Don’t touch your Homework! Don’t Study! Don’t think!

AdamI am frequently instructing parents to keep their son/daughter on “Brain Rest” following a concussion (also known as “mild traumatic brain injury”).  “Brain Rest” is critical and can prevent/ reduce serious and harmful long-term effects.  Too often, this recommendation is met with resistance, denial and reservation.

My 15 year-old, Adam, suffered a blow to his head during basketball practice this week. Symptoms of concussion surfaced immediately.

I proceeded to explain what “Brain Rest” involves:

  • no school
  • no homework
  • no physical exercise
  • no computer use or Facebook
  • no XBOX
  • no text messages

I knew that I was asking a great deal from Adam. In essence, I was depriving him of everything that matters to him right now in his world. My son, like a normal teenager, is a product of a generation that is constantly bombarded with external stimulation and is never apart from his iPhone. He does not want to be cut off from his friends and his sports.

The first few days were hard. Adam does not know what to do without his phone, friends or Xbox.

I get 20 phone calls the first day:

  •  When will I get better?
  • I’m sick and tired of this!
  • I feel better now!
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Let’s end misconceptions about TBI!

 

 

Last Sunday (5/5/13), I watched a segment on 60 Minutes entitled: “Invisible wounds of war”.  The show focused on veterans who sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Public awareness of TBI is slowly increasing, primarily as a result of greater exposure by the media to sports and combat related injuries.

Yet, we still have a long way to go!

Most people with mild traumatic brain injury are still subjected to misconceptions about their condition.  The general public still believes it is easy to fake a brain injury.  Surprisingly, symptoms of brain injury manifest long after the initial event.  Even doctors (and other professionals) often do not appreciate the multiple symptoms associated with mild TBI and fail to give it the recognition and legitimacy it deserves. Routine conventional imaging such as CT scan does not always indicate evidence of brain injury, even though it exists.

This was dramatically brought home in the 60 minutes segment, which showed the latest brain scanning technology, which is unavailable to the vast majority of individuals.  This new technology often displays evidence of brain injury that was not evident on conventional CT scanning.

For me, the most moving part of the segment was when retired Army Major Richards, who suffered from brain injury, was shown his scan.>> Read more

WHAT MAKES ME TICK?

Mental illness or brain injury is responsible for devastating the lives of many innocent people. I see it OVER and OVER again.

Our focus as a society is wrong!

Regardless of whether we are dealing with mental illness or brain injury- we should provide adequate and ongoing treatment to people who need it.

We need to be proactive- not reactive.

Unfortunately insurance companies represent a major stumbling block for people battling with brain injury and psychiatric illness.  Insurance companies are not concerned with the quality of care but only about the bottom line… money. 

There is a direct relationship between socioeconomic factors and quality of care.  Only those individuals, who can afford to pay for private doctors, get needed support.   If you have a decent insurance plan, you have a better chance of succeeding.   If you are poor, you are not going to get the help you need.

Occasionally, rather than getting the appropriate treatment, patients will get the option that best satisfies the greed of the insurance plans.   Admittedly, I have seen colleagues and fellow psychologists also exploit the system so they can get paid.

From my standpoint, as a therapist, this makes me very angry.  I would like nothing more than to provide people with quality care and not let insurance companies dictate what I should do.>> Read more

LIVING WITH BRAIN INJURY – WILL I BE ABLE TO HANDLE THIS?

A sudden brain injury of a loved one impacts on many lives.  For the caregiver (i.e., spouse, child or parent) it marks the onset of a winding, unpredictable and exhausting journey full of uncertainty and fear.

Over the last 25 years of practicing psychology, I have repeatedly observed that even those individuals, who appear really strong, need extra support during this period.

As one of my patients remarked:

“No one can grasp the reality of my life in which nothing is the same as it used to be…”

 The following suggestions may help you:

  1.  Do not isolate yourself.  Loneliness and feelings of alienation are prevalent and contagious.  Force yourself to socialize (meet a friend for lunch).
  2. Allow yourself to receive help from others. Don’t be afraid to ask people for help.
  3. Try to establish some kind of routine in your day.
  4. Take care of your body and exercise. Make sure you are eating healthy food and not drinking too much alcohol.
  5. Find a support group for people undergoing similar experiences.  This will give you the reassurance and unconditional support you will most likely need.
  6. Alternatively, see a therapist who specializes in trauma. The emotional impact of the illness is likely to take its toll. 
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Hope for Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury

Over my 25+ years as a psychologist dealing with brain injury, I have seen too many survivors fall through the cracks.   At the present time, there is no standardized system of care for children with brain injuries despite the fact that it is so prevalent.  Without proper care, survivors of TBI end up in psychiatric hospitals, abusing drugs and alcohol, on the street, jail and even worse.

 It is easier to commit a crime and get hold of an illegal weapon than it is to access proper services for TBI.

On January 8 of 2013, I participated in a wonderful conference  working towards the implementation of the National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury Plan (PABI Plan) in New York State.

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The PABI Plan would create a standardized system of quality care that would be accessible to every child with an acquired brain injury, regardless of where they live or their insurance.

Below is the link to the newspaper article about the introduction of The National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI) Plan Act, tabbed HR 2600. This is very exciting plan for all survivors of brain injury.

Newspaper article about national brain injury act

Throughout the day,  I participated in stimulating multi -disciplinary meetings, sharing information with leading professionals all working collaboratively towards this common goal.>> Read more

Season Greetings!

Dear Friends,

I want to wish you a Happy New Year filled with peace, laughter and many successes.

This past year has seen changes in my professional life and I want to share this with you. I am now working at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains with people who have suffered head injuries. This includes individuals with TBI, PTSD, stroke, assault victims, veterans and athletes of all ages and backgrounds. It feels great to be back in the Rehab setting, the place where I started my career.

One split second can change a life forever. Almost every day, I meet with individuals and their families helping them to Move A Head.

Please feel free to share this blog with anyone who may be interested.

With warm regards and best wishes,

Heidi>> Read more

Four legged creatures with waggly tails can save lives:

Last night, as I was flipping through channels, I came across a show entitled: CNN Heroes; Everyday People Changing the World.

The show featured Mary Cortani. She founded a nonprofit that matches war veterans who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety and depression with their own service dogs.

Afghanistan war veterans have to start their lives all over again.  Their disability does not get the proper recognition it deserves.  Unwanted dogs (from rescue and shelters), help in ways that are beyond the scope of human beings.  As I was watching the show, I was deeply struck by the strong bond between the veterans and their dogs.  I am a dog lover myself and understand the boundless strength I get from my dog Nelly.

My thoughts go back to a veteran by the name of Teddy who I met in my office. Teddy had just returned after serving as a commander in Afghanistan.  Like many returning veterans, he suffered from PTSD and TBI.

Here are some actual quotes from my first sessions with Teddy:

“ I’m a mess and on edge about everything these days…. “

“ I feel paralyzed and I can’t do anything….”
“I wish I had lost my legs in the war instead of a TBI. 

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Ron’s Story-in his own words…

TBI Survivor

My name is Ron. I was a bus operator for 10 years.  I would like to share my stroke experience with you.

On September of 2011, while driving my normal bus route, I realized that something was not quite right. The traffic lights ahead were blurry and “doubling up”. At first, I removed my sunglasses thinking my shades may be messing with my vision. Things deteriorated quickly to the point that I could barely see anything at all.
Intuitively, I put the emergency brakes on and pulled the bus over to the side.

I was feeling very weak and frightened. I didn’t know what was wrong with me? I remember that my words were “dragging” and not coming out right. I had a medicine taste in my mouth. My lips felt like they had needles in them. The whole left side of my body could not move. I was in and out of consciousness.
X-ray revealed that I had a blood clot in my brain. I was given some type of injection to dissolve the blood clot, so I would not require brain surgery. The doctors also discovered that the blood clot originated in my left leg.   They also found that I have a heart murmur (whole in my heart).>> Read more

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?

Even if a person is injured and is taken to the emergency room, initial tests, including x-rays, CT scan and MRI of the brain often come back negative.

Individuals are discharged with Tylenol and told to follow up with doctors on an as needed basis.

NO ONE TAKES IT SERIOUSLY.

 “I wish someone, anyone, would have taken the time to explain the injury to me…”

Many individuals do not know they had a traumatic brain injury until much later.

Here are actual quotes of individuals who are currently undergoing treatment with me for their TBI.

How many of these apply to you?

o   “I don’t feel like myself…”

o    “I’m tired of hearing it’s in my mind!”

o    “It’s difficult to be treated like a kid…”

o   “Stop telling me to move on!”

o    “I am worthless”

o   ”I feel paralyzed.   Everything else carries on normally…”

o    “Even my doctors are ignoring my symptoms…”  

o   ” I don’t enjoy being pitied…”

o   “Anything pisses me off…”

o   “I’m tired of hearing people say -get over it!”

o   ”I can’t focus or remember things…”

o   “I can freeze (or panic) when I don’t understand something…”

o   ”I have severe headaches …”

o   ”I am always exhausted…”

o   “I don’t know from one moment to the next what is going on?”

o   ”I am very grumpy and frustrated all the time…”

o   ”I am drinking more alcohol and taking more medicine than I should…”

o   ”I’m truly alone in the world…”

o   ” I even thought of killing myself…”

o   “I’m losing hope that things will ever be normal again…”

o   “I need my seclusion.>> Read more

ANOTHER SHOCKING AND HEARTBREAKING STORY SHOWING HOW UNFAIR LIFE CAN BE AS A RESULT OF A BRAIN INJURY.

This is a story of a Former Linebacker on the 49ers, who ended up homeless because of a TBI he sustained during his career on the NFL. Unfortunately, I encounter this painful scenario too often in my office. It doesn’t matter who you are: a famous athlete, veteran, or the “ordinary” guy next door- this devastating outcome happens too often.

It is time for people to wake up and take brain injuries seriously!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/14/terry-tautolo_n_2133866.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

 

 >> Read more