High Interest Equals High Functioning After Severe Brain Injury: Kevin Part One
We have had two stories where music played an important role in the therapy and recovery of survivors from severe traumatic brain injury, Helena and Jeremiah. Music therapy has an established and expanding role in the medical field. Yet, our story of Kevin highlights a largely unexplored avenue for therapy that could perhaps provide an important cognitive bridge for those with TBI – sports. When I say “sports” I don’t mean in terms of participating in sports, but being a sports fan, and/or other areas of what is called “high interest” activities. What Kevin’s story shows us is that survivor’s of severe TBI can have remarkably good memory and high functioning after severe brain injury when applied to areas of “high interest” like sport spectating.
Kevin was severely injured in an assault that resulted in a two week coma. He has had a less than satisfactory recovery, which included a full year of inpatient treatment and continued attendance at a workshop program now ten years after his injury. Yet, despite clear cognitive challenges, his brain shows relatively high functioning after severe brain injury, thinking and processing capacity when applied to spectating sports. While sports is often dismissed as purely recreational or trivial activity, Kevin’s case demonstrates, as our story of Doug before him, that there is something in the love of sports, that pushes an injured brain in a way that traditional therapies do not. For that reason, I will later in the Kevin story advocate for research into and the development of “spectating based cognitive therapy” or (“SBCT”) techniques.
Kevin was hurt when he was hit in the back of his head with something equivalent to a crowbar or tire iron in September of 2000. He explains:
It happened on September 10 and someone hit me, hit me over the head with a, a crowbar or a steel stake from behind and at first, see I don’t remember all this. It happened in Edgerton, (Wisconsin). We were going to listen, me and my wife, and my daughter Taylor Justice, listen to a couple at chili fest.
Then my wife said we better get going but I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wanted to listen to a band from Chicago and, and New York so, so they left and I stayed there and then about a couple of hours later I (got hit) from behind with a crowbar or a steel stake and knocked me out and put me in a coma.
No witnesses came forward because the deputy from Rock County, he didn’t see it happen though, I was in a coma then. So they took me, the ambulance took me to the hospital and then I, and then they called UW Madison Hospital and they transferred me.
You don’t remember what happened?
Do you remember the day that you got hurt or was it days or weeks before your injury that you can remember?
I remember before it happened, like I had to work overtime that Saturday at Morgan Corporation where I used to work and then went home and took a shower and went to Cornfest in Darien and then play some Bingo and then, then we left there and I go, let’s go to the Chilifest just, just because of their band you know.
You remember up to an hour before you got hit? Do you remember your daughter and wife leaving?
Yeah, yeah, that part I did.
Did you know what injuries you suffered? Did you have a skull fracture?
That I’m not sure, but I was in a coma for 12 or 14 days and I, after that I remember nothing from transfer to Edgerton to Med Flight to UW Madison Hospital and, and I don’t remember none of UW at all. Or again the coma or nothing like that.
He was hospitalized at UW Hospital in Madison for approximately one month and then was in Mercy Hospital in Janesville from October 15 through January 12, of 2001.
Did you have skull fracture?
I’m not sure.
The primary injury is to the back of your head?
Did you also have frontal lobe injury from the bouncing inside the skull of your brain?
I think so. They put a tube to drain my skull and all that.
Did they do brain surgery?
I’m not sure. I don’t think so.
Do you have scars just from the blow?
Yeah, back there.
Kevin’s primary problem with his own history is that his best source of information is his ex-wife, who not only doesn’t want to recall much of those memories, she is an ex-wife. He became very dependent upon his parents after the injury, but his mother died recently and his father is quite old. Thus, our source for collateral information in this interview was limited.
Did you have parents who were around when you got hurt?
Yeah, mom and dad.
Have you stayed close to your mom and dad?
Oh yes, and then my mom passed away April 22 of 2009.
Your dad’s still alive?
Yeah, and he’s taken it real hard, because he’s been with her since ’61.
As we began to explore the cause of Kevin’s brain injury, we see how high functioning after severe brain injury he has become in some areas and falls behind in many others. It is expected with some one with as severe of an injury that Kevin suffered that there will be cognitive issues but as stated at the beginning of his story, when it come to being a sports fan and spectator Kevin is high functioning after severe brain injury when it comes to sports.