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Monday, December 22, 2008

HELP!!!! Please Save the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund!


The Legislature proposes to cut the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund entirely as part of a total budget cut for Utah. THIS IS NOT GOOD because 5.3 million Americas live with disabilities resulting from from Traumatic Brain Injury and one million children sustain brain injuries every year ranging from mild to severe. This public health concern ranks as the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents in the United States.

Also, Traumatic brain injury has been labeled the signature injury of the Iraq War. As many as 20% of our soldiers are returning with TBI. The implications of understanding the effects of TBI are profound for a veteran's health. They will need extensive rehabilitation and the only way to pay for these benefits if from the TBI Fund.

The legislature is expected to meet on January 12, again on the 20th (this date could change). Executive Appropriations is expected to make final decisions on January 23rd. You need to contact committee members now. Many committee members are new and have not been given a good understanding of the serious needs of TBI survivors.

To find the telephone numbers or email address for your legislator go to and just key in your location.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not to be anal but. . .

In order to comfortably live with a brain injury, I've had to become so in certain aspects of my life. That is early to bed, early to rise -only early to rise if I sleep deeply enough during the night, and typically that only happens if I abide by the following rules:

  1. Go to sleep when I'm tired but not overly tired
  2. Eat healthy at least three hours before bed (NO SALT or SUGAR)
  3. Sleep when I'm not too full but feel no hunger
  4. My mind has to be clear (if I just had a heavy conversation or watched an intense movie, I will have trouble sleeping)
For the last three days, I've felt sickly tired, as if a metal bar is blasted through my head. I believe this is mostly because I haven't been careful about my sleeping and eating schedule. If I was smart, I'd never EVER deviate from my schedule because I feel like death warmed over if I do and happy-pleased-with-my-life when I don't . . . therefore, I'm changing my ways starting NOW. I need to clean my brain-injury mess by sticking to my rituals.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brain-injured troops face long-term risks 22 percent of Iraq vets affected by traumatic head wounds, report finds

Check out the following article for details:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm horrible at remembering names!!

Across the board, TBI Survivors struggle with their memory. I found these great strategies on the website:

Pay attention while being introduced.

  • Stop what you're doing.
  • Look at the person. What is it about the way this person looks that I will most likely remember? For example:
    ♦ Size – Heavy, thin, tall, short
    ♦ Hair – Curly, thin, short, long, color
    ♦ Facial features – nose, mouth, eyes
  • Listen carefully to the name. If you don't catch their name when it was originally told to you, ask for it again. Saying it immediately will help you remember it when they walk away.
    ♦ Realize that people are flattered when you take an interest in them.

Save the person's name.

  • Say the name at least three times in conversation. When first introduced, use the person's name several times as you talk to them. For example, you might say:
    ♦ "Hi, Jim, nice to meet you."
    ♦ "So, what do you do for a living, Jim?"
    ♦ "Do you have any kids, Jim?"
  • Ask a question about that person's name (e.g., "Is that Catherine with a ‘C' or with a ‘K'?") or about the person (e.g., "Mary, do you come here often?").
  • Visualize or try to picture in your mind something about the person you are most likely to remember (e.g., shape of their nose, color of their hair, height, weight).
  • End the conversation with their name. For example,
    ♦ "Jim, it was great to meet you!"
    ♦ "Thanks for the information, Terry."
    ♦ "I enjoyed meeting you, Felicia."
  • Something or someone familiar to you:
    ♦ Someone you know (For example, your aunt, your brother's girlfriend, your pet goldfish).
    ♦ Celebrity, famous person, or TV/cartoon character (For example, Bush, Wayne, Simpson, Bunker)
    ♦ An occupation (For example, Driver, Gardener, Cooke, Farmer, Baker)
    ♦ A thing or animal (For example, Booth, Hill, Snow, Moon, Wells, Falcon, Beard)
    ♦ Product brand name (For example, Singer, Ford, Webber, Dell, Decker, McCormick, Comet, Whitman)
  • A rhyme. For example, Clark/lark; Puckett/bucket; Crump/slump; Blake/bake; Terry/merry; Teague/league; Blake/lake
  • Familiar-sounding words. For example, Hightower = high + tower; Askew = ask + you; Starkey = star + key; Jackson = Jack + son; Mancuso = man + cue + sew; Andre = on tray.
  • A noteworthy physical feature or personality characteristic. For example, you might think of someone with a big head of blonde hair as "Ryan the Lion"; a very tall girl might be "Tall Tiffany"; a lady with the gift of gab may be "Chatty Cathy."
  • A "mind" picture. The more outlandish and colorful the picture, the easier it will be to remember. Longer names may need to be broken down into syllables to create memorable pictures. The full name should create ONE picture. The person whose name you have made a picture of should be in the picture. For example, to remember the name "Pitchford" you could think of the person pitching something at a Ford Bronco.

A word of caution: You will find that the more "odd ball" your memory cues are, the easier they are to remember. But it's a good idea to keep the cues to yourself so as not to offend anyone.

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

  • Say the name silently to yourself a few times.
  • Try to use the person's name in conversation repeatedly.
  • Introducing the person to others can be an easy way to repeat the name without drawing attention.

When possible, make notes. (e.g., in your memory book/organizer; on a calendar; note pad; program, business card; etc.). Include:

  • The person's name and prominent features.
  • What you talked about.
  • The person's interests, job, family, etc.
    ♦ Review the name often until it is familiar. Try to use the person's name in every day conversation; even if just say it to yourself.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Think of someone you are especially grateful for . . .

and then imagine yourself looking this person straight in the eye, expressing your gratitude and wishing health, happiness, and creativity.

Then imagine that you are looking at yourself straight in the eye and wish the same thing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Late Loud and Large (thanks Britta!)

The other day I was at a small party and had just met this woman who, in the midst of conversation, said "Things are difficult for my family right now because my brother was severely injured in a motorcylce accident."

Accident? Injury? I perked up - "What are his injuries?" I asked.

"Well he's brain injured, among other things," she answered.

"I have a brain injury!" (those five words don't scare and depress me as much as they used to).

We had a short conversation about the different ways a TBI can affect a survivor. My friend Britta, also involved in the conversation, articulated the effects in THREE words and I love it (thanks Britta):
Late Loud Large

Bottom-line, TBI survivors should avoid situations that can be described by two or three of these words (one is usually okay for me).

example: You are invited to an event that starts very late, with lots (large) of noisy (loud) people. This situation will probably cause excessive cognitive exhaustion so stay away!! (personal experience)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Memoir Update

SLOWLY BUT SURELY, my memoir is nearing completion. I submitted it to a self-publishing company (my best option, I believe, is to self-publish this memoir rather than to keep submitting and resubmitting to a billion different publishing houses in hopes that one of them will like it). The last company I submitted to said, "You have excellent writing skills and a unique voice. . ." but they don't know how to effectively market my story.

But as a Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor, I know what kind of memoir I'd like to read, I know what kind of survival story is helpful to me, so I'm just writing my own story like this and I will market it on my own. I received a PDF with my book cover and I thought it was super ugly. So I'm selecting a different style and I'll try again. This whole book publishing thing takes a long time . . . KEEP CHECKING MY WEBSITE OR BLOG FOR UPDATES.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Two Kinds of Fatigue

As a Brain Injury Survivor, I experience two kind of fatigue:
  1. Physical Fatigue: Last Tuesday I went the gym and did a one hour Spin (Cycle) class and then went right into a one hour Yoga class. Sometimes on Monday I'll do a one hour weight lifting class and then a one hour Spin class immediately after. I feel tired EVERYTIME I do double fitness classes. In fact, I felt limp walking to my car after class and I COULDN'T WAIT TO GET HOME TO TAKE A NAP.
  2. Cognitive Fatigue: Yesterday I picked up this month's read for my bookclub. I read the first twenty pages last night before bed (when I was already tired which wasn't the best move for my reading retention). The book is called, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (supposedly an easy read, science-fiction, British Humor. And let it be known that I'm not much of a fan of British Humor, or should I say humour?) After completing the first ten pages, I realized that if someone had asked me to briefly summarize what I'd just read, I wouldn't even be able to tell them the name of one character, let alone the title of the book. So I decided to just start over. I read the first seven pages again and I just couldn't focus on what was happening in the story. There was a character named "Crawley" and weird things happened. That's all I could remember. "This book is stupid," I said and got ready for bed. I COULDN'T WAIT TO CRAWL UNDER MY COVERS AND FALL ASLEEP.
After a workout, I experience physical fatigue. After reading a book, listening to a lecture, or usually after talking about my brain injury, I experience cognitive fatigue. It's much easier to recover from physical fatigue than from cognitive fatigue.

It's best to prevent cognitive fatigue ALTOGETHER if you can and I've learned some strategies that help with this (mostly from other people):
  1. First, avoid brain-taxing stuff in the evening. A lot of people read before bed to help them sleep. I can do this if I am not too tired and it's something that I've read before. But give me something unfamiliar and I get so cognitively taxed trying to remember each paragraph as I read, that it becomes difficult to fall asleep.
  2. Second, take brain breaks - one every couple hours, preferably in the dark and dead-silence. Sometimes at work, I'll take ten minutes from my lunch, go sit in my car wearing an eye mask and ear plugs.
  3. Third, eat healthy (limit pre-packaged meals, sodium like potato chips and sugar before bedtime. Fill up on vegetables and whole grains). Nourishing food for your body is similar to gasoline for a car - - a car needs fuel to even operate and your body needs healthy food to operate efficiently.
  4. Fourth, exercise. Maybe I should have put exercise as number one on my list since I find it the most effective, but I put it fourth in that I was saving the best for last! I've always been a "go-to-the-gym" person (thank my dad for this since I attribute this trait to his OCD gym attendance when I was in high school), but after my injury, exercise at the gym helped me to feel "normal" again. Here is why: (A) the gym was a familiar place since I always went there pre-accident and Survivors prefer the familiar. (B) class helps me to focus because I have to follow the instructor. (C) the instructor has already pre-planned my workout so I don't have to. (D) I love seeing my friends in the class as I am motivated by other people (that one is just personal preference and has nothing to do with my injury).

I call Yoga the "cure all." (This photo is NOT me!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Check out

To all TBI Survivors and their families, or just anyone wanting to explore information about Traumatic Brain Injury, please check out a great new website:

This website has a section for People with TBI, for family and friends of Survivors, and for professionals. It has videos and lots more. It's a great resource!

Thank you!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Understand Me!

A few months ago I attended a Memoir Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa, to help me find direction and focus for my book (I posted about this earlier on too). The workshop was FABULOUS (bolded, italic and red for extra emphasis). It gave me more direction in my writing than I'd ever hoped (let me just rave some more about the U of Iowa and what great writers come out of there).
Anyway, our instructor had us do several short-writing activities. The one that helped me the most was the time he asked us to describe what we hope our readers will get from our memoirs, but using only ONE WORD! It didn't take me more than a few seconds to think of my word and as soon as I articulated that ONE WORD, my goal as a memoir writer became clear.


I feel like so much about Traumatic Brain Injury is not understood. For several years after my injury, even "I" did not understand my injury. Most TBI Survivors (including me) have the following "troubles:" (this is my own simplified list accompanied by my own plain and simple descriptions, but I'll add a final note from something Dr. White, who wrote a Foreword for my book, told me that helped me understand WHY we are like this).
  1. Balance and coordination problems (walking downstairs takes an excessive amount of concentration so we won't fall, plus I have double vision which confuses my brain whenever I look down).
  2. Short-term memory loss (by lunchtime I rarely remember what I've eaten for breakfast and I hate, hate, hate when people ask me, "How was last night?" because I never have any idea what I did last night. A better question is,"How was Jared's wedding reception last night?" -which is what I did tonight, so hopefully tomorrow someone will be specific if they ask me about what I did last night).
  3. Sleep disorder (I can't remember the last time I slept more than 7 hours straight, regardless of how tired I am. More often than not, I sleep 5 hours straight, wake up dead-tired, and then force myself to fall back asleep which takes 2 hours, and then I sleep for 2 hours. Which is why I try my hardest to get 10 hours of bedtime. This torture sleep cycle is beginning to change for me, however, since I've tried to go to bed at the same time every night which sets my body clock and I stopped eating sugar and salt late in the afternoon or evening, exception tonight since I had cake and sweets at the wedding, which would explain why it's 11:30 pm and I am still awake. Guaranteed, I will struggle tomorrow with focus and motivation and horrible exhaustion. But I'll go workout at the gym and take a nap afterwards.) Sorry for all the run-on sentences!
  4. Brain Overload (too many people, too much noise, or unfamiliar surroundings make me feel, literally, like a metal bar is shot through my head. My brain HUUURRRRTTTS and the only thing that makes it not hurt is absolute silence in a dark room - -I sleep with ear plugs and an eye mask).
So back to my U of Iowa story and the fact that my one-word is "understanding", I just hope that anyone that reads my memoir will finish it with a greater understanding of the ramifications of Traumatic Brain Injury and cut us some slack. And I hope other Survivors who read it will be able to cut themselves some slack and know that they aren't alone.

DR. WHITE, in the Foreword he wrote for my book, explains WHY. He says, "She struggles daily with fatigue, memory loss, and attention because the injury disrupted her brain’s circuitry, has undergone a re-routing and simply isn’t as efficient anymore."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

My thoughts on FEAR

Several weeks ago, someone posted an anonymous comment on my blog asking, "Now how about your thoughts on FEAR?" (Although they posted as "anonymous," I can guess who this person is, considering that they referred to being at the Brain Injury Conference. I think it's the same person who asked me why I'm not blogging as often, but I could be wrong).

So here are my thoughts on FEAR (in relation to TBI, not in relation to seeing a scary movie or riding a fast roller-coaster).

For the first 8 years after my injury, fear consumed me. My active personality lends itself to the idea that we are all in control of our own destiny. I liked to accomplish, get things done, follow-up, be in charge, problem solve, mult-task and make things happen. This wasn't something I really worked at, these traits came naturally to me and I enjoyed this stuff.

After my injury, I still wanted to be this person, I still tried to act like this person, but I wasn't any good at being this person. Suddenly, I was no longer in control of my destiny. I was lethargic and constantly cognitively exhausted, plus I always forgot what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to do it.

If someone asked me to do something, I was fearful that I'd fail, or worse, that I wouldn't be able to accomplish at the same level as before. That statement makes it sound like I'm referring to something difficult like the time I spent a week alone in Paris (after TBI), which I kind of am but my fear really refers to that time when I fell running to the bus one morning because I forgot to tie my shoes, or that time back in college when I went to a dance club with my friends and couldn't do anything but sit in the corner because the noise and too many people made me feel like a metal bar was shot through my head (you may be reading this thinking, "I hate dance clubs too" but any TBI survivor reading this will agree that it's not the same feeling).

Bottom-line, after my brain injury, my strengths became my weaknesses. Suddenly finishing a task became a great feat, problem-solving and multi-tasking took an excessive amount of brain power. I feared failure in everything because I wasn't good at any of the things that I used to be good at.

This kind of fear doesn't consume me any longer (which is why I used the past tense this entire time). I'm more frustrated by my injury than fearful of it.

I've reached a new level of acceptance in my recovery. Up until about five years ago (the time I moved from MN to UT), I wasted a lot of energy ignoring my deficits and trying to push past my injury. I tried to be that same woman who loved to multi-task, problem-solve and take charge. In retrospect, I cringe at the silly things I said and did after my injury/post hospital because I was so brain-tired, overloaded and out of my mind half the time. I tried to be the same person in MN because I was with the same people, doing the same things as before my injury. When I moved to UT, I embraced my new self. I started fresh and reinvented me because everything was new.

I feel like I'm sort of babbling but I guess what I really mean to say is that I'm now comfortable in my TBI skin because yes some of my previous strengths have become weaknesses but I just have to work a little harder (okay let's be honest, work A LOT harder) to make them strengths again.

I also see that I've developed new strengths after my injury. My new self is softer, more willing to help and far more understanding of another person's struggles. I no longer feel the complete need to control my destiny because I now see that sometimes things just happen and we can only do the best we can to accept the consequences if they are beyond our control.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

(Not that this has anything to do with TBI)

But . . . I just VOTED!

They offered early voting this year in Utah (I thought it was everywhere but my mom said that in MN you have to apply for early voting only if you're going to be out of town or something). Anyway, I am not going to say who I voted for or for which party but I will say that I voted some Republican and some Democrat.

AND I will also say that I'm proud to live in a country where we have the freedom to participate in our government.

AND I will also say that I'm relieved that I can take advantage of this freedom (I guess that's my TBI connection) considering that the doctor told my parents that I probably wouldn't make it through the night (14 years ago, the day after my accident), clearly he was also telling her that I would never cast another vote for leadership in this country. . . !

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'll be on KJZZ again!

Denise Druce just invited me to appear on her show tomorrow morning (Tues) to help demonstrate some Yoga poses. I'm really excited as she said the other guests on tomorrow's show are all people who have overcome a huge trial, hopefully using fitness. So I'll fit right in!
Utah Channel 14 - 9:00 am

Friday, October 17, 2008

Update on my book!

Friends keep asking me "how's your book?"

Well, here is my gritty, short answer:

Book is done but I've been rejected by a handful of publishers. The last rejection letter was "the nicest one" Deirdre Paulsen has ever seen - true, it was very nice (and I've also received some not-so-nice letters). It said it was good and they commend me for my work, but they don't know how to market such a memoir which leads me to believe two things:

1. If I was a famous person, my book would easily be published because it's a great story. But I'm just a random, average person.

2. People are unfamiliar with brain injury and assume it's an . . . an . . . I forgot the word I was going to use, seriously it was just in my head and I thought about something else for a second and the word dissolved. This is the brain injury battle - words dissolve in your head. Anyway, I can't think of the word but it's the same thing as an "uncommon" or "rare."

Bottom-line, I understand why a publisher doesn't think they can market this book and with the way our economy is, they want to publish potential best-sellers. SO I'VE DECIDED TO SELF-PUBLISH!!!!

So I'll definitely post an update when the book is published (I've already found a self-publishing company and had them print one test copy. . .) and let you know how you can buy it!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Life is NOT like a box of chocolates. . .

Life is like a slice of pie . . .

The following are my thoughts from the Stephen Sheppard, PHD keynote address at the Brain Injury Association annual conference (today).

The four PIE elements are:

  1. Productivity

  2. Spirituality

  3. Recreation

  4. Social Life

Although many people are in constant struggle to balance their "slice of pie" elements, it's very difficult for a Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor because we have so much collateral damage (ability to sleep, short-term memory, difficulty paying attention, coordination, loneliness, job loss, emotional outbursts).

For years after my injury, I tried to slice my pie the same way as I always did. I was tired, but I didn't take naps (who has time for naps?). I wanted to go to graduate school, so I did -without taking into account that I didn't have a decent short-term memory (asking a TBI Survivor memory taxing questions makes our mind and body feel as if we've just run a full marathon). As a result, my life was extremely unbalanced.

Nine years post-injury (I just passed my 14 year mark in August) I finally started slicing my pie differently and I am SOOOO much happier! I'm more Productive because I know my limitations and I say NO to things that I know will be too much (i.e tonight I was supposed to go to my friend's birthday party but I decided to skip it because talking about brain injury anything for an extended period of time wears me out and 2day I was at the TBI conference all day. I also have to work tomorrow and catch a flight immediately afterwards because I'm going to CA to visit my brother. I knew I'd be too tired to do anything after the conference). There was a time not so long ago where I would have just forced myself to do it all: the conference, the party, work, etc with no stops. NOW I'm SOOOO much more realistic about my limitations.

My Spirituality is in check because I take TIME to relax and to meditate (same thing that helps me be more productive).

My Recreation is still limited but I've learned to "work with what I got." As I said before, I know my limitations - I know what's going to tire me out and how much recovery time I'll need after an activity. Example: hiking is very difficult, especially late at night and especially over uneven terrain due to my balance and coordination problems. But I realize that this is worse in the evening so I found a hiking group which meets in the morning! Bottom-line, I can still recreate with a few adjustments. ANY UT TBI SURVIVOR SHOULD JOIN THE NATIONAL ABILITY CENTER FOR HELP WITH RECREATION (that's my NAC plug).

The same thing goes for my Social Life -too taxing, too tired, too late and I just can't participate. Okay let's be honest, sometimes I DO participate in social events that are too much and I end up regretting it but you live in learn (I'm talking about attending social events with lots of people, late at night when I've already had a long day. If it's not a work day and I get a good nights sleep the night before, then I'm usually okay).

This post is much longer than anything I've ever written before and I'm not sure how many people read my blog anyway - yeah my counter says 1880+ people viewed it but that might just mean "looking" and not "reading." So just out of curiousity, if you actually READ this post, please let me know by adding a comment below. . .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

BIAU Conference!

This coming Thursday and Friday is THE BRAIN INJURY ASSOCIATION OF UTAH FAMILY AND PROFESSIONALS CONFERENCE in Layton, UT. I'm really excited because this conference is so enlightening and revealing: with hundreds of people in attendance (TBI Survivors, family members, medical community), I realize that I'm not alone in my struggle. 5.3 million Americans have disabilities resulting from Traumatic Brain Injury and only a couple hundred will be at this conference.

Wade Justice, M.D. is the keynote speaker. He sustained a severe Traumatic Brain Injury three and a half years ago after his vehicle was hit by a drunk driver. He'll share his personal struggle with Brain Injury as well as where he is after "re-inventing" himself.

I cannot wait to hear his process -especially since I've spent the last fourteen years re-inventing my own self - and I hope to learn some valuable tips for living with TBI.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm done. It's finished.

My manuscript is complete and I just mailed it to a publisher TODAY. Hopefully I'll find out in one to three months if they want to publish it . . . my fingers and toes are crossed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tonight I bouldered at Rockreation!

So several months ago I practiced indoor rock climbing THREE times with the National Ability Center - I learned about the harness, the gear, and Kim Millikan at the NAC was my belay. It was difficult but invigorating to be on the wall. Tonight I tried it again with Denise Druce at Rockreation in SLC. This time I bouldered - no ropes, just my strength. Denise suggested I put this photo up - - to compare with the photos of me in the hospital, also on this blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where did I get my blog and book title?

Once my niece pointed to the scar at left (can you see it?) and said, "You have a smile on your forehead."

Monday, August 18, 2008

View me on Daily Documentary!

See photographs and listen to me discuss my injury on The Daily Documentary Project:

(photographer Dallas Graham shoots and interviews everyday people in this project)

The photographs are nice - but admitedly I cringed after hearing the sound of my voice on the Podcast . . .

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Brain Rules

The following is a list of 12 principles to boost your brain power (taken from the book Brain Rules by John Medina). Every singole one is applicable to TBI Survivors -- especially Rule #1

EXERCISE Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
SURVIVAL Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
SENSORY INTEGRATION Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

How will this aggravate my Brain Injury?

The following thoughts have been on my mind for some time now and I decided to blog about it:

Pre-accident/pre-injury, I spent hours (no exaggeration) planning my future, beginning with what classes I should take each semester to achieve my academic goals. I'd beg my friends to let me do the same for them (actually, no begging was involved- - they were pleased to let me do it).
Lucky for me, I enjoy this stuff because post-injury I need to plan how I am going to execute my daily activities or the pressure of remembering what I'm supposed to do causes me such fatigue that I feel like collapsing.
Whenever I do most anything, I need to ask myself two critcal questions:

1. How will this aggravate my brain injury?
2. Will I have time to recover from the activity?

For example, last night I was out kind of late (11 pm). However, I pre-panned this and knew I'd be okay staying out that late because I didn't have to work until later today. I slept in, then practiced Yoga at the gym (Denise counted 5 seconds on my Crow Pose!) and I'm home now, taking a break, before work.

Many people schedule their daily activities, but a Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor must also schedule recovery time from their daily activities.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I just returned from The University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival

. . . and I am utterly transformed as a writer because of my two-day experience. I now understand how to write an effective memoir. My first draft was complete, or so I thought, but now I've been encouraged to set it aside and start over. This may sound like a daunting task (since the book is mostly complete) but I actually feel totally liberated because I hated my first draft (I purposely wrote hated in red, bold, italic). My most recent draft explained what happened to me but the reader was unable to experience it with me because it was boring to read . . . blah blah blah. I avoided sharing all the silly, embarrassing things I did early in my recovery because they make me cringe and I am so totally embarrassed. But a brain injury is just that - - totally embarrassing at times. I wish I didn't have this story to tell, but I do. So my re-write is going to go deeper and come out a little edgy. The U of IA Festival HAS liberated me as a writer. I am super, super excited to write and show how life-altering a dreadful experience like mine can be. Whoo-hoo (she screams).
In fact, I hand-wrote several pages on the airplane home from Iowa City -- I just couldn't stop writing. The words poured from my pen . . .and so easily.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My brain used to deteriorate every day at 3 pm . . .

. . . now it usually happens at 9 or 10 pm. My head hurts so badly and I feel a relentless preasure pounding at my temples that I just wish I could cut my head off and set it aside for a while.

It's a horrible, horrible feeling.

Fortunately, I've learned how to manage my brain injury so I don't feel like this as often. Here are my strategies:

1. I try to go to bed by 10 pm or earlier every night (admitedly it's more like 10:30 to 11:30 but I try).
2. Exercise at the gym 3-4 times per week but NOT after 4 pm (sometimes I will do Yoga at 7 pm).
3. Eat healthy - mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (truth-be-told, I'm a sucker for the Pretzel Passion cookies at my work and lots of other treats).
4. I sleep with my window open (lower body temp=deeper sleep). My mom taught me this one.
5. I know my limits and I'm perfectly willing to say NO if think something will be too much for me.

See, there are exceptions to everything. I wish I could eat healthy all the time, but the Pretzel Passion cookies at work are too good to pass up (besides I can buy them for 20% off) and I wish I didn't get so ridiculously tired from a normal day that I can't particpate in some evening activities.
Right now, I really wish I wasn't laying here at 10:49 pm writing on my blog when I should be sleeping!

ME: Inspiring Woman of Utah!

Denise Druce nominated me for Inspirational Woman of Utah for her show on KJZZ (July 3rd)

Fiction for Memoir

Friday, July 18th I travel to the University of Iowa for a writing conference called “Fiction for Memoir.” The University has a fabulous writing program so I have high hopes that I’ll greatly improve my memoir with this workshop (hopefully publishers will think the same)!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Watch me on TV, AUGUST 19!

Dr. Russo and I will be discussing fitness and TBI with Denise Druce and "The Home Team" on Tuesday, August 19th.
KJZZ channel 14 (Utah only) 9 - 10 am.
This date is just four days before the 14 year anniversary of my accident!!!

Oh - and my goal is to be able to do the Crow Pose (as seen above) on this show!!! I'm practicing everyday until August 19th.

Do you think I can do it?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tribute to Dr. White

Last night I had dinner at this fabulous Spanish restaurant in Salt Lake City: Cafe Madrid, which was voted one of the best restaurants in America by Bon App├ętit Magazine (February, 2008). I ate Grilled Pork Tenderloin served with a refreshing Apple and Raspberry Sauce, after we all grazed on three different divine tapas (appetizers). I won't describe the tapas in detail because my mouth is watering just thinking about the croquetas . . .

However, it wasn't only the food that was spectacular. It was also the company. My parents are in town from Minnesota so they were there and we were joined by Dr. Tom and Sheri White.

Dr. White was the surgeon in charge of my care shortly after my car accident in Nebraska, nearly 14 years ago. He and his family relocated to Utah just two years ago and we reconnected! Last night was our 5th time as one big, happy immediate and extra-extended family dinner group. Whenever we are together, we inevitably talk about my accident and it's always an interesting, informative conversation. He told me that he specifically remembers the nurse calling him a few weeks after my accident to tell him that I'd spoken my first words! At first he wasn't sure he could believe it and begged her not to joke with him . . . (I don't think I was expected to speak again).

Last night just helped me realize how far I've come ~lying comatose, unable to speak to smiling, laughing, and eating dinner at a restaurant with family. Thank you Dr. White!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I was on TV this morning!

Denise Druce nominated me for Inspiring Woman of the Week on this morning's "The Home Team" show on KJZZ!

KJZZ is a local Utah television station and the “Home Team” is just that: A team of expert hosts who focus on a different aspect of women’s living each day. The four daily hosts and emphases are threaded together by male and female co-hosts Danny Allen and Vanessa Cheney. Fitness expert Denise Druce hosts Body, Mind and Soul Tuesday.

Today is not even Tuesday, but once per week they describe an inspiring woman of the week and Denise nominated me (behind my back). I had no prior knowledge of this until she told me at Yoga class this morning!

The clip is only 2 minutes but basically it says how I've learned that the best way to recover from Traumatic Brain Injury is EXERCISE.

I'll post a clip of it once I can upload it to YouTube (hopefully next week).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Physical Activity is cognitive candy!

Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr. Antonietta Russo suggested I read a book called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina. RULE #1: Exercise. Medina calls physical activity "cognitive candy." I'm positive that exercise has had a tremendous effect on my recovery (even now, 13 years post-injury).

EXAMPLE: I have a video of myself talking to a nurse just one month after injury and I can barely speak clearly, my thoughts get lost mid-sentence. It's horribly sad to watch. Even more sad than this is that ten years later, although I was much, much more coherent when speaking, I was still getting lost mid-sentence (although not quite as often). But since I began regular exercise at the gym (a mix of cardio, yoga, weight-lifting) I feel more alert, more cognitively in-tact and HAPPIER (the best part).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Was my Inner Ear damaged???

I just returned from my Brain Injury Survivor Support Group tonight. There are several such support groups throughout the valley, but I attend one at Cottonwood Hospital. Tonight's topic was So you think you can balance? Tips to managing a balance disorder as the world turns. Many TBI Survivors have balance problems (including me!)

There are three parts of the human ear (inner, middle, and outer). The outer ear is the part that you see on your body (the part that that's connected to the earrings I'm wearing) - the middle ear is the part that hears - and the inner ear is responsible for the sensations of balance and motion.

It's safe to assume that my inner ear was damaged in the car accident but my mom doesn't remember and too many years have passed to look at the medical records (I still have some records but none say anything about inner ear).

The occupational therapist who spoke to the group asked if any one of us experiences dizziness. Personally, I think of dizziness as "a feeling of head spinning for an extended period of time." At first I didn't raise my hand because I don't experience this "continual spinning feeling." But I do feel as if I'm playing catch-up when I turn my head quickly from side-to-side or up-down. It's a brief head-spinning/ache feeling. I assumed this was simply because my brain was hurt, but after tonight, I think it's that my inner ear was damaged.

Unfortunately, damage to the inner ear can never be completely repaired. But you can adapt.

I remember my head constantly spinning when I was first discharged from the hospital. But over time (13 years!) I've adapted and strengthen my inner ear by challenging my balance through exercise.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The beauty of a power nap!

Edgar Watson Howe once said, "the feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can't get there, is the meanest feeling in the world."

I already talked about this on another blog but I'll say it again, the sleep disorder is definitely the cruelest part of TBI. I'm not tired so I can't sleep. I'm too tired so I can't sleep. What's the difference?

I've really learned the beauty of a power nap since my injury. Sometimes I rest my eyes for as little as one minute in the oddest places (the toilet, the elevator, the car - when someone else is driving of course). But these rest breaks help me get through the day and help me make it through moments where I long for my bed but can't get there.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Human Brain - my frontal lobe was the most damaged.

The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, and impulse control. The frontal lobes are extremely vulnerable to injury due to their location at the front of the cranium, proximity to the sphenoid wing and their large size.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Did you know TBI is the "signature wound" of Iraq War?

I really empathize with soldiers returning from Iraq because many of them unknowingly suffer from TBI. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are similar to TBI symptoms (irritability, trouble sleeping, dizziness etc) so soldiers can be misdiagnosed.

"Diagnosing TBI is imprecise — damage rarely shows up on CAT scans or other tests. Treating it is a crapshoot, because little is known about the brain injuries from blasts in Iraq versus the ones from falls and car crashes that doctors are used to seeing".

Read the following article for more detail:

My website is up and running!

Check it out at

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The much improved hiker!

I just returned from a beautiful but short hike (90 or so min?). When I first moved to Utah, I hiked with some friends a few times in the evening (7 pmish). Yes it was great to be outside but I felt extremely tired and withdrawn during these hikes. I rarely smiled. I always struggled to balance myself and not tip over. How can this be fun? I thought.

Hiking in UT strains my balance, my vision, and all five of my senses. At least it did when I hiked in the evenings. But I've discovered that with a brain injury, anything challenging or stressful should be done in the morning.

So in order for me to smile while hiking, I joined a morning hiking group!!! I am totally alert and rarely worry about tumbling over during these hikes because my brain doesn't feel disconnected in the morning.

I now actually feel connected with the UT mountains (cheezy statement I know). But I "get it" - I "get" why people love skiing, hiking, camping so much (okay maybe not so much the camping but the rest I "get it").

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

. . .the practice continues. . .

So I returned from Mexico last night. Yes it was fun and no I didn't get very tan. I think I look like an American Flag - red (skin burn) and white (skin untouched by the sun) stripes. It's actually kind of funny!

Just like I promised myself, I practiced CROW POSE everyday. I improved my balance by one second. I used to be able to balance in this Yoga pose for one second and now I can do it for two seconds. So I'm giving myself another week of daily CROW POSE practice.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Today I did a wonderful Yoga class! I'm so happy because my instructor Denise said, "Jennifer you are doing so well . . . I can't believe how flexible you've become since you first began practicing Yoga!"

She's right - my flexibility has improved considerably. I feel much more open and limber in the last year or so that I've practiced Yoga. More importantly for me, my balance has also improved (balance is a problem for most brain injury survivors). I still can't do Crow/Crane Pose for more than one second. It's not that big of a deal I guess because if you look at the below link, you'll see that Crow Pose is not an easy balance pose. But it still bugs me that I can't do it!

Denise told our class that if we practice Crow Pose everyday for one week, we'll be able to do it. So I promise to be a Crow for a few minutes everyday this week. I WILL PRACTICE - even in Mexico. Which by the way, is another important detail of my life. . . I leave for Mexico tomorrow! I'll be sure to blog when I get back.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Website~My Workout

WEBSITE: Today I purchased my own domain: ~ I still need to build my website and I'm not sure how to do it. Actually, "not sure" is probably not the right expression because I have NO idea how to do it but I'll find a way. I want to link this blog to my website and then sell my book on the website (first I find a publisher). My goal is to have the website up by August. So check back if you are interested.

WORKOUTS: Tomorrow I am going to post my TBI fitness philosophy: all TBI survivors should consistently practice routine exercise (i.e long walk everyday, fitness classes at the gym etc). I try to be religious about my workouts. It gives me something to focus on and I feel so much better: MENTALLY, PHYSICALLY, and EMOTIONALLY - not just a little better, but a lot better! I need to workout in the morning and not the evening. I sleep horribly if I exercise after 5 pm. Once my dad told me that he slept better after a late night workout because he was so tired. This is only partially the same for me - I am also so tired after a late night workout but I do not sleep better. A couple years ago I was exercising in the evening because it was the only time I had available, but I attended a class at the BIAU(Brain Injury Assocation of Utah) yearly conference and the speaker warned us against late night workouts so I changed my schedule - bottom line, I am sleeping better now that I workout in the morning or early afternoon (in addition to some other sleep hygiene tricks which I will blog about another time).

Yeah so I gotta go because Justin Timberlake is on Jay Leno (no I am not a teenager anymore contrary to what you may believe considering I love JT and yes I am up too late again tonight. My whole sleep schedule is out of wack this week so I'm not living by words~ but what am I supposed to do if JT is on Leno?)

So you may think that I posted most everything about my TBI fitness philosophy, but oh no there is more to come tomorrow - I'll even try to post a photo of my favorite workout (one of them).

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rocky Mountain Cookies (doctored to make more healthy)

1 cup Splenda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups Rice Crispies cereal
1 (12 ounce) bag dark chocolate chips
In a large bowl cream together sugars and applesauce. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Sift dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Add to mixture. Fold in oats, cereal, and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until very lightly browned. Makes six dozen.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The WORST part of TBI . . .

Hands down, the worst consequence of a Traumatic Brain Injury (for me at least) is the sleep disorder (yeah it's more than 2 hours since I said I was off to bed and I cannot fall asleep). UGH!
Good thing it's Sunday tomorrow and I have late church.

Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to manage my sleep disorder. I did everything wrong tonight - which is why I can't sleep.

Here is what NOT to do: (things I did)

1. Pick a bedtime and do not deviate from it (my bedtime is 10 pm and I hit the pillow at 12:30 am).
2. Do not eat much late at night (especially dark chocolate which I did).
3. Be diligent about an exercise program (but do it in morning NOT less than 3-4 hours before your established bedtime). i.e I went to the gym at 9 pm - bad move for a restful sleep.

I'm usually really good about practicing good sleep hygiene but tonight was an exception. Darn that dark chocolate (I made a great cookie recipe which I found in The Essential Mormon Cookbook. Surprisingly, the cookies were pretty good! One way I manage my TBI is by making myself into a bit of a health food guru. So I doctored up the recipe to make them more healthy--if that can be said about cookies). I'll post the recipe later. Hopefully now that I've done something else besides unsuccessfully force myself to fall asleep, maybe I really will sleep?

Oh yeah I practice Yoga where I learned some breathing techniques. These help me fall asleep (if I don't eat dark chocolate, that is). Try it!
1. breath in slowly to the count of ten
2. hold/stop your breath for a count of ten
3. slowly breath out for the count of ten

Try this for a few times and next thing you know you'll be fast asleep. Sweet dreams!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

just ONE more (then I promise to go to bed!)

This is a great utube video explaining TBI:

Blog - Practically Day 2

I can see why some people become addicted to blogging. Way past my bedtime now and I will pay for this tomorrow with droopy eyes! Good night friends.

Blog - Day One and three-quarters

I completely understand what many of the soldiers returning from Iraq are going to deal with -the signature wound of this war is TBI. Please read this article:

September 1994
This is me in the hospital one week after the car accident.

Blog - Day one and a half

Here is an excerpt from my memoir - a part which explains the title of the book:

. . . When my sweet, five-year-old twin nieces, Rachel and Lauren, saw me, they smiled wide enough to show their identical toddler teeth. Each gave me a big hug and then Rachel pointed to the long curvy scar above my eyebrows--one of the many scars remaining from my car accident, and said, “Aunt Jennifer, you have a smile on your forehead!”

Blog - Day One

Blogging is the latest craze . . . I thought it was a waste of time but after attending a writer's conference today, I've changed my mind. So we'll see how this goes. . . :)

The conference was at Cedar Fort, Inc. in Springville, Utah. It was wonderful and so helpful to my own writing. I've written a personal memoir about my struggle with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) after I was severely injured in a car accident. I broke my neck in two places and fractured both femur bones. Oh and four toes but that is inconsequential when you're lying motionless and comatose in a hosital bed. Few people know of my injuries -besides those I've told or those who knew me before.

I really want to publish my book in hopes it will help other TBI survivors.

Anyway, the Aquisitions Editor at Cedar Fort asked me, "Do you have a website?" huh? I thought, of course I don't have a website . . . but everyone blogs now so I am going to "join the club" and start with a blog.

Who's the audience for this blog? um . . . not sure yet. Hopefully friends and family to start (I'm sure my mom will be an avid reader) but eventually I want to direct it to other TBI survivors. There are other survivor blogs out there but we'll see what I can do and hopefully market my memoir (once it's published).

ONE MORE THING: the title of this blog is also the title of my unpublished memoir. . . read next post for how I came up with this title.