Tag Archives: brain injuries

Traumatic Brain Injury vs. Acquired Brain Injury

One of the more confusing aspects of the brain injury world is that there are so many terms to learn. It can be difficult to differentiate between often similar terms. In this post, I would like to clarify the difference between two commonly used terms, “traumatic brain injury” and “acquired brain injury.” These terms (also known by their acronyms “TBI” and “ABI”) carry notably different connotations.

Traumatic brain injury is generally defined as any injury caused when an outside force is brought upon the brain. This can occur when an object strikes the brain, such as a bullet shot through a person’s skull. Alternatively, it can be when the brain itself strikes an object, such as when a person’s head hits a windshield in a car accident. This outside force can also be supplied by the shock wave of a bomb, which is to blame for many brain injuries suffered by soldiers. Though there is no “object” striking the head in that case, the force of the shock wave can cause considerable brain damage. Common causes of traumatic brain injury include motor vehicle accidents, falls, assaults, gun shot wounds and sports-related concussions.

Acquired brain injury is a broader term, covering all methods by which a brain can be injured (including traumatic brain injuries). This includes non-traumatic brain injuries due to stroke, anoxia (lack of oxygen caused by events such as heart attack or drowning), encephalitis and substance abuse. In short, acquired brain injury = traumatic brain injury + non-traumatic brain injury. Also, using the term acquired brain injury or traumatic brain injury does not denote differentiation between degrees of severity. All brain injuries have equal potential for low to high levels of severity.

I hope this helps clarify the difference between the terms “traumatic brain injury” and “acquired brain injury.” Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below!

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

Advertisements

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/

Beware Slippery Sidewalks

Slips and falls due to slippery sidewalks and other similar surfaces pose a real concern, whether an individual does or does not have a brain injury. However, the risks of injuring oneself in this way after a brain injury are often more frequent and more serious.

Many brain injury survivors are able to walk after their injuries but find that their balance is not as good as it was prior to an injury. Since these survivors can lose their balance more easily, this puts them at a greater risk to slip and fall on wet, slippery surfaces. Similarly, many survivors do not have reaction times quite as sharp as they did prior to their injuries, so they have more difficulty regaining their balance after a slip. Additionally, many survivor have one side of their bodies that is weaker than the other. When they fall, they tend to fall to the weaker side so there is little useful opportunity to brace themselves for falls. This potentially makes falls far more serious than they would have been prior to brain injuries.

Survivors in wheelchairs are also at risk for accidents due to slippery sidewalks and other surfaces. The wheels on wheelchairs easily slip on wet surfaces. Wheelchairs pick up speed very quickly on wet sidewalk ramps. This contributes to potential accidents and injuries, as it’s difficult for survivors to control their wheelchairs at these higher speeds. Wet leaves and other slippery items on ramps often exacerbate these risks.

Keep the following tips in mind to reduce slips and falls on wet sidewalks and similar surfaces:

  1. Always check the weather before heading out for daily activities.
  2. Make sure leaves are regularly swept up in locations where they tend to accumulate on sidewalks. Don’t be shy about mentioning to businesses that you may not be able to enter an establishment if there are wet leaves by entrances and exits.
  3. Be extra careful while traveling in a wheelchair or even simply walking both during and after a rainstorm.
  4. When possible, use sidewalk ramps that are covered by an overhang which shields from rain.

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

Bret Hart is a Survivor!

Bret “The Hitman” Hart is a wrestling legend.  For years he traveled the globe as one of the biggest stars in the world of wrestling.  But even a tremendous athlete like Hart can have a stroke.  Hart had that stroke in 2001.  He spent three months in a wheelchair and countless hours in rehabilitation.  His hard work paid off in an excellent recovery.  Today he represents the March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Program, inspiring other stroke survivors!  Click on the link below to watch a video of Bret Hart speaking about his stroke experience:

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

Give. It. A. Minute.

One of the most common mistakes that brain injury survivors’ loved ones make after an injury is not giving the survivors enough time to respond or take an action.  For instance, a survivor and his family may be at a restaurant for dinner.  When the survivor is struggling to place his order, a family member may jump in to place the order for him.  If given enough time, the survivor may have been perfectly able to place the order but the family member did not give him enough time to respond.

There are a few reasons why survivors’ loved ones tend to not give enough time to the survivor to respond or take an action.   One reason is that silence is uncomfortable.  For instance, if a survivor is needing extra time to respond, the silence may be so uncomfortable that the loved one will jump in and speak “for” the survivor.  A second reason is that is uncomfortable to watch someone struggle.  As an example, a survivor may be slowly, and with great effort, reach toward an item on a table.  The loved one may be so uncomfortable watching the survivor’s struggle that they reach over to get the item for the survivor.  A third reason is the feeling that the survivor and loved ones are in a rush or feel like they are causing someone else to slow down.  For instance, a survivor in a wheelchair may be pedaling down a hospital hallway but family members, concerned that the wheelchair is blocking the nurses, decide to push the survivor’s wheelchair to more quickly reach their destination.

However, it is important to give the survivor more time.  First, and most importantly, if the survivor is able to make a response or take an appropriate action when given extra time, they should be allowed the independence and respect to do so.  By unnecessarily jumping in, loved ones are taking away the power and the dignity of the survivor to take care of their own needs.  Second, although a survivor may need extra time and effort to complete a task, they are more likely to get faster and more efficient over time with practice.  By doing the task for them, the loved one is taking away vital practice from the survivor who is trying to master a task.  Third, the survivor may need extra time to safely complete an activity.  After an injury, certain tasks may have concrete steps which take time or require more processing time to successfully finish without risk.  For example, most uninjured individuals simply stand up when they are ready to leave a room.  A survivor may have to go through multiple steps to safely transfer from sitting to standing.  These steps require extra time so the survivor can safely transfer.

When wondering about the survivor’s need for extra time and if they should jump in, loved ones should ask themselves the following questions:

1.  Is the task truly out of the survivor’s skill range or do I just need to be more patient to allow them to complete the task?
2. Are we actually in a rush or is a little extra time a reasonable request?  For example, if a survivor needs an extra ten seconds to place an order at a restaurant, keep in mind that the waitstaff is getting paid to serve you.  Ten extra seconds is not an unreasonable request.
3. What message am I giving to the survivor if I do not allow them to do for themselves when they are able to so?
4. Is the issue really about the survivor needing extra time or my personal discomfort in this situation?
5. By going faster, have I compromised my or the survivor’s safety?

In most cases, a little extra time will help a brain injury survivor be more successful and allow everyone to have a better experience!

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

Using the Open Chair Technique

Survivors with brain injuries push themselves to get better.  Staff members at TLC see this every day.  Survivors push themselves to walk better.  They push themselves to speak better.  They push themselves to improve their memory.  They push themselves in every aspect of the rehabilitation experience, but recovery from a serious brain injury can be quite slow.  It is almost always slower than the survivor would prefer it to be.  Unfortunately, this leads some survivors to speak poorly about themselves.  They say things such as “I am a failure because I am not 100% improved” or “I should be much better than I am now.  I am failing at therapy”.  This negative self-talk can lead to emotional difficulties such as stress, low mood and sometimes even to depression.

If looked at objectively, this negative self-talk is often due to unrealistic expectations that the survivors have regarding their recoveries.  The survivors may believe that the amount of time necessary to recover is in excess to that which they expected, even when the medical research shows that they are progressing at a normal rate.  By expecting faster or better results than are humanly possible, survivors can cause themselves unnecessary frustration.

Interestingly, these same survivors who hold unrealistic expectations of themselves generally do not hold these same expectations of others.  They are often more logical and understanding of other survivors than they are of themselves.  It is common at TLC for the same patients who have unrealistic personal expectations to support realistic expectations in other patients.  They will make supportive statements to other patients such as “Don’t worry and take it slow.  You will get better over time.  You are running a marathon not a sprint.”  When the patients with unrealistic expectations are asked if they believe the advice they are giving to others, they almost always answer in the affirmative.  They understand that the brain injury recovery process is a slow one which requires lots of work.  They understand it is a long-term process.  But they decide for whatever reason that their personal recoveries should take less time than those of others, holding themselves up to unfair (often impossible) standards.
One way to manage this negative self-talk is by using the “open chair” technique.  How this technique works is that patients are asked to imagine they are sitting next to themselves and that the person occupying their seat is someone else with the very same issues and deficits that they have.  The patients are then asked to give this “other person” honest feedback about how the “other person” is doing.  Often, patients find that this leads them to soften their tones and to make more supportive personal statements regarding their own progress.  Similarly to when they are actually talking to other patients, when they address themselves as that “other person”  patients demonstrate more realistic expectations and are less likely to attack themselves.  The “open chair” technique often helps patients treat themselves not only better, but also more fairly and honestly.  By being more fair and honest to themselves, survivors tend to have an improved mood.  And the better the mood that survivors can maintain, the easier it is to navigate the rehabilitation process.

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

Michael Johnson is a Survivor!

Olympic gold medal sprinter Michael Johnson has always kept himself in great shape, even in retirement from his celebrated professional career.  However,  it is possible for even a healthy individual to have a stroke.  Michael Johnson recently suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “mini stroke”.  Though he has recovered well from the TIA, the experience taught him a valuable lesson about vulnerability and motivated him to educate others regarding the risks for stroke.  Click the link below to read more about Michael Johnson’s stroke experience:

https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/46798931

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

 

Bike Helmets Are Not Just For Kids

This post, as many of the posts on this blog have been, was motivated by an everyday experience (had either at work or in my personal life).  This particular post was influenced by a conversation I had on Facebook.  Recently, a friend of mine posted a picture from 20 years ago.  The picture was taken after he had experienced a serious bicycle accident.  He mentioned breaking several bones and having a concussion.  He said that the accident was proof that bicycle helmets work and that he needs to wear one all of the time.  I mentioned that I have seen several patients with severe brain injuries due to bicycle accidents and agreed that he needs to wear a helmet whenever bicycling.  He responded by telling me that the accident was so serious that it affected his memory.  He woke in the emergency room with a note taped to his chest telling him what had happened.  Before reading that note,  he had no idea how he might have ended up in the emergency room.

This brings us to a worrisome trend I have noticed.  While many more children are wearing bicycle helmets while out riding than in the past, many adults are not.  This is especially concerning when looking at accident data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  According to the NHTSA, the average age of citizens suffering bicycle accident fatalities as of 2016 (most recent data available) is 46.  Moreover, for children under the age of 14 there is on average approximately 1 death per million in the resident population while for adults between the ages of 50 and 65 that figure jumps to over 4.6 per million.  These findings should should raise concern in every adult bicycle rider. (For this data, and further information on bicycle safety from the NHTSA, click on this link) https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812507)

It is likely that a chief factor in this disparity is the fact that many states and cities have laws mandating that children wear helmets while there are no corresponding laws governing adult behavior.  For instance, it is illegal in the city of Houston, TX for anyone under the age of 18 to ride a bicycle without a helmet but there is no equivalent law for adults.  These laws ignore a basic medical reality.  Adults can just as easily suffer a brain injury as any child and, based on that NHTSA data, are dying from bicycle accidents at a distressingly higher rate than children.  Just as children need to protect their brains from injury, so do adults.  Reaching the age of 18 does not magically make a bicycle rider immune to serious accidents.  Everyone, including adults, should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle!

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

Practice Makes Proficient

Neurorehabilitation from a brain injury involves learning and re-learning a long list of common activities.  Patients spend hours honing skills such as naming well-known items, transferring to and from a wheelchair and using adaptive equipment.  Therapy sessions often consist of countless repetitions of the same action, drilling these essential skills over and over (and over).  Further, therapists will usually send patients home with discharge plans outlining continued practicing of these same skills at home.  Sometimes, patients will wonder why they have to practice these activities to such a degree.  After all, if they demonstrated the skill once (or more likely a multitude of times throughout inpatient therapy) doesn’t that serve as proof positive that they now possess said skill?  Why is this repeated practice necessary?

In reality, to truly become proficient at any skill a great deal of of practice is necessary.  Just because a patient has succeeded at demonstrating a skill on one occasion does not mean that he or she will succeed in the future.  This is true for any life activity or field of endeavor.  For instance, imagine hearing the following overhead announcement while taxiing an airport runway prior to takeoff:  “Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard flight 683 to Phoenix.  My name is Captain Mike and I will be your pilot today.  I have successfully flown a plane once.  I anticipate a smooth flight today.”  After hearing this announcement, most passengers would probably scream for the exits immediately.  Who would trust a pilot to fly a plane with a history of only one successful attempt?  We instinctively recognize that lots of practice is necessary to trust that a person can reliably and competently complete a given task.  This holds just as true for therapy as it does for the for flying of a plane.  Repeated practice, both in therapy and at home, is necessary for a patient to hone the skills and competencies necessary to successfully accomplish rehabilitation goals.  It is only through practice that patients can become proficient.

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

TLC on TV!

TLC was on TV!  The TLC facilities in Galveston and Lubbock both recently acquired  innovative new robotic arm devices from Bionik Laboratories.  Our partnership with Bionik Laboratories will allow TLC patients to make use of this cutting edge technology in efforts to improve rehabilitation outcomes.  This new technology is so innovative that Fox 26 in Houston came to film a segment at TLC Galveston on the robotic arm and its potential.  Click the link below to see TLC on TV!

http://www.fox26houston.com/news/new-robotic-arm-therapy-being-used-to-help-stroke-patients-recover

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