“How I Survived” with Brendan Verrier

Tune in and listen to traumatic brain injury survivor Brendan Verrier, share his story about how he was able to overcome his traumatic brain injury!

Brendan Verrier is from Perth, Western Australia and suffered from post-concussion syndrome for about 18 months after having 6 concussions throughout his career. He played Australian rules football in a semi-professional competition and when he received a concussion he had no clear pathway for support and now wants to help others that are going through the same thing!

Check out Brendan’s Instagram page @inbetweentheears

I Know… My Treatments

There are many treatments to help those with traumatic brain injuries manage and overcome the many symptoms that they face, but the hard part comes when trying to find the treatment that is best for you. I know for myself, it took a while for me to figure out exactly what really worked. Therefore, here, I have outlined all of the many treatments that help traumatic brain injury patients manage and overcome their symptoms and conditions. So let’s get started! 

*Disclaimer – Information within this post should not be regarded as medical advice, please consult with your doctor to find the right treatment plan for you*

Vision Therapy (Oculomotor Training) 

Vision therapy is commonly used for those with vision difficulties following the onset of a brain injury, which can include symptoms such as sensitivity to motion, blurry vision, double vision, eye pain, headaches, dizziness, and peripheral vision problems. This type of therapy has many techniques used in order to help train aspects of the vision system to repair and rejuvenate damaged connections in the brain. 

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists help individuals reintegrate and return back into the communities in which they reside. They evaluate and treat visual, arm, and cognitive impairment that may negatively affect one after a brain injury. Activities may include home management, rest and sleep habits, work tasks, and social participation. In some cases, an occupational therapist may give instruction outside of the office at a grocery store, workplace, or home. The focus of this therapy is to help you reacclimate yourself to the daily tasks and events that you faced prior to your injury. For more information about Occupational Therapy, please visit the link below!

https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Professionals/RDP/brain-injury.aspx

https://www.brainline.org/article/occupational-therapy-practice-guidelines-adults-traumatic-brain-injury

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation is a specialized and individualized treatment routine for those who have visual difficulties as a direct result of a traumatic brain injury, physical disability, and other neurological insults. This therapy is a process for the rehabilitation of visual/perceptual/ motor disorders and utilizes prisms, lens filters, and occlusion to help stimulate parts of the brain that are not functioning at their fullest potential. Treatment plans are often tailored to the needs of the patient. For more information about Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation, visit the links below!

https://noravisionrehab.org/patients-caregivers/what-is-neuro-optometric-rehabilitation

Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. It is commonly used in order to treat decompression sickness. In a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, the air pressure is increased to three times higher than normal air pressure, your lungs can then gather more oxygen than would be possible in breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. This all helps to fight bacteria and to stimulate the release of substances called growth factors and stem cells, which prompt healing. 

For more information about hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy, check out these links.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/about/pac-20394380

https://www.brainline.org/research/comprehensive-review-hyperbaric-oxygen-treatment-brain-injury

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy

Speech Therapy

Speech therapists also known as Speech-Language Pathologists work with those with traumatic brain injuries in improving memory, problem-solving skills, social and language skills, cognitive-communication skills, and much more. They help traumatic brain injury patients communicate effectively after the onset of their injury and as they progress to recover. For more information about Speech Therapy, please visit the links below.

https://greatspeech.com/6-ways-speech-therapy-can-aid-in-brain-injury-recovery/

https://www.brainline.org/topic/speech-language-therapy

Vestibular (Balance) Therapy

Vestibular therapy can be helpful for those who have persistent dizziness, vertigo, and balance problems. This type of therapy utilizes habituation exercises, gaze stability training, and balance training in order to improve dizziness and bodily orientation.

Click the link below for more information on vestibular therapy.

https://www.neuroskills.com/programs-and-services/therapies/vestibular-therapy/

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be especially helpful for those who have certain types of headaches and/or who may have suffered orthopedic injuries at the onset of their injury. Physical therapy includes treatments that include exercise, massage, and heat therapies. The goal of physical therapy is to help patients relieve injuries that may be making the concussion-related symptoms worse.

Click the link below for more information on physical therapy.

https://www.brainline.org/article/physical-therapy-brain-i-njury

Herbal and Homeopathic Treatment

Homeopathic treatment is a type of alternative medicine that utilizes natural remedies made from naturally occurring substances–herbs make up the majority of healing substances used.

To learn more about homeopathic therapy click the links below!

https://vtherbcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Herbs-for-TBI.pdf

Psychological Counseling

A counselor can help in learning healthy coping skills, relationships, and emotional well-being after the onset of a brain injury as well as when and if it is prolonged. Seeking assistance from a counselor can be especially helpful in deciphering and understanding your thought patterns and potential habits during your TBI recovery.

If you are contemplating getting a  counselor, be sure to check out this article below.

https://www.brainline.org/article/counseling-after-brain-injury-13-things-want-know-are-afraid-ask

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy utilizes activities designated to improve memory, attention, perception, learning, planning, and judgment. Cognitive therapy covers a wide range of symptoms of brain injury patients but helps to increase personal awareness of themselves and their environments. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective for those who suffer from mood changes after a brain injury. Cognitive-behavioral therapists help patients develop the ability to identify negative thought patterns while creating concrete skills to manage them. This therapy has been shown effective for those who suffer from anxiety and depression following their injury. For more information about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy click the link below.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610

Exertional Therapy

Exertional therapy can be helpful for those who are experiencing a slower recovery than expected. This type of therapy involves performing light aerobic activities in a controlled and monitored environment, like a treadmill, pool, or other no risk impact setting. Exercise has many benefits to recovery, talk to your doctor about ways you can begin including exercise into your daily life.

For my exercise to recovery treatment plan click this link!

Exercise to Recovery

Sources

https://concussionfoundation.org/PCS-resources/PCS-treatments

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/tbi/conditioninfo/treatment

Click here to tune into the podcast! https://concussionbegone.com/i-know-my-treatments-podcast/(opens in a new tab)

When Post-Concussion Syndrome Develops

A visual representation of what goes on in your brain with post concussion syndrome!

What is post concussion syndrome to me? Post concussion syndrome is a bug that reaks havoc on your brain, setting off bombs of headaches and drops of depression & anxiety on a consistent daily basis. This bug not only tinkers with your brain, but also your eyes and ears, making the slightest sound and softest light piercing to the eye and ear. If post-concussion syndrome were a person it would be ‘Mr. Mayhem’ from the popular AllState commercial, PCS reeks havoc on your life unexpectedly and can disrupt your closest relationships. It attacks you physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Post-Concussion Syndrome is a condition that develops after you have had a concussion for more than the average duration of 1-2 months. If you find yourself with lasting symptoms, you will find yourself in a very dangerous area. You see, when post-concussion syndrome develops it becomes difficult for the brain to return to how it once was prior to the initial injury. As symptoms continue to last you may find yourself in a vicious cycle of progressing and regressing. This is where I found myself to be. For a week or so I’d feel better and then BOOM I’d have a setback and symptoms would arise and force me to my bed. Many articles will say that you should just continue to rest and over time your symptoms will just magically disappear. But this is something that didn’t just happen for me, no matter how much I rested my symptoms would stay with no change. If you find yourself in the same situation, then this post is for you.

Maybe the secret to overcoming post concussion syndrome isn’t solely in resting and waiting, perhaps the secret to recovering is in retraining your body to become reacquainted with normal environments and conditions. The Sports Medicine Clinic at UPCM Pittsburgh utilizes this type of recovery treatment in their patients. It is called “Expose & Recovery”, in which patients are encouraged to expose themselves to uncomfortable situations and environments, to rest, and then try again. This technique allows for the brain to become more familiar with the stimuli, so that over time it is able to handle it with no problem. So, when post-concussion syndrome develops you literally have to retrain your brain to familiarize itself with normal environments and activities again.

I unintentionally started using this technique. After I had had a concussion for about 5 months, school had ended, I had graduated and I needed some cash to help pay for college. At this point I had been completing my ‘Expose to Recovery’ workouts, and could tolerate loud and bright environments to an extent, for maybe 30 minutes or so, before getting a moderate headache. This was a significant improvement from where I was earlier in my recovery. I decided to go back to work. I had been employed for some time at the YMCA as a nursery attendant. I felt nervous and uncomfortable about going back, because I feared overexerting myself. I told my boss of my condition and she put me on the schedule for 3 days per week for 4 hours each day, but assured me if anything became too much that I could go home.

The YMCA is fluorescently lit in every single facility in the building, I worked with kids so especially over the Summer it could become unbelievably loud and hectic at any given moment. I knew that it would be challenging, especially knowing that I would not be able to protect myself with sunglasses or earplugs. Each day varied. Starting out I ended up having unbelievably intense headaches to the point that I couldn’t even finish the shift. I would go home rest and then try again and again. It wasn’t that I was working too much or overexerting myself, my brain was just not used to being under fluorescent lights without protection, so it took some time to adjust. After about the fourth week of doing this, I was attending work with no problems. By the end of the summer I even added a few more shifts. I was conquering fluorescent lights for the first time in my entire concussion recovery.

“Expose and Recovery” is a technique that I really do believe works. The anxienty and fear that you may have towards this is real and I understand. But, it is important that you give your brain the opportunity to retrain and reprogram itself.

SO! In conclusion, we all know post concussion syndrome is a complete jerk, but when fought the right way you CAN overcome it.

Happy Healing Everybody,

Nicole

What is a Concussion?

In a battle, it is important to know who and what you are fighting against; therefore let’s dissect how concussions affect the brain and the resulting symptoms that follow. First lets look at the brain itself. The brain is composed of millions of neurons, glial cells, and blood vessels. The cell most important for this post, is neurons. Neurons are what allows us to do regular everyday activities  like walking, talking, sneezing and everything else that we do in any given day. Neurons are what allow for messages to be sent from our brain to different parts of our bodies. Their shape is very similar to that of worms; long and lanky. At the head of a neuron is where the nucleus, or cell “computer” is located. Similarly to how we have a brain, cells have a nucleus,which is the cell’s control center. At the end of the neuron is the ‘axon’, which is where neurotransmitters are released. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages from cell to cell. They are the messages that are sent from the axon to other cells.

Now that we understand the basic structure of the brain and the cells that compose it, we can better understand what really happens during and after a concussion. To start, the word concussion comes from the Latin word concutere, which means “to shake violently”, hence a concussion is caused by a sudden jolt, shake, or hit to the head. Once someone has been hit or struck, our jelly-like brains bump up  against the interior of the skull, resulting in contusions or bruises on the brain. Our neurons are then disrupted. The axons tear from the neuron body and neurotransmitters are released, causing a chemical imbalance.  Oluseun A. Olufade MD, sports medicine physician with Emory Sports Medicine and my former doctor, describes this situation best. He says the disturbance aroused from a concussion injury results in the need for more energy to reestablish balance in the brain. The need for this increased energy occurs simultaneously with the decreased blood flow due to the concussion. There is then an imbalance between decreased blood needed and increased energy required for the brain to heal. The body must then work overtime in order to restore balance, which is why you may feel fatigued and tired right after having receiving a concussion.

The aftermath of a hit can result in a multitude of symptoms, the most common being  headaches, sleep disturbance and fatigue, behavior and mood changes, cognitive complaints, visual changes, hearing and light disturbances, and coordination/balance complaints. The greater the number, severity, and duration of symptoms after a concussion increases the likelihood for a prolonged recovery. If the brain does not completely heal after the first impact and an athlete sustains a second injury, this can lead into worsening cognitive deficits. For this reason, physicians will often order their patients to avoid symptom triggers and rest as much as possible during the first few weeks of recovery.

It is also important to understand that each concussion is unique to another, though it may have taken two weeks for your friend’s concussion to heal it may or may not take longer for yours. 80% of concussion cases resolve within three weeks, while the rest can take months to years to resolve. Everyone must understand that every brain is different, thus every concussion is different, and therefore everyone recovers differently as well, but with the right practices in place you can heal at a faster rate!