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Monday, February 17, 2014

Traumatic Brain Injury Resources to Help Keep the Dialogue Going

A blogger who I have followed for a few years has a secret that he has kept from many of his co-workers, friends, and family members. With a concealed identity abbreviated as BB, he has worked to dispel misconceptions and disseminate information about traumatic brain injury (tbi) by sharing his personal experiences and the latest developments in research. His blog,, is one of the most comprehensive online resources that I have seen. There are relevant links provided and also a bookshelf to check out. He has sustained his passion through the years. He has brought attention to traumatic brain injuries sustained by members of the military. He has been vigilant in raising awareness about the dangers of repeated concussions and the need to protect people who participate in contact sports. Because of the stereotypes about tbi, he feels it is important to hide his identity while educating the public.
After I had followed the blog for a considerable time, I was stunned to learn that he often has trouble processing the words spoken to him. With my background in speech pathology, I was aware of the existence of where a person is impaired to some degree in processing language while production may or may not be impaired. He has such an ability to paint with words as he writes that I just never considered possible limitations in any language area. He is pretty skilled at faking comprehension, which I think involves repeating back part of what he heard although he hasn’t actually processed much of the meaning.

From a more recent post, I think his difficulties in processing conversation stem a lot from short term memory problems. He also has problems remembering digits of numbers. He describes the sheer frustration of trying to remember two three digits numbers and how even trying to use paper to write it down made it challenging to do his job. He has worked hard on retaining numbers. There is cause for celebration as he has memorized a bank security code and expiration date!

I have followed him through highs and lows. He has a keen awareness of how multiple minor traumatic brain injuries have impacted him starting with his first injuries as a grade school age and later injuries including those on the football field. I have respected his perseverance and commitment to overall health. He knows the importance of but also learned by trial and error that he needs to be careful not to exercise to excess in the morning, which increases his fatigue. He has also seen the transfer of skills honed in the kitchen where he times meals with the main course and side dishes to come together to carry over in the work place where time management is also very important. He recognizes his need for sleep to clean and restore the brain feels it when he gets less than six hours.

I read a post recently where BB talks about how he was known for his sense of humor and how this helped him work well with people. I thought how in all these years he never struck me as being very funny. He revealed that he had another tbi in 2004 and following that nothing was funny. His humor has been resurfacing.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1.7 million tbis occur each year. A traumatic brain injury is caused by a blow or bump or an injury that penetrates the head. The injury can range from mild or a brief altered state to severe with extended unconsciousness or amnesia. Most tbis are mild (CDC) Seeking prompt medical help is critical as an early diagnosis by a clinician and appropriate referral for early management improves the patients’ outcome.

I had a customer once who was very forthcoming about her traumatic brain injury. She shared how she tried to be so productive following her injury. She later learned that rest and recuperation following the injury is vital.

Brainline is another reputable source for those seeking information and support following a tbi. Check out the brain anatomy link, which allows one to move the cursor over the brain to see what the potential effects may be to the damage of a region to the brain. It qualifies the symptoms with a reminder that “brain injuries are as complex as the brain itself” so the damage can vary from the descriptions. There are tabs there where one can link to the appropriate sections for brain injury survivors, family, and professionals. I find it to be very sensitively written and quite encompassing.  In the section for family members, there is a list of nine things not to say to tbi survivors, which people have probably said quite innocently not knowing how much their words may hurt. While each injury to the brain is unique, there are common symptoms that many experience in whole or part following a traumatic brain injury such as anger, sadness, fear, anxiety, memory problems, pain, and problems with relationships according to Brainline. In the section for those who have had a tbi, people are invited to post their own feelings which are often quite poignant.  The contents of this paragraph are used with permission from, a WETA website.

Stephan Kuhn
I have recently begun following Stephan Kuhn who is the author of a google + group about tbi.  He is also very open about his experiences following his tbi. With his expertise with technology, he relates how technology can assist people who have had a tbi. He also discusses other ways of coping and how mindfulness and living in the moment have helped him. Here is my interview with him posted on his site.

BB, Brainline, and Kuhn share how people often feel different after a tbi. If a person is good at the piano and can no longer play due to a hand injury, it can cut to the core of their identity. I think that a traumatic brain injury is more than a possible loss of skills. They can feel different on the inside. BB has given this subject much contemplation. In mid-2010, he began having thoughts like he was feeling like his self again. He did an in-depth evaluation of his feelings and experiences regarding restoring sense of self in January of 2011. Read the post here.

In Conclusion
BB credits much of his restoration to his routines and also his using mindfulness. During the most emotional weeks of my life, BB’s blog was actually a constant in my life and as such a huge comfort. It had nothing to do with tbi. Yet, his sense of routine and his analytical mind made a difference to me. I would have never had the level of interest in tbi were it not for BB. Because of him, I even read scientific articles on the subject, and sometimes post them on his site as I do not have an email. I do believe that BB, Brainline, and Kuhn provide a valuable service of not only disseminating knowledge but also by keeping the dialogue going about tbi. I do believe in the great potential for education to eradicate prejudices as much as it is humanly possible if we are willing.

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
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  1. It can happen anywhere. For Olympian Bode Miller’s brother, Chelone, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (tbi) during a dirt bike crash on a country road. No matter where or how--there are online resources to aid in supporting and educating everybody. Thanks Barb for keeping the dialogue going about tbi.

  2. That is an important reminder, Becky. I am grateful for the permission to share the information from the bloggers and for your support.

  3. are there any places in Ohio for people to go for bring injury support near Dayton.

  4. That is a good question, anonymous. I will ask around. I am not a medical professional or an expert in the field. However, I will do my best to find resources and reply with any answers here.

  5. I see there is a brain injury and support group in Dayton OH that usually meets on the 4th Friday of a month. You can try and contact the email provided at
    Miami Valley Hospital Rehabiltation Institute of Ohio is in Dayton and prvoides inpatient and outpatient services for teens and adults the phone number listed is 937 208 2062