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Jeff’s Story: Brain Injury is Treatable

Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury (BI) are leading causes of injury-related death and disability in the U.S.  It changes the way your brain normally works and is caused by an external force to the head.  Commonly reported causes of BI are falls, motor vehicle crashes, being struck by or against a moving or stationary object or person, strokes, and assaults.  AMHC’s Center for Integrated Neuro-Rehab (Center) is a CARF accredited intensive outpatient program located in Caribou that is dedicated to exclusively treating brain injury.  The Center’s services are designed to address the unique medical, physical, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral needs of individuals with brain injuries

All his life, Jeff has been active and hardworking.  He is devoted to his family and is a doting grandfather.  He loved playing hockey as a teen, loves to watch the local games, and he even became a youth coach.  In 2009, at age 49, Jeff made a couple trips to the ER and to a specialist to get help for the pain he was having in his hand, it was weak, numb and tingling.  The specialist discovered his carotid artery was 100% blocked and the main artery on the other side of his neck was 98% blocked—the hand pain was due to a stroke that had gone undiagnosed.  Jeff immediately had successful surgery to repair the arteries, saving his life, but he was still left with residual numbness, pain, and weakness in his left hand.  Because of the stroke, he was also struggling with coping with his condition—he was quick to anger, his memory was lapsing and he was alternatively anxious and depressed.  To help alleviate the discomfort from his hand pain, he started going to physical therapy.  Upon learning the full scope of his injury, his physical therapist suggested he get help at AMHC’s Center for Integrated Neuro-Rehab.

Anxious about what the Center had to offer him, Jeff and his wife met with Pam Searles to talk about what the Center had to offer to help him with his coping skills, memory, feelings of depression/anxiety, and anger.  Despite some lingering uncertainty, he decided to give it a try.  Jeff struggled getting used to the routine and structure of the service at the beginning.  A few weeks into group, Jeff just wasn’t settling in to the routine and was not fitting in so he asked for a temporary time out.  Pam agreed it was for the best, but made sure he was clear that the door was being left open for him to come back if he wanted.  In a few weeks, Jeff had given considerable thought and he decided it was best to come back to the Center because his situation wasn’t getting any better.  He needed to do something and the Center was his best chance to work through his issues and improve his quality of life.

It wasn’t very long before Jeff was making progress and applying the tips and techniques he was learning at the Center to improve his coping skills and keep his anger in check.  This was also helping him to temper his anxiety and his depression was lessening considerably.  Jeff started to socialize and began to look forward to doing things he had loved all his life—especially watching youth hockey games.  Rather than isolating himself from the crowd of spectators, he joined in cheering with the crowd.  In time, Jeff got a job working at the ice rink working the high school game goal lights and helping out with the team’s practice drills.  Today when his friends ask him, “What happened to the old Jeff?” he responds that he just stops and thinks before he reacts; and that going to the Center is the best thing he could have done.