Let me first start once again by thanking everybody for their continued support, even as days turn to weeks and the novelty, for lack of a better term, of what happened wears off. Brendan will hopefully soon get to a level of understanding in which he realizes exactly how many people he has behind him. Seeing how many people, near and far, have reached out with a kind word, a prayer, or an offer to help, will undoubtedly lift his spirits and motivate him during his road to recovery. My family can never thank you all enough for all that you have said, offered to do, and done.
Just as a heads-up, I’ll likely be slowing down entries to just one every couple days. As Brendan settles into rehab, there are less significant day-to-day changes to report. This doesn’t mean he isn’t progressing, he certainly is, but just not quite as drastically as before, at least for now.
Brendan certainly is becoming more and more himself everyday. Yesterday morning, when I arrived at the hospital, he was up brushing his teeth, dressed and ready for the day. We went over to the dining hall for breakfast, where he scarfed down a meal, but left enough space to nibble on cookies and muffins back in his room when we returned. He seemed pretty energized, chatty and cooperative, so it was a good start to the day.
We went down to his first class of the day, recreational therapy. This therapy is aimed at helping Brendan return to the kinds of leisure activities and socializing he did before his injury. He impressed us with his ability to remember many sports that interested him and even remembered that he had signed up for a half-marathon in September. Many answers to basic getting-to-know-you questions were still a bit off, but every day he seems to be doing better. I forgot to mention that he was actually discharged from physio-therapy, meaning his co-ordination and balance are no longer at risk, which is excellent news. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be running, skiing, or doing water-sports any time soon – the rec therapist made sure we were clear that any activity that puts him in any danger of bumping that head of his is not a risk worth taking in the near future. There are certainly less risky sports that interest him though and may be more wise choices for the time being. He actually had us all laughing with some inappropriate comments about taking up golf with my dad, but once again, I’ll save those stories for him to share down the road.
Following rec therapy, he had occupational therapy, which he will continue to have every weekday while he’s in rehab. To summarize briefly, occupational therapy is intended to return Brendan as closely as possible to day-to-day life, including both at home and at work. They start this therapy off with a set of questions to help them better understand where Brendan stands on the amnesia scale. I peeked over their shoulder to see the questions and noticed this test, http://www.utmb.edu/psychology/Adultrehab/GOAT.htm and although I can’t recall his score, I know that he is still in the post-traumatic amnesia phase. They did say this means he might actually be in rehab a little earlier than most patients, but he seems to already be improving and benefiting from the therapies regardless. Yesterday he played the card game “War” with the therapist and had no troubles choosing the higher or lower card. When it came to sorting the cards by suit, however, he became completely confused. He did manage to sort them by color. Today when asked to do the same thing, he was able to sort them by suit without a problem. Already a significant difference! He also played a spelling game today, and although he may have cheated a little bit, he did seem to acknowledge when his words were made up, but cleverly tried to give them definitions anyways. Overall, still a ways to go to be even near the level he would have been prior to the injury, but it is only one of his first days in the therapy and there’s already been a notable improvement.
After OT he had speech therapy. This therapy, in Brendan’s case, is not focused on pronunciation, grammar, or anything like that, but rather making sense of what is being said to him, as well as trying to get his thoughts into the right words. What he is doing at the moment, and it’s said to be normal, is over-embellishing his answers, as well as getting stuck on one word or thought and having a hard time moving past it. He does seem to be getting better at this, but once again, does have a long way to go. I am sure we will see significant improvements as he does ‘wake-up’ from this PTA phase.
One thing we have noticed, and that many friends and family may see as a long-term effect of the injury, is what they call a personality change. When I first heard Brendan had a brain injury, this was my biggest concern. I pictured my generous, kind, compassionate and humorous brother as an entirely different person and this scared me more than anything I had heard so far. This is not what they’re talking about when they say, “personality change”. Instead, it is actually still very much Brendan’s personality, particularly his sense of humor, but just a lot of it – kind of like an exaggerated Brendan. There’s just less inhibition, I’d say. Some of his hilarious jokes that would normally be saved for close family and friends, are being said in front of complete strangers. But this is actually a good sign, as it does mean the brain is healing. Another thing controlled by the front of the brain are basic instincts, for example, hunger, which would explain his increased appetite.
Apart from these therapies, Brendan will likely start to participate in some group therapies as well. Since he’s been all cleared for physio, he may also get to join the sort-of “athletics club” in the not-too-distant future. The only concern would be that he would get confused, or maybe take off, as he is starting to get a little bit less cooperative and willing to be where he is.
While a few days ago his obsession was with food, today it was with his condo and how he could get back there. Unlike with the food, he seemed much more irritated with not being able to get home and less willing to hear us out about why he couldn’t leave. He understands he is in a hospital, that he has had a brain injury, but for some reason, just couldn’t get the idea of getting to his condo out of his mind. Once we got him to therapy, however, he did seem to let this go a bit and hopefully in his free time this afternoon hasn’t returned to focusing on this idea. While it was easier on us when he wasn’t asking questions, I do think it is a good sign that he is getting more restless and not so complacent, as Brendan is the kind of guy that probably thinks he’s best to work things out on his own, even if this time it’s not possible.
Apart from the therapies, Brendan is keeping busy with some of his closest friends and family visiting, eating (constantly!), and going for short walks. He also needs a lot of down time to rest. Fatigue is an understandable symptom of a brain injury – the brain needs rest to heal. Overall, I think the move to rehab will be incredibly beneficial to him. I think that in the upcoming weeks, it will be good for him to have a daily routine and keep himself busy. I look forward to him coming out of this PTA stage and showing us all the determination and perseverance we know he has within him. Once he can truly understand what it is that’s happened and what it is he has to do, I have faith that he will overcome the challenges he faces and pleasantly surprise even his most firm believers with what he accomplishes.
As for visiting, he is becoming clearer by the day, and likely in the upcoming weeks, visitors will be welcomed. Weekends, in particular, will be a good time for visits, as he will not have therapies scheduled at this time. Perhaps the best way to arrange a visit, would be by sending me an email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t believe I can thank anyone enough and every entry will likely start and end with my sincere gratitude towards all of you – family, friends and strangers – who have and continue to help both Brendan and my family through these trying times.