One of my favorite analogies to describe the affects of Traumatic Brain Injury is the Earthquake Map. Imagine taking a trip in your car (using a road map not your GPS) and you happen upon a section of the road that was destroyed by an earthquake. Naturally you reach for the map to find an alternate route. Unfortunately, the map you packed is for a different geographic area and is of no use.
You wander off the main highway. Each new road leads you into a maze of detours and dead ends. The car runs out of gas. Disoriented, frustrated and desperate you set out on foot to find your way. The path leads you through unfamiliar territory. You find yourself lost now in the woods. The woods lead to a stream, the stream leads to a waterfall, the waterfall leads to a cliff but at the base of the drop you can faintly see lights in windows of what appears to be a small town. You have no tools or supplies, how do you get there?
Corey looks for that answer every day. Most days she only finds a detour that sends her in circles, but today she rebuilt a small bridge; plank by plank.
On the way to Bryn Mawr we had to bring the van to our mechanic. The route we needed to take was Corey’s daily commute to school prior to the accident. She was very quiet as we traveled. Watching her through the rearview mirror I asked her if she knew where she was. “My School is up here on the right”. I was shocked! She recognized where we were. (Plank #1)
Further down the street I reminded her that she had a childhood friend that lived on the same road. I asked her if she remembered who it was. She couldn’t remember Emily’s name but pointed to the house at the exact moment we passed it. At the bottom of the hill she directed me to turn right; “this is the way I used to go to cheerleading”. She was right. (Plank #2)
After our appointment we continued through town. Corey asked where we were going.
M – “Bryn Mawr”, “we will see Kate and Natalie today”.
C – “What about Elaine”?
This was the first time Corey didn’t panic about Bryn Mawr and she not only remembered Elaine, she remembered her name! (Plank #3)
During our session with Kate, Corey worked with the calendar recalling the month, day and date and labeling the holidays correctly. Kate pulled out Corey’s index cards to test her sight reading. The first card was “JohnPaul”. Corey looked at the card and said, “Happy”. We encouraged her to trace the letters with her finger (this helps her to recognize the symbols). She traced as she spoke each letter then declared his name “JohnPaul”. She paused and looked at Kate, “he makes me happy”. Kate showed Corey the card with Caitlin’s name. Corey looked at it and said, “Nice” “Very Polite”. This continued with each of the animal’s names. We realized that she recognized the names but thought she had to describe them not name them! (Plank #4)
We finished lunch and I asked Corey if she was ready to go. She agreed. Surprised she didn’t ask me where we were going I asked her if she knew.
C – “I’m going to work with Natalie”
My mouth literally dropped open. “Corey! You remembered”
C – “Mom, I was paying attention to what you told me”
OKAY…who are you and what have you done with Forgetful Fran? (Plank #5)
I’m so used to the normal state of confusion that when Corey has moments of clarity I am surprised, elated and almost giddy…until she finds the next dead end.
On the way home, the veil dropped and repetitive questioning resumed. She didn’t remember leaving our home that morning, working with Kate and Natalie, nor understanding where we were driving.
I was a little sad but still felt great about the day; we had 5 hours of clarity. 5 hours of complete Cognitive awareness. If we had 5 today, it will happen again!
Corey you are creating a new map. It might have some woods, a cliff or two but you’re finding your way ~ rebuilding your bridge one plank at a time…I’m going to keep looking for new wood, xoxo