November 29, 2005

 

Tomorrow it will be 3 years since Russ had his accident. When Russ was first injured I rushed to the internet. I was panic stricken and anxious to learn more about traumatic brain injury. Primarily I wanted to know the future. I just knew there had to be facts, figures, and statistics that could tell me the odds of Russ getting well. The more I looked the more I found. Unfortunately a lot of what I found was either incorrect or out of context. One statistic that particularly scared me was that most of the gains in brain injury rehabilitation are made in the first 6 months and almost all are made before 1 year. From that day on I felt like the sand was going through the hour glass at a faster and faster pace and Russ was not making progress fast enough.

 

Now I know that this notion is false. Russ is still making significant progress. Some things are improving faster and some are still progressing slowly. But across the board he is still improving.

 

This year we found a speech therapist that has a good handle on the problems Russ has that prevent him from speaking. Russ is seeing her twice a week. When he began seeing her everything he tried to say sounded like aah or maa. Slowly she helped him learn to produce the vowel sounds with a few simple consonants. One of the problems he has is called motor planning. It means that the brain sends signals to the muscles in your mouth to shape sounds with your tongue, lips, teeth etc. In his case these signals are not received properly and he has to relearn how to control these movements. In addition he canít occlude (close off) his nose when he tries to form a P B D or T sound. When he tries to make these sounds air comes out his nose and the sounds donít come out right. He is currently doing exercises to help him relearn this. Then there are the G J K sounds that are produced in the back of the throat. They are currently giving Russ the most trouble. Russ has a stack of index cards that he is practicing. We order them into sentences and he says them over and over. Progress, very slow but progress. At the recent Golf Tournament Russ wrote a couple sentences he wanted to say to the audience. He had problems at the microphone when it cut in and out but he still did his best to say ďThank you for being here at this event. You all mean so much to me.Ē He practiced it for weeks before the event. I donít think a lot of people understood what he said until he repeated it with his keyboard. But more importantly what he said was a huge improvement over what he was able to say last year which was only aah and maa.

 

Speech is on the top of Russís list. Cognitive therapy is on the top of our list. Russ began cognitive therapy at Rusk Institute which is part of NYU University Hospital in Manhattan. What a program! Russ started with intense testing in January where the staff identified the deficits Russ is experiencing. The testing took several days. It showed that many cognitive functions were scored at below normal or significantly below normal. There were many tests that showed normal as Russ was very quick to point out. But I suspect that if Russ had taken the tests before his accident he would have scored all above normal and many significantly above normal. But the good news is that with hard work these skills improve. Right now Russ is working on attention, concentration, processing speed, memory, and frontal lobe unawareness. Russ was completely unaware of these deficits when he entered the program. Part of the program is education. What is brain injury, what does it cause, and how to compensate for it. The program is not just for Russ. The program also includes education and training for the significant others who accompany the trainee to therapy. It is just as important for family members to learn about what is caused by brain injury and how to help the trainee accept and compensate for their injury. Very seldom does anything in life turn out to be a good as your expectations leading up to it. This program does. It has been helping people with TBI for 30 years and serves as the model for dozens of programs around the world that were started to replicate the success of the Rusk program. We have high hopes for Russ in this program.

 

Thanks for the persistence to check for an update after such a long time.

 

Bob