25 Years Ago – Life Suddenly Transformed
On Monday, March 5, 1990, my life was suddenly transformed. Driving home after visiting a cancer patient, I suffered a cerebral bleed (an aneurysm, a type of stroke), and became unconscious at the wheel of my automobile and was involved in a 60 mph head-on auto accident. Five months later, I had open skull, brain surgery to remove the cause of the stroke, which was a growth on my brain (a cavernous hemangioma).
Due to multiple injuries to my brain, I experienced Second Impact Syndrome, thus the consequences of each injury was not an additional injury, rather it was multiplied. Along with the physical injures..4 displaced cervical discs, three thoracic, 3 lumbar, chondromalacia, nerve damage to my right eye and my teeth were displaced, I had numerous symptoms of Post Concussive Syndrome (PCS). By 1994, when I made minimal progress, I was told by every doctor who worked with me that I was “Permanently Brain Damage and I would NEVER get better.”
Of course this was way before the current knowledge of “Brain Plasticity.” Yet, somehow I knew that I could and would recover, because of my training in neuropsychology and health psychology, along with my dogged personality and tenacious spirit.
Between 1994- 1997, I came up with my integrative approach for recovery along with writing the first comprehensive guide to living with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Since then, the field of neuroscience and understanding of the brain has changed in leaps and bounds. Brain Plasticity is now known and accepted. The new knowledge of neuroconnectivity and brain hubs is on the forefront and is included in the 2nd edition of Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury that will be published this time next year. Included will be all the new diagnostic methods along with the wide variety of treatments.
Upon reflecting with my children about this anniversary, they reminded me that for almost 7 years my short term memory was similar to the character in the movie “50 First Dates.” We were discussing a television show that I said I didn’t remember and my son said it was during those years when I didn’t have a memory. Of all my losses the pain that is the greatest is I will never have those years with my sons back again. They were 8, 11 and 12 when I had my accident. Those special times with my little boys are gone and they suffered a very severe trauma of losing their mother. Obviously, I didn’t die and am a part of their lives now, yet I can’t make their loss go away.
During my 22 years of recovery, I too was a caregiver to my son and my mother, both of whom had multiple concussions. Yet, it is easier for a woman, who is more the caregiver in the family than for most males.
In 2004, I was bitten by a deer tick and got a bulls-eye rash. For 18 months I was misdiagnosed by numerous physicians and suffered with painful joints and a rash from my knees to my neck. I also had a mini stroke in the motor area, which caused her not to be able to button her clothes or pull up a zipper. Finally I went to my cousin, Dr. Steven Keenholtz, M.D., a physician who specializes in infectious disease. He diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. Due to my allergies to antibiotics, I was helped with an herbal antibiotic, Golden Seal. This herb, along with the nutritional counseling and whole food supplements provided by Martha Lindsay, who now works on my integrative team, made all the difference.
The ups and downs of my life were really apparent in 2008. On February 22, 2008, once again my life was suddenly transformed as a result of still another automobile accident. While driving to my office a snow plow broad sided my automobile taking off the front portion of the car. The impact caused me to become unconscious at the wheel of my automobile. I was out of work for a month with symptoms of Post Concussive Syndrome. During this period, I had several MRI’s, which showed additional brain injury along with a 1 cm. meningioma (benign Brain Tumor) in the frontal area of my brain. I immediately consulted with my brain surgeon, who let me know that it was not cancerous and I would be fine. Using the treatment methods mentioned in my book, Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury along with my integrative approach, I was able to return to work by August of 2008.
Another consequence of my accident, as with many others who have had brain injury, was the loss of my marriage on May 2008, to my high school sweetheart, who I was married to for 35 years. There is a new movie out called,“The Vow.” I recently saw the trailer. The content of the movie is about a woman who suffered a severe brain injury and how her husband helped her to recover. The reality is that she is the exception to the rule, not the norm. It is extremely hard on the caregiver to sustain the relationship during the long road to recovery.
Still another loss during 2008 was that many of the insurance companies who from 1997 when I returned to private practice until 2008 were paying for neurofeedback services that truly have helped in my recovery and those of my patients were stopped. Thus, there were people in mid treatment for stroke, brain injury and PTSD that no longer could afford to continue. This was gut wrenching for them and also for me.
For two years my life seemed to stabilize, then on May 1, 2010, I sustained still another concussion. I was reclining in a zero gravity lounge chair purchased from Frontgate, which clearly was defective. Its hinges suddenly broke and catapulted me backwards knocking me unconscious for several minutes. Once again I went to various doctors, underwent a CAT scan and MRI and was told that I had another concussion. Once again, with the help of my integrative team and the methods in my book, “Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” along with changing my diet and the advancement and new technology in the field of neurofeedback , I was able to return to work again within weeks rather than months.
In February 2011, I was stung by a jellyfish that activated my Lyme Disease and affected the original injury from 1990 to my neck. Who could believe it?? For 7 months I was in chronic pain. Once again working with my integrative team, numerous doctors, change of diet and neurofeedback, I was on the mend again.
All of these experiences have helped my spirit to be more resolute and have helped me to be a more insightful clinician. I’m now a Certified Consultant in Hypnosis; Bach Flower Practitioner; a Energy Psychology Practitioner; received specialized training in QiGong in Bali; and extensive training in neurofeedback methods from Dr. Margaret Ayers, Othmer Method, Dr. Paul Swingle, to extensive knowledge in various neurofeedback techniques from pRoshi, LENS to Neurofield and HEG.
From all of the life experience, extensive training along with my integrative approach, a vast number of people have recovered to a full and productive life, as I have. No, I would not wish what I have gone through on my worst enemy, yet I do give gratitude every morning as to where I am today and all the people I have helped personally or through my book.
In the last three year, four great things have happened. My one son is married. My other son and his girlfriend had a baby. I’m now a proud Grandma. My third son is a musician and is back from LA. And lastly, my publisher, Penguin contacted me to write the 2nd edition of Coping with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. In it they asked me to include all the newest cutting edge technology and methods for diagnosing and treating Concussion. Also, there will be a focus on Sports/Recreational Concussion along with the effects of Blast Injury.
It is my fervent hope that for the millions of people coping with Post Concussive Syndrome that they will know… “There is a Way!!” If you find your life suddenly transformed know that you can recover to live a productive and full life.
Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.