Posted on November 1, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 15 of 20 in the series Steven

Environment Factors after a Severe Brain Injury: Steven Part Fifteen

You were also talking about the environment in which the neuropsychological testing is given.  Now earlier today you sat in a lecture I gave and started to have real difficulty with the fluorescent lights which is one of the environment factors after a severe brain injury.

Yes sir.

Explain to me the role that fluorescent lights play for you as far as environment factors after a severe brain injury.

Well I think it could be a combination of the two things that I’ve been able to kind of pinpoint.  I think there’s just something that’s given out in the light itself that after an extended period of time I started to kind of get a headache building in the back of my eyes, plus the buzzing and clicking of them.

Now the room you were in earlier had probably 50 fixtures in it. 


The one we’re in now has four.  You’re doing better with your environment factors after a severe brain injury  now than you were doing an hour ago?

Yes sir, I’m doing better now but I mean I’m still getting it like behind my eye, feeling it but.

And we’re going to stop whenever it gets to the point that the headache is too much of a problem for you. We considered not doing this interview but you decided that you had been through a lot of trouble to be here and wanted to, to push on through.


And let me know if it gets to be too much.  

The problem with fluorescent lights is both the glare and the sound as far as environment factors after a severe brain injury?

Yes sir.

Sound is fairly minor in this room, is it not?

Well no. I would have that complete undertone of the hmmm at all times and it’s like the worse because the light itself.  I’m getting the glare off this glass table from these up here, so it’s messing me up a little bit and it seems like the worse that the light intensifies, in my eyes the sound intensifies.

What other places do you have trouble with fluorescent lights as environment factors after a severe brain injury ?

School, grocery stores, pretty much anywhere that I’m going to have a lot of sensory overload, maybe.  If I’m taking in too much almost I just, if I was like trying to process all the sights and sounds and the people and just everything all at once. I am trying like grocery shopping is one of the hardest things for me.  I’ve on more than one occasion when the grocery store was overly packed with people just left my shopping cart halfway through it and just left.

Let’s talk a little bit about the grocery store per se because it is a combat zone so to speak for people with brain injury and their environment factors after a severe brain injury.


Let’s start with the fluorescent lights and grocery stores tend to have, describe the lights in a grocery store as environment factors after a severe brain injury.

They’re just so ridiculously overwhelming.  I mean there’s at no point that you can go into. I even tried going to Wal-Mart to do my grocery shopping and, you know, 1:00-2:00 in the morning because there’s less people and I can deal with it a little better but the lights are just unrelenting.  They just never stop and no matter where you go in the store they have 15 fixtures right above you at all times.  It’s just, it’s way too much.

When we were going earlier one of the biggest environment factors after a severe brain injury you had from the lights seemed to be when we went from they had turned the lights off in the room to run the projector and then gone back.  


So the environment factors after a severe brain injury are worse  when you come inside at night where you’ve been in the dark and coming into a bright store or is that make no difference to you? 

It might be just the initial shock of it but it always usually affects me worse after like an extended period.  That’s when it really just hits me the worse.  I mean it’s never the initial shock. It’s never just so much I can’t handle it but after about five or ten minutes or in a real bad situation going like from night to a big bright grocery store or anything that ends up being a little too much.

There is always discussion in any brain injury case that there isn’t “objective evidence” of most brain injury symptoms, of which headache is near the top of the list of “subjective complaints.”  However, there is a mischaracterization of what “objective evidence” as such evidence would include that other “objective observers” observe.  Bill is such an objective observer. Going back to my interview with Bill:

You’ve been around Steven enough to see the outward manifestations of what I would describe as two pain disorders he has.  One is headaches which may be caused because of environment factors after a severe brain injury and the other is his left shoulder limitations.  Describe those for us.

Ah, the headaches are new to me.  I wasn’t aware.  Now we have overhead lights in our shop and they didn’t seem to bother him at least, not that I was ever aware of.  Ah, and they weren’t true fluorescent lights.  So to speak.  The shoulder I’ve been aware of that because when we would go pick up furniture, we’d have somebody call us and say I’ve this couch or I’ve got this come pick it up.  Steven really just couldn’t.  I’d usually have to get somebody else to, to help if there was much lifting.  He did what he could but he just couldn’t do that much.  So his, his left side was really just not, non-func, I don’t want to say non‑functional totally but, um, it was, it was going to prevent him from working in the field.

Can you work as a mechanic and not be able to lift up your own left arm?

He can work in the mechanic field, there’s a lot of different areas.  There’s parts, and there’s, you know, maybe you could work in salvage where you’re not timed, things like that, but, um, the, but you could tell, like Steven said the pain standing in a position too long or sitting in a position or stooping, naturally, they, they, you know, they would get to him and he, he just couldn’t, he’d have to get up and do something else.

The situation where he had headaches at our meeting  describe for us the nature of that meeting?

It was interactive and it was entertaining  and there was a meal just so you weren’t there focusing (only on the talk).  I just happened to look back: Steven’s sitting to my right.  At first I would say “son pick your head up, this man’s talking to you.”  And then I realized.  I could see his face was flushed, he looked like he was fixed to get sick.

So at the beginning, he was interacting?

Oh, yes.

During the presentation, he actually had volunteered some answers to questions?

Yes, yes.

And then at some point he just shut down (which may have been due to the lights and his environment factors after a severe brain injury)?

It seemed like it hit him pretty fast.  Like I said, I wasn’t even aware that he had this issue, but when I turned around all of a sudden he was, he was ill and I asked him if I could get him something and he said no. I just, this light’s killing me.


Next in Part Sixteen – The Challenges of Shopping After Severe Brain Injury

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