Stories of Processing Speed Declines
The following are stories of real life survivors of brain injury. Clicking on the titles will take you to their actual story.
DJ could not be a waiter anymore. Not only would he have trouble remembering orders, the attentional demands, as the pace and the noise got greater during rush periods, would push all of his cognitive functioning to its breaking point.
Helena states; “I had to make for disability, etcetera, etcetera, that will take me four times longer than it would take the normal person. I have to read out loud most of the time, in order to comprehend it; I have to check my work three or four times to make sure that it’s correct, that I haven’t left a piece out; Like when I’m writing something long hand, I can’t tell Ms and Ns anymore, so unless I write very slowly, I make lots more mistakes in my writing. It starts off like letters and ends up, you know I have to take whatever amount of time it takes, and that slows me down too, and I’m happy for that slower pace of life.”
Another difficulty she encountered was : “But all the directions for the tests were all different; I couldn’t read it fast enough, I couldn’t keep up with it, and there were too many things going on and I would just, and she would come and say just calm down. Well I couldn’t do that many things at the same time at that speed, and this was before I ever started scoring them. So I was going to quit about three different times and, and my position is to go all the way to the end of the road and I, and I’ve always called it, this is my grand experiment. I did not have the capability of doing that within the job.”
When asked “How has the music changed for you since your accident?” she states; “I make more mistakes. I make note mistakes, I don’t always play the right notes. Most people would never notice them. But I was pretty close to perfect, and now, I mean, if I was at a 95, now I’m at a 90 or an 85. So I make note mistakes. Oh yeah, oh yeah, and, but I’ve accepted it. That’s just what happens. So when I’m trying to read notes I can’t read any of it because I really didn’t write it. My perfect pitch hasn’t changed at all, so I can hear all of it; I know what’s supposed to happen. I wouldn’t make mistakes if I went much slower. The speed aspect of something is, is the thing I can’t manage.”
Ian’ explains how things take a lot longer now than they did before the accident; “I am on disability right now. I try to do odds and ends around the house and help out friends with whatever they need to have help on. Right now, I’m helping a friend out doing remodeling on his bathroom- some carpentry or plaster-type work.It’s slow going, but I can do it. It just takes me longer than it used to.I did do an engine change in another friend’s vehicle, and what normally takes me probably two to three days took me almost two weeks.” He also states that others have trouble understanding where he is at; “Trying to get other people to understand the situation of where I’m at, or how I fit in so to speak. And some people they see me, especially family and friends, they know how I used to be in doing things and they want, expect me to do the same thing at the same speed and I just can’t. And I just can’t get it across to them I can’t do it.”
How fast do you read? How long will it take you to read a couple hundred-page book?: “Probably slow going. Couple of hundred page book? Probably be maybe a week maybe.”
For the survivor of severe brain injury, it is not just walking that has to be relearned. There is a need to go slow, to heel to toe so much of life. Memory, conversation, shopping â€“ they all work better when done step by step â€“ heel toe, heel toe. Speech is more complicated, less universal, yet it is like walking, something learned as a child that is much more difficult to learn with an injured brain versus a developing brain.
Do you learn at the same speed you could learn before you brain injury?: “No. I was very lucky to have teachers within my human service major who could slow down things. They were very good at their office hours. They were very good after class to re-explain things to me and answer my questions. And that was really helpful, especially when I got into those.”
What job was that?: “There was a big grocery, I think it’s Meijer’s in Kentucky. I was learning on the cash registers and I was always having problems because I couldn’t connect the dots of when something would come up right or a wrong price. And they were trying to show me how to do it and I just got so frustrated because they weren’t patient enough with me and then my mouth kicked off again.”
“My biggest thing is, now people with TBI, you just got to slow down. There was a poem that my dad actually resent back to me, um, when I was somewhere. It’s called Just Taking Things Slow, and what I did with it I have no idea.” How do you, how do you take things slow?: “I have to. I don’t, you know, I can’t. What aggravates my wife, for example, we’ll go down to Kentucky. There’s a lot of places that she wants to go to, so she starts planning things out. I don’t. If I get them I get them; if I get there I get there. Yes I grew up there, but still there’s a lot of places I would like to go. But it’s not a big deal with me. If I get to them I get to them.”
Quinn talks about how much longer it takes him now than it did before the accident: “So for ten years I had been begging them to buy cameras, and then a year, two years ago, I started a camera company. Well, they finally said give us a quote, which a quote a year and a half ago would’ve taken me an hour to put together. It took me several weeks to put it together, and then finally put it in front of them and then I had to hire a friend of mine to do the work.” Does the frustration of not being able to do it more than override the value of what you the limited things you did achieve? No, I don’t think so. I think it, I just, I kind of roll with it. It takes me hours upon hours to look something up on the computer, whereas it used to take 15 minutes or 10 minutes. But that’s life to me now.
Steven explains how much slower he was at things after the accident: “Then as far as the actual physical labor of doing it. When fixing a car you’re paid per job not actually the time that you put into it as to whether they’ll say you’re going get paid two hours to do this. If somebody can fix it in an hour, they get paid two hours regardless. But more than likely I’m going be closer to the end of six to seven hours to fix that same two-hour job so I wouldn’t make enough to really support myself.”