A Long Way Back

awareness, TBI history, word finding

In today’s Asheville Citizen Times, there was an article on the front page about Jordan Allen who sustained a TBI two years ago. http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110814/NEWS/308140041/Asheville-High-student-continues-recover-two-years-after-accident . The picture above is of Jordan and his mother, Tracee Workman. Workman is quoted as saying “Jordan was supposed to go to a step-down facility after CarePartners….But Workman says Jordan fell in a gray area – between someone with mental illness and someone with development problems. She says Jordan’s insurance company, CoreSource, didn’t want to pay because it wasn’t a medical necessity.” He still has a long way to go and he needs to more rehab.

I was in a similar situation and my insurance company said the same thing. I remember thinking, “What does that mean? I can’t organize my thoughts or remember things but treatment isn’t medically necessary?” My husband and I were furious but Michael looked into all options available to me. At the time I qualified for a state program that paid for me to have more rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. I needed this rehab and I’m glad I qualified.

When I moved here to North Carolina, I was amazed to discover that brain injury falls in the same area as mental illnesses and developmental disabilities in the state system. Since my brain injury occurred when I was an adult, the services were much different for me. There isn’t enough services for high school students in this state.

After reading this article, memories of my own injury almost 15 years ago came flooding back. My insurance company did pay for a stepped down facility after leaving the hospital. However, at one point a therapist listed me as “non-compliant.” This meant the therapist thought I wasn’t following his or her directions. I remember spending time playing games like hangman on a computer program thinking it was a waste of time. I wanted to get back to work, not spend hours playing computer games.

Now I can see how that game probably helped my word-finding skills. People with brain injury often have difficulty thinking of a word. One needs to practice having conversations and playing games like hangman in order to recover some of these skills. I may have been more open to playing the game if someone would have taken the time to explain to me why I was doing it.

On second thought, maybe not. Awareness is a huge issue for brain injury survivors. A person just isn’t aware of one’s limitations and sometimes will try to do dangerous things. I volunteered at a brain injury facility in Atlanta and was talking to a recently injured man who told me about his visit home. He used to climb trees for his job but he told me he had decided not to climb any when he was home this time, maybe later. This from a man who used a wheelchair some of the time! He still thought he could do it.

I was impressed with Tracee Workman’s determination to help her son. A brain injury survivor cannot do it alone. My husband, Michael, really battled insurance companies and medical personnel for me and for this, I am grateful. I plan to try and contact Jordan and Tracee this week. They need all the support they can get.

Public Prayer

prayer, word finding

Public prayer is difficult for me. It used to just flow but since I don’t think on my feet anymore, it’s difficult for me to pray in front of others. For this reason, I always write my prayers down when I know I’m going to pray before a group. All this came back to my mind again since I led Sunday School this past Sunday. I wrote down an opening prayer and planned to ask someone to offer a closing one. When the time came, I changed my mind. It just seemed like as the leader, I needed to pray. So I gave it a whirl.

It went okay but I had a little difficulty with word finding. Brain injury survivors often have difficulty coming up with a word. When I was in rehab, I did all sorts of activities to help me with this. At first every day conversations were difficult. The word would be in my brain somewhere but I couldn’t find it. I became really paranoid and worried that folks would think I was not smart since I seemed to always forget words. It took a few years, but it got much better. I also learned how to describe the word and usually the other person could figure out what I was trying to say.

I’ve been visiting older people for some time now and I can relate to their frustration at not being able to think of a word since it always makes me mad when I have this difficulty. When we get older it is more difficult for us to remember words. I think for them it is complicated since they are near the end of their lives and have already experienced many losses and this is just one more. I view my difficulty as a gift in these situations since I have a glimpse into how they feel.

I always pray after a pastoral visit. Before it wasn’t a problem because I could sum up the visit and then pray about it. Summarizing something is very difficult now so I’ve learned to pull out one thing from the visit to include in my prayer. I also get tongue tied before a group which is what happened on Sunday. However I’ve learned that many of my challenges won’t get better unless I practice them over and over again. So I’ll keep at it.

Do you have word finding challenges? How have you handled them? What are your thoughts about public prayer? Feel free to comment here or email me directly tamara@indylink.org.