Tracking progress - rehab after brain injury
Paul Gianni recounts the things that motivated his remarkable recovery after his brain injury
While in hospital, I carried a three-ring binder that held all my notes, appointments and saved as a diary so I could track my progress. In the beginning, all my progress notes had to be written by the doctors and therapists since my strength and coordination (and thus my ability) to write were all impaired or non-existent. In it I also have my first attempts at writing my name after regaining semiconsciousness. Those scribbles looked like something a child might do. The letters were large, ill formed and basically readable. This binder also held my daily schedule so I would know which area and therapist to see next. I would have to say that of all therapies, my two favourites were physical therapy and speech/memory therapy.
Looking back, I can probably explain the reason for those two being my favourites – I was driven by immediate results and I could see advances made daily. I would attend those therapy sessions twice a day, and would notice daily that I could remember a little more, speak a little more clearly, walk a little further, and lift a little more weight. These advances seem trivial to some, but they meant the world to me as I slowly recovered.
I need more
In the evenings, other patients would gather in what was called ‘The Great Room’ to converse and relax after the day’s therapies. During these periods, I would hear the focus of discussion generally turn towards negative topics. Since I was already depressed enough with partial paralysis, memory problems and disfigurement, I did not want to partake in their little talks. Instead I sat in my room and thought (or dreamt) of what I would do if I was not in hospital but employed.
What a shock
Then it struck me one afternoon as if somebody had slapped me with a board; suddenly I looked up at the clock and noticed it was half past twelve. I thought to myself, “What am I doing here? I should be running to meetings, having a terrible lunch and getting some work done, not sitting in some hospital.” At that point, my stay at the hospital’s rehabilitation wing was completely different. I had a purpose….a mission!
With my shocking new knowledge, I attacked my therapies with new vigour and an absolute need to recover quickly. In the evenings while the other patients sat about in the great room, ate ice cream and drank soda, I returned to the physical therapy room to exercise. I lifted weights, walked on the balance beam, stretched, rode the exercises bike; everything I thought would help me get there faster. My knee kept aching painfully, but the doctor insisted I was fixating on an imaginary problem, which is common.
Nevertheless, with a new urgency, I pressed onward. Nightly I would sneak back into the physical therapy room, turn on a few lights so I wouldn’t draw attention to myself and then exercise on whatever equipment was available. Some of it was locked away, so my regime was limited. Also, I was unable to access all of the different therapy facilities, and some of the equipment for other things needed guidance, so I stuck with what I could do alone.
All that time I had been wearing hospital garments and slippers. I had relatives bring things I used to do so I could reacquaint myself with them, things such as a neck tie and calculator. I didn’t want to be obsolete or useless when the time came for me to get out of hospital. You cannot imagine the tears that poured into my eyes as I recalled how to tie a necktie and my shoes! I had done it! This was my first bit of proof; I thought that I do NOT belong here!
Since the outcome of each acquired brain injury is unique, not all readers can expect the same things I have, for I have been lucky.
If survivors’ families and caregivers are considerate, encouraging, patient and understanding, progress can be recognised. However, since not all survivors are able to recover to the same level of functioning, pressure and anger should be avoided.
This story was first seen in the Synapse bridge magazine, and was reproduced with the permission of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training Inc.
Possible motivators during rehabilitation
Post pictures in various areas of favourite pastimes*
Encourage them to push themselves a little more each day
Post awards, photos, certificates etc. That were earned in prior activities*
Discuss both past and future plans
Always congratulate the survivor on each accomplishment, no matter how minor it may seem to you
Avoid pessimism to the absolute greatest of your ability
*Caution Do this only if the survivor will be able to do those things again