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Study Suggests, Pine Tree Extract Helpful in Treating Brain Injury Survivors

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   November 22, 2011 15:26

A new study has suggested that using pine tree extract can help facilitate healing in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.
Researchers at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) are examining the use of supplements developed from New Zealand pine tree bark. The belief is this extract can possibly aid in improving the cognitive difficulties that often emerge after an individual sustains a TBI.Professor Valery Feigin, Director of AUT’s National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neuroscience, is leading the team of researchers looking at the effects of Enzogenol, which is a Pinus Radiata bark extract, on a group of individuals who sustained a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Enzogenol is the brand name given to the supplements.According to a press release issued today, Fagin said,
“Every day, 90 New Zealanders sustain a brain injury, ranging from mild to severe. Acquired brain injury - including stroke and traumatic brain injury - is the leading cause of disability and death in this country costing our health system an estimated $100 million per year.“Many supplements claim health benefits, however this research is one of very few evidence-based treatments. Until now, there has been a lack of effective medication for mild TBI. Other than brain exercises, there are limited treatments available to improve damage as a result of TBI.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cognitive issues can emerge in the form of concentration problems, attention difficulties, memory problems and/or orientation problems.Cognitive difficulties are not uncommon after suffering a TBI, whether it be a mild, moderate or severe injury. TBI patients often go through cognitive therapy, sometimes for years, after sustaining a brain injury.For the pilot study, researchers tracked 60 individuals who were experiencing cognitive difficulties, for either a six or 12 week period of time. The goal was to investigate the effectiveness of Enzogenol to see if it made any difference in cognitive deficiencies three to 12 months post-injury.Preliminary results suggest an improvement in daily cognitive functioning.Senior Research Fellow Dr Alice Theadom said in the press release,
“The pilot trial has revealed some promising findings for use of the Enzogenol supplement to improve everyday cognitive failures. We’ll now be looking at conducting a full scale clinical trial to determine the effectiveness.”
In New Zealand "brain injuries caused by stroke, motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, assaults and falls are the leading cause of disability and death." Brain injuries costs about $NZ100 million ($76.07 million) a year, according to the Herald Sun. In the U.S. an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually, of which 52,000 die, 275,000 are hospitalized and 80 percent are treated and released from hospital emergency rooms. These figures do not include those who have not sought treatment, or are unaware they have suffered a TBI, as is often the case with concussions and mild head injuries.The results of this pilot study were given at New Zealand's first national conference on stroke and applied neuroscience. The primary researchers hope to conduct a full scale study to determine the effectiveness of using pine tree bark in connection with TBI treatments.


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Behind Sidney Crosby's Comeback

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   November 4, 2011 10:42


Ted Carrick is listening to Sidney Crosby’s heart. The NHL superstar is strapped into a computerized rotating chair that has just spun him like a merry-go-round.

It is, as Carrick likes to tell people who visit his lab at Life University near Atlanta, one of only three “whole-body gyroscopes” in the world, and it’s integral to his work as the founding father of “chiropractic neurology.” He uses it to stimulate certain injured and diseased brains.

Crosby, who plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins and has been famously sidelined with a concussion since January, is Carrick’s newest patient, and this day in August is the first time they’ve met. Carrick leans in close, his balding, tanned head looming inches from Crosby’s face, and rests the stethoscope on his chest. “Let’s make sure you’re not dead.”

Carrick then signals to restart the gyroscope—with one difference. This time Crosby will be turned upside-down while he is also spun around. He hasn’t experienced this dual action yet. The door clangs shut. Above it, a stack of red, yellow and green lights shines while 10 high-pitched beeps signal the gyroscope is about to start. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

A low hum floods the room as the gyroscope begins its 20-second “montage” of rotations. With each flip, Crosby grips the black handles flanking his thighs, his face reddens and his jaw clenches. Before long, the gyroscope, called GyroStim, winds down. “Perfect,” Carrick concludes.
Since January, when the hockey world was dealt a blow unlike any other it had ever experienced, fans have made Google searches of “Crosby” and “concussion” move in tandem as they try to make sense of what has happened to their favourite player. The best player since Wayne Gretzky was suddenly knocked out of the game indefinitely because of an invisible injury: no blood on the ice, no cracks on any X-rays and no way to know how bad was the damage done.

Scientists, doctors and equipment makers have used Crosby as a talking point to raise awareness and as a case study in the complexity of concussion. The NHL is embroiled in a polarizing debate over fighting in hockey—how to keep it in, but make it safe? And nervous hockey parents everywhere are reconsidering whether their children should keep playing. How Crosby recovers will help them decide.

Maclean’s obtained exclusive access to the lab where Crosby saw Carrick, and learned about his unique methods of treating brain injuries. While the details of Crosby’s personal health data remain private, over the course of two days, the magazine was granted access to a range of information about the treatments used on patients, including him. During that time in late September and early October, anastonishing assortment of patients came through the clinic. A wealthy businessman and his son. A prominent NFL player. An aging biology teacher who’d had a stroke. A boy with brain damage sustained after a van ran him over. A middle-aged physician who’d lost his ability to talk or walk after a tick bite. In every case, Carrick ran through a version of the same evaluation, exercises and equipment he used on Crosby. “We saw something like nine MDs, neurologists, cardiologists,” says one patient’s relative. “I’ve seen nothing that compares to this.”

The wait list to see Carrick can be as long as three years, though in some cases, such as with Crosby, patients can be expedited. By the time they met in Georgia, the reality of what Crosby could lose if he didn’t get better soon was abundantly and uncomfortably clear: his career, his endorsements, the adoration of an entire nation.

However strange that first day of treatment in the gyroscope was for Crosby, it proved encouraging enough that he continued seeingCarrick for the whole next week. They’d meet as early as seven in the morning, and they’d go as late as six at night, says Carrick, running through a circuit of high-tech equipment and low-tech exercises in the lab and at the local hockey rink. By the time Crosby travelled back to Pittsburgh, Carrick says, “he was better than, you know, super-normal.” The Penguins’ medical team, who have been overseeing Crosby’s recovery, also saw an improvement: they ran computerized tests called IMPACT to compare his current neurocognitive abilities with what they were before the concussion. The results: not quite “super-normal,” but “the best we’ve seen” since Crosby got hurt, as MichaelCollins, a neuropsychologist who has been treating him for months said at the Sept. 7 press conference to update Crosby’s health.

“Carrick had a very prominent role in Sidney’s current recovery status,” Brisson, Crosby’s agent, told Maclean’s. “He progressed extremely well under Carrick.” Just 10 days after the press conference, Crosby joined his teammates on the ice for the first day of training camp. Three-and-a-half weeks after that, Crosby was cleared for contact—the final step before returning to play. Now, after nearly a year of nagging symptoms that have included fogginess, light-headedness and nausea so paralyzing Crosby couldn’t drive or watch TV, and after a slew of setbacks each time he pushed too hard while exercising or skating, the greatest hockey player of this generation is verging on a comeback—perhaps because of a relatively unknown therapy he received at a relatively unknown university from a relatively unknown man who isn’t even a medical doctor.

Come what may, Carrick has set out to do what no amount of time or rest or other expert has managed to accomplish so far: rebuild Sid’s brain.

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The Truth Behind Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   November 2, 2011 09:55

Brain injuries happen for many reason and affect everyone who has suffered one in different ways.

For Golden residents Garrett Appleton and Jennifer Maddock, injuries to their brains came at different points in their lives and have led to different challenges.

Appleton  is now a 23-year-old who works at Sobeys. When he was only four months old a type of bacterial meningitis changed what the idea of normal would be.

“When I grew up I felt (the way I was) was normal. What ‘normal people’ say is supposed to be normal, is not what normal is to me,” Appleton said.

One of the biggest issues for Appleton growing up was suffering very serious seizures.

“The difference for me was dropping down and having a seizure. That is the big difference. I do not have many seizures but when I do they are big,” Appleton said.

Maddock suffered her injury in a different way. She worked  at CIBC and is now on disability due to the effects of the meningitis which doctors have told her was a one in a million chance of contracting.

“To look at me I look fine. I look normal, but it is not the outside that is the problem. It is my brain which is different now,” Maddock said.

She developed a viral meningitis which caused encephalitis. This in turn caused her to have seizures. She explained that she has had some problems with her memory and that explaining things to people can cause her issues.

They both deal with questions in their everyday life because people do not completely understand the severity of the injury. The fact their injuries are hidden in their brains and they function fairly well in society causes some confusion for people who think they look fine on the outside.

“We are normal people but my brain does not work like it used to,” Maddock said.

Both Maddock and Appleton are members of the East Kootenay Brain Injury Association.

“For me it has been a place to go to help me. There are people out there in similar situations. They have been awesome in helping me with things such as paper work and things I would normally be able to do on my own. It frustrates me that I can’t anymore, but they help me deal with that. It is nice to know you have that support in your community and there are people who can share their situations,” Maddock said.

The East Kootenay Brain Injury Association is working hard to increase community education and awareness of Acquired Brain Injury(ABI). Throughout the year at various venues:  schools, service clubs, faith organizations, trade fairs, community organizations, public meetings, they speak and have displays.  They have been working with different groups in the region to provide programs that are effective in educating and making people aware of ABI.

The group promotes the use of helmets in sports all year long, not just summer.  Whether it be on a bicycle or a snow sport, the helmet is effective in the prevention of brain injury.

On the group’s website it states “It is important to recognize that brain injury also occurs through non-traumatic causes such as:  stroke, anoxia, substance abuse and heart attacks.  The effects are equally devastating for the individual and families.  If  you  have acquired a brain injury from a sporting activity, fall or any other cause,  know there is help and you do not have to do this alone.”


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Non-Pharmacological Treatment for Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   October 25, 2011 16:28

With a growing number of cases of traumatic brain injury among a host of other disorders such as neuropathic pain and cervical headaches, Integrative Medicine has found the only non pharmacological cure in the form of Scenar therapy.

In referring to the promise that the cure holds for troops coming back home from Iraq, Dr. Ron Stram says, “The good news is that Troops are coming home and Scenar Therapy can help. But are we ready to care for the growing number of those troops diagnosed with mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)? More than ever, soldiers are facing TBI diagnosis and its associated disability of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our soldiers need alternate approaches for treatment to reduce dependency on opiods and their adverse side effects – and to allow optimal opportunity for reintegration into society.”

But what is Scenar? It’s a hand-held and portable device that sends a small current across one’s skin in order to measure the resistance that the skin has to the current that has been passed. As the intensity and frequency of the current is changed, this prevents nerves from getting accustomed to only one level of stimulation, and is effective from a therapeutic point-of-view.

With the success of this type of therapy and since patients responded positively to this kind of treatment when offered frequently, patients were also given training sessions on home self-treatment so that they could use these devices at home.

Scenar therapy is easy to learn for self-treatment, especially if it’s for focused areas of pain, and according to Dr. Ron Stram, takes only an half an hour session to educate the patient, making it a better choice of therapy as opposed to using opiods.

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Study of Brain Injury Treatment Effectiveness

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   October 21, 2011 16:08

Techniques being used to treat psychological lapses from traumatic brain injuries, the signature wounds suffered by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, appear to be helpful, but lack rigorous scientific support, a government-appointed panel reported Tuesday after completing the most comprehensive analysis of the evidence to date.

The report, completed by the Institute of Medicine at the request of the Defense Department, concluded that some specific methods — the use of special daily diaries, for instance, to improve memory — were backed by more evidence than others. But it concluded that the evidence base over all was too thin to support any guidelines for which therapies to provide to whom.

Since 2009, the Pentagon has provided more than 71,000 hours of so-called cognitive rehabilitation, and its insurer, Tricare, has covered an additional 54,000 hours in private clinics for active duty, National Guard and retired service members, according to Cynthia O. Smith, a Department of Defense spokeswoman.

Such rehabilitation methods have come under intense scrutiny from family members of veterans who suffered traumatic brain injuries, including those caused by nonpenetrating blasts, as well as wounds from bombs, bullets or blows to the head. Some 20 percent of service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered blows to the face, neck or head, and the number of brain injuries has nearly tripled in the past decade, to more than 30,000 from 11,000.

About 1.7 million American civilians each year suffer traumatic brain injury, many from car accidents.

“I think the panel had a slight bias toward wanting these therapies to work, but at the same time it did not overstate the evidence,” said Dr. Jordan Grafman, director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Research Laboratory at the Kessler Foundation Research Center in West Orange, N.J., who was not on the committee.

Dr. Grafman said that applying cognitive rehabilitation techniques, which focus on improving memory, attention and decision making, “is almost a no-lose proposition. It’s like going to school; you should get better at what you practice and you shouldn’t get worse.”

How much better is still an open question.

The expert panel reviewed 90 studies published from 1991 to 2011, involving thousands of patients. Some of their injuries were mild, causing subtle memory deficits; others were severe and disabling. The therapies aimed to improve overall functioning, or to achieve more specific goals, like remembering appointments and chores or organizing and planning tasks.

The panel rated two types of treatment, one focused on memory and the other on social skills, as having a “modest” evidence base. It rated other techniques — for sharpening organizational skills, sustaining focus or improving overall functioning — lower still, with only a hint of evidence to back them up.

Dr. Ira Shoulson, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University Medical Center and chairman of the expert panel, said that evaluating traumatic brain injury treatment was inherently difficult because the severity of injuries varies so widely, techniques are often tailored to individuals, and veterans in particular come in with compound problems, including chronic pain, post-traumatic stress and depression.

The people providing the therapy — nurses, social workers, doctors, psychologists and, ultimately, family members — also vary from case to case. And the approach for each individual often has several components, leaving scientists to ask which made a difference.

“That’s a lot of moving targets,” Dr. Shoulson said. He and fellow panel members called for larger, better-designed trials that use agreed-upon tools to measure effects — something the field is only just beginning to develop.

Therapies for brain injuries are not well studied “because the whole field is Balkanized,” said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, a neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “Because there’s no infrastructure, no organized plan of attack for what happens after a brain injury, at all stages, you’re simply not going to find many” large, well-designed studies, he said.

As a rule, therapists do not begin intensive cognitive rehabilitation until months after an injury, to give brain tissue a chance to heal. But the underlying molecular processes are not well understood, Dr. Grafman said.


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Sidney Crosby's Road to Recovery

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   October 5, 2011 12:06

Look at your right hand. Close your eyes. Do you know where it is? Are you certain?

For months, Sidney Crosby was not.

While the rest of his Pittsburgh Penguins teammates spent the summer resting, working on their golf game and trying to get over a seven-game loss to Tampa Bay in the opening round of the playoffs, the game's greatest player spent it searching for a way back to normalcy.

Two head shots within a week of each other last January ended the former MVP's season, put his career in jeopardy and may have started a culture change in a sport where toughness, grit and “playing through it” are among the most prized commodities.

Crosby didn't set out to be the most public case study on the mysterious lingering effects of concussions. He simply wanted to feel better and get back to doing what he loved.

The road back has been more arduous than he ever possibly imagined when he was scratched out of the lineup following a game against Tampa Bay on Jan. 5 after experiencing what he's since described as “fogginess.”

Months of rest, of tests, of travel, of quietly — and not so quietly — refuting what his camp has deemed as misinformation about his condition, his health, his future have followed.

The organization did its best to give Crosby space. Coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero checked in occasionally. Teammates, both old and new, would text or call to talk about anything and everything but the state of Crosby's head.

Penguins forward Jordan Staal says they texted about fishing. The words “vestibular system” — which focuses on a person's ability to balance and work within a given space, the system most affected by Crosby's concussions — never came up.

“I figured he was getting enough of it from everywhere else,” Staal said. “All that matters to us really is that he's healthy. All that stuff you thought you heard, I didn't pay any attention to it.”

Private by nature, the combination of Crosby's injury and his urge to get away from things back home in Canada during the off-season only seemed to feed the frenzy.

He was retiring. He wasn't retiring. He suffered a setback. He was skating at full speed. Each week seemed to bring a new rumour or theory.

Crosby remains polite but reserved when talking about the process, though he did spend more than 40 minutes last month addressing reporters while sitting alongside the two doctors who have overseen his rehabilitation.

Dr. Mickey Collins, a neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, likened Crosby to a Ferrari. Dr. Ted Carrick, who practises clinical neurology and whom Crosby turned to when things seemed to stall in midsummer, has seen so much progress that he likened it to Christmas.

How exactly did Crosby get to this point in his recovery? Well, that's tricky. Unlike a muscle or a bone, there is no obvious physical evidence when you're healed. The science of how to handle and treat the vestibular system is evolving.

“It generally kind of boils down to retraining the brain to know where everything is in space and the awareness of where your body is in space,” said Mark Lovell, the founding director of the UPMC Sports Medicine concussion program and CEO of ImPACT, a computerized concussion evaluation system. “When you have an injury that can be thrown off.”

Getting it back in a normal person takes time, and lots of it. Throw in the unique demands of Crosby's job — namely making sudden movements and constantly recalibrating your balance to adjust to an ever-changing environment — and getting to the point where Crosby feels “normal” is an uncertain proposition.

A thriving vestibular system allows a person to trust their senses. Lovell likened it looking at your hand then closing your eyes and trusting your hand is in the same place. For a person with vestibular problems, that's difficult because the brain may be receiving faulty information.

“From a rehab standpoint you work on gradually giving people exercises so that they're increasingly able to tolerate the kind of side-to-side movement as well as have a better awareness of where they are in space in any given time,” Lovell said. “You can't do that all at once. If you do it too quickly, you make a person feel worse.”

That's part of the danger. Crosby allows his training regimen was adjusted over the summer. It seemed to be whenever he'd reach a certain threshold of exertion, his symptoms would return.

Frustrating? Absolutely. Mystifying? Sure. Enough of a reason to consider hanging up his skates for good? No shot. He's not the first player to deal with debilitating concussions, just one of the most famous.

Boston's Patrice Bergeron, who missed nearly the entire 2007-08 season with injuries sustained when he was checked head-first into the boards, told Crosby to hang in there.

“I was reaching out to him and just letting him know what I've been through I guess and that patience and staying positive is, it sounds kind of cliche, but that's exactly what it is,” Bergeron said. “And just to stay with it then he's going to be, you know he's going to find a way to get back.”

Not one to make declarative statements, Crosby said during his press conference it was “likely” he would play again this season, and he's attacked training camp ferociously even if he's forced to wear a different coloured helmet to let his teammates know he's not cleared for contact yet.

The Penguins open the season on Thursday in Vancouver but Crosby won't be in the lineup. He remains on injured reserve, meaning he'll have to wait at least a week before he can return to game action, though the truth is that it will likely take longer.

The league is pulling for him. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin — the NHL's exuberant yang to Crosby's steady yin — is ready to see Crosby's familiar No. 87 back out there.

“I hope he's not going to feel dizzy or not feel sick anymore, and he's going to play — because he's one of the top guys in the league, and it's very hard to play against him,” Ovechkin said.

The NHL could certainly use him, and the league has taken an aggressive stance against the kind of head shots that put Crosby's future in limbo. Former all-star Brendan Shanahan, now in charge of league discipline, has been cracking down on players during the pre-season for taking dangerous and unnecessary chances.

It's a step in the right direction for a league starting to gain some traction. The last time Crosby played on national television, the Penguins were losing to the Capitals in the Winter Classic, the highest-rated regular season game since 1975.

His presence would help hockey fill a bit of the void if the NBA's lockout continues.

“It's huge,” said Nashville's Shea Weber, who played alongside Crosby on the 2010 Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Vancouver. “I mean he's really the face of the NHL I think. He's the most dominant player in the world.”

Or, at least he was.

Crosby isn't sure what to expect whenever he's cleared. He'd love to be the player who seemed to be in the middle of his prime last winter. He's not sure when that guy will show up, if he does at all.

“I'd love to be able to say first game back I'm right where I left off but it's pretty unrealistic,” Crosby said. “With that being said that's where I want to be. This is the best I felt since I've played NHL and that's what I want to get to. I want to get back there as soon as I can.”

After a restless summer spent wondering if its iconic star would ever return, so does hockey.


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Treating Brain Injuries with Poetry

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 25, 2011 18:28

It was the morning of Feb. 14, 2005, and Angela Hunt walked down the sidewalk heading to the staff door of the Chaska Library, where she is a librarian.

“I was due at 9:45 a.m. to open,” said Hunt, a Carver resident. “I caught my toe on a brick and tripped. The snow was falling and swirling. It was that dry kind of snow. I don’t remember hitting the ground. I do remember though that I saw a gas engine pickup truck heading down the street toward me right before I tripped. But when I got up, I saw it was an idling diesel-engine truck. I remember thinking that was odd.”

Hunt picked herself up. Her glasses were broken, and her ribs hurt. When she entered the library, she noticed that another li-brary employee had already gotten everything — the computers and equipment — up and running.

“I felt a little shook up,” Hunt said. She’d also skinned her knee badly, but attended to it, and then went on with her day.

It was one month later, when Hunt was opening the library, that she realized she didn’t know how to start up the computer.

“I didn’t recognize the people I worked with, or the patrons I know,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t read. I recognized Janet [Karius, the assistant library director] but I couldn’t say her name. Then a friend of mine came into the library, took a look at me and said, ‘She needs to go to emergency.”


Doctors did X-rays and an MRI. The scans revealed that Hunt had suffered a traumatic brain injury when she tripped and fell in February. She’d been knocked unconscious.

“I have no memory of the fall,” Hunt said. “I do remember that when I picked myself up that morning, there was all this snow covering me. I had thought that was odd at the time. The doctors think I was probably knocked out for 20 minutes.

“And no one saw me lying there,” Hunt said, “because I had my white coat on and a white beret. It was snowing and I blended right in.”

Falling face first, she’d broken her nose, “crushing my sinuses like an accordion,” she said.

And being knocked unconscious explained why the gas pickup truck she’d noticed turned into a diesel truck seemingly in the next instant.

“The doctors said that I had such good coping skills and was so high functioning, it took a month before the brain injury became apparent,” Hunt said. “The brain just continues to function until it stops. I had cracked the bone by my eye, and injured my frontal lobe in a closed head injury. Right after the fall, I had noticed my nose was sore but all the pieces [of that morning] didn’t come together until they did the MRI.”


Hunt had been down this road before. In 1995, she suffered a stroke after having surgery. At that time she had to relearn speech and mobility. When doctors at HCMC looked at Hunt’s X-rays and MRI, they saw the earlier brain damage from the stroke.

She worked with physical and occupational therapists for 14 months to help her relearn spatial relationships, manipulating objects, and dealing with her loss of peripheral vision.

“I was spilling and dropping things and poking myself,” Hunt said. “And the sad thing is, if I’d been a housewife, someone who didn’t work outside the home, they would have sent me on my way after a few weeks. If you can read at a fifth-grade level, they con-sider you recovered.

“But I’m a librarian,” Hunt told her doctors. “A librarian has to know and access all this information. It’s what I do. This is the expectation of this profession.”

Hunt had to learn to speak and read all over again. Comprehending what she read took longer.

“I wouldn’t know what I had just read,” Hunt said. “When I’d had my stroke I’d started getting up in the middle of the night to do devotions. I would open my Bible, and I would look at two words and concentrate on them. And then I worked up to three words. And I just kept at it, adding words. So I did that again.

“My doctor encouraged me to go back to work after a month,” Hunt said. “But I didn’t know how I could. It turned out they let me work in the library’s back room, where I scanned bar codes on materials. It helped with my hand and eye coordination, and with my thinking process.

“’When was the last time this material had been checked out?’ ‘Should it go to another branch?’ It helped me so much to learn the collection again.”


Not being able to find the words to speak and describe her feelings felt lonely, Hunt said. It was a struggle to search for the right word. For all the thoughts and emotions she had swirling inside, “I only had nickel-and-dime words,” Hunt said. “I could write things down but my vocabulary was small.”

“The core of humanity is emotion,” Hunt said. “If you don’t have that palette of words, it’s a black and white world.”

Hunt began writing poems to express the thoughts she couldn’t vocalize.

“It began with the speech therapist,” Hunt said. “She’d ask, ‘How are you?’ I would hand her the poem I wrote.

“Speech, physical, and occupational therapy can be like school,” Hunt said. “A person tends to get out of it what they put into it. But after TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) or stroke, the effort to get to ‘normal’ can be a lot more excruciating than a formal education because the struggle is continual. A brain-injured person can’t just close a book and take a break from it. I quite literally studied every night in preparation for the next day’s speech therapy in order to gain back a lifetime of skills in 14 months. I affectionately call that time in my life my MBA-N: My Best Angela Now Degree.

“I didn‘t know how to make dinner,” Hunt described her life as she recovered. “I would go to the closet and not being able to fig-ure out what to wear. I’d ask myself, ‘what am I going to do today? What is the weather like? Do I need different shoes? It was a big puzzle. When I had my cognition test at HCMC, I asked, ‘Am I dressed all right?’

Hunt found that the physical act of writing helped her brain make connections with language. Writing poetry helped her recover language skills. It was also an outlet for expression and integral to regaining her emotional equilibrium.

Since her injury, Hunt has published is “Am I Still Me? A Group of Words with Fundamental Questions for Those Struggling to Recover Themselves.” The poems express Hunt’s emotional journey as she regains her cognitive skills, her language skills and vocabulary.

“Evidently people haven’t done a lot of writing during recovery,” Hunt said. “Not many [people with brain trauma] have done a journal and published it. I wrote a book two months out of hopper about what it was like to have a brain injury and then start to recover.”

She had definite ideas about how the book would look and feel, drawing on her own difficulties and experience.

“I wanted it to have stiff pages to make it easy to turn, to let it lay flat,” Hunt said, drawing on the challenges she faced as she re-covered. “I didn’t want it to be too heavy. I wanted lots of white space and to have a photograph on each page so the reader would have visual cues to what the words meant. I put exercises in the back of the book, for each poem, for the patient to regain verbal and comprehension skills.”

At Christmas, Hunt will publish her second book entitled, “I Am Still Me,” a book of free verse, directed in part to caregivers who are learning how brain injury can manifest, as well as for those recovering from TBI.


Though it’s been six years, Hunt’s brain injury keeps providing surprises.

Like reading her poems from her book after a length of time.

“It was a surprise to read them, that I had written them,” Hunt said. “It was the same when I had my stroke. I had to look at photo albums and I had kept journals of the funny things my kids had said and done. But I don’t have many memories. I don’t have memo-ries between the pictures.

“About eight months after the fall, I woke up in the middle of the night. I felt words actually downloading into my head. I could see the words. It was as if the ligands and receptors had turned back on, the synapses in my brain. I was laughing. This went on for about four hours.”

Another result of the brain injury for Hunt was seeing only in black and white for about 10 days.

“One day, I was just staring off, looking at the wallpaper, and suddenly it went from black and white to color. I thought ’Wow. Those cones and rods have started firing again.’”

“Six years later and strange things still happen,” Hunt said. “Things are still coming back. Anyone with a brain injury can re-late. I was medium to mild brain injured,” Hunt said. “But it’s nothing compared to what some people experience.”

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