Milestones

I have been rather remiss, again, in my posting duties, but I will catch up with this one!

Christmas

I asked my family to change our Christmas tradition this year. Normally, we would have given thanks for family, health and food, then popped the Christmas crackers and dug into the food. This year I asked them, at brunch a few hours before our turkey dinner, to try something different. I gave them the theme and time to think about it, but not too much, so it would be authentic.

At dinner, we shared what we were thankful for and an achievement; a milestone for which we each were proud. My modest and shy family members rose to the occasion, in spades. There were a few quivering chins, some denials that they ‘really hadn’t done anything special’, and a general discomfort with feeling proud of themselves and saying it out loud (oh we, the modest and understated Canadians!). Milestone ages (90!), living away from home for several months, a first job, surviving a major move, and managing a health issue, were applauded enthusiastically by all of us. Mine was that I was pronounced ‘cured’ by my oncologist at my five-year visit. It was a year of challenges experienced, and met, with courage and hope. Bravo, family!

On the road to recovery: Occupational Therapy

In the fall of 2016, we spoke with someone who had a concussion resulting from a motor vehicle accident and, as often happens when you meet a fellow traveller in a medical journey, we shared the various treatment protocols we had tried. She recommended an occupational therapist (OT) who worked with concussion patients and who was also a certified yoga teacher. She had great results from the OT treatments and credited her as one of the best investments in recovery she had made. I did the initial research into it and contacted the therapist for more information, but Hugh decided to put it on hold for a bit.

We have mentioned before that, in our experience of the medical and complimentary health systems for people experiencing concussions, there are so many conventional and unconventional treatments to try that it is difficult to decide where to put your time and money. There is no clear path to follow; no navigator to direct you to the best treatment. You learn you have to choose what makes sense for your financial situation, your understanding of the benefits of the treatment and your physical energy for appointments and treatments.

By early January 2017, Hugh’s progress was levelling off and we knew, if he was going to return to a normal work schedule, he needed to try some other options for rehabilitation. He was still doing neurofeedback at the local clinic, he was lasering almost daily and he was doing his vision therapy exercises at home, but it became apparent that Hugh wasn’t ready to work, even part of a day. The binocular vision in-clinic therapy sessions weren’t to start until the spring. He was still very fatigued after a few hours in daylight, he couldn’t drive for more than about 10 minutes at a time, his ability to work on the computer was nowhere near equivalent to a full work day, and he couldn’t read print for more than about 5 minutes. Our insurance providers were not giving any direction on treatment and, although we could still be covered by them for another eighteen months, we knew they would be agitating to get him back to work, whether he was ready or not. So, Hugh decided to try out occupational therapy.

Occupational therapists provide functional therapy to people who are experiencing challenges due to physical injuries or chronic conditions, whether they were present at birth or acquired throughout their lifetime, and mental health challenges. They help clients either adjust to, or overcome, their challenges in their homes, workplaces and communities.

Here is a link to the occupational therapist we talked to in our area:

https://www.creativeot.com/

We know there are such services available in many places, so if you are interested in pursuing this line of inquiry, we suggest asking your health care provider or looking for an accredited occupational therapy provider through the College of Occupational Therapists in your region or country. Here is a link to Ontario’s College:

https://www.coto.org/

We saw the OT for the first time in late January 2017. She discussed the services she could provide, which included some functional assessments of Hugh’s skills, recommendations for accommodations at home and Hugh’s workplace to reduce his cognitive load and energy, and recommendations for other services and providers that might be helpful.  Most importantly, she advocated on our behalf with the insurance company for the costly physiotherapy/vestibular treatments as a means to accelerate Hugh’s return to work and they paid for it, and her services. Needless to say, and for different reasons, both Hugh and the insurance company were eager to get him back to work. We are planning to discuss the subject of insurance provision and how to advocate for services in a later post, but many of you will know they are decidedly reluctant to pay out for services, unless they have had positive experience with them in the past and can see an immediate pay-off.

The OT did her intake assessment, including a neurological screen called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).  You may have heard about it in the news recently, in relation to a certain world leader. The MoCA is commonly used to assess neurological and cognitive impairment. I had it done by the neurologist I saw in 2015 after my concussion, when I was under a great deal of stress because of Hugh’s accident and the work load I was responsible for when he was unable to do virtually anything. My score was low and I got a little more stressed. The neurologist did some other tests and then re-tested me and it was much better.

Just a word from personal experience: if you are somehow able to access a free version of this screening tool online, and you try it, don’t panic if your score is lower than you expected. Remember there are many factors that affect your performance on cognitive tests on a given day. It is just a ‘snapshot’ of your skills at the time. If you have any concerns about it, though, definitely talk to your health care provider.

The occupational therapist was instrumental in Hugh’s return to work. She knew about the binocular vision therapy, including the neurological optometrist Hugh was working with, and seen its benefits for many of her patients. She was linked professionally with the local vestibular rehabilitation therapy clinic whose primary caseload are concussion patients. She gave him exercises and set weekly goals for Hugh to achieve. These included increasing his driving stamina, increasing his time on the computer, reading print materials with an adjusted font, and strategies for learning to adjust to background noises in a normal work environment. She gave suggestions about taking breaks and things Hugh could do to rest his brain every hour. She recommended tools like low glare sunglasses and a noise-cancelling headset that made it easier for him to live and work in the noisy, stimulating environments of his work place and our home. She also provided recommendations on how to set up the desk environment, such as chair and computer terminals positions, and software to reduce the cognitive load. She also gave suggestions for sleep positioning in order to optimize sleep – something critical for surviving the work environment.

One helpful and long-lasting service she offered was information on yoga and mindfulness. She runs yoga classes that are specifically tailored to the needs of concussion patients. Beyond the benefits of yoga, this class served as a social support group for Hugh, as he took the class with other concussion patients. They could commiserate together about their various issues of day-to-day living with post concussion syndrome. Concussion patients often feel very isolated because they can’t participate in social activities at work or at home, because it is too taxing for them. Few people really understand how broadly a concussion affects your ‘personhood’. It also gave him perspective, because he met several people whose lives were far more altered and disabled than his.

She started Hugh on a yoga and meditation routine that he practices daily, now, that is helping with so many other cognitive and emotional issues resulting from, and exacerbated by, his concussion. He is dealing with stress better, in all parts of his life, including work.

Return to Work

In early November 2017, we marked two years since Hugh stopped work after his concussion and began his long-term disability. Several days after the second anniversary of his first doctor’s appointment after the concussion, he returned to full-time hours at his work place. That was Hugh’s ‘achievement moment’ at Christmas. Since July 2017, he had been transitioning back to work, a few hours at a time. As each hour, or day, of work was added on, he would have a couple of days and weekends of fatigue until his energy and stamina built up. With the advice of his occupational therapist, his work place has put some accommodations in place to reduce his cognitive load. He drives on off-peak hours and works from home two days a week, most weeks. He is enjoying reconnecting with his colleagues and resuming his work projects. It has been a successful transition, for the most part. He has learned a lot about letting go of things he can’t control or things that are not his responsibility. He is still learning to pace himself, so he doesn’t become over tired, but all these are good life skills for any situation.

New Year, New Horizons

In this post, we touched briefly on both vestibular rehabilitation therapy and yoga/mindfulness practices. We will post separately about the benefits of both those treatment modalities for concussion survivors soon.

We hope all who are following our journey had a peaceful and healthy holiday season and great start to 2018. We wish you all well.

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Looking Deeper: Neurofeedback II

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A Brief Hiatus from Blogging

It has been more than three months since we last posted. Our lives, as usual, have been full of things to do and places to go. In the month of August, we took a week-long holiday at a rental cottage in Muskoka, in central Ontario. The Canadian Shield rock faces and tree lines are reminiscent of the topography I was lucky enough to spend my summers enjoying when I was a child and youth at our family cottage in another part of Muskoka. This is one of our family’s happy places and where we can fully relax. This holiday was particularly welcome after all the activities and changes we have undergone in the previous months; we were all tired. We always hope to take some of that calm and relaxation mode back to our city home, but we usually just start running when we return. I took this picture one morning at the cottage and it is one I often look at to reclaim that peace. It also fits well with the theme of this blog: light through the fog, or in this case, mist!

After our holiday at the cottage, and up to now, I have spent most of my free time coordinating the packing up and the subsequent move of a family member into an assisted living retirement residence. In fact, I am currently on a family care leave from work, because it was such a big job. I have also been supporting them as they transition into their new home. I’m relieved and happy to say they are settling in well. Perhaps that will be the subject of another blog post at a later time. I have learned a lot about the retirement industry, as a result of this transition, and it has been enlightening.

Neurofeedback II

In the last post, I related our experience with NeurOptimal Neurofeedback. There are many forms of Neurofeedback and I attended a conference in Toronto on head injuries and concussions in May of 2017, where I heard of another type. Dr. Linda Thompson is the psychologist who owns and directs The ADD Centre and Biofeedback Institute of Toronto, just east of our home, which uses Neurofeedback and Biofeedback to treat a multitude of neurological conditions. She spoke at this conference. Here is a link to her clinic:

http://www.addcentre.com/

It specializes in helping people of all ages who have attentional challenges, learning disabilities, anxiety, and depression, among other neurological difficulties. They also work with people with concussions. By now, you are with us in realizing that concussions can cause symptoms that resemble these conditions, including sensory processing disorders.

We did the assessment in early September, going for two full days, two weeks apart. We filled out rating scales that assessed our level of anxiety, depression and attention. Most of the assessments were on-line and computer based and they included neuropsychological screens that assessed how our brains functioned when given new information to learn and react to. We did a Neurofeedback assessment that is similar to the brain training we have posted about previously. With this particular one, we wore a whole head cap and had about 22 electrodes reading our brain waves.

We had an assessment of our Heart Rate Variability or HRV. By assessing our HRV, we are looking at the resilience of our hearts to manage stressful events and return to a normal rhythm. Short term stress serves a purpose. It helps us identify and manage difficult situations quickly; it triggers our ‘flight, fight or shut down’ response. A high HRV is good, meaning our heart can beat faster to bring blood to our brains, muscles and all the body  systems to get ready to deal with a stressful event, when our bodies require more energy, and, when the stressful event is over, to quickly return to a normal rhythm; a low one is the opposite.

People who have had concussions often have low HRV’s, which makes them more prone to heart attacks after a concussion.  There are many things you can do to increase your HRV. Meditation, deep yoga breathing, eating certain foods and supplements with high doses of Omega 3’s, singing, and regular exercise helps the heart ‘learn’ to work efficiently and recover after a stressful event.

At the end of the full assessment, we had an opportunity to sit down with the psychologist and got pages of information outlining how our brains were functioning. She recommended that we do forty sessions of biofeedback to train our brains to work around our areas of difficulties. We opted to put that on hold until, possibly, next year. It will depend on our finances.

The report was pretty technical, but the take-away was we are both doing pretty well, neurologically speaking, considering the extent and, in my case the number, of concussions we have had. I think the various therapies we have done i.e. the laser, Neurofeedback, the binocular vision therapy, and the physical exercise have helped us to retrain our brains and recover.  There are a few more therapies I have not written about and they will be the subject of other posts.

In reviewing the literature for this method of Neurofeedback/Biofeedback, it stands up well to some rigorous studies about its effectiveness. People have been helped by these particular modalities to get back to work after a concussion and improve their cognitive function. The downside is the cost. The owner/director of this particular clinic is a registered psychologist, so some people might be able to claim this on their extended health insurance, if they have any. The sad part is that very few can afford the assessments, let alone the recommended therapy.

We are hearing about concussions more and more in the media. High profile cases, such as Sydney Crosby, bring this condition to light and there is an increasing amount of research being done into the long-term effects of concussions from rehabilitation to suicide risk to development of other neurological conditions. Hockey, football, rugby, soccer, boxing and mixed martial arts athletes are at high risk of multiple concussions. Recently, the professional bull riding community in British Columbia lost a young champion to suicide that is being blamed on multiple concussions.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/ty-pozzobon-cte-1.4348778

Any sport or activity that involves blows to the head and/or neck or falls is risky for neurological health. The National Football League, National Hockey League, and many other sports leagues, so far, are unwilling to make any changes in their practices, beyond providing better treatment after the fact. There is no thought given to changing the way the game or sport is played, to prevent the injuries.

There is also increasing research on the brain’s ability to recover after a head injury. There is data to suggest women and girls recover differently and more slowly than men and boys, likely because their different hormonal make up influences the recovery of the brain. Surprisingly, there is little data on the differences in recovery rate, if any, between sports related concussion injuries and a concussion acquired in common, garden-variety accidents in the home.

Researchers are looking at other non-sport concussions. A social work researcher is studying concussions in connection with intimate partner violence. These injuries are largely undiagnosed and untreated, but the they leave lasting effects.

It seems concussions are, finally, being studied, but there also has to be a strategy to help patients find the useful treatments. It is great that professional athletes have a team of health professionals and multi-million dollar salaries to pay for these new and cutting edge treatments, but when you think of the millions of average people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by a head injury and concussion, who can’t pay and may never return to work, it is heartbreaking. We have been saying this many times in this blog, but the money that is used to support people who are unable to work after a concussion could best be spent giving them access to reliable treatments so they can resume their lives, take care of their families and pay taxes. It is a circular, financial, ‘win win’ scenario.

Thanks for waiting for our next post. We will try to keep them coming a little more frequently. Be well.

Our Brain Waves On A Screen: Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

First, we want to send greetings to everyone who has been visiting or viewing the blog, and second to thank those of you who have commented on Facebook. There have been views and visitors from all across Canada and even some from the US and England. We hope you all have found our blog interesting, and hopefully, informative. The latter is really why we are writing it in the first place. It is challenging to know how your writing is resonating with your readers, so if you have a moment, please leave a comment on the blog site or, for those that see the posts on Facebook, you can continue to leave your comments there. If you choose to follow the blog, you will be notified whenever we post.

On one of our trips into Toronto in the spring of 2016, our driver told us about an educational therapist in our city, who used a mode of therapy called Neurofeedback to help children and adults to train their brains. Our driver had worked with this therapist and believed Neurofeedback could be of some benefit to Hugh and me.

When people talk about treatments or therapies  for concussions, or any medical condition really, it can be a bit challenging to decide if you want to try them. First, there is the expense consideration. You can’t possibly do everything, unless you are independently wealthy. You need to allocate your treatment dollars prudently, especially if one of your income earners is out of work.

Second, there is a little thing I call ‘treatment suggestion overload’. Almost everyone has had a health issue they have faced, of some sort. In many cases, they have found relief from some sort of therapy or treatment. They run the gamut from medical and/or pharmaceutical to alternative and/or spiritual. When people who care about you see you in need they want to help, so they suggest ones they have found to be helpful. If you were to try everything suggested to you, you would rapidly run out of energy, not to mention money. Hence, you listen to the suggestions and the rationale for their choices, you do your research, and then you decide if it fits your budget and/or your treatment goals.

When our driver talked more about the Neurofeedback, I began to think it might be helpful for both of us, but I was a little concerned about the cost. I had read about it in an appendix of the Norman Doidge book and did some research. There are a variety of treatment modalities that come under the Neurofeedback umbrella. There are cross references online to its use in a variety of treatment settings and for a number of neurological conditions, including robust scientific evidence to support its use for concussion survivors. People with learning disabilities, ADHD, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and chemo fog have found it helpful. It probably comes as no surprise that concussion survivors often exhibit these very things, as well, so it made sense the Neurofeedback might help. Here is a video that discusses the use of Neurofeedback;

http://tvo.org/video/programs/the-agenda-with-steve-paikin/agenda-plus-the-future-brain

Here is a link to a book that I have read about using Neurofeedback for PTSD:

https://www.facebook.com/thebodykeepsthescore/

Neurofeedback is a slightly more recent incarnation of something called ‘Biofeedback’. This modality was researched and developed from as far back as the 50’s and 60’s. Here is a link that describes the history and current trends:

http://www.brainworksneurotherapy.com/history-and-development

The link is from a clinic, but we are not necessarily endorsing these particular methods. Each modality has advantages and disadvantages.

Basically, the difference between Biofeedback Neurofeedback and Brain Training Neurofeedback is that in Biofeedback the brain’s signals are used to help the person regulate their brain and their body systems.

https://www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/the-difference-between-neurofeedback-and-biofeedback/

An example of Biofeedback is the meditation device, called Muse, I mentioned briefly in the post about Laser treatments:

http://www.choosemuse.com/

In Brain Training Neurofeedback, the one I describe below, the person is in a more passive state while the brain does all the work to regulate and train itself. The training calms the brain and takes it from a state of hypervigilance and stress, to one of calm and efficient processing. It helps the brain work in the frontal lobe, where the thinking and planning occurs. I have heard of many people who have used the Biofeedback Neurofeedback and found it very helpful. If you search ‘Neurofeedback’ on-line you will find lots of practitioners of all the different kinds. 

We found the practitioner we had been told about and her office was about a five-minute drive from our home. It seemed worth the gamble, at least to try it out for one session. She uses the NeurOptimal method, which is described below, and I will refer to it as Neurofeedback, going forward:

https://neuroptimal.com/

Hugh and I both tried our first session of Neurofeedback in August 2016. The practitioner tucked us into a recliner, gave us a blanket and hooked us up to a machine and a computer with wires attached to our heads. It probably sounds uncomfortable, but the wires were attached to our scalps by a water-soluble glue and there is no pain; just a rather interesting hairdo at the conclusion! This is essentially an Electroencephalogram or EEG. Here is a link to a definition of EEG technology:

http://www.healthline.com/health/eeg#overview1

The wires read our brain activity, while we listen to the drum music and relax in the chair. I often go to sleep or just let my mind wander. Our brain activity shows up on the computer screen, while we do this. Every once in a while, we hear the music skip or some crackling. This is our brain clearing itself out and training itself to do things differently. Our brain knows what it needs to be healthy, so it does the work it needs to do. When the music ends, we come back to awareness and the practitioner shows us what our brains have done, or might be continuing to do. Since August, I have done this twenty-seven times and Hugh has done it about twenty times. Given the severity of his concussion he would probably benefit from at least twenty more, but this past June and July he took an ‘all therapy holiday’. He is planning to go back to it shortly.

How do I feel immediately after? I feel calmer, relaxed, and more focused. Over the past year, I have noticed I am thinking more clearly and finding solutions to problems, rather than feeling overwhelmed and panicky when met with a problem. My memory is better and I don’t feel as ‘foggy’ as I did after the concussions, even after the most recent one in March. Hugh has noticed a difference in his anxiety and cognitive skills. Our daughters have not had as many sessions as Hugh and I have, but say they have noticed their memories are better and they feel more organized in their academic work. We have encouraged them to have more sessions and they often do during stressful times at school.

We know this sounds too good to be true, or possibly the results sound like they are ‘placebo’ effects, but we all have found it helpful. We also understand that you might be feeling the effects of ‘treatment suggestion overload’ and this might seem too much, but maybe you can tuck it away for future reference, if you aren’t ready to look into it now. If you do try it, let us know what you think about it in the Comments section. 

Have a good week and be well.

Beyond Work: Travel and Social Events with a Concussion

We were going to post about Neurofeedback, and we will very soon, but we thought we would post about a family event we attended. The significance is that when you have a head injury or any other illness, you want to do the things you would normally do, despite an abnormal circumstance. You don’t want to miss the big things like family events or vacations. Hugh has been pushing the boundaries each week as he segues back to work; working one hour longer each week and then an hour longer each day the following week, driving to work at his office and staying for longer. It is part of the ‘hardening off’ the insurance company and his treatment team have been encouraging. It has all been tiring, but he needs to be able to participate in all aspects of his life and our family life, not just work, to really feel like he is back to his old self. He also needs to push himself, a little bit, to see what his limits are. This was an opportunity to test all this out and see how he did.

 Our only niece was married in the province of Alberta last weekend. This was the first major trip we’ve taken since Hugh’s concussion. Travelling with a person with a concussion, or having one yourself, presents some interesting challenges that might not be encountered with a regular person.

 First, there is the preparation for the trip that can be exhausting. If you are the caregiver, you can’t necessarily count on the concussed person helping to prepare things. Hugh was able to help me out a bit, which made my job a little easier. As a concussed person myself and working up to the day of departure, my energy was compromised so I had to pace myself differently. I will confess that I am a procrastinator and often leave things to the end at the best of times which often translates into late nights, but I did manage to get things done in a reasonable amount of time and without a drastically late night. I don’t think I was too scattered at work before I left, although I can’t guarantee that. My work colleagues might say differently!

 Even booking the flights and car rentals had to be managed with concussions in mind. As an example, we couldn’t book a flight too late in the day, to account for the effects of time changes and jet lag. We needed our sleep to be able to manage. The only flight that left from our city was after 7:30 pm and arrived around 1:30 am our time, so that wasn’t going to work. Hugh and I would have been dysfunctional for the main event. We had to book a flight with a carrier from the next closest large urban airport, because they had more frequent flights at more reasonable hours. We were able to return from the west to our city airport and our daughters came to pick us up. That leg of it was seamless and convenient.

 We had to fly, so that entailed a number of things we had to work through, starting with ground transfer to and from the airport. Driving in and out of a major urban centre is tiring at the best of times, but when you add in having to meet certain hard deadlines, it is stressful. Checking in and going through security, getting to the departure or arrival gate, bringing or finding food to keep the brain functioning; all these things take time, mental and physical energy. Airports are busy, noisy places, so we asked if there was a quiet room he could go to while he waited to board, but they are only available to those that have business or first class tickets. We did see a quiet area with lower lighting at our destination, which seemed progressive.

 At my neuro-optometry appointment, the day before we departed, my clinician gave me some very helpful advice; have an anti-nauseant and earplugs available for the trip, to help deal with the changes in air pressure. We both took a natural ginger anti-nauseant and it seemed to help. I had some foam ear plugs and Hugh had some noise cancelling earphones. They worked well, but the flight attendants initially told Hugh he couldn’t use them, thinking they were fancy earphones for the in-flight entertainment! He gave his reasons and they let him wear them. Hugh did pretty well and made it through the long days of travel.

 At the wedding, there are large groups of people and so much sensory information coming all at once. This is challenging for a concussed person, because if they are in the recovery period, their sensitivity to the information is heightened and it is exhausting to process it all at once. The bride’s mother, Hugh’s sister, made sure there was a quiet room for Hugh and others who needed a break from the event. He made frequent visits to that room, throughout the wedding and various parties before and after.

 As with any family gathering, there is a desire to participate in the events and spend time with people you know and are related to. It is why we went. Hugh really wanted to be part of the experience; he wanted to enjoy the food and, dance with his daughters and me, stay up to enjoy the experience, but the music was loud. He did all that and more, but a couple of days after he was feeling very tired and experiencing the old familiar symptoms of Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).

 In fact, he had a Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV) episode the day before we were to fly home. Here is a good explanation of this:

 http://vestibular.org/migraine-associated-vertigo-mav

 He hadn’t had one of those since the early days after his injury. It meant he and I had to miss some other family events; I couldn’t leave him alone because I had to be present in case he needed to get up because he was at risk of another fall. The vertigo could have had serious implications for our return trip and we didn’t have any cancellation insurance.

 We made it through all that and it is taking a while to adjust back to the local time. Hugh has some lingering fatigue from everything, but we are glad we did it. When we think about it, there are multiple reasons the MAV occurred. With migraines and, we believe with PCS too, there is a layering effect. One stressful event on its own, be it happy or otherwise, probably wouldn’t bring on symptoms. Multiple stressful events in a short time span, does. So, pacing is the key, but sometimes you just can’t control when these events happen, nor do you want to manage your life so completely that you never step outside of your house. If the concussion were to affect our ability to take vacations or go to events, this would indeed be even more debilitating.

 We all need to visit with people we care about; it is in our nature to want to connect with loved ones. Going to a different place, even if it is for a short or busy time, is restorative. It gives you a break from the same four walls or the same routine. Despite the challenges we had, we are glad we went away; I encourage you to try it, even for a short vacation close to home. I hope you all have an opportunity to do this, as we approach the middle of the summer in the northern hemisphere.

 Be well.

The Eyes Are the Window to the Brain: Binocular Vision Therapy

I had an appointment with a neurological optometrist this week. I had a concussion about two years ago and had some vestibular therapy a year after because I was having balance and vestibular issues. After about three months of vestibular physiotherapy last year, the issues largely resolved themselves. We will post more about the subject of vestibular physiotherapy at a later time. My symptoms returned this past March, a week after a bump on the head from a small steel flashlight. At least I knew who to go to and what to do!

I happened to see my optometrist not too long after the most recent bump on the head. Her findings were that my eye prescription had changed dramatically in the last two years. She did some further screening tests that suggested my concussion two years ago and the bump on my head this year, might have contributed to the problem. She made a referral to a Binocular Vision clinic locally, because one of the few medical professionals who can see the effects of a concussion and can give a functional assessment of the damage from a head or concussion injury, are eye care professionals; either an optometrist or ophthamologist. The amazing thing is that the concussion or trauma doesn’t have to be recent for them to be able to pick it up on their assessments. It can be the result of an injury years before and still having an impact on the person’s visual, and of course neurological, health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25231523


After an intense two hour assessment, that frequently made me feel ill, they confirmed I might have sustained another mild concussion and gave me some vision therapy exercises.


At the re-check this week, all my functional visual assesents were normal, but they are going to follow me for a little while to make sure their are no relapses. I still have some lingering balance issues, but I am getting vestibular therapy from a physiotherapist. It is possible there might be some permanent balance deficits due to several factors; I have probably had a number of mild concussions, I have had chemotherapy, and they found an abnormal vascular structure in my brain a few years ago (there’s a story!). Only time will tell.


We first learned about this visual therapy treatment modality from, you guessed it, another concussion survivor’s experience. They recommended a book called The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How The Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back, by Dr. Clark Elliot.


http://clarkelliott.com/Synopsis.html


Dr. Elliot is a professor who studies, and teaches about, artificial intelligence. He sustained a severe concussion/head injury as a result of a car accident. It took him eight years to finally find someone who could help him overcome the effects of the concussion and it was a neuro-optometrist and cognitive psychologist who finally got him on the road to recovery. I will add; Dr. Doidge is briefly mentioned in his book, and Dr. Doidge did some research on this modality after his second book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, was published. He refers to it when he speaks at conferences now. Dr. Elliot’s story is truly exciting and inspiring.


I started to research where Hugh could get access to this therapy and was thrilled to find it was possible very near where we lived. He was referred by his sports medicine doctor, about nine months after his injury, at our suggestion. Our family doctor did not know post concussion assessment was part of the mandate of the Binocular Vision Clinic.


He finally got to the top of the wait list about three months later in late August 2016, nearly a year after the injury, and went through the gruelling inital assessment. The neuro-optometrist was able to explain, in some detail, the structures and areas of his brain that were impacted by his injury, and why he was experiencing the symptoms he was. It was the first time we got such a detailed analysis. They had some suggestions for glasses that work well for people with concussions and adjusted his eye glass prescription, as well, to account for his new visual needs.


Next, they gave him an extensive list of eye exercises and Hugh, true to his nature, did them daily. They exhausted him, but he perservered. After about a week, he started to notice a change and improvement in his cognitive skills, his tolerance for exposure to screen technologies, and a general improvement in his post concussion syndrome symptoms. It was the most rapid improvement he had experienced since the beginning.


The Binocular Vision Clinic (affectionately known as ‘BVC’) was setting up a clinic where particpants could come for weekly group sessions and get individualized therapy support from optometry students, but it took about six months for that to happen, so in the meantime Hugh kept up with his home therapy program. He went back to the clinic every three months for a reassessment and they would tweak his eye exercises. The weekly group sessions began in May of this year and Hugh finished them a week or two before he returned to work earlier in July. He still occasionally does some vision therapy exercises to keep his system tuned up.


We have researched the role eyes and vision have in the brain, in light of neuroplasticity, and it is not surprising that this area of the brain has intense neuronal activity, from birth to death. As one example, research into how eye contact, or lack thereof, can impact the emotional and cognitive development of babies and children is not new, but is gaining momentum as we learn more about neuroplasticity. With this understanding, maybe there will be therapies that utilize the eyes to help children and adults to build or rebuild their brains, after injuries of all kinds. Again, neurological health is crucial to all areas of development, in all of us, at any age.


So, here is yet another tool in the box for concussion rehabilitation and management. We have searched ‘ophthamology and concussion’ and ‘opthamology and optometry’ and there are pages of hits in North America and beyond, including recent research and scholarly articles that speak to the benefit of this therapy. We invite you to check them out.


The other take-away is: don’t assume that your condition is permanent or you have ‘plateaued’ because it is a long time since your injury or trauma. You might just find this, or any of the treatments we have tried, beneficial to your situation. Obviously we can’t guarantee you will, but it is always worth a try. Our motto is: Never leave a stone unturned.


If you try this therapy, or any other, let us know how it works for you in the comments section.


Our next post will be our experience with Neurofeedback.


Have hope.

Enter Laser Technology: The first step to neuroplastic recovery.

It has been two weeks since we started this blog. We are excited to see that our site is being viewed and visited, even as far away as Ireland and Switzerland. As always, please feel free to follow, comment, question and share it. We welcome your input.

Earlier this week I was listening to our national public radio station, the CBC. They have a current affairs program on in the morning called, The Current. This particular day, they replayed a segment from a series called The Disruptors. The series researches and reports on individuals or groups who do things that are out of the ordinary or disrupt our commonly held ideas or are doing research on things that are new or innovative. This episode was about two technologies; one that can assist people to start and enhance their meditation practice and one that helps those with paraplegic injuries to change their disability and re-learn some previously lost skills. My interest in the brain and its capacity to heal itself started long before Hugh’s concussion, so when I heard this program, I got goosebumps! Here was yet another way the brain’s natural capacity to change was illustrated.

Five years ago when I was getting chemo treatments I read a book called The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.

http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

It is a well researched but technical read that talks about the ability of the brain to change itself using neuroplasticity. Here is a definition of neuroplasticity:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=40362

I was really excited about it because I knew these necessary, but heavy, drugs were destroying my brain cells as well as the cancerous ones. I was having vestibular problems that changed my balance; my short-term memory was not as good; I had chemo fog. Like many people I had learned and thought that once a part of the brain was damaged and not functioning, as would happen with a stroke, it would never come back. You just had to live with the results of a brain injury or loss of skills. This book proved that it was possible to change your brain and regenerate brain functions left over from debilitating neurological injuries or conditions. That sounds dramatic, but that book led me and my family down a road, we never would have taken otherwise, including but not limited to, concussion recovery.

Several years later, Dr. Doidge published another book called The Brain’s Way of Healing, in which he researched and described some techniques and innovative technologies that rely on the brain’s capacity for neuroplastic healing and change to help people rebuild their brains and lives after suffering from neurological illnesses, traumatic brain injuries and other neurological conditions. Here is the link to that book:

http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1042

There was even a treatment to help with musculoskeletal pain. Again, I was elated! Here were some viable options that might help me with my chemo fog. I just needed to find where to access these treatments and technologies.

Around this time, Hugh was suffering from debilitating migraines and migraine-associated vertigo. This was even before his concussion. Our youngest daughter also suffered from migraines. After reading this book, I was able to search on-line for the treatments that I thought my family and I might find helpful. Some of the technologies mentioned in the books were originally developed here in Canada.

One such treatment and technology was cool lasers. They have been used in physiotherapy clinics for years for treating muscular and joint injuries. Anyone that has gone to a physiotherapy clinic for a sports injury might have had lasers applied to the  injury site; usually they are round disks that are applied for a few minutes. You can read the about how this technology was developed and fine tuned by Dr. Fred Kahn and his colleagues, in the chapter  called “Healing the Brain with Light”. The difference with this laser is the size, intensity and cycle of the arrays. Dr. Kahn, started using these lasers to reduce inflammation in joints, muscles and to heal wounds, with amazing results.

Here is a link to the clinic, called Meditech International, the laser and Dr. Kahn:

http://bioflexlaser.com/

Dr. Kahn’s professional career and his drive to bring lasers into the mainstream of treatment is a fascinating read, in and of itself, considering he is in his upper 80’s and still seeing a staggering number of patients a week.

When they used it on the upper back and neck, migraine sufferers found their pain subsided and the migraines reduced in frequency. They started to research the effects of lasers on neurological trauma from concussions, strokes and after brain surgery. The results were remarkably promising in rebuilding the brains of people who were living with profound skill deficits and were unable to live the lives they had before their trauma.

We decided to try laser therapy. One of the two clinics where the Bioflex Laser was researched and developed is in the west end of Toronto. Hugh, our daughter and I had treatments a couple of times a week in August of 2015 and after the first few, their migraines improved and I found my chemo fog symptoms were beginning to go away. When September came, we couldn’t continue the drive in twice a week, so we rented a laser and got trained on how to use it at home.

When Hugh had his concussion, we still had the rental laser and he started using it. He found it helped with the head aches (his migraines and vertigo had returned) and the neck pain post concussion. He also used it to reduce the pain after the intense physiotherapy sessions of those early months of rehab treatment. By the end of 2015, he was starting to feel like he was slowly climbing out of the hole, but that improvement was short-lived.

In early January 2016, Hugh developed a tooth abscess and went through one unsuccessful attempt to do a root canal. It turned out the dentist who did the procedure was ‘hopeful’, but he didn’t have proper x-rays from the referring dentist-I could write a whole post on that debacle. A month later he had the offending tooth completely removed, but the result was he had to suffer through two rounds of antibiotics which played havoc with his digestive health (also a problem for concussion patients, but more on that later), two rounds of freezing and anaesthesia, and two rounds of drilling. The freezing, anaesthesia and jarring from the drilling was very challenging for his brain and we think it set him back about at least four months in his recovery.

With Hugh’s return to work a question mark, we returned the rental laser in January because the cost was beginning to mount and we needed to reduce our expenses, even though we knew it was helping. At a re-check appointment with Dr. Kahn at the clinic in February, Dr. Kahn strongly urged Hugh to resume and increase his laser treatments. The research team at the clinic also started the functional assessments that tracked Hugh’s cognitive skills, as he began his recovery journey. We again rented the laser unit, knowing this was the first step to meaningful recovery for Hugh. We had a path to follow and we had to take it, despite the cost.

As Hugh enters his third week of his return to work program, we truly believe using the laser treatment was one of the turning points in his recovery. Bioflex has developed a personal laser unit for home use and we purchased it, so we could return the rental. Meditech has supported us with the personal unit, as well, and provided options for treating many musculoskeletal, wound and skin conditions, in addition to Hugh’s concussion symptoms. We have even used it for wound healing and injury treatment on our dogs, with remarkable results. As we age and our aches, pains and arthritis sets in, it will have many applications, so we see it as a good investment in our health.

We understand few people can make the choices we have made to recover from their injuries. We have foregone many things to access non-mainstream treatments, at a tremendous cost to our financial situation, but ultimately we needed and wanted to recover as best as possible. What we as a society need now, is to lobby our governments and health organizations to see the benefits of these treatments, so they can be publicly funded. The cost to our society of supporting people with neurological traumas who are disabled, is far greater than the cost of these treatments. There are treatments available to make these people vital and functioning members of society again. We can, and should, do better.

Coming up in future posts: Neurofeedback, tongue neurostimulation, and Binocular Vision Therapy, plus the role of advocacy. Until then, be well.

 

How We Got Here: Part II

The Fog Starts Rolling In

I have a memory from my childhood of watching fog roll across the lake at our Muskoka cottage. When you see it coming, it looks like it isn’t moving and you are not inside it, then all of a sudden you realize you are surrounded. Your vision is obscured and you are in it. It is cold and damp, like a fine rain. The essence of fog can feel oppressive, all-encompassing and a little lonely.

We have all seen thick fog in the old movies and you know something scary is going to appear, but you don’t see it until it is almost upon you. I have heard about a certain stretch of the McDonald Cartier Freeway, otherwise known as the 401, in South Western Ontario called Drumbo in Oxford County. It is quite flat and often has a unique climate of its own. Notably, it gets very foggy and it is often thick. Hugh the geographer, who knows about why this occurs in that area, has driven through it on one of those scary fog nights, where he couldn’t see more than a couple of feet in front of him. Now, he is from the west and has driven from BC to Quebec by himself and we have driven west and home as a family, so for him to feel worried to drive in a Drumbo fog is significant. There are often accidents on that stretch of highway, as people think they can maintain the maximum speed and still see in front of them, but realize too late they are at the back-end of the another vehicle. Fog is not for the faint of heart.

It is interesting that people who have experienced anything related to a neurological condition often report that they feel like they are in a ‘fog’. They can’t think as clearly, their memory is slower or diminished and they feel like they are moving through something thick and unrelenting. I had cancer five years ago and I experienced it when I was getting chemotherapy treatments; in fact there is a recognized medical term of ‘chemo fog’ that exactly describes those same experiences. It feels like you are behind a shroud, it is oppressive and a little lonely. This is also how many people with concussions or head injuries feel. It rolls in; sometimes soon after the injury, or sometimes days or weeks later.

I picked up Hugh from the hospital around 9 am the same day of the concussion. It was a Friday and he called into work to take a sick day, presumably to sleep and recover from the experience. I didn’t have to work that day and was thankful I could rest until the Saturday. That weekend, we slowly returned to our pre-incident schedule and by Monday of the next week, we were ready to go.

During the following week, he was preparing for an international conference at which he was speaking, which was in our twin city, so that meant doing his own work and also preparing his talks. He also assessed and tried to fix, our ailing and aging water softener. In the end, he disconnected it and carried it up our basement steps, amid a flood of water, and out to the curb. The following week he attended the conference, which entailed many social activities, late nights and early morning speaking breakfasts. He even participated in a charity curling bonspiel and couldn’t understand why his rocks wouldn’t go where he directed them. The Oktoberfest banquet and dance was particularly difficult, as he was starting to be ‘bothered’ by the lights, music and people. On the weekend he purchased a new water softener, re-routed the water pipes and installed the new one, amid a flood of water. By the end of the third weekend after his fall, he was exhausted and ‘not feeling right’.

He made an appointment with our family doctor, who immediately saw him and diagnosed him with a concussion, telling him he was off work, at least until December 1, 2015. She would reassess him then and, if he had recovered, he could go back to work. She didn’t say what would happen if he hadn’t recovered. She told him he must rest. He was elated! He could read, watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy, help out with some things at home, generally take it easy. No, she said, he must rest in bed with no lights, no sound, no walking the dogs, no exercise, no reading or TV, only instrumental music. No work whatsoever, physical or cognitive. He was skeptical as to whether he needed to follow her advice, but he said he would try.

As the next two weeks progressed, he did rest, but found he needed more and more. His head and neck hurt, his balance was off, he had vertigo, he couldn’t tolerate lights, he would be up out of bed for less and less time at a stretch, then needed to go back to the dark bedroom to rest. He was sleeping a lot, but not having really restful sleep. It got worse from that point on. When December 1 came, he was put on indefinite sick leave by our doctor. He was given a referral to a sports medicine doctor and physiotherapy. His symptoms were getting worse and he withdrew more and more from our family life out of necessity. There were some days he could not prepare himself a lunch.

Hugh had always been a very active and very involved parent to our two teenage daughters. He worked outside the home at his job for a government office and inside the home. We were equal partners in the running of the household, but I have to admit he did much of the heavy physical work around the house and most of the meal planning and preparation, with me doing most of the planning around the girls and their needs, financial management, and armchair household management. I worked part-time outside the home, but I also had extended family, some with very complex medical needs who needed my help weekly, so having Hugh able to take care of such things as meal prep was very helpful. He did it willingly and very well. We were very fortunate to have a cleaning lady.

When he was unable to do anything, I took over and with the help of the girls we took care of the most important things, but our eldest daughter was away at university which left a lot to the youngest and that was difficult for her. We all rapidly became anxious, overwhelmed and stressed. The tension in the house was thick and I was feeling an oppressive weight on my shoulders. Burn out, felt by everyone, was coming.

Return to work

When we look back on those first few days, weeks and months of this journey, we really didn’t understand the full extent of how it would impact our lives, but we have weathered it.

This is an auspicious week, in our house. Hugh has started his ‘Return to Work’ protocol. Sounds very official and scientific, doesn’t it? Well, I guess it is, to some degree. This has been in the planning stage for close to five months, not to mention the sixteen months before when he was having therapy to enable him to contemplate this event, and there are a number of key players in this experiment. There is our General Practitioner, the Physiotherapist, the Occupational Therapist, the Neuro-Optometrist, the Neuropsychiatrist, the insurance Case Manager, the Rehabilitation Specialist, the Vascular Surgeon/Laser doctor. At his work place there is Hugh’s manager, the Human Resources department, the IT department and the parking manager. There are others and I’m sure I have forgotten some people, so I apologize in advance. This doesn’t even touch on the people in our private lives and our community that have supported us, advised us and helped us. We have many people working for us, and with us, to be grateful for.

You might think the word ‘experiment’, is a strange choice, but the reality is we don’t know what Hugh’s employment will look like going forward. His stamina and energy has changed. There is every possibility his stamina will continue to grow (it has in the last few months, for sure), but we don’t know what his ‘new normal’ will look like. After a moderate head injury there are many who don’t have the stamina to resume their pre-injury jobs. Part of our process has been to work with all the above professionals to put physical and neurological accommodations in place so his brain power can be used to do the work for which he is trained, rather than overload it with extra, unnecessary work.

Our brains do everything for our bodies. When we use our brains for anything, we withdraw energy from the cells. When a brain is injured, it requires more energy and has to work harder to do the basic life functions, let alone any higher order functions like thinking, feeling and moving. Everything we do cognitively, emotionally and physically increases the cognitive load and reduces the cognitive energy. It is an energy in, energy out scenario. Sleep is the best, non-technological treatment that deposits energy and healing back into the brain bank. Diet and digestion play a role, because your brain needs more food energy and neurochemicals to function well after an injury. Everything needs to feed the brain so it can operate.

Now, Hugh takes tentative steps to re-enter his former life. He missed this, these long months alone, when everyone else was out of the house doing their thing. He is anxious about it, but excited to do the work he trained so long for and truly enjoys. He likes his work friends and colleagues and the social aspect of his work. I think, though, it is the resumption of ‘normal’ that is so compelling. He can start to feel like he is back in the real world.

We’ll keep you ‘posted’ on the process and the progress!

How We Got Here: Part I

Early in the morning on a weekday in October of 2015, Hugh had a sharp pain in his temple. He got up to take an Ibuprophen; felt light headed and sat down on the toilet lid. He remembers feeling like he was falling over, but nothing from then on until he awoke on the floor. We later learned he hit his head once on the way down and once on the tile floor, but we still don’t know how long he was unconscious for. Somehow, he got himself back to bed; I think I heard something like a slumping sound as I was on the edge of being awake, but that is purely speculation.

We don’t know why he passed out in the first place, and any tests to look at the cause have been relegated to the back burner until he is sufficiently recovered. The paramedics and the emergency room doctors were most concerned about a heart attack or stroke, given Hugh was in his early 50’s, but all appeared to be normal after the incident. He had a CT scan, but that showed nothing. Since then, he has had several heart stress tests and they have been unremarkable. They wondered about a seizure, since he had that sharp pain in his temple before, but they won’t and can’t do an EEG, because the intense flashing lights of the test will bring on PCS symptoms.

The best estimate is that he had a Vasovagal Syncope. Here is a link to this condition: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vasovagal-syncope/home/ovc-20184773

Apparently, this is not unusual for many people, including but not limited to, middle aged men. The paramedics were concerned immediately after they arrived because his heart rate did not recover quickly and it was slow, but from our research this is not uncommon.

The paramedics nor the emergency doctors ever told us he had a concussion, nor even suggested he visit his family doctor. I even asked if he had one, but they said he was coherent, thinking and processing language well. He didn’t present with concussion symptoms, despite the clearly visible contusion and bruising on his head.

I wish I had heard him get up and been able to get to him immediately after it happened. As it was, he had to make his way back to our bed on his own. I would have had him stay on the floor and called the paramedics. He wishes he hadn’t got up in the first place and, when things are stressful and we are feeling overwhelmed, he berates himself for not thinking it through before he got up. Bear in mind this was about 1:30 am and he was barely awake.  If wishes were loonies, we would be rich.

So, it could have been worse. He could have had it in the shower or while driving. It is not unusual for someone to have another concussion shortly after the first, because the vestibular system is so impaired. Also, heart attacks are common after a head trauma or concussion because the brain has trouble regulating the heart muscle. Luckily, neither of these things happened.

Now we don’t blame the medical personnel. We have since learned that even emergency room doctors only have brief training in diagnosing concussions, and most of the literature still links it to actual head contact with a hard object. They are the ones that should be familiar with all the possible causes of a concussion, but their training does not necessarily prepare them to assess that. We all know most concussions and mTBI’s will not show up on a standard CT scan or MRI. Family doctors have even less training. Most doctors, let alone the general public, don’t realize a whiplash event or a fall on your tail bone on the ice can cause a concussion. When I had mine, our family doctor didn’t flag it for me because my head did not make contact with a solid object. She did catch Hugh’s five months later, though, because a family member of hers had suffered a concussion in the interim, and she had personally been through the system and knew what to look for. We are indebted to her for that knowledge and her prompt action.

So, what have we learned? We have learned to suspend our belief that doctors know everything. They know a lot and they are a valuable piece of the diagnostic puzzle, but we need to trust our instincts, ask questions and, if what they say does not make sense, we need to keep asking.

So, in this digital age of instant answers and Google, we went to the computer. Then we listened to all the people who, once they learn of your experience, freely share theirs. You wouldn’t believe how many stories I have personally heard and blogs I have read on the internet about brain health. There are a myriad of neurological conditions that have occurred because of accidents and illness. One commonality is the original location of the problem: the brain. The many people whose lives have been altered by trauma from brain injuries are staggering. The same is true for other forms of neurological and mental health conditions, because they also change the brain and how it functions. When I read blogs about brains and neurological health, the words ‘fog’, ‘pain’, and ‘life altering’ emerge repeatedly, whether the blogger has experienced a traumatic head injury, or is experiencing some other neurological or mental health crisis.

The people that support the sufferers also speak about the change in their loved ones and their own lives. Unfortunately, the change is often negative and many relationships do not survive. Caregiver burnout is painfully common.

It is exhausting to try to find the best treatment for your particular needs, so you try what you can with what limited financial and physical resources you have. The treatments that are available are often costly and sometimes ineffective. Everyone has known someone who received one treatment or another and they were cured, but as we all know, no two brains are the same and so no one treatment is going to have the same results for everyone. Treatment burnout is painfully common.

There is also the social stigma of the invisible injury. The general public often doesn’t see a physical scar that marks it as an injury. So many people seem to be lonely in dark and scary places, with little support and few options for treatment and recovery.

Solacium and Solas

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

William Shakespeare

When we initially decided to start this blog, we were focussing on concussions and we talked about a name for the blog that would bring hope; we wanted to shed some light on brain injuries and some new concepts in brain health and recovery that might be helpful. I have personally struggled with the naming of this blog for weeks. It has occupied my mind in the wee small hours of the morning and throughout the day. This blog has bloomed into so much more than one just about concussion. We now believe it goes beyond brain injuries into the realm of life trauma, as well. So, the name had to encompass the concept of hope, healing and a path out of the darkness.

I think of myself as many things, but one of the nouns I like the most is ‘wordsmith’. I like to take words and make them meaningful, useful and descriptive. I want to provoke thought, reflection and expansion of mind. So, it is time to name this baby of ours and get on with the business of posting.

‘Solas’ means many things in many languages. In Latin, for instance, it means ‘only’; in Spanish, it means ‘alone’; the French version is ‘seul’, meaning ’alone’ as well. Interestingly, in Scottish Gaelic (a nod to my family tree that is sprinkled liberally with Scottish trunks and branches) ‘solas’ means ‘light’.  The word ‘solace’ in English takes its root from the Latin ‘solacium’ meaning ‘comfort in grief, consolation’. The last two translations struck a chord with me, because when someone has light it brings many things, including mental acuity and comfort. Living, and participating, in a community vanquishes loneliness.

So, Solas it is. We encourage you to find ‘solacium’ and ‘solas’ wherever you can and whenever you need to. You are not alone, despite what you may think. There is help, there is community and there is hope.

Wading Through the Fog: Finding hope and healing after a concussion, and learning a whole lot more about our brains

This is the inaugural post of our blog about our concussion journeys’. I say ‘our’ because originally, it was my husband Hugh’s concussion that sparked the idea to write this blog. Hugh passed out in the bathroom early one morning, woke up on the floor and about two weeks later was ordered to stop work entirely until he had ‘recovered’. We can report that, 20 months later, healing and rehabilitation has occurred.

Over the past 20 plus months, however, we have learned a great deal about concussions, brains, neurological and mental health. As a result, I know I have had a couple of concussions myself in the last two years, maybe more in earlier times. Although mine have not been as dramatic or serious as his, the number of them over the years have changed how my brain works. We know Hugh’s concussion has changed his.

We have tried a number of treatment modalities to lessen the symptoms of the concussions and help our brains to build new connections, using neuroplasticity. We want to write about our experience with our insurance company, the government agencies, our work places and the myriad of medical and rehabilitation professionals we have worked with and encountered along the way.

I have read the books, done the internet research, attended conferences and contacted service providers to get the information we needed to make informed choices about our treatment options. I got the job of researcher because for the longest time, Hugh was unable to look at a computer screen or read a book. We want to write about the financial and personal side of neurological ill health. There is a human cost: it has profoundly affected our children, extended family, and our marriage.

I am writing it because Hugh cannot use the computer for more than about 20 minutes at a time, but we are collaborating on this project. My tolerance for computer use is longer; borne out of necessity. Since Hugh had his concussion, I have been doing most of the chores around and outside the house, with the help of our two daughters. Hugh is getting better, though and his tolerance for all the things he used to do is getting slowly longer. At some point, he might start contributing to the blog.

We are not athletes, much less elite ones. We are physically active, in a moderate way. We are normal, everyday, active people, who have had some common accidents that happened in our home, or the community, but we have tried some less conventional treatments and we believe they have helped us to recover.  Maybe our experience can help and inform others. We are not advocating for a certain treatment and we are not receiving any compensation for talking about these modalities. We also are not passing judgement about other modalities of treatment others might have tried. We have taken every opportunity to consult with a variety of medical doctors and personnel from one specialty or another, regarding our treatment choices and by and large they have been supportive.

This will not be a negative, poor us, blog. We have found hope and healing. We have learned a lot, we have a new appreciation for what we have, and we are learning to have a more balanced and relaxed life.

Please feel free to comment on anything we post, but we ask you to do so in a respectful and compassionate way. Again, the choices we made were ours alone and we will not stand in judgement of anyone else’s. We ask you to do the same.

We hope this helps you through your fog and enables you to step into the light!