Have you had a serious brain injury? I'd love some insight...

On Weds my husband had a horrible accident and is now in ICU with a brain injury. Short version is that he got a single blow on the head from a plane propeller that put a 7" gash through his skull. Longer version is here.

He’s doing remarkably well, all things considered. As of yesterday evening he’s off all IVs, allowed to eat whatever he wants, he’s talking and his lucid moments are getting longer and clearer, though that’s not saying a whole lot, there’s still a lot of confusion and struggling for words.

What I want to know is what it’s like from his side of things. I know every person and every injury is different, and his open head trauma has a slightly different mechanism of injury that a vehicle crash or a fall on his head. The rational part of me knows that the biggest thing is time and patience, but the woman who’s known him for 35 years wants her friend back, wants to know what he’s experiencing, and wants to make it as fast and easy as I can.

Can anyone tell me what it’s like coming back from something like this?

Not personally, but here’s a thread in which one member describes his comeback from a TBI.

Firstly, I’m typing on a tablet. Any typos are due to auto-correct, not my brain injury :laughing:

My brain injury was anut-immune, not traumatic so YMMV. In Sept 2000, I was 30 and I had a demyelination in my left parietal lobe. I was paralysed on the right side of my body. 2 weeks in the hospital with heavy steroids was followed by 6 weeks in rehab and another 4 months in an out patient Acquired Brain Injury program.

I went from a wheel chair to a quad cane to a single point can to walking unassisted over 6 months. I had to relearn how to speak. My speech was dispraxic, where the muscles could not form the words. All in all, it was a long process. My wife stood by my side the whole time, which made all the difference.

Best of luck to both of you through this.

Thanks to both of you.

He was never unconscious from the injury, amazingly, apart from a brief time right after impact. He was on a vent for less than 24 hr and that was because they’d given him a paralytic pre-op to make sure he didn’t do any more damage. I’m praying this means he could make a full recovery and go back to work & driving and all, with only minor deficits.

My neighbor fell 3 stories down onto a concrete floor at work. He had serious brain injuries. He did not remember much from the first 6 months of recovery, but two years later was pretty much back to normal.

Anyway the human body has an amazing ability to heal itself!

If you want to read about this, read about people with brain injuries from car accidents - along the same lines so far as recovery goes.

I have a friend I grew up with who suffered a TBI, in 2011. It was from a car accident. She posts a lot on Facebook about it and her posts are weird and rambling. And angry. But before her accident she was already kind of weird and rambling herself. She also has MS so it’s hard to know how much of her mobility issues are from that or from the MS. And how much of her personality is her versus the TBI.

I have another friend who was struck by an RV while working on a mailbox near the road. I’m not sure if he had a TBI or “just” a neck injury and a stroke (and a coma). He does seem slightly different than before the injury but he’s back to working his same physical job and is the same big goofball as ever. He barely has any trace of slurring from the stroke anymore - seems to get less and less noticeable every time I see him. I forget how long ago the accident was, tho.

Both of my friends have changed but they are still with us and their original personalities are still there! It’s definitely a lot of work to get back to the way things were, but it can happen.

Good luck to you and your husband! I read the other thread…super scary.

Nothing as serious as the other posts but when I was 17 fell off my horse backwards and landed on my head.

I had a concussion, and I guess what you would call amnesia for a week or so.

I had moments of lucidity where I knew who I was, where was and I recognized everybody. Then I had moments of confusion where I knew who I was, but didn’t know where I was or who all those other people were. Time kept shifting, I didn’t remember buying a horse or what people were talking about, but I knew who the nurses and doctors were; then I’d kind of go back in time and and lose all short term memory.

Everything was jumbled, one minute I was in the car, then I was sitting in the hospital, then I was home, then I was back in the car going to the hospital.

At times I was scared as hell, it was like walking through fog and coming out into the light,
but having no idea what I was going to find there. Sometimes I knew exactly what was going on, other times I’d be crying because I couldn’t remember anything, and other times I was happily oblivious - or so I heard from others.

In some ways it was like a bad acid trip.

This seems like a good addition to this topic, a favorite Ted Talk of mine: http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight

Executive Summary: A neurologist/researcher suffers from a stroke and recovers. In her talk she explains clinically what happened to her and then walks you through the experience from her perspective inside her head (what she felt and thought). She’s so eloquent that you totally experience it with her.

Good luck and good wishes to you both. My heart goes out to you, but I am hopeful he will make a full recovery, and I think you should be hopeful too.

My former LTR partner (years ago) suffered TBI following a heart attack and was never the same, but then he’d been dead for a few minutes and in a coma for a few days afterwards. What we learned then was that the sorter the length of the coma (generally), the better the long-term prospects are. Given your husband was never in a coma at all, that factoid would give me a lot of hope – please ask around to make sure I’m not completely full of shit. You should seek out TBI support groups, as you have time, and talk to everybody you can in the medical/therapeutic settings you find yourself in.

Everyone recovers differently, and I’m sure you already know that the more engagement, the better. Keep him talking (given the necessary amount of rest of course), keep him stimulated. Everything that happens in the early days has more of an impact than it will later on, so time right now is of the essence.

My partner suffered some irrational fears in the days following emerging from the coma – thought there were dangerous wild animals roaming the hospital, for one. After he settled down into his new permanent state, it seemed like his intelligence wasn’t damaged very much if at all, but his executive function was devastated. He couldn’t make plans of any sort and became rather passive. His disposition changed for the better, though; he became much sweeter and by all appearances, happier.

You also might want to try Bob and Lee Woodruff’s book:


Or Richard Hammond of Top Gear UK’s book, part of which is written by his wife, about his own brain injury in 2006 and his thoughts and experiences. A tire blew out on a jet car he was driving for the show, the open-top car flipped, and he skidded on his head in the grass at 280mph for a few hundred yards, sustaining a diffuse axonal injury. He nearly died and had problems for over a year, but 10 years later you cannot tell anything ever happened to him.

One interesting thing he has said is that he thought he recovered quickly, but then looked back a year later and realized he had really been nowhere close. He did a TV interview with Jonathan Ross a couple of months after the accident, then another a year later and admitted that he had no memory whatsoever of the first one.

My Injury was an illness rather than injury and certainly not as severe sounding as your husbands. Although my husband and mother were told that had I not been found (passed out on the floor due to the fever) when I was, I was six to ten hours to death.

So here is what happened from my perspective.

About three weeks before, I felt a bronchitis cough coming on and after a couple of days went to the carenow clinic. Meds and diagnosis for bronchitis.

A week later, no improvement and back to the clinic. More meds, diagnosis secondary pneumonia. A couple of days into it, I couldn’t keep the meds down. I am allergic to penicillin so I sort of remember thinking that even though it is all over my records they must have given me something related to it. I wasn’t having an allergic reaction though, it would just come back up immediately. So I stopped trying to take it because I wanted to keep at least water down.

A week later, a trip to the er that I do not recall. They gave me oral rx’s and sent me home even though my husband says he and I both told them that I had been unable to keep anything down in the past three days including meds. My husband was surprised to find that I don’t remember this trip to the er. He says I walked in and that I filled out the paperwork and answered their questions. It was clear I was ill, but I wasn’t gone the way I was when he found me on the floor. I have no memory of it. So that was a Saturday night into Sunday morning. We arrived home around 3 am he said and I went straight to bed.

I was found on the floor of my bedroom just outside the bathroom door around 3am on a Tuesday morning, so roughly 48 hours after the ER visit. At the time I remembered nothing after the prior Thursday evening by this point I’d already lost 4 days. (For clarity, I have been told a few things that once told I think I recall, but I am not sure if I would have recalled them if I wasn’t told.)

Clearly I had passed out before getting back to bed. My husband found me on the floor when he woke in the night. He told me I had to get up. I tried and my legs didn’t work. I was having the stand up thoughts but the message wasn’t getting from my brain to my legs. I felt week and confused and I couldn’t stay awake. I have been told that he spent about 30 minutes trying to wake me and get me to get up and to help. Eventually he realized how serious things were and called the fire department.

When they arrived and checked vitals my temp was over 104.8, I remember them telling me I have to give consent to be taken to the hospital and not being able to articulate consent. I remember my husband saying clearly she isn’t capable, I’m saying take her please! I managed a head nod or something and then don’t remember more until in the er and seeing my mom and husband in the far corner of the room. Both clearly exhausted and worried. But that is all I remember, waking and seeing them, maybe I nodded or lifted my hand or something. The next memory is back to the firefighters telling me I have to sign their computer pad. I remember a nurse, seeing her head and thinking she was kind, but then nothing else until a day or so later waking in a room. I couldn’t speak and was too weak to even adjust my comfort in the bed. I was there over a week and only sort of remember and don’t remember much.

My recall begins in rehab, I remember arriving by ambulance or that sort of transport. I think I pretty much remember all of the rehab. I spent about ten days regaining ability to talk, gaining strength to sit, stand, transfer to a wheel chair, shuffle with a walker, walk unaided and then to climb a flight of stairs. I had occupational therapy twice daily to help me dress and shower and later to stand by for safety sake while I did all that on my own. I had physical therapy privately and with a group daily as well as visits from family and friends where most of the time I wanted to get up and sit with them or walk out into the nice area with chairs and sofas rather than lay in bed when they came.

It was all very hard work. Exhausting. Confusing. I can recall answering questions and seeing on their faces that they couldn’t understand what I had said. And I recall not being able to understand why I was so ill. I mean I knew I had bronchitis and pneumonia, but I was flat on my back with no strength to even adjust a pillow, unable to talk clearly enough to be understood and I knew that my vision and my brain weren’t working. I didn’t just feel ill. I felt I was measurably stupider, easy to confuse and frustrated about it. I remember asking if I had a heart attack or a stroke and being told no.

Everyone was supportive and encouraging but I recall feeling like they didn’t understand how hard I was working and I was hyper concerned they would think I wasn’t trying or my slow shuffle walk wasn’t trying hard enough. I was throwing up every meal without it seemed any warning, but I didn’t have a virus or any diagnosis other than sepsis of unknown origin. I wore a heart monitor for all of that time and they found nothing wrong other than the night that I lost the call button in the night, I didn’t have the strength or desire to shout for help, nor did I want to wet the bed, but at that point I couldn’t yet have gotten from the bed to the bathroom at all even with help, I was still struggling with strength to move my legs if they had covered them with a sheet and blanket, so I plucked each of the leads off the heart monitor one at a time until a nurse came to check on it.

Each day of the therapy I got better although I felt miserable, was in pain, had some vertigo and nausea most all of the time and often I wouldn’t realize I was doing better until I could look back, so even my understanding of improving lagged by about a day.

We are five months out and I no longer have any kind of care or follow up.

I have recovered the physical strength and stamina that I had before. I have to wear glasses now. I went from not needing them to trifocals and not legal to drive without them which is okay. I kind of never liked driving anyway. Functionally that means that where I used to look across the room and see my husbands bright blue eyes and know from the shade of blue if he was teasing or not, to looking across the room and seeing him, able to tell it is him but it is a blurry him without being able to see the color of his eyes.

I still have the odd vomiting thing on occasion. Never any warning or nauseous feeling, just a certain kind of cough that I now think of as the oh no cough and up whatever I ate shortly before comes.

I still have some vertigo and balance issues. Everyone seems to be positive this is my brain getting used to glasses rather than a lingering after effect of the illness.

Much of the time I still feel measurably less intelligent than I was before, but I also have moments were I realize even that is getting better. On the phone with my mom yesterday and made her laugh with some Dr. Suess style poetry that I just made up on the fly as I was trying to convey my frustration with a situation. Then she was like, do you know what you just did? That is the old you, your quick is back.

My situation is clearly different than your husbands, my brain injury was fever induced, rather than traumatic.

So what do I have for you? My husband’s presence, support and faith in my ability to recover meant everything to me. He still had to work, but everyday he came straight from work. Asked questions of at first the nurses and then, as I got better, me about my day. He made sure I had clean comfortable easy to put on clothes to wear every day. When I couldn’t remember what day it was he gently helped me remember. When I cried about the lost time and memories, he let me. He told me the things he knew I would want to know and let the other stuff go. He was happy for me when I showed him an exercise I accomplished or showed or told him how far I walked. He was patient and kind when I was hurting. He was honest when he was exhausted. “You’re doing good. You want to stay up or want me to put you to bed? I have to go get some rest. I will call you when I get home and in the morning before work.” He would check to make sure my phone was charged and in reach. He would send a text in the night for me to find in the morning that he woke in the night and was checking on me. If sleeping I was to ignore it. Witty guy.

I don’t know you and I know things are different and people are different. But I want you to know that my spouse was my rock steady. He is the reason I worked hard when it hurt. He is the reason I sat up even though sitting up meant throwing up. When I didn’t understand what was going on around me. I understood that he was there and that mattered. It gave me a place to look when I didn’t understand. It gave me a hand to hold when I was scared. Getting home to him kept me going. Knowing he was coming to see me, helped me get through the next step in the process whatever it was.

I bet you are his rock steady too. Remember to take care of yourself too. I remember feeling grateful that he could say to me, I am just exhausted I need to go to bed early, lets get you settled and I’ll call you when I am safely home. I liked that he was taking care of himself and not being a martyr to his own health to sit with me for appearances sake. I like that he had faith in my ability to get better between now and after work or morning time.

He was just there and when he wasn’t there he was where he needed to be for us. That was exactly what I needed to get about the business of getting better.

I wish you both healing and comfort in this hard time.

Thank you, thank you all.
JcWoman, I’ve seen that TED talk before but I’m glad you reminded me of it. Utterly fascinating.

I will look into those books, I know the Woodruff’s was well reviewed, and I adore Richard Hammond. I didn’t realize he’d been so injured!

And to AbbySthrnAccent, masonite, Sahirrnee, and all the others who’ve shared anecdotes and memories - I’m very grateful. All injuries are different as are all brains, but any glimpse I can get of what it’s like to be him right now, and what the future might possible hold for him is helpful. And I don’t want sunshine and fluffy bunnies either, I need the truth or as close to truth as is possible. I’m a realist for the most part, and if I know which dragon I’m facing I can arm myself more appropriately.

Or at least make a good stab at it.