Posted on April 30, 2011 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Helena

Treating Cognitive Deficits: Helena Part Six

Identifying and Treating Cognitive Deficits

The first major step towards recovery for Helena was the neuropsychologist for identifying and treating cognitive deficits. She explains:

That was a very, very good experience. He spent time with me beforehand. I went through this four or five hours over two days of testing, and then he, after they’d done all the correcting, then he sat down with me again and gave me the evaluation of what, where he thought I was.

I couldn’t do pictures of little squares and triangles in one place, and then you’re supposed to tell the difference between the first one and the second one, and I just couldn’t work that out, and I also couldn’t, I couldn’t, so any of those visual things. (The testing did make her nauseous.)

There was a lot of focus and concentration. I had to take a half-hour nap in the middle of it all, because that concentration of energy and focus was probably one of the biggest things that happened to me in the course of my rehab, was that, you know, I’d work for an hour and I’d have to sleep for two hours.

Concentration related fatigue – brain injury fatigue – is one of the most common problems after brain injury, even mild TBI. When neuronal connections within the brain are compromised, the brain works far less efficiently. In order to compensate, it is necessary to give extraordinary concentration. As anyone who has driven in a snow storm knows, the more you concentrate, the faster you tire. See Helena require treating cognitive deficits but got very little help there.

The neuropsychologist was able to identify other specific deficits through his assessment. But treating cognitive deficits is another story. Helena continues:

But in terms of the neuropsychology, subtracting backwards, remembering sequences of words, waiting a half hour trying to remember the same sequence. So what they identified was that I had problems, my deficits were in thinking things out and I guess they call it executive function, trying to figure out what goes next, or how are things different.

I’ve always been a very literate person in terms of understanding language and taking foreign languages and stuff, so that didn’t seem to be impaired at all. I had a, a large stutter, which is happening today, and it doesn’t always happen, but when I’m trying to think of too many things at the same time, that’s brain overload and then I can’t find my words and, and, and, and I’ll stutter.

To make the interview easier to read, most of the evidence of this stutter has been removed from the quotations of Helena. But if our users want to see evidence of that halting language, it is clear on almost each segment of Helena’s YouTube videos, as it is with many other of our survivors.

Treating Cognitive Deficits with a Journal

Helena saw the neuropsychologist in March. She got discharged from St. Vincent’s on December 28 until March where they did very little treating cognitive deficits. For some, living in a room in someone else’s house would have been without cognitive tasks of any kind, but Helena did have something that kept her brain working – her journal.

I think keeping the journal was (a cognitive challenge). It was coming from a different (place), it was coming from not my brain but kind of like from my soul, But I had to do the writing.

I could not work on the computer, and, and I would get emails and it just made me feel sick to my stomach. I wasn’t walking very well. The double vision finally – what was the question you asked?

What was it about the computer that bothered you?

It was the colors, and it was going too fast. If you put up the, your main page that, Internet I have Google, okay? And there were too many colors just on that page, and if I tried to look at my emails I couldn’t see them, I couldn’t read them and there were too many words and they were too little, and I, I just couldn’t track it all, and it was going too fast, and too much information, information overload.

Yet, Helena had something far more important that speeded her recovery and helped with treating cognitive deficits.

Next in Part Seven: The Music Never Died

About the Author

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