Survivors' Stories

Sandy’s Brain Injury Survivor Story

Brain Injury Survivor Story–Sandy suffered a concussion that caused a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) after a car crash that wasn’t her fault

I decided to write about what is happening in my life as a way to help others. Who am I? I am a mother of 3 young men, and a grandmother. I’ve been divorced 10 years; however, my ex-husband and I are good friends. Since 2007 and until the accident I worked full time as a senior administrative assistant for a civil and structural engineering firm.

On Friday, May 13th at around 7:30 a.m. I had just dropped my granddaughter off at before school care. It was raining. I was stopped, completely stopped at a traffic light. There was a police car in front of me. I was listening to the radio waiting for the light to change when BAM, I was hit from behind by a Ford F150 – a big truck. I drive a 2015 Subaru Forester.

My head went forward, backward hitting the headrest hard, then forward. I was stunned. Immense pain shot through my head. Somehow, I quickly put the car in park. OMG I’ve been hit. The officer flips on his lights and gets out of his car. He comes over to me and asks if I’m ok. I’m not sure, do I want an ambulance? My head hurts. I don’t know. Ok, just take a few minutes. He walks toward the other driver.

My head is painfully pounding, my neck and back are tingling. I take off my seatbelt and open the door. I get out of my car and take a step toward the Officer, stopping and grabbing the side of my car. Everything is spinning. I sit back down in my car.

The Officer comes over and asks if I want an ambulance. Yes, please.

The other driver was very sorry. He kept apologizing. As I was walking unsteadily with the help of the paramedic to the ambulance, he apologized again. When I looked over at him, he was standing there with a cup of coffee and a half eaten banana. For some reason, that’s what I remember about him. I can’t remember his face at all.

Once in the ambulance, I laid down on the stretcher and they buckled me in. Did another check on neck and back and decided on a cervical collar. They asked lots of questions to keep me awake, I just wanted to close my eyes and sleep.

At the hospital, there was a quick check by someone and I waited. Somewhere between the ambulance ride and the hospital I called my ex-husband. I don’t remember talking to him. My head is throbbing like I’ve never felt before. Went for a CT scan. A doctor came in and said I had a concussion, neck & back sprain, she told me she was going to give me a muscle relaxer and something else. Then sent me home.

I called my Chiropractor whom I’ve been seeing for about 12 years and let them know what happened. Doc saw me that day. Did a full exam, checked reflexes, used the spinal scan. He took more x-rays of my neck. Took me back to the adjustment room, and gently used the actuator to move my back into place. Then ice and electronic stem. In 1 hour I received more care than the entire time in the hospital.

From this point on some things I remember, some things I don’t. My head is throbbing, my balance is unsteady, light bothers my eyes, so do loud sounds and general noise.

I saw Dr Charles Park, Neurologist on May 19th. He referred me to Dr. Newman. The CT scan did not show any brain bleeds. Good. The bad news was he said I couldn’t work or do anything indefinitely. That there was no way to tell how long it would take for the brain to heal. Dr. Newman with the Neuroscience Team said it could take up to 8 – 10 weeks for the swelling to subside. That was on the 24th May.

The evaluation was 3 hours and I needed to take breaks. The lights in the room needed to be off or I wore sunglasses. I met with a team of about 8 different specialists. I had several appointments over the next 2 months. MRI, Brain Mapping, EEG, cognitive testing. An electroencephalogram (EEG) which is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain. The EEG shows sudden bursts of electrical activity (spikes) or sudden slowing of brain waves in the brain. A transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasound evaluates both the direction and velocity of the blood flow in the major cerebral arteries of the brain.

The concussion caused a TBI (traumatic brain injury) The swelling needs time to go down and the brain needs to heal. Then more tests will be done to determine if there has been any damage to the brain.

It will take at least 8 weeks for the swelling to subside—give or take a couple of weeks. At that time, he will assess me going back to work. I have to rest and eat omega 3s, he said studies show that foods high in omega 3 help heal brain swelling. Plant based foods are the best: flax, spinach, etc…

He said something about intracranial pressure. ICP. Which is the swelling of the tissue surrounding brain. The pressure causes the headaches. He spent over 45 minutes explaining things to Dave and I. Unfortunately, I don’t remember all of it.

Dave told the boys what was said. Brain trauma, ICP, rest no stress, several tests… This was written on the disability claim form:

‘Patient sustained traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident on 5/13/16. Since, which time, she has experienced chronic severe headaches, dizziness, decline in gait and balance, cognitive dysfunction, such as poor short-term memory, delays in processing speed, difficulty with attention and concentration, sensory sensitivity such as to light and sound and difficulty retaining information.Patient is currently being monitored for epileptic activity. This activity could be intensified along with all subsequent with physical and mental exertion.’

Every morning I wake up with an awful headache, pain worse than a normal headache. My balance is wobbly. I’m dizzy. I cannot bend over without almost falling. My ears are ringing. I’m not remembering conversations, appointments or even what I had to eat. My whole life has changed. My phone tells me I texted work and told them I was in an accident. I don’t remember it. In fact, I don’t remember much of the rest of May, June or July, except sleeping and doctor’s appointments.

As long as I sit quiet, do nothing, I feel ok. When I start to do things, like make a meal, or put a load of wash in, or type on this blog, the pressure starts to build in my head. When I have to ‘be the Mom’ and discipline etc… It takes so much out of me.

I worked a full time job, was an assistant leader in girl scouts, an assistant softball coach, took Emma to gymnastics every week, cooked, cleaned, knitted and crocheted, walked the dog and went to church. Now even the simplest things tire me out. It’s just frustrating and disheartening.

Swiss Cheese. That’s what my head feels like when trying to remember something and put it together. Coordinating different activities for Emma; dealing with doctor appointments, remembering to tell Dave something, and forgetting to tell Matt. Saying thank you to one person and forgetting the other person.

He showed me the results of the EEG. He said it was abnormal. There are spikes and spaces of 1-2 seconds, which affect memory. During that 1-2 seconds nothing is retained. This affects cognitive and executive functioning.

On August 9th I underwent a Lumbar Puncture Procedure to reduce the ICP. I had a headache as soon as the procedure was over. The cranial pressure was 18 which is high. The normal is between 6 + 9. I layed on my back for 4 days with no relief. Every time I went to the bathroom or sat up to eat, the spinal headache returned.

On the 13th August I woke up in blinding pain. I was advised to go to the Emergency Room. Once there, I waited 5 hours before being taken back to a room. There was nowhere to rest my head. I put a couple chairs together and managed to lay down.

Once in the room, I was given a migraine cocktail by I.V. That helped a lot. They kept me overnight for observation. I was discharged and given medal to take at 6pm the following day. I took these meds for 3 more days then slowly weaned off. The spinal puncture had finally healed.

I underwent 3 more EEG brain mappings and another transcranial Doppler. Basically, the lumbar puncture significantly reduced the intracranial pressure. Unfortunately, the pressure has started to increase again. The 3 brain mappings over 5 weeks, showed a gradual increase in pressure, causing the dysphagia and cognitive issues to continue.

Dr. Newman is starting High Performance Neurofeedback which is a type of brainwave based biofeedback that has shown clinical efficacy in addressing the symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I am also starting on Daimox medication to try and reduce the ICP. If this doesn’t work, then another lumbar puncture.

I have also been denied disability insurance through work because I have a sedentary job and there is no physical reason why I cannot work. I am appealing. Until then, I am barely surviving financially. Relying on my ex and sons to help pay the bills. However, my trust is in God and I believe I’ll get through this in time.

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