Recovery from Severe Brain Injury: Nancy Part Thirteen
From the beginning of my brain injury advocacy, I have tried to focus my educational efforts as much on the caregivers as the survivors. Thus, in my interview, I also asked what life was like for Mom in terms of recovery from severe brain injury.
Let’s talk about your life – what’s left of your routine and your other responsibilities during that first month and then the next six months. The first month you’re spending all of it in Madison with Nancy’s recovery from severe brain injury?
The first month was in Madison; well, 36 days.
Did you ever go home?
No; did not go home.
What were your days like with Nancy’s recovery from severe brain injury?
Uh, pretty boring. I’d get up with her and get her ready and dressed and wash her. The nurses – I pretty much said, you know, this is one of the things I can do for her. Let me do it. And then when the OT started taking over and wanting to do the ADL processes of everything, like, brushing teeth, washing.
Then of course I backed away and just let them do their lesson so that I could hear what they were saying so I could use the same for instances, you know, how to brush your teeth. Shoootshhhtttshttt. And you were supposed to sing this song X amount of times through and then you were done brushing your teeth. Or making her incorporate her left hand doing things because she would let her left hand sit there. While she’s wringing out a rag, she’d try to do it all with her right.
I don’t know, and they, they never really said that that was neglect; too much. They never said that oh well, it’ll come around or just try to have her reach and do some activities with her left as well. Until I got back home into the outpatient rehab area and talked to, some of the (therapists): “Oh no; that left hand has to start moving. You’ve got to get it incorporated with the brain so it can start stimulating again.” You’ve got to have her doing things that are outside the box.
Was there any localization, one side versus the other in terms of her injury that would’ve accounted for why she was using her left less with her recovery from severe brain injury?
Well, she is right-hand dominant, so I just figured that was why. I – there was never any swallowing pattern where we thought that the left was slower than the right. If it was the visual part of it or if it was the actual brain injury itself that didn’t incorporate the left hand because the right hand was so dominant. I was never really told.
The initial CT scan showed the damage to her skull and, and all the swelling. Were there any follow-up MRIs that gave you any more indication of where there might have been specific lesions or any additional damage with her recovery from severe brain injury ?
No; and we have asked for them because that’s our curiosity. We know that the brain atrophies if it’s not used. So our big thing was thinking ooh, we’ll get an MRI. We’ll find out if there is a part of the brain that’s atrophying or that we don’t, you know, that we can see that okay; well, this is what we really have to start working with on how to, like, prepare yourself to deal with things. Use notebooks, use timers, use, handwritten lists, check-off lists, anything we can to get that side to understand what it has to prepare itself for its adult life; you know? For her to understand how to cope with it.
What did you do about work? You’re obviously not going to work for 36 days. Did you get back to work as soon as you as she came home dealing with her recovery from severe brain injury?
I didn’t get back to work until April because my husband couldn’t move. He had to have his foot elevated 24/7 and he couldn’t walk on it and he couldn’t help me. And I just had that cute little 7 year old at home. (Nancy’s brother.)