Survivors Share Challenges and Interests

2014-1005 Head Gears

Excerpt of article written by Prue Salasky | Daily Press

Keen curiosity, self-awareness, empathy and humor were all on display at the monthly meeting of the Williamsburg/Newport News Brain Injury Survivors Group at The Denbigh House in Newport News. Each month’s meeting centers on a different topic related to brain injuries, such as how to use strategies to improve memory, how to handle frustrations that stem from brain injury, and how to cope with resulting fatigue and sleep issues. It also includes a healthy dose of socializing and interaction. Those with newer injuries take comfort and advice from those whose symptoms have modified over time.

“Every brain injury is different depending upon which area of the brain is damaged. Many people (like me!) who are injured in car crashes experience frontal lobe injuries which affect aspects of personality like acting out , frustration, not wanting to deal with details, being impulsive,” said Sara Lewis, group founder, who just completed a degree in speech pathology.

The dozen or so participants range in age from their 20s to 60s, from stroke-sufferers to those with subarachnoid hemorrhage, and others who sustained damage in auto accidents, in falls, or as a result of domestic abuse. Their professions are equally diverse, including a former soldier and a former instructor at a nuclear power plant. They’re bright and engaged, and evidence that TBI doesn’t discriminate.

Lewis presented a slide show on sleep issues. Several shared their sleep patterns, and talked of the changes they experienced over the years.

Chris Semple, 60, who fought in the first Gulf War, suffered a stroke while deployed. “I had to sleep about three years,” he said. “Now I don’t sleep.” Others concurred that after their initial injury, they slept a lot, but that as time passed they rarely enjoyed prolonged, regular sleep. The ensuing discussion zig-zagged between the importance of REM sleep, the dangers of the long-term use of over-the-counter sleep aids, and ways to achieve better sleep.

The conversation meandered from the state budget to the need for humor to get through the day to recommendations for yoga, meditation and Tai Chi as ways to handle stress. They discussed sleep apnea, their risks of developing Alzheimer’s, and the effects of their medications.

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Thanks to Prue Salasky for writing the article; the Daily Press for committing its resources to publish the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the pictures and text I used in this post.

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