Salvation: Be Inspired

Is inspiration enough to restore broken neurons and heal a brain injury?

Posted Aug 06, 2018

This is part seven of a weekly serialization of chapters from Salvation, a section of my book describing the hope that effective treatment brings. Part one is here. For the first time in over five and a half years and after standard rehab had made little change to my injury, I received a "yes" to my goal of healing my brain. Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me begins at the start of my brain injury journey; the Salvation section begins the journey of restoring my neurons. This week, I discover healing neurons may be inspiring but it's extremely hard work.

Salvation

Chapter 10: Biofeedback Begins and Lifeliner Ends

Shireen Jeejeebhoy
Source: Shireen Jeejeebhoy

I finished my first neurofeedback screen and spouted off about how I don’t find stories where people have support structure inspiring, and I don’t like being compared to them. Show me a story of a person with a brain injury who doesn’t have anyone helping them out, finding them treatment, or participating in it with them. Show me that person, and I’ll be inspired.

“I find you inspiring,” she said.

My brain stopped working. How could she?

In between the next neurofeedback screens, she played Connect 4 with me. She monitored my brainwaves as we played. I looked at the holes in the vertical board, picked up a yellow round chip, and had no idea what to do with it as my hand slipped the chip into a gap at the top of one of the columns. Swiftly my subconscious mind beat my brain trainer. She said it was similar to the phenomenon of people blinded by brain injury who can navigate with ease as if they can see (because their eyeballs still work).

She also began reading with me after a neurofeedback screen. I read one page of an article, and she asked me questions. She gave me big hints as to the answers as I stared at her, thinking I understood her questions until her umpteen emphasis on a word made me realize I’d forgotten what I’d read seconds earlier.

Well, I had told them I wanted my reading back, and this was the way to do it.

I fought sleep after the final neurofeedback screen even though it had a good ratio of SMR to muscle tension. As she removed my electrodes and cleaned me up, she couldn’t answer how I could be focused and almost sleeping at the same time. So I finally said I’d go home and think on it. Later I recalled my psychologist explaining it takes much more effort to do what was once effortless. Maybe that was it. When I didn’t focus, I felt better, more awake. When I did, I felt heavy-eyed. I was supposed to pay attention to how I felt when I did well during a neurofeedback screen so that I could replicate it at home when doing tasks. But I didn’t want to feel like that every time I worked!

The second week of brain biofeedback, understanding seeped in. The indicators were not random lines jumping up and down. They meant something. I fixed on one of them. I was to raise it above a threshold. My forehead grew cold behind my skull, and the batteries powering my neurons died. I struggled to hang on, to keep going. Fatigue smacked my focus.

The person in charge of the Toronto office said hello as I was leaving. I asked her, “Why can’t I read? Why can’t I learn?”

She explained patiently, “Your theta is too high. That’s why you can’t learn. We’re bringing it down.” She said something about meta, but I didn’t understand.

I’m never going to read like I had, I realized with pain that sliced through me like a butcher knife. All I wanted to do was curl up in a chair with a cup of chocolate and get lost for a couple of hours in a book, not have to cover off, highlight, and ask myself recall questions after each bloody paragraph. But I had to. So I might as well suck it up and get with the program as Dr. Phil said on Oprah. Does it suck? Yeah. But it’s the only way God will let me read now. Bloody hell. Oh well. Crap.

I looked around the room, wondering which door to exit. She led me out. Dazed, exhausted, worried about where I was going, I went to the elevator. I hated elevators, but I didn’t know where the stairs were. I pressed the button and swayed.

“Pop!” my mind demanded. Pop? I hadn’t drunk pop in years and years. “Ginger ale!” my brain screamed. The doors of the tiny box opened, and I stepped in. Down one floor, I peered out. This looked like the hallway I’d entered when I’d found the building earlier. I followed it to two glass doors and hesitantly reached out to try which one opened. Always a conundrum figuring out which door to open. The door resisted the pull of my weak arms.

Finally, I was outside in the late-afternoon September air. I somehow made it home though my eyelids kept resting on my lower lashes. I fell through my front door and leaned against my wall, relieved I’d arrived.

- To be continued next week.

Copyright ©2017-2018 Shireen Anne Jeejeebhoy. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

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