Back to School Time… Reeducating a Damaged Brain

David-Grant-324-x-290Brain Injury Blog

Back to School Time…  Reeducating a Damaged Brain

by David A. Grant

No one really likes to think about brain damage.

Sure, around these parts, we talk a lot in initials. TBI, ABI, MTBI, EEG, PTSD, MRI… the list goes on.

But the reality in my world is that when I sustained a traumatic brain injury, I experienced brain damage. There is no way to candy coat this harsh reality of what happened. I was struck while cycling, broke bones, tore tendon and ligaments, bruised in places I never knew possible, and I sustained brain damage.

My dis-inhibition these days means that I am far more likely to be more candid than ever. I try hard to always temper my comments and to never indict harm or pain.

There is an immense freedom in this soul-level honesty.

Fourteen months ago, a leading neurologist was part of my continuing education about TBI. While I have read many books, browsed volumous of web-content, and become a bit of a sponge as I learn about TBI, most of my real-life knowledge about life with a traumatic brain injury comes from living it. If you have a TBI, you know exactly what I mean.

This same neurologist shared a fact that didn’t sit well at the time. In fact, it scared me witless.

“Your IQ has dropped since your accident. It is very common among brain injury survivors to see a degradation in intelligence.”

At 14 months post-impact, I was still in fact-finding mode. Still trying to figure things out. Trying to make sense of something so overwhelmingly surreal that it felt like a bad dream. One that I was unable to wake up from.

And thus this trusted doctor became yet another actor in the screenplay of my life.

Like most new news that hits me hard, I took it in, held my head high at his office… and cried all the way home.

Degradation of intelligence?

As this fact settled in, my first reaction was purely self-pity. Oh, how I would love to say I embraced this news and carried on. But that was not the case. I stewed about it for a while.

And somewhere, from deep within, the fighter began to emerge.

Before my accident, I had a long history of beating things. It was clear that I was not going to be a victim of his diagnosis.

I remain as committed to cycling and wellness today as I was before I was hit. Daily I cycle thirty or more miles. Most every day. I am one of the lucky ones. While I crash mentally most days at 2:00 PM, I can still ride.

But I made a decision. Rather than listening to two hours of music on my MP3 player, it was time to try something new.

I shared with Sarah that I was going back to school for a Liberal Arts degree… and that I was going to pay no tuition.

From that day on, my two hours a day on my bike with my ear buds in became a bit different. While I occasionally choose music on the weekends, my new Monday through Friday audio track is now vastly different.

My daily playlist now includes regular current events podcasts from NPR. I have listened to hundreds of hours of American Academy of Sciences “Science Podcasts.” Simply put, we become what we are exposed to. I am pumping new information into my brain at a speed unlike anything I have encounter since college.

So how is this informal education working?

As my memory is not what it used to be (a vast understatement) some of what I hear is quickly forgotten.

But much of it sticks. In fact, I am often shocked at how much I do remember. I’ve developed a bit of a fascination for astro physics. Of course, anything related to neurology captures my interest in a heartbeat. I’ve listened to hours of Grammar Girl podcasts that have helped me with my writing. The list goes on.

The take-away is this: I was made aware of a new deficiency that resulted from my brain injury. Rather than simply accept that “it is what it is,” I opted to try something new.red dwarf Planet

And it paid off.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I don’t have “stuff.” Living with a TBI is the hardest thing I have walked through- ever. It is unending, uncomfortable, terrifying, unpredictable… the list goes on.

But this is my only life. And I am doing the best I can to deal with this. And a few hundred hours of podcasts later, I can tell you about amazing things like exoplanets.

I will continue to push myself hard. Harder that I probably should.

But I owe it to myself and those close to me to get as well as I can.

The old David is gone and the new David is still a bit unknown to me.

But so far, he seems alright. 

About the Author

David A. Grant is a writer based in New Hampshire and the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury. A survivor of a harrowing cycling accident in 2010, David openly shares his experience, strength and hope as a brain injury survivor.

For more information please visit www.metamorphosisbook.com/

February 26, 2013

7 responses to “Back to School Time… Reeducating a Damaged Brain”

  1. game of war fire age cheats zip says:

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be witten any better! Reading this
    post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always
    kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  2. grammy bash says:

    What is sequencing? I was in a vw/semi-truck accident in ’79, passenger. No seatbelts required. 45° downgrade on CA Grapevine frwy #5. Truck coin 35, my driver, narcoleptic seizure doing 85mpg at impact.
    So, I was 21 and they didn’t have any recourses for me such as I am hearing for the first time ever… back when I was going through partial amnesia and a strong dose of TBI. I was a single mother, so I didn’t have “parents” to make sure I got help. I’m 55 now. This is the first time I’ve ever thought to find resources for me. I had a high IQ then and I absorb information like a sponge too. How do I get the resources that others are referring to? I’m on perm. SDI, and a TBI waiver for CDAC & SCL asset’s, although they are NOT trained in any BI material.

    Am I too old, because my daughter and two grandchildren have pushed me out of their lives in the last six years and now I am alone. They say they want nothing to do with my PTSD & TBI. How can I be who I can never be again? Why do they think I’m unfit to be in their lives’ anymore?

    I just want to improve and maybe I can have my family accept me for who my situations have brought me to become.

    Thanks.

  3. Linda says:

    My husband has an ABI. He used to be a supervisor in the manufacturing business. Now cortically blind and permanently disabled. It has been about 18 months since he had multiple complications after surgery, spent 82 days in the hospital and another 2 months in rehab. His outpatient therapy has been over for a year, that was challenging because most brain injured can use their vision to help them improve. He is not motivated to help himself and refuses any more therapy. I work full time with mandatory overtime. I have to organize everything he will need while i am at work. His fine motor skills are off so using anything with buttons causes much aggravation. I can control his television with my smart phone which we couldn’t do without as he cant see what channel he us on. We use velcro on his simple 4 button remote. He does enjoy listening the tv even though it moves too fast for his brain. I wish he could learn to use a computer like you! Voice activated software is too complicated.

  4. Linda says:

    My husband has an ABI. He used to be a supervisor in the manufacturing business. Now cortically blind and permanently disabled. It has been about 18 months since he had multiple complications after surgery, spent 82 days in the hospital and another 2 months in rehab. His outpatient therapy has been over for a year, that was challenging because most brain injured can use their vision to help them improve. He is not motivated to help himself and refuses any more therapy. I work full time with mandatory overtime. I have to organize everything he will need while i am at work. His fine motor skills are off so using anything with buttons causes much aggrivation. I can control his television with my smart phone which we couldn’t do without as he cant see what channel he us on. We use velcro on his simple 4 button remote. He does enjoy listening the tv even though it moves too fast for his brain. I wish he could learn to use a computer like you! Voice activated software is too complicated.

  5. Miranda Mercuri says:

    Hi Mona,
    I would say, PATIENCE and never fail to keep trying. Trust that the brain will heal on it’s own time. Look for the positive small improvements that the brain is making. Make smaller goals to achieve the end result. It takes time. But if she believes she will achieve what she wants to, then she will. Motivation and initiation comes when the brain is well rested and not overwhelmed on the “can’t do’s yet” but on the “can do’s”. As an education consultant for children with a variety of unique learning abilities as well as a brain injury survivor, keep exploring for new ways of learning and remembering things. Repetition and reinforcing habits are important, and while they may seem impossible at times, keep on moving forward.

  6. Mona Sweatt says:

    David, what would you say to a 16 year old girl who suffered a TBI to her right frontal lobe which controls motivation and initiation? We are currently working on sequencing.
    Thank you in advance,
    MSweatt

  7. faye says:

    David,I say to you well done.As I read your story like most TBI I have had to learn to live with this new person.You have encourged me with your returning to school

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