Monthly Archives: July 2019

Talking About Your Injury

One of the more stressful aspects of the injury experience is deciding how to answer questions about the injury experience. This can be particularly stressful as many survivors find themselves receiving a barrage of questions every time they return to familiar situations. Friends at work have questions, customers have questions, old high school classmates have questions, etc. For many survivors, it seems that they have been suddenly placed in an unfamiliar spotlight. Let’s go over some general ideas and some specific suggestions when talking about your injury.

First, let’s review some general ideas. Many survivors initially think that few people know about their injury. After all, if the survivors did not tell others, how would they know? The reality is usually different. Sometimes, the injury event was on the news. For instance, if a survivor was in a major car accident or shooting, it generally made the news. Also, following an injury, family members may make prayer requests through social media or religious institutions. In this case, everyone who is connected via social media or anyone is part of the religions institution is aware of the injury event. Moreover, a brain injury is a big piece of news. Once one person hears about it, they are likely to “share the news” with friends from work, school or other social environments. Overall, information often makes the rounds to people you know quite quickly. However, the information is often piecemeal and occasionally, inaccurate.

With this in mind, the guiding principle when talking to others about your injury should that you give honest information in a manner that will engender others to have appropriate confidence in you. In some cases, people may be truly confused or concerned how you are doing and are using questions as a sort of gauge of health. The better you handle the situation, the more likely the other person will walk away with confidence in you.

Here are a few pieces of advice regarding talking about your injury:

  1. Always keep in mind who the person is that you are speaking with. For instance, is this a friend or an acquaintance? Is this person trustworthy to keep information private or likely to share it with everyone? Do I have a personal relationship or a professional relationship with this person? These factors will influence what you will share (or not share) with the other person.
  2. Whenever possible, keep information short and with limited detail. Remember, once you have said something, you cannot take back the information and the person you are speaking with may share that information with many others. Also, the less details you give, the less opportunity you are giving the other person to ask probing, sometimes uncomfortable, questions.
  3. Be sure to have a good exit/”no thank you” line. Not everyone has a right to your information and there are times you will not want to talk about your injury. A good exit line usually involves saying something nice, making your request and ending with something nice. For example: “Thank you for your concern but I really don’t enjoy talking about my recent health issues. However, I really appreciate that you cared so much to check on me.”
  4. Always tell the truth. If you tell a lie, there are two possible unpleasant outcomes. One, if the other person finds out that you deliberately lied, this can ruin the relationship. Second, if you tell a lie and the other person realizes the information is wrong but falsely thinks that you actually believe the lie, the other person will assume that you are quite confused.
  5. Be aware that you know a lot of medical/health terms that other people will not know, will not understand or even misunderstand. The average person on the street does not know terms such as “hemiplegia” or ” homonymous hemianopsia .” Using terms that other people do not understand may overwhelm the other person. Also, there are some terms that others may misunderstand. For instance, if you say that you are in “rehabilitation”, other people may falsely assume that you have a substance abuse problem. It may be better to say, “I have been working on my recovery from my injury” or “I have been in injury rehabilitation” rather than saying “I have been in rehabilitation.”
  6. Do not exaggerate or embellish your injury experience. Your story is already powerful and does not need any help. Also, exaggerating or embellishing may make the experience seem worse and cause other people to lose confidence in you.
  7. Be careful about using humor. Many people will not find much humor in your injury experience and may take too much humor to mean that you do not appreciate the seriousness of your injury. Again this could lead to a loss in confidence in your skills.
  8. Always ask questions of the other person. If the other person gets to ask all of the questions and you have to give all of the answers, eventually the friendly conversation may feel like an interrogation. The best way to balance the power is to ask questions of the other person, such as how are things going for their spouse, children or job.
  9. Practice your responses. When you are asked questions, the way to engender confidence is to have great responses. The best method to ensure you have great responses is to practice, out loud, your responses. This way, you can hear how your answers actually sound when coming from your mouth (which often sound different than how you imagine them in your mind) and practice different potential responses. It is often helpful to practice with a trusted loved one and/or to record and review your responses. This will help you find the best and most natural responses to questions.

These were just a few ideas and suggestions when talking to other about your injury. Always remember the key principle of giving honest responses that engender confidence!

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center! Visit us at: http://tlcrehab.org/

The Saddest Story

I would like to tell you the saddest story of my professional career. I was working at a major city hospital and one of my jobs was consultation neuropsychological testing. When a patient was admitted to the general medical unit of the hospital but the attending physician suspected the patient also had cognitive deficits (such as memory problems) I was asked to conduct a neuropsychological evaluation. It was in this role that I experienced the saddest case of my career.

One day, I was contacted by a doctor to conduct neuropsychological testing on a patient. The doctor told me the patient’s room and bed number. Naturally, I asked for the patient’s name. The doctor responded that he didn’t have the patient’s name, as the patient had been too confused to give it. He had been found injured at the side of the road and his brain was still in the beginning stages of healing, and the hospital had yet to be contacted by anyone who could provide his name. As I had never encountered such a situation before, I asked how long the patient had been in the hospital. The doctor replied that he had been in the hospital for two weeks. Two weeks had passed without any kind of contact from anyone that might know the patient.

I met with the patient and conducted the neuropsychological evaluation. Although he could respond verbally with excellent clarity, he could not give his name. He was so confused that at one point during testing, his responses indicated that he thought he was in a television show. I completed my testing and wrote up the evaluation. A week later, I asked the referring doctor if we’d finally found out the patient’s name. Three weeks later, we still had no name for the patient. He could not remember his name and no one had come to find him.

The saddest part of this story is not the patient’s severe confusion. I have assessed plenty of patients who struggled with recalling and conveying basic personal information. That is a large part of my role as a professional. The saddest part is that for three weeks, not a single family member, friend or co-worker had come to look for him. It was as if he was a lone deserted island in the middle of an ocean, and no one knew he existed.

There are several important lessons that I take from this story. As an adult, no one has to support you after you are injured. Legally, in most cases everyone can walk away and leave you on your own. Whether it be a spouse, child, other family member or anyone else, no one has to stick around when you are down. For instance, a spouse can choose to file for divorce or a parent can choose not to take responsibility for an adult child. This means that every single person who has decided since your injury to remain in your life has made a personal decision to remain. Every single visit, call, text or even a “like” on social media is completely voluntary. No one is being forced to do this. These individuals are choosing to be a part of your life. This means it is incumbent upon you to appreciate that each individual who has taken the time and effort to be a part of your life has made this decision willingly. Whether it be out of romantic or familial love, a strong friendship connection or any other reason, they have chosen to remain in your life following your injury. That is a big deal and it is important to appreciate their choices.

It is also incumbent upon you to recognize that your relationship with that other person is something that they find valuable even after your injury. If there were no value in the relationship, it would be easy for the other person to leave. So, you still contribute to that valuable relationship. He or she finds something about your relationship exceptional, even though you may not be in the same state of health as before your injury. You are still special and it is vital to appreciate your importance in the relationship.

It has been approximately 15 years since I saw the patient with no name and no loved ones. I hope life has turned out better for him than it was those many years ago. When I see the amazing love and caring that TLC patients receive from family, friends and co-workers, I think back and remember with sadness that not everyone has such great support. This makes me appreciate the relationships between TLC patients, family, friends and co-workers that much more.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center! Visit us at: http://tlcrehab.org/