My life as I knew it changed suddenly and quickly at 8:20 am on 18th October 2006. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) when two heavy metal gates came crushing down on to my forehead, severely damaging my Frontal Lobe. The Frontal Lobe part of the brain control or is responsible for:
- Memory and problem solving
- Judgment and impulse control
- Personality and emotions
- Social communication
- Planning and organising
- Sexual behaviour
So it is a really important part of the brain. After the accident the damage caused me:
- Severe personality and behavioural changes
- Mood swings
- Quick aggression
- Severe memory and concentration problems
- Difficulty carrying out simple instructions, easily confused
- Does not know how to start
- Repetitive and impulsive
- Loss of simple movement
- Sexual Disinhibition
I was taken to Hospital where an MRI scan has shown no brain damage as such, but my Frontal Lobe was a mess. Strangely I was sent home from the Hospital with the instructions to my family “wake him every 2 hours for the next 48 hours so he doesn’t fall into a coma”. For the next 3.5 months I could not stay awake – I had to sleep 20 hours plus a day, my family woke me for meals & hygiene – they kept me alive.
I had a whole raft of problems as a result of this accident:-
- My memory was so bad I was not sure who the people looking after me were – they looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure, they told me who they were – after a minute or two I have forgotten.
- Not all of my memory was like that, my long term memory was good and I could recall childhood and teenage years, however, my short term and medium term memory had gone. This memory problem went on for several months.
It was towards the end of the first year that my short term memory started to improve. I had put a lot of work into making this happen – both physical and mental effort. My medium term memory was hit and miss and still is today. Concentration was another problem – I could not focus on anything for more than 1 – 2 minutes. My family would ask me to do a simple task, I would turn to complete the task and immediately it was forgotten, this went on for months.
Personality changes – my wife of 30 years commented that my personality changed completely and that there were major behavioural issues. I had mood swings, would explode with aggression over little things, missing the big picture completely.
I fatigued quickly and still needed 10 hours sleep at night and 4 to 5 hours during the day. I was easily confused and doing simple tasks (like putting dishes away) was difficult. I just couldn’t follow basic instructions. I am sure this combination of problems was hard on my family and there were many tense moments.
Physically I was in trouble as well, my whole right side was affected and I had:
- Balance problems
- Co-ordination problems
- No feeling in my right legs, from my hip to toe.
Sleeping for so long had taken away my fitness, muscle tone and my strength. This combined with my other problems and man I felt like a sad sack. I could not lift a 500g pack of butter above my head. I couldn’t lift the bags of groceries from the car to the house. I could not hit a nail into a piece of wood, etc. etc. I knew I did not want to stay like this, so I started to train at a rehabilitation gym. To begin with it hurt, I was in pain for months, but I kept going.
After about 12 – 14 months the physical results started to show. I regained my strength, muscle tone and fitness. My balance had massive improvements, my co-ordination was back and 2 years and 10 days after my accident the feeling in my right leg returned. With my physical side attended to, I had read that after this type of accident it was possible to re-train your brain. That is why I did a course at WILSS, studying coaching.
Starting University was another testing time for me and a real challenge for my self esteem, all sorts of questions swamped my mind. Could I handle school again, could I cope in class, would I be able to complete assignments, would I retain any information, could I actually study? Being pig headed, helped me say yes to all of the above so I started the course which ran for 18 months. At the start it was difficult just sitting in the class, let alone retain anything, I had to write sheets of notes so I could remember what was said. At times I was so exhausted after class I went home to sleep, but just like the gym over time I just got better and new pathways open up in my brain and knowledge poured both in an out. I mean I was saying things I did not know I knew and learning new things that made me want more.
Before the class was over I took on another course which was 6 months of intense study and really enjoy it- next an MBA. After 3.5 years I re-entered the work-force, having pushed all the limits of recovery, enjoying life of a working person. If there is one thing I have learnt – it is NEVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF.