Recovery from Severe Traumatic Head Injury

A repost of my blog from last February, a couple of months after a car accident..

At the end of November I was unfortunate enough to end up with severe traumatic head injury and double vision. After 2.5 months the signs are good for a recovery.

Severe traumatic head injury is when you get a nasty shock to the head and end up in a coma for 1 day to 2 weeks (I was out for 3 days). Waking up from a coma is not like in films, I had two days in a delirium gradually realising I wasn’t dreaming and something was up. My nice flatmate and dad came and rescued me from that.

Back in Scotland the NHS (remember it’s independent here, no playing around with it as David Cameron is doing in England) gave me an MRI scan to check my brain had no dead patches in it, fortunately there were not.

However there are no magic drugs for brain trauma, a lot of neurons need to get rebuilt so it just needs a long slow recovery. My cognitive abilities have been improving nicely week by week. I used to be tired at just thinking about something brain intensive like programming, now I can manage it pretty well. My context switching ability (which allows for multi-tasking) was initially very slow but is now much better. My concious spelling (when you are thinking about spelling not just writing it without thinking) did not work at all but is now coming back.

I get tired easily, as with any illness your body needs to force you to rest more. Initially I went to bed early each night, now I don’t feel the need so much. Good manners take more energy too so I get grumpy and snappy after a day spent organising people or when I’ve been in the cold for too long.

The other part of my illness is a stretched muscle in my eye giving me double vision. This too has no miracle cures and just needs a long slow recovery. I have one lense of my glasses taped over which prevents double vision. But since I don’t use glasses much and they cause a bit of strain on my eyes when used with a computer I bought an eye patch. You can not buy decent eye patches in Europe as far as I can tell, only cheap ones which aren’t comfortable to wear for several months at a time. So I had to get one from an american medaeval recreation costume company.

The eye patch is the most obvious sign I have a (presumably temporary) disability. Most people have never come across such a medical issue before and so act in one of the following options: ignore it and forever wonder why I’m dressed like a pirate, ask politely why I’m dressed like a pirate, joke and go yarr. Even the neurology doctor I went to see had the “nice pirate costume” reaction. This is all fine and perfectly understandable. Only drunk people grate because they can not moderate their tone of voice to make it friendly enough. If you ever see a disabled person when drunk, just stay quiet.

The most curious reaction I’ve had was “I wouldn’t treat you like a disabled person.” What this means is “I wouldn’t treat you like a wheelchair user” and shows a lack of understanding of limited ability/disability which means so much more than wheelchair users. When you meet a disabled person do not modify your language or act self-conscious, just modify your actions as you work out their abilities. If in doubt ask politely.

Only being able to use one eye at a time means I have no depth perception. Out goes canoe polo games since I can’t catch or throw at all reliably. Also stairs feel very dangerous, especially those without handrails. Most stairs in the UK have handrails because of the great disability legislation we have here. In Belgium by contrast they do not and they consider it acceptable to close off disabled toilets with signs pointing at the less-accessible toilets.

Keeping up top psychosomatic health is important during a long recovery. This means the relationship between good body health and good mental health. My good friend Beth came up and helped me do a deep clean (”spring clean”) of the flat, good housing has a very strong relationship to good health. She also cooked lots of chilie bean mix and put it in lots of bags in the freezer, this is a nice easy way to get back into cooking (which I had to stop doing because of lack of energy), add a bag, add some carbohydrate and boil away. Lovely.

I’ve also been taking alexander lessons from my mum, this is nice and relaxing but also helps with long term posture which I find it hard to keep right when I’m low on energy. And Eddy the canoeist has been using me as a test run for his massage course which works out nicely. Psychosematic health is also helped by a placaebo which feels like real medicine as long as you choose to believe so I’ve been taking homeopathic pills.

Thanks to everyone who has been helping!

5 Replies

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  • good luck on your recovery, your right it does take time, remember to be gentle on yourself, I always forget and get frustrated

  • Hi, you have said so many wise and thought provoking things - Im going to read everything again! Its nice to hear of the people helping you and the treatments they are helping you with! Take care and continue getting better day by day, big hugs, Linda x

  • An interesting & positive post, thank you. I believe recovery doesn't stop, it just slows down & nearly 13 years on I'm still improving. (Don't know how long I was 'out' for, but post-traumatic amnesia about 5 weeks.) Wishing you well!

  • wow it was like i had wrote some of it. I to have double vision and the other conditions from my brain injury. You have support which is the key to getting better. sadly i don't. i am 3 years on and my multitasking is pants. sensc]e of depth spaces is so to. most other things you mention. But i guess it depends on where and what when it come to each indevidual tbi. I so wish i could put folks posts in a book and give it to my family so they will beleive what i am going thru and i am not alone. When you look ok you are ok in my family. hey ho.. i have got this far as i a mum and A SURVIOR not a victim. be nice to stay intouch to ask for your advice and visa versa.

  • I had a serious car accident last February, resulting in TBI. I was in a coma for 3 days and then not fully conscious or coherent for the next 3 weeks. I was in hospital fir a total of 6 weeks. Nearly a year on I am left with double vision, vertigo, some memory issues and nerve damage down my right hand side of my body. I have got use to the double vision mostly, I wore glasses and contacts before the accident. I miss being able to wear contacts & get fed up with them steaming up in the winter. The vertigo can be quite unpleasant at times, it makes me feel like I'm drunk when I'm not. The memory problems are frustrating but again I think I have got use to it, I just have to write things down all the time. The worst symptom by far for me is the fatigue! It's an invisible symptom that can come on quickly and be so overwhelming! I have 2 young children so getting rest is sometimes difficult but it could have all been so much worse!

    It sounds like you are doing really well and time is a massive healer (I use to hate it when people said this to me, but turns out they were right) good luck with everything!

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