Concussion / TBI

It’s not just a concussion…

Know that you can get your life back after a Traumatic Brain Injury

I’m an exceptionally blessed individual who has overcome a “mild” traumatic brain injury that was anything but mild…

Why is this page listed under Passions? For me, creating greater public awareness and understanding of traumatic brain injury symptoms & solutions is essential. My journey was the most challenging experience of my life, and along the way I learned first-hand that there are a lot of misconceptions out there among doctors, neurologists, TBI patients and their families.  It’s a calling for me to share hope with those struggling with TBI. Let no one tell you your symptoms are “in your head” or that you won’t improve.  My message to anyone who sustains a TBI, concussion, stroke or other neurological insult is to NEVER GIVE UP.

The back story… While attending a professional development conference in Calgary, Canada, I had a serious accident. I walked into a lamp post. The best way to describe the impact of this event is that it changed my life forever. As my website evolves, I’d like to share this story, some helpful thoughts, and potential steps that might come in handy for you, a loved one, or a friend moving forward.

Bam! It was July 22, 2015. I met the lamp post, and yes, that sounds almost comical. After an incredibly hard hit to the right side of my head, I visited the emergency room in Canada and then numerous doctors in the United States in the months that followed. I was again and again informed that my injury would resolve itself within 4-8 weeks. Unfortunately, it didn’t resolve that quickly, and at times, symptoms worsened during the year that followed.  I was completely desperate to understand what was causing a multitude of uncomfortable and downright scary symptoms (listed below). After three months of sleeping every two hours and researching brain injury solutions every waking hour, I had the great fortune of finding a book called The Ghost In My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back, by Clark Elliott, Ph.D. I couldn’t put the book down because the author explained his brain injury symptoms in a most articulate manner that I fully understood. He was explaining my symptoms! According to the author’s website, “The Ghost In My Brain details an unforgettable chronicle of recovery, one that provides a window into the tremendous power of the human brain and offers new hope to those suffering from concussion and other brain traumas.”

My mild traumatic brain injury/concussion took the better part of two years to resolve. It was indeed a long journey, and I commend you and your loved ones for seeking as much knowledge as you can to do your best to beat TBI. TBI survivors are a strong bunch, and they need to be their own best advocates.

NEVER GIVE UP, you have the neuroplasticity of the brain on your side! According to medicinenet.com, neuroplasticity is “the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.” If one provider fails to encourage healing, whatever the techniques and tools used, move on to other alternatives. During the first year of my journey, I learned it took a village to heal my hurting brain.

A concussion, even a mild one, is a traumatic brain injury. I wince every time I hear someone state “Oh, it’s just a concussion, she’ll be fine. I had many concussions and they are no big deal.” Argh! Here’s a little-known stat to ponder. Approximately 80% of concussions will resolve within the usual suggested timeframe of 4-8+ weeks. That’s great news! However, that leaves 20% of us (a whopping 500,000 people annually in the U.S. alone) whose symptoms may not fully resolve so quickly or easily. For these individuals, quite often things get worse in the weeks following the initial insult to the head.

The following is a list of head injury symptoms I endured either immediately or soon after sustaining my injury. Yes, it’s a lengthy list, and no, not every symptom was present from day one. That’s a key understanding that all should be aware of, symptoms come and go and quite often they arrive well beyond the initial date of injury. I think in my own case, part of my not noticing certain symptoms immediately was that I had other stronger symptoms that took my complete undivided attention. In hindsight, I’d say I was “putting out fires” symptom by symptom as I sought relief.

While the symptom list below is lengthy, a concussion/TBI patient won’t necessarily experience all of the same symptoms. This list can be used as a starting point to enable you to identify some of the concerns/struggles. Know that you can get your life back. Be patient and kind to yourself.

My Head Injury Symptoms:

  • Nausea

  • Vertigo or dizziness; loss of balance

  • Sound sensitivity (hyperacusis).

  • Light sensitivity, especially to fluorescent lighting

  • Feeling overloaded/overwhelmed

  • Difficulty with emergency vehicle lights and sound

  • Problems walking in wide open areas; on shiny floors; on “busy” rugs/carpeting; in crowds

  • Blurred vision/Double vision

  • Constant fatigue, long naps, sleep difficulties at night

  • Failure to initiate movement

  • Depression; mood swings; low motivation

  • Anxiety, frustration, anger

  • Hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response (fight or flight)

  • Limited attention or concentration

  • Inability to follow directions

  • Poor reading comprehension (rereading the same paragraphs); memory loss; short attention span

  • Poor spatial judgement/impaired depth perception

  • Visual midline shift (sensation of pulling to the left or right)

  • “super market syndrome” (difficulty walking down the isles in a supermarket or other store)

  • “Unsteady-non-specific spatial disorientation”

  • Feeling of “walking in my own silent movie” (a phrase often used to describe the disconnect between the individual and the environment)

  • Inability to watch TV – any fast movement lead to head pain

  • Cannot watch commercials (scenes are switched quickly)

  • Word-finding difficulties

  • Inability to multi-task or work in transition

  • A feeling of “Electrical storms” in the brain

  • Poor adaptation to visually complex environments (patterns on the floor, high ceilings)

  • Post-injury amnesia (no recollection of specific events/activities not connected to original injury)

**See my 2016 Mind Eye Institute interview. Dr. Deborah Zelinsky’s neuro-optometric rehabilitation using therapeutic lenses was a life-saver for me.  Her unique technique utilizing patented Z-Bell technology has helped thousands of TBI survivors.

***Special thanks go to my fantastic go-to TBI team, Deborah Zelinsky, O.D., F.N.O.R.A., F.C.O.V.D. (Northbrook, Illinois), Donalee Markus, PhD. (Highland Park, Illinois), and Dr. Ralph DeStephano, DC DACNB (Chicago & Spring Grove, Illinois). You each have provided exceptional care!

There's no such thing as a "mild" traumatic brain injury

My Nemesis

The Ghost In My Brain

Concussion Story

Remember, you're not broken, you've become more beautiful

TBI Warriors-Dr. Clark Elliott, Nathalie Kelly, myself, & Cavin Balaster

The Most Extraordinary People