Posted on October 10, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Otto

Brain Injury Residuals: Otto Part Six

It has been nine years since the wreck and Otto appears completely normal in my interview.  He is sharp, reasoned, personable with a nice laugh and sense of humor.  He has returned to work and to coaching.  Like 85-90% of those with a concussion, he has had a good recovery.  Yet, a significant MTBI for someone over 40, especially with a prior history of concussion, can leave brain injury residuals.  I asked him about these concerns.

Do you feel like you have any brain injury residuals from the head injury that you had in this accident?

Oh absolutely.

Tell me about the brain injury residuals .

Well for one thing that I can’t remember hardly any of my childhood.  The things that I’ve done that, uh, my parents tell me that I did when I was young, I can’t remember.  I can’t remember my graduation.  I barely remember my wedding.  It’s just so many things.

This extent of loss of long term memory is rarely reported after a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.  It may indicate there was more focal damage in Otto’s brain than identified, or it may just indicate that significant amnesia for events before the injury is more significant in MTBI than research has shown.   It could be that “no long term retrograde amnesia” after a MTBI is such a given, that few researchers have ever explored it and that it is more common than current research claims.  One explanation for the brain injury residuals and large gap in long term memory would perhaps be some injury to the brain’s “finder” (a Mac term, I use for the brain’s index/table of contents).

Where did you go to high school?

I went to high school in Ohio, Warren, Western Reserve.

Have you been back there since your accident?

I have.  I went to my class reunion last year.

Did you find anything start to come back on terms of those memories when you were there?

Well unfortunately the school that I went to, they had torn it down and built a new school and combined the two towns – east side, west side and made one conglomerate.   But before they tore it down, we did get a tour and it was really difficult for me to even visualize where I was going.  I mean, I went there obviously, but I didn’t really have any recollection of pathways to find the gym and stuff.

Do you find that because of your brain injury residuals the memories are completely gone or perhaps just the cues to the index to find those memories?  Does stuff come back at all?

Every once in a while I get a glimmer of memory that shows up, so I, I don’t know if they’re gone completely.  It’s just trying to find them and how to, how to get them out.

What about the people and the faces other than everybody but you look so much older than you remembered?

There was some people that …. I had a hard time.

Other than major areas of long-term memory  do you have any other brain injury residuals as far as memory problems that are disturbing?

Yes my short-term memory.  I’ll forget appointments that I’m supposed to be at. Most of my work is residential.  That’s why I have to talk to customers a lot either on the phone or in person.  If I don’t write it down, or even if I do write it down, I forget where I put the note.  I’m supposed to be at an appointment at 9:00 tomorrow morning and I just plum forget about it, until after the fact.

It’ll just dawn on me; oh I should have been there.  So then I call them up and try to explain and I don’t ever bring up the traumatic brain injury at issue.

Have you had a diagnosis of a traumatic injury?

I had testing in Marshfield.

Did that come about because your daughter was being tested?

Well there was so many factors that were becoming aware that I thought it was necessary to get checked and it was a cognitive  test and I didn’t do very well on it, and they had said that, uh, the, it was ADHD kind of brain injury.  They said it was caused by –

Attention processing problems as one of the brain injury residuals? 


Is Distractibility one of your brain injury residuals?


Do you have trouble in restaurants or in crowds?

No I do not.

Does noise cause you any problems?


How about lots of multiple conversations going on?

Not really, no I do, I don’t.

Do you remember what your wife said about your daughter when she was sitting here hours ago?  

Yeah I do.

What kind of things are you mostly likely to forget because of your brain injury residuals ?

Phone calls, appointments, to pick something at the store if I’m asked, you know. My organization is not very good.  It wasn’t good to begin with but it definitely is worse now.

A couple of, a couple of follow-up questions on things that we talked about earlier; now you, you run your own business? 

Yes, sir.

Are you back to work a hundred percent? 


What’s the biggest problem other than missed appointments that you have at work? 

I’m 49 now so it, it’s tough for me to keep going 8, 10 hours a day like I used to, obviously.  But when I first started back the hardest thing for me to do is when I’m 120 foot in the air taking down a huge tree over a house, you know, with a crane or whatever, you can’t miss a step.  That really, really frightened me because if you make one mistake it could be your last.  So it would, you really got to think about what you’re doing and, and when I’m up that high.  You know it’s not all the time that I’d have to do that, but you really have to make a mental checklist and go over it often what I had to do.

Distractions are deadly? 

Absolutely at that height, yeah.

Do you have any balance problems as one of your brain injury residuals ? 

Uh, no, sir, I have excellent balance.  Excellent coordination.  I mean I can still ride a unicycle and all that stuff.

Next in Part Seven – On Being a Survivor Who is Also a Caregiver and Parent

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447