July 21, 2017

All thanks goes to my Doctors and Simon, on this one!

who am iYou are probably sitting there pondering why would I write a blog about the childhood game from our past. Well, easy, it became a vital part of my future.

In my last accident in December 2008, I also suffered from a TBI, traumatic brain injury. Though only a moderate TBI, it was to the front temporal lobe of my brain.

front temporal lobe

Let me give you a little medical background to this first, so then you can understand the rest of this. The front temporal lobe is a component of the cerebral system, which basically directs our behavior. It is the part of the brain that deciphers between good and bad choices, along with recognizing the consequences of those choices. It also triggers irritability, mood swings and an inability to regulate behavior. Another common impairment is memory, both long and short term. An injury to this area of the brain can lead to deficits in anticipation, goal selection, planning, initiation, sequencing, detecting errors and self-correction.  

Now with all that being said, why Simon?

That long lost childhood memory game became my saving grace! Literally!

You see my TBI went unnoticed for over 6 months. It wasn’t until my dad asked one of my doctors “When am I going to get my daughter back?” My doctor looked at him strangely, especially since I was sitting RIGHT NEXT to my dad when he said this. You see, what my dad meant was, the daughter he knew before the accident, is not in the woman sitting next to him. Things are different, a little off, or the easy way to put it “She is not Sue.”

Let me explain the meaning behind my dad’s words. Before my accident, I was always on my toes, I could calculate things in my head, I remembered EVERYTHING (which sucks at times), I never had to write things down, I laughed (a lot), I was a social butterfly. You get the picture. The daughter sitting next to him now was a roller coaster of emotions, couldn’t remember to take medications, let alone remember simple everyday tasks, like flushing a toilet or to brush my teeth. Forget counting money, running errands or going grocery shopping! Can you say NIGHTMARE!?!  I also lost a section of my memory, from about 2001 to 2005. There are a lot of just dead spaces that I just can’t recall. The worst is meeting someone again that I haven’t seen since then and NOT remembering how we met, but knowing I know them. FRUSTRATING!!

So this led my doctor to order some tests, one being an MRI of my brain. Can you believe they never did that the night of my accident after having trauma to my head? Well three days later, my dad received his answer, I had a TBI that has been left untreated, so it was still causing damage. My doctor stated that it would be reversible, but he’s wasn’t sure by how much and it would take me longer, now that I was already delayed in getting diagnosed. So it began, my venture into Cognitive Rehab. I never felt so frustrated and alone than I did during this process.  I had rehab 3 days a week, along with homework I had to do at home, it was just like physical therapy, but only with my brain. The things I was doing, were things children were learning in kindergarten. I felt extremely stupid, in a part of my brain, I knew the answers, but I couldn’t get them out. I was known for my attention to detail, remembering the smallest of facts and details to a case, but now I couldn’t even remember 3 items (written and picture) on a shopping list. This went on for weeks and weeks. This is also when I purchased my first smartphone, talk about a complete lifesaver it turned out to be. I would sit down every morning and set my alarms to go off for every medication (remember at this time I was taking 9 different ones, 24 pills in all for just one day) I had to take and which one I needed to take at that time along with the dosage. Then if I had errands to run, I literally mapped it out and did a task where I could check off as I went. Now why did I have to map it out, well because even though lived in the same city for over 30 years, I couldn’t pin point where locations were anymore, sad but true.

Then I was told by my doctor to download apps and get memory inducing games, like Simon. Well, wouldn’t you know it, once a master at Simon as a child, I failed at miserably now. To the point I chucked the game across my room several times and screamed that it lied!

Simon

Well, now let’s jump ahead one year from that point…I have almost all my short term memory function back, I still am missing gaps of memory throughout that block of years, my emotions have finally even keeled themselves to the point of where I can recognize when I go from one quick extreme to the other and I stop it. Was all this frustrating, hell yeah it was, you feel like you are standing outside your body looking in and wondering where the hell you went to. It’s even more frustrating trying to explain it to people when you couldn’t even understand it yourself. I lost a ton of “so-called” friends throughout this phase in my recovery from my accident, but I also had some amazing ones who would sit with me and try to help me get my memories back of the times I had forgotten about.

You truly never appreciate a part of your body until that part is injured or taken away from you. I am blessed that my TBI was not as severe as it could have been and that I have about 90% of what I damaged, healed. So in the end…yeah, I’ll take it!!! 

From NEVER to ALWAYS…Meet Kirsten!

Kirstens Running Journey

From day one, Kirsten, was a fighter, being born 12 weeks premature, she literally was fighting just to stay alive! That was 39 years ago and back then we didn’t have medical advancements we have now. Her first helicopter ride was the one in which to save her life, since all her doctors didn’t believe she would make it.

Kirsten has spent every day since her birth more determined than the average person. Why? Because she wants to prove people wrong and do things she was told she would NEVER be able to do! And that is exactly what she has been doing….until she was 25!

Yet again, Kirsten was fighting for her life; she was in a severe car accident, where she had to be extracted via the Jaws of Life and took her second helicopter ride to the local trauma hospital. There, she slipped into a coma and her mother was told that she might not wake up from it. But again Kirsten showed her fighter’s strength, she awoke! Kirsten’s photographic memory became sporadic recall. She has no recollection of the accident, just only knows what people have told her and what she has read. She has seen pictures of her car, but she doesn’t remember actually seeing it in person because her memories of that time during recovery/rehab are blurry. The one thing Kirsten does remember is being in a wheelchair, being told she would never walk again! And from what she remembers, this is also when she first attempted to stand up for the first time!! Pure anger and determination had her propelling medicine balls across the rehab room. Not only was Kirsten dealing with not walking, but she couldn’t even do some of the simplest things, that we take for granted on a daily basis! The one that sticks out for her was having to do basic subtraction. Before her accident she could write a computer program to do this, now she couldn’t get her mind to subtract 36 – 17!

cantRehab for Kirsten was a very lonely journey, as it feels for most who have suffered traumatic injuries. Though Kirsten admits, most of it was all in her head. She knows her own mind was and still is her biggest obstacle. She uses laughter to try and brush some things off, but to Kirsten, on the inside, NOTHING was funny about any of it. In Kirsten’s own words, “Knowing you can do something, but not being able to is a poignant mindfuck.”

She realized she needed to get out and by this she meant going for walks. And she did just that. Whenever she could find the time, she walked! You see, Kirsten at this time was also a single mom to a young son, so her walks became things she looked forward to.

Now onto yet another chapter of Kirsten’s life…marrying her husband and the birth of her second son. You see, he was sick from day one. Doctors were constantly poking and prodding him, taking drop after drop of his blood trying to figure out why he was so sick. They came to her with wanting to do blood transfusions and liver transplants. The most renowned specialist at the top-notch hospitals came up with very interesting diagnosis’ that had too many syllables for Kirsten to remember what they were.

Kirsten is not against doctors or medicine, but she would rather be as natural and holistic as possible, she has always been this way. Even through her accident and rehab, she refused pain meds. Kirsten is so thankful she didn’t listen to most of the experts, because what her son has is treatable without any meds or any procedures. Her son has Celiac Disease. This started the beginning of Kirsten learning all about food. She thought she was already one up because she didn’t drink soda and her pantry wasn’t filled with crap. The more she read and learned, the more she realized she had A LOT to learn and change. She began researching the way food is manufactured, started cooking more and buying differently. Now, they are completely gluten free, eating mostly clean and Kirsten is leaning toward vegetarian.

Now to how did walking turn into running, and where is Kirsten running?

run7

Well Kirsten reconnect with a friend on Facebook, who just happen to post she was running the Army Ten Miler, well the status was how the person she was running with bailed and she needed a partner in order to do it. Well, at first Kirsten told herself, “Ten miles, NO WAY!’ But then she was at the finish line…she DID IT and she became instantly addicted!!

Kirsten said what hooked her was the feeling she received from 10,000 strangers. You see, to her, it felt like a lifetime of praise came down to this…thousands of strangers cheering and clapping for JUST her as she came across that line. Kirsten knew from that point on she was signing up for everything she could, that was 2009…and she has done just that over the last 3 years! Her first goal is to run a “100 miler” (so far she has completed a “50 miler” race), another goal is to do her first triathlon this coming August and after that her next goal…yep you guessed it…is to do an IronMan!

Kirsten doesn’t talk about TBI (traumatic brain injury) and subsequent MRIs riddled with migraine scars or her sensitivity to light or even her random pain.

Kirsten is who she is and she embraces it every day!!

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