My post last night reflected a conversation between Dr. Ross and me because yesterday afternoon Corey started to become overwhelmed and anxious (aka Corrine flew into Texas ready for a bull fight). She was regressing and reacting to her separation anxiety. Caitlin and I had a rough night and rougher morning with her.
One of the most important observations we’ve seen this week from the Carrick team is the sincere desire to work with each patient AND their families. Functional Neurology is not just diagnosing an injury or illness. It’s not just prescribing medication. It’s looking at the whole person. Corey is her physical injury. She is her medication and she is her thoughts. They cannot be separated, nor treated separately.
Our first session was with Dr. Ross. He sat with us for 90 minutes talking about how TBI not only affects the survivor but the family too. Although this wasn’t part of the scheduled Carrick protocol therapy, it was just as important…it was family therapy because we are all still healing.
Dr. Ross drew a sketch of the brain. Knowing we are a ‘band’ family, he broke the brain down for Corey using the following analogies.
What part of the band or orchestra keeps the tempo? The percussion section. In the brain, the percussion section is the cerebellum. It is the first to be developed and keeps the body’s tempo coordinating voluntary movements such as posture, balance, coordination and speech. It gives us smooth and balanced muscular activity.
As the brain grows and the person grows in the womb and as they mature, the rest of the band is formed. Each section enhances the sound and body of the whole band. The Frontal Lobe is the Band Director or Maestro. The Frontal Lobe directs everything the body does. Our DNA is the music.
What happens if one rogue instrument decides to play a different score? The rest of the band has no idea what that guy is doing and no one knows how to follow? What happens if the maestro stops directing and everyone loses their sheet music? That’s what happens when the brain is injured.
When the brain has had an injury, whether it is a concussion, moderate or a severe TBI, the persons DNA changes. Our new friend from Boston that has had concussions from ice hockey, can no longer eat any foods with soy, dairy, egg, peanut or gluten. Her sheet music has changed.
The injury has not only changed the DNA, it caused stress to the entire body. Corey is living in a state of stress every day. She is in a constant state of fight or flight because of her memory loss. The Maestro is no longer directing her orchestra. Dr. Ross looked at me and Caitlin and pointed out we are living in a state of stress, too. We have adapted our state of mind to the same fight or flight waiting for Corey’s explosions, fighting appeals and balancing life’s “normal” pressures while caring for Corey.
He reviewed the 3 components of a person/Corey; the physical/trauma, the chemistry/toxins and the mental/thoughts.
Corey lives the physical as well as the delicate balance of the chemistry needed to balance the loss of her sheet music. 90% of the medical world treats those two areas alone. What is often overlooked and is just as critical is her consciousness/thoughts.
Dr. Ross drew another Diagram;
Just as there is a spectrum for TBI, there is a spectrum of thoughts
Negative thoughts produce negative chemicals such as cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenaline. Positive thoughts release positive chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin.
Stress = Silent Killer
Negative thoughts will slow down healing. He reminded Corey of the deep breathing exercises we used yesterday.
Thoughts = Breathing
You can’t shut off your thoughts, (on Tibetan monks that practice meditation all day can achieve that). Thoughts are as fluid as the breaths you take BUT…you can control them with breathing.
Dr. Ross then joked with us “if you google’d meditation or how to release stress you’d find, exercise, eat a healthy diet, sit quietly, think positive thoughts”…his next statement, “DUH! If that worked, why would I be googling how to release stress?”
The answer is in WHAT you do when you breathe to release stress.
Think of your 5 senses; Sight, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. If you concentrate on 2 of the 5 you can meditate, breathe and control your thoughts.
1. Listen to your breath, 2. feel your breath or feel your heart rate. If you can concentrate on 2 of the 5 senses, you can control your anxiety. If you practice it several times a day, you can control your responses no matter where you are or how many people are around you.
It’s called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
Mindfulness is not easy. One of the most difficult challenges we face (and most TBI families face) every day is being mindful of why Corey’s reactions are so inconsistent. Plain and simple, it’s understanding where the injury is and what parts are still weak…and remembering that information when Corrine shows up! This week the therapy at Carrick has stimulated Corey’s right hemisphere trying to improve her left side. The right hemisphere houses awareness and anxiety. Carrick not only stimulated it, they took it on a roller coaster ride. The team at Carrick expected Corey to implode (Caitlin and I were hoping the first miracle would be behavior stability…we were told it would come). Corey’s outbursts are actually a good sign. She is aware. Her outbursts are her coping with what’s familiar to her.
Another good sign, while walking from the bathroom to the bed tonight, Caitlin noticed Corey’s left foot was kicking straight as she took a forward step. This is more than significant because she was not wearing her brace on her left leg…she was in her socks. Normally, when she walks her left foot flops about as she takes her step. We call it her floppy fish foot…That fish is swimming straighter. We can’t wait to go back tomorrow and show the team.
Our day will begin at 10am for diagnostics. Corey will be retested to compare the results to the initial intake testing. At 12:30 we meet with Dr. Ross and Dr. Brock to discuss the lab results and possible medication changes. And finally at 2pm Corey will have her last therapy session for the week. We will get our homework and make a plan for our next visit, xoxo