Rebuilding Broken Lives

Brain injuries can bring about significant changes that can be difficult to deal with on a number of levels. Whether these changes are immediate or gradually worsen over time, they create a sense of loss for individuals that can lead to behavioral and emotional changes, in addition to physical and cognitive impairments.

When these injuries go undiagnosed or left untreated, it’s easy for individuals to feel broken beyond repair. As they try to pick up the pieces of their lives, frustrations grow, hope fades, and new or worsening symptoms present, including mood swings, irritability, outbursts, and changes in personality.

These challenges can vary from person to person, but with the right support network and treatment programs, they can be identified and addressed to help individuals successfully rebuild their broken lives.

Lewis – an injured worker – was struck in the face with a hard object while working as a security guard. He lost consciousness and was taken to the emergency department where he was diagnosed with an acute concussion, nasal fracture, dental fracture, as well as a laceration and contusion. Lewis was discharged home. In the days and weeks following the attack, Lewis continued to experience worsening symptoms and he returned to the emergency department several times. Persistent symptoms caused Lewis to withdraw socially, fall into a depression, and manifest behaviors consistent with PTSD. In his own words, Lewis was broken.

Finally, a full two and a half years following his workplace assault, at the request of his workers compensation case manager, Lewis was referred and admitted to Learning Services in Northern California for post-acute neurorehabilitation.

When individuals, like Lewis, experience worsening symptoms that go undiagnosed or untreated for an extended period of time, it’s not uncommon to experience social, behavioral, and emotional deficits, in addition to cognitive and physical decline. Post-acute rehabilitation is designed to address issues related to health and safety, along with therapeutic interventions to improve physical and cognitive deficits.

Upon admission, Lewis felt an almost immediate sense of relief. In addition to finally finding a therapeutic path to address his pain and other physical symptoms, Lewis found renewed feelings of hope for the future.

“When hearing that I was finally able to come to Learning Services, I felt like a drowning man, and a lifeline was finally thrown to me,” said Lewis. “I already knew that Learning Services was going to be the place where I, as a broken man, could get reformed and rebuilt—I knew that from just being here for one week. Having met all the therapists, I knew this was where I needed to be.”

Lewis and his team of neurorehabilitation professionals went to work. Within three months of admission (88 days of post-acute neurorehabilitation), Lewis was discharged from the program a renewed, rebuilt man. Lewis showed marked improvement in function between the time of admission and discharge in both the Mayo Portland Adaptability Inventory (MPAI) and Supervision Rating Scale (SRS). These evaluations measure frequent problem areas that individuals can experience after hospitalization for acquired brain injury. Following treatment, Lewis’ MPAI and SRS scores showed statistically significant improvement, demonstrating progress in previously debilitating limitations and independence in daily living.

Perhaps most importantly, Lewis had finally received the appropriate treatment he had been waiting for. He felt like a new person, more capable, more aware of his limits, and equipped with the tools to tackle daily challenges to his physical, cognitive, mental, occupational, and emotional wellbeing.

“They took the broken pieces and built the man you see before you,” Lewis said. “Physically, I’m… able to walk over one mile a day and now able to understand my physical limits. I wasn’t able to do either of these before coming here. Speech-wise, I’m able to formulate my words, now able to complete my sentences, which I had terrible difficulty doing before. Occupational therapy-wise, they have been able to pull me out and reintegrate me into society. Before I was essentially a hermit at home. By talking to my psychologists, they helped me deal with my PTSD and (sharpen) my tools that I already had. They have also given me new tools and a new understanding about that. Holistically, they have made me a better man and have given me tools to help me with the lifetime debilitation of my brain.”

“I came here as a broken man,” he added. “No therapy for over two years or any kind of treatment and they have helped me pick up my pieces, put what is left together and begin moving forward. I was by no means myself before I came here … in many ways I had changed and in some ways the attack has changed me. But this place is helping me overcome the bad and learn to live with the differences.”

You can download the full case study here.