In 2001 I had a roll over accident in a Ford Explorer going 75 mph after a tire blow out. I was hospitalized overnight with a closed head injury and was released the next day. I am an ICU nurse and went back to work after 3 weeks. Unfortunately I was unable to function as I had prior to my accident and underwent cognitive testing and was found to be severely impaired. I was suffering from denial due to my head injury and was not able to work as a nurse and became very depressed. I had difficulty articulating words, was unable to perform simple sequential tasks such as remembering the steps necessary to go to the grocery store, get out my debit card, slide it through the scanner and then take my groceries and go. I required someone to remind me it was time to pay, and then remind me to slide it across the scanner and then tell me it was time to leave! My physician suggested that I apply for disability benefits since I was unable to work. Partly due to my denial and my stubborn nature I refused. Fortunately, my employer allowed me to work part time as a receptionist while I recovered for 6 months. I finally felt that I was ready to return to nursing so I spoke with my neuropsychologist who refused to provide me a release for direct patient care. They told me that in order for me to return to patient care as an ICU nurse my employer would need to take full responsibility for my rehab and completely retrain me and then decide if I was safe to practice nursing! Fortunately my employer did invest the time and resources and after 6 years I returned to ICU! It has been 14 years since my accident and I have made a full recovery!
One of my tips to recover from a brain injury is to get adequate rest as your brain needs more time to compensate. Also, I played scrabble to rebuild connections and improve my memory. When I started playing scrabble I could only create 3 letter words. At the end of only one year I was able to create 7 letter words and my memory was much better. Any type of activity that helps those neurons find new pathways is a great way to help your brain heal. My insurance would not pay for neurological rehab but did offer some benefits for some cognitive rehab which was very helpful. Remember, even if your insurance doesn't cover rehabilitation it is important to engage in activities that stimulate and engage you while allowing time to get adequate rest.
It took three years to fully recover. I was 36 years old at the time. I am now almost 50 years old and have since completed my Bachelors in Nursing and am returning to school to earn my MBA in Healthcare Management. I have started several successful businesses and am currently working as an RN Advocate and insurance specialist. Never give up on yourself and accept where you are right now and appreciate every small gain. Remember, you are unique and special and the world needs everything you have to offer!
At the time I believed my life was over but through this experience I have learned humility, patience, acceptance and empathy.
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