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TBI And Memory Loss

October 22, 2018

 

I always start my story with " I went to sleep as LeaAnn and woke up a perfect stranger."   lee Ann Swinney 

On September 2014 I suffered a bleeding stroke and brain aneurysm ( Acute subdural dura hetoma.) which led to brain surgery to relieve the pressure in my brain. Due to a blood infection I caught in my mechanical heart valves, after some routine dental surgery. The doctors told my family that if I survived I would never be the same. After nearly 3 months in the hospital and rehabilitation learning How to walk, talk, chew swallow, read, walk, talk and write all over again, after kidney failure due to the antibiotics I was on for the blood disease, the doctors were right about one thing I will never be the same.

Has anyone ever seen the movie "50 first dates?" With Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore? Remember 5 second Tom? That's me. I can remember something that happened 20 years ago, but I can't remember if I took my medications 2 seconds ago. My husband and daughter's had to take control over my medications and keep them in our safe due to me forgetting that I had taken them and overdosing myself. Several times. 

 

Did you know that you can actually burn water?! I have it down to an art. I lost my cooking privileges after burning 8 hot pads, melting 5 spatulas, and burning up about 6 of our frying pans. From the moment I turn on the stove, and turn my back, I completely forget that I am cooking something. I now use a kitchen timer for just about everything, when it's time to turn food, check food, eat food. Which is helpful except for the times I forget How to turn my oven off! Do you ever do that? Forget how to turn your dryer or oven off/on, but the next time you go to do it, you remember just fine?

Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms that is associated with Traumatic/Aqured brain injury. Regardless of how the injury occurred. Memory loss is usually on of the first symptoms to show and one of the last things to return to you if it chooses to do so.

Fortunately there are some strategies I have learned along the way and have wanted to share with you. Surpringly so there was not much to be found in my search for Information on types or causes of memory loss. Once I left the hospital, who did not inform us that I had the memory of a peanut, I was on my own. 

 

 

I received no other form of rehabilitation once I left the rehabilitation center, or therapy. For almost 4 years I have just been winging it, figuring out what works for me and what doesnt, thanks to the help of Strokefocus, Pintrest and Facebook I have managed for the most part. Little tricks and tips that I am happy to share with you.

Many brain injury victims never fully regain their short term memory functions, so we must learn how to navigate our lives with some coping strategies. Of course there are many memory rehab centers in the United States, but not everyone has access to them, or the funds to get help. So, often we are left with our own devices.

First we should explore the distinction between the types of memory and which one creates the most problems after a brain injury.

* We have Sematic memory which is the retention of facts, much like/such as what we learn in school. Trauma can prevent information like words, images from different parts of the brain combining to make a Sematic memory. 

 

 Episodic memory: autographical memory of an event or experience including who, what, when, where. Trauma can shut down episodic memory and fragment the sequence of events.

* Emotional memory
The memory of the emotions you felt during the experience. After trauma, a person may get triggered and experience emotions often without context.

* Procedural memory
The memory of how to complete certain tasks without thinking actively. Trauma can change patterns of procedural memory for example a person might tense up and unconsciously alter their posture which could lead to pain. 

 

I have no memory of the day my life changed forever. I have no memory of the day before or any memory of the first two weeks I was in ICU. The day they moved me out of ICU my memory came back but still had some pretty big gaps in my memory. I remembered my family and friends but not much more that that. I do remember the doctors asking me everyday did I know where I was, what year it was and who was the president? I could not and still struggle with what year, day, month it is. My daughter's birthdays, what year/months they were born. I can never remember my own birthday or how old I am.

I did a little research on the presence and length of retrograde amnesia, it is a particularly important diagnostic indicator to the severity of the brain injury, Absence of memory of the events before or after the trauma. Retrograde amnesia points to a more severe brain injury. 

 

Anterograde amnesia: amnesia as seen in the movies is the curtain falling into blackness before and after. I thought this was a perfect description of what happens to me when trying to remember something.. Much like I ran into a brick was slammed shut in my memory bank. In real life amnesia usually happens at the time of the traumatic event.an

An example of Anterograde amnesia is if you were invited to go to a bbq and a day later you couldn't remember being invited.

My injury was at the frontal lobe of the brain, located just above the eyes and is considered or emotional control center. It is extremely susceptible to traumatic brain injury in a car, bus, brain surgery, sports, football, occupational injuries or slips and falls. If the frontal lobe of the brain is injure it could lead to significant memory loss, as well as emotional issues. 

 

The first time I had to my own shoe without help was quite humorous, thought not so much at the time. I just sat there with laces in my hands staring at my shoes. My hands didn't know what to do with them. In frustration I just tucked my laces into my shoes and out the door I went. The next day I remembered exactly how to tie them, then quickly forgot again. Slip on shoes have become my friend, although I still attempt it, sometimes I remember how and sometimes I don't.. Its a hit or miss. Just trying to remember what do it they go on makes me nauseous.

One of my biggest challenges is remembering to eat or drink water. I know it sounds crazy but I was forgetting to eat, drink water, brush my teeth, hair or shower. My occupational therapist has helped me make a chore chart, much like the ones I made for my girls. We made a check off list of daily personal hygiene, including drinking water and eating. My husband puts 3 water bottles in the fridge before he leaves for work and I have to drink them all before he gets home at 6 pm. It really does help. 

 

I tried alarms to remind me to take my meds, I had the cutest tones.. Water drops for a drink water reminder, snoopy was to remind me to take my medications, but if I didn't jump up right away, I would forget the second I turned the alarm off. Or I get halfway down the hall and I completely forget why I'm even in the hallway.

Create a routine list. It helps me so much. I have a very cute memory board my friend made for me and I write down my daily routine, eating and drinking included. Then I check them off as I do them. I even have gold stars! A Chalkboard works great also. I have it right next to my bed so I can see it when I get up in the morning or go to bed. Making a routine really works for me. Whatever works best for you as we are all different.

I found this fantastic free app for my android called " Care zone" it reminds you to take medications, how much your supposed to take, and how often. It also has a In case of an emergency(ICE) list and your doctor's names and numbers. I highly recommend it. There are some really good reminder apps out there. I even put my doctors appointments in there for a reminder. Cozi is a good one also. 

 

Visual images, like pictures and other visuals to memorizem important people and places. Didn't quite work for me, but it just might for you❤

This one is my favorite and really works for me.. Write it down and say it out loud repeatedly. My daughter's get a good laugh at at this as I go through my day shouting "Change clothes into the dryer" or " 2 cups!" saying it out loud and repeating it when your trying to retain something.

Remembering numbers. Not my strong point. I had only been home for a couple days when I had to go into Seattle for a doctors appointment. While we were on the ferry my husband was on the phone and handed me pen and paper to write a number down for him. I froze. I couldn't remember how to write. That walk came up in my memory and slammed tightly shut. I now use an alphabet and number chart to remind me how to write them. It is with me always. 

 

Visual images, like pictures and other visuals to memorizem important people and places. Didn't quite work for me, but it just might for you❤

This one is my favorite and really works for me.. Write it down and say it out loud repeatedly. My daughter's get a good laugh at at this as I go through my day shouting "Change clothes into the dryer" or " 2 cups!" saying it out loud and repeating it when your trying to retain something.

Remembering numbers. Not my strong point. I had only been home for a couple days when I had to go into Seattle for a doctors appointment. While we were on the ferry my husband was on the phone and handed me pen and paper to write a number down for him. I froze. I couldn't remember how to write. That walk came up in my memory and slammed tightly shut. I now use an alphabet and number chart to remind me how to write them. It is with me always. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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