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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

Photo credit: Michael Betts, The Press Republican
From -- published January 28, 2008 -- Vicki Chaffee, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 2002, has helped a young kitten that has the same kind of injury survive, but Chaffee says the kitten has given her inspiration.

PLATTSBURGH, NY -- Dale Chaffee rolled the tiny plastic ball along the kitchen floor.

The small black cat pounced on it, striking it with her paw and renewing the chase when it ricocheted against the nearby wall.

But this cat, named Rosa, moved differently from most.

She swayed on her legs, as if they didn't have the strength to hold her body, and at times she would stumble and lose her balance, only to rise quickly and continue her never-ending effort to corral the tiny ball.

Rosa is about a year old, ... [and] she suffers from traumatic brain injury, a condition her owner knows only too well.


"One day, this little black kitty came to me, no more than four weeks old," said Dale's wife, Vicki Chaffee, who is a victim of traumatic brain injury. "She was so tiny and so fragile. She had to be bottle fed."

Vicki brought the animal to the vet's office, where it was determined that the kitten had suffered the debilitating injury sometime during those first four weeks of life.


Vicki's own story started just under six years ago, in April 2002, when a car accident changed her life in an instant.

Because of the brain injury she suffered, she doesn't remember a lot about the accident, but the year that followed -- when she sought answers for the mental and physical changes she was experiencing -- turned her life into a nightmare.


Vicki had undergone several tests -- MRIs, CAT scans -- but doctors did not find any specific cause for her problems.

"We were told nothing was wrong," Dale said, as Vicki fought back tears from the memory of those months of not knowing.

Finally, a friend mentioned the possibility of a brain injury and suggested Vicki go to the Traumatic Brain Injury Center at Plattsburgh State. There, the brain injury that was robbing her of her past existence was verified.

"In some cases, brain injury is clear cut, but then there are others that are not as easily diagnosed," said Melissa Mose from the Traumatic Brain Injury Center. "It's a silent epidemic that often remains hidden."


The Chaffees named their furry friend after the African-American civil-rights activist who, in 1955, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white passenger.

"Rosa (the activist) refused to give up, and this kitty has done the same thing," Vicki said.

The cat will sometimes prop herself against the wall as she walks from one area to another. Vicki noticed that technique and uses it herself when she's tired but wants to move from one room to another.

Read entire article.

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Here on Jack's TBI Blog, as on just about every other site which focuses on TBI, you don't find a lot to celebrate in the traumatic-brain-injury experience. Things which make you smile, sure, even laugh out loud -- you can find them. But the smiles and laughter always overlay the crushing sobriety of the subject.

But exceptional people can find exceptional strength, wisdom, and hope in the unlikeliest corners of life. One such person, clearly, is the author of the nancynewfreedom blog:
I was injured in an automobile accident and sustained a traumatic head injury approximently four (4) years ago. Pre-accident I was best described as a real workaholic 24/7 and thought I was on top of the world. I have had some very well paid careers, facilitated workshops and training seminars and was one of few females at that level in the industry. From self assured, over confident, over-achiever, outgoing and assertive, and quite proudly referred to as a "Corporate Bitch" ....

And then a few seconds in time made that life stop... and a new one awaited me.

...I am feeling lonely as I try to understand and appreciate this new me... and I am kind of scared.

I think I liked this new me... but I still felt very vulnerable! I want to experience life without feeling afraid or self-conscious... and I want to celebrate this "new me" every chance I get.
The learning will never stop and but I believe now that the recovery process ends and you enter the "development process" as you rebuild you life and re-evaluate your existence.

I am a much kinder and gentler soul, and I must admit a much happier one as well, despite my cognitive difficulties and the challenges of trying to relearn the necessary skills to become more independent.

And I have begun to think of myself less as a "new me" and more like the "true me" that was never fully developed.
I myself have never suffered a TBI. But I must say that reading Nancy's blog, suffused in the spirit expressed in the above excerpt from her blog's "About" page -- well, it just reinforces what I've always believed: TBI or no TBI, the things we have in common, can have in common, are way more important than all the things we keep furiously inventing to keep us apart. Extreme experiences, sure -- they can break us. Taken from the right starting point, though, they can also propel us forward into new exciting futures.

Make it a point to stop by and visit Nancy as she explores the "true me" she's discovering. No matter how positive an experience, it's always better when shared.

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From the ImPACT Web site:
In the United States, the annual incidence of sports-related concussion is estimated at 300,000. Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season. Although the majority of athletes who experience a concussion are likely to recover, an as yet unknown number of these individuals may experience chronic cognitive and neurobehavioral difficulties related to recurrent injury. Such symptoms may include chronic headaches, fatigue, sleep difficulties, personality change (e.g. increased irritability, emotionality), sensitivity to light/noise, dizziness when standing quickly, and deficits in short-term memory, problem solving and general academic functioning. This constellation of symptoms is referred to "Post-Concussion Syndrome" and can be quite disabling for an athlete. In some cases, such difficulties can be permanent and disabling. In addition to Post-Concussion Syndrome, suffering a second blow to the head while recovering from an initial concussion can have catastrophic consequences as in the case of "Second Impact Syndrome," which has led to approximately 30-40 deaths over the past decade.Photo credit: Medline Plus

In summary, athletes that are not fully recovered from an initial concussion are significantly vulnerable for recurrent, cumulative, and even catastrophic consequences of a second concussive injury. Such difficulties are prevented if the athlete is allowed time to recover from concussion and return to play decisions are carefully made. No athlete should return to sport or other at-risk participation when symptoms of concussion are present and recovery is ongoing. In summary, the best way to prevent difficulties with concussion is to manage the injury properly when it does occur.


ImPACT 2005 is a user-friendly, Windows-based computer program that can be administered by a team coach, athletic trainer or physician with minimal training. Reaction time is reliably measured to one hundredth of a second across individual test modules (10 modules total) and allows for an assessment of processing speed as the player fatigues. The test battery consists of a near infinite number of alternate forms by randomly varying the stimulus array for each administration. This feature was built in to the program to minimize the "practice effects" that have limited the usefulness of more traditional neurocognitive tests. ImPACT takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. The program measures multiple aspects of cognitive functioning in athletes, including:

  • Test Section 1: Subject Profile and Health History Questionnaire
  • Test Section 2: Current Symptoms and Conditions
  • Test Section 3: Neuropsychological Tests (Baseline and Post-Concussion)
    • Module 1 (Word Discrimination)
    • Module 2 (Design Memory)
    • Module 3 (X's and O's)
    • Module 4x (Visual Attention Span)
      ImPACT 1.0 only-This module has been removed for version 2.0.
    • Module 4 (Symbol Matching)
    • Module 5 (Color Match)
    • Module 6 (Three letters)
  • IV. Injury Description
  • V. Graphic Display of Data

For more information on this exciting diagnostic tool, visit ImPACT's comprehensive Web site.

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Sedona, AZ - TBI, FMS, CFS… For some of us, these are only random groups of letters. For others, they represent acronyms for “mysterious” diseases, conditions or syndromes. Sometimes, the way Traumatic Brain Injury, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome manifest in patients brings up more questions than answers; therefore, it’s not uncommon for even medical practitioners to misdiagnose them.

But these “mysterious” conditions have the power to challenge and forever change the lives of those they touch.

TBI, FMS, CFS also Lyme disease and brain cancer affect many individuals, famous and not so famous, on a daily basis. These diseases, syndromes and conditions pertain to the life-challenging and life-threatening experiences that can turn individuals into surrenders or survivors.

For Laura Bruno, an intuitive life coach, Reiki Master Teacher and writer, her TBI diagnosis—the result of a seemingly insignificant car accident—changed her life from the path of achieving her doctoral degree and a successful career to the path of recovery. Laura Bruno’s TBI diagnosis didn’t only show her what’s most important in life, but also helped her discover her own “yellow brick road” to recovery and to a relatively normal life.

Continue reading.

Laura Bruno has written and published an e-book about her TBI and recovery. You can find out more (or buy the book) here.

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USA TODAY, January 18, 2008, WASHINGTON — An Army task force found major gaps in the care of traumatic brain injury last year, but officials say they are moving rapidly to correct the problems.

A task force study — completed last May but not made public until Thursday — found fault with several issues, including efforts to identify and treat soldiers suffering mild traumatic brain injury often resulting from exposure to roadside bomb blasts.

Although victims often show no outward sign of the injury, it can affect brain functions dealing with short-term memory, problem solving and sleep, and cause nausea, dizziness and headaches. Treatment often involves pulling a soldier out of combat temporarily or permanently, and treating the symptoms.

Screening efforts show 10% to 20% of Marines and soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq may have suffered this wound, according to the Army. The task force last May found that "major gaps" in identifying and treating the injury "were created by a lack of coordination and policy-driven approaches."

This was despite the fact that researchers at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center — the Pentagon's premier clinical research office for brain injury — had developed ways of identifying the wound in 2004, the study said.

USA TODAY reported in November that at least 20,000 U.S. service members returning from combat have been diagnosed with, or shown signs of, brain injury.

"There is clearly a problem when the most common injury of the war is the least understood," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "This task force is a long-overdue step forward in diagnosing and understanding the signature wound of this war."

Continue reading.

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Every now and then, in a burst of luck, you find something on the Web which is 100% brand-spanking-new. Thus: C. Dianne Lieber's AOL Journal, TBI The Journey Back. It's a blog (AOL's terminology game notwithstanding) first begun today, 11:30 this morning Mountain Standard Time (1:30 this afternoon, here on the East coast). From her first post, titled "The Dark of the Moon":

This begins a journey into what the medical professionals called TBI (traumatic brain injury). For 54 days I (caregiver)the Mother will try write a few experiences that left me well learned on the TBI experience. I have collected many of my thoughts and written them down into my personal journal writings and plan to later put into a book called, The Dark of the Moon. It all happened one late Thursday evening on a dark unforgiving road. Only corn fields were among the view for my son that evening. It was a motorcycle crash that left with the ending of one's life and the other with massive injuries. The story I will continue to unfold is about the TBI patient (my son) who went on the journey back to recovery. It wasn't easy and at times it felt like a nightmare, but throughout the recovery there would be many miracles.

Lying under a 3/4 full moon on a dark cold night, my son laid in a corn field for 6 1/2 hours before a farmer found him. He had a pulse and was barely alive, but one thing I have told him over and over is that 'you were spared for a reason. You, my dear boy have a lifetime to yet live, make this second chance a good one.
Hope you enjoy the writing...

Quite intense in spots, heartbreaking in others, ebullient in a few: probably a familiar range of emotions among those of you in similar situations, hmm?

Highly recommended reading, for the next 54 days or however long it takes.

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