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Dealing with Brain Trauma...My families story.

I have been pretty silent over the past few months, and it has been due to some pretty big turns in my life. On Memorial Day, my dad started exhibiting some cognitive changes very similar to brain injury trauma. He had no signs of stroke or physical impairment, but personality changes, fatigue, and headaches (as well as not following conversations appropriately), occurred. We rushed him to the trauma hospital and found that he had a rare brain injury, AV fistula, that can actually occur without trauma. It happened in his frontal lobe, which is responsible for voluntary movement, higher level executive function, personality, planning, self-monitored actions, and expressive function.

When the AV fistula was found, the only option was surgery immediately the next day, which took 7 hours. As he was going into surgery, we knew the risks could be brain damage, altered personality, blindness, cognitive impairment, and even death. My personality goes into doctor mode and then I deal with the emotions many days to months later. I am really grateful for my “doctor mode” personality, as my training allowed me to manage my dad’s healthcare with my family, over the the next week that we spent in the hospital.

During that time, we were so blessed with wonderful nurses who worked with us and allowed family members in the room, which is still really restricted these days.

The best part of it all? My dad woke up from the surgery with his personality still maintained, and continues to heal to this day.

Here are some things to know about brain injury:

  1. Rest – Patients need a lot of it to heal the brain, as the injury actually demands it and makes patients simply fall asleep.

  2. Hydration and food – the brain may not like the same foods or crave unhealthy foods, and may not want to eat at all! Therefore maintaining food and hydration is essential.

  3. Light therapy – skin healing is 610 nm wavelength of light and 850 nm is for deeper brain tissue healing. Our office uses the Erchonia FX 405 laser!

  4. Quite environment – “So they need to be in a boring environment?” as my dad put it, with minimal noise and stimulus. This also means visitors have to be kept to a minimum for several weeks (3-4 weeks). Small children also struggle at this time to keep from being loud.

  5. Exercise – The goal of rehab for a brain is to get the person to do what they were doing before, so they can return to normal life.

  6. Patience – They may not be back to their normal self immediately, so hang on and understand that many changes are coming your way.

  7. Screens – Phones and tablets often have a light level that is painful and difficult on the eyes and can cause headaches. Live action television shows, like sports, are easier and less stimulating to view and pass the time.

When the dust began to settle the weeks after the surgery, I was still going down to visit my parents frequently, and that was exactly the time I started to crash and process the whole experience. I feel that I am still processing and while so grateful for the outcome and even the journey, it has still changed me in a profound which I am still wrestling with and will continue to grow and understand.

What I do know is that all of these experiences make me a better doctor and person, even through the challenge and pain. I will forever be grateful for all the love, support, and care I have received from so many people and how they have carried me and my family during this time.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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