head/brain trauma since 1998.  I can not run nor can I hide from my past, it follows me, every move I make.  These negative situations get most people down, however myself I look at a negative situation as a confused solution turned upside down.  Therefore, I went to work correcting/addressing this difficulty & I soon realized “Positivism” or as I say; rerouting negative views into positive ones.  It wasn’t long before the position of cognitively challenged started making sense to others & acceptance has been realized by some in our society, today.  Hope that this day would come has been long & hard at times, however I knew the end result would be more freedom for all.  Therefore, I gladly put my aspirations aside for the benefit of our state, nation, world, because Hope assures us all freedom within our minds.  All success must start in your mind?  I think I can!

HOPE is the only prayer I have & all that I’m left with now.  We must protect the next generation; they are our only future & Best Chance!  Working together we can make more lives better with the use of helmets, etc.!! Thank you for the opportunity to express what Hope has done for myself. If I can be of value, just contact?  I’m not disabled as society feel, I’m cognitively challenged, thank you!

Shaun Best, Protector of the Natural State, LifeSaver

Challenged Conquistadors, Inc.

Shaun.Best@yahoo.com

Organization

by Rebecca Trammell, TBI Survivor

Being an organized individual was always a strong suit for me and among other positive qualities, they are not absent, just simply harder to access. Our brains are organized, complex, and structured. As babies, we quickly learned that crying brought a human face to notice us, or worse, we could cry and no one came. From that moment, our brains began developing pathways for connection may now be severed or misaligned. The most basic of brain tasks, making a connection, is no longer intact and is in need of being redeveloped.

How do I redevelop one of my basic skills, organization? Rather than making lists, losing them, using sticky notes, and losing them, I fell back onto one my favorite old-school tools, dry erase boards. Dry erase boards keep thoughts, lists for the store, daily tasks, weight, all kinds of things. My self-imposed rule is that nothing on my boards can be erased until completed. For shopping, I take a picture of my list, using my phone and then I have a record that can be deleted, or saved for reflection.

My smartphone has a “calendar” program that is helpful. I set-up routine daily tasks (ie., taking medication) by using the repeat function. The calendar has reminder alerts I set for two hours and one prior, which in turn helps me plan my getting dressed time. The color coding effect on my calendar is also organized: Green – Money; Red – Urgent; Yellow – TBI Support Groups. My phone also has an “alarm” app which I use to remind to take breaks and prepare meals and I have the “do not disturb” function that stops any incoming alerts from 9pm to 6:45am the following morning.

By using available tools on small, routine, items I have begun creating a new path for organization in my mind.

Outside, Inside

Wonder if you ever feel this way?  Jan, a TBI survivor, wrote this ‘spot-on’ poem.  See what you think….

On the outside

You see me as normal

On the inside

I see how non-normal I am.

On the outside

I appear involved in the discussion

On the inside

I see how furiously my brain is working – just to keep up.

On the outside

You see me forget things

On the inside

I am infuriated by my forgetfulness.

On the outside

My words seem to come easily

On the inside

I can feel the words slipping away from my lips.

On the outside

You see me laughing at jokes

On the inside

I don’t get it—I feel stupid.

On the outside

You see me as normal

On the inside

I see my brain injury

And it hurts.

HOPE Springs Eternal

By: Robert Lyons; Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor, 1990
I lived the vast majority of my life in the Milwaukee area, so I was familiar with places that have a fairly severe winter. Besides being cold and snowy, the days were shorter, so we did not see too much sunshine. I longed for the promise of springtime. In many ways this season like no other, was akin to re-birth. Flowers, grass (nature) was growing. Animals often delivered their off spring in this season.
 
I feel as though, I am in the springtime of my “new life” by virtue of only the Grace of God.  I have found that when my sole focus is directed toward God, as well as my other loved ones, each and everyday of my development gets better than the last! By the Grace of God, I am learning & understanding concepts continually. 
 
After I was deemed “medically stable”, I was discharged from the hospital where I both had my surgery & very first rehabilitation. After this I attended outpatient services consisting of physical, occupational & speech therapies. It was at that first rehabilitation center where I learned to walk again! I had a couple nurses try to teach me how to walk again, yet I didn’t feel secure with both myself nor their direction. I then met a large physical therapist, who put a “safety belt” around me to give me confidence that I would not lose my balance & fall when I walked.
 
As I have by the Grace of God developed & progressed, I have been trying to improve my stride by always striking my left heal when I walk. I continue to develop doing this so that it has become something I do not have to think about. I noticed that my left side is weaker than my right, as I have in medical terms “contra-lateral damage.” The right-side of of the brain was where my surgery was, so my opposite side is weaker. An insight which I firmly believe came from a messenger of God, or directly from God, is that I almost always wear a brace around my left knee to assist me. My hope & prayer is to one day travel to heaven without a noticeable limp.