Brain Injury Rehabilitation Requires Full Spectrum Treatment

Brain Injury Rehabilitation Goes on for A Lifetime

By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

Brain injury rehabilitation is a complicated process that requires treatment for all elements of the disorder including cognitive, physical, behavioral and mood disorders. The brain injury medical establishment has done a good job of treating severe brain injury in the acute and sub-acute stages. Yet the followup care is lacking for the survivors of coma and virtually non-existent with those with mild or moderate brain injury. Brain injury recovery does not stop a few weeks after the injury regardless of what the insurance company wants the doctors to believe.

Recovery from brain injury is a generation long process of retraining the brain to do the things that it was doing before the brain injury. It took a generation to learn to be an adult. We cannot expect solutions to the complicated issues of executive dysfunction, memory, mood and depression to go away even within six months of the injury.

Any brain injury recovery program which does not address each major area of deficit, will have only partial success. Any successful program must provide cognitive training and challenges, physical therapy and a plan to address depression and mood disorders. A brain injury rehabilitation plan must be sculpted with the challenges the brain injury survivor has in mind. A program that does not provide for areas of weakness, particularly frontal lobe dysfunction is destined to fail. If the brain injury has caused deficits in initiation and follow through, a program that does not assist the brain injury survivor with starting things and getting them done is lacking.

Brain injury rehabilitation to me means a lifetime of recovery because that is what I strive for in my own life. While I did not benefit from a formal rehabilitation program, I accidentally got the benefits of an elegant rehabilitation plan when I got back into school. As I was a skilled athlete both before and after my car wreck, I got the benefits of aerobic exercise before anyone identified that this could help with recovery.

What I didn’t get and what was perhaps the most dangerous of my symptoms was help with mood. I lived through six months of the darkest time in my life, with behavioral extremes driving away loved ones and friends. It was only when I accidentally rediscovered hope for my future, that the mood issues stop controlling my life.

I believe that all survivors need a goal. Perhaps because of frontal lobe deficits, the more concrete the goal, the better. For me that goal was law school. That goal gave me the motivation to start pushing that rock back up the hill. In the process, my cognitive function came back to near baseline and behavioral problems even out.

Am I cured? Perhaps not, but each day I try to make my recovery better than the day before. If I stop pushing upward, I may lose the momentum to keep pushing that rock ever higher.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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