Traumatic Brain Injury
We have a Dented Halo
Special Angels all are we
Bumped heads on Heavens gates
Not time to go you see
This special Dented Halo
Reminds us every day
To thank our lucky stars
We were not taken away
We could have been an angel
In the Heavens up above
But were left with special Halo's
On Earth to spread our Love
Our Halo's are not golden
For wings we all may lust
But instead a Dented Halo
Was God's choice of gift for us
So be proud to wear your Halo
Our work here is not through
We have more Love and Joy to spread
And I'm spreading mine to you
Poem © Sandi Frunzi
Our brains are one of the most magnificent and complex parts of our body. Every brain is special, always changing, and can be extremely sensitive to our environment. The brain is made up of many parts, each part responsible for different functions that control our ability to balance, walk, talk, and eat. It coordinates and regulates our breathing, blood circulation, and heart rate. Our brain is what gives our body the ability to speak, to process and remember information, make decisions, and feel emotions. The brain is divided into sections called lobes, and each lobe has a specific job function.
An injury to the frontal lobe (red) may affect an person's ability to control their emotions, impulses, and behavior, or may cause difficulty recalling certain events or speaking. An injury to the temporal lobe (purple) may lead a person to demonstrate difficulties with communication or memory. A person who has injured their parietal lobe (yellow) may have trouble with their five primary senses. An injury to the cerebellum may affect balance, movement, and coordination. An injury to a person's occipital lobe (blue) may lead to trouble seeing or perceiving the size and shape of objects around them. The brain stem connects the brain with the spinal cord. It controls hunger, thirst, and some of the most basic body functions, such as body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing - the body’s involuntary functions that are essential for survival.
Friday, March 11, 2016, was just another workday for my husband, who was the Public Works Superintendent for our little city. I was up making a cup of coffee and watching him pull out of the driveway that morning to head to work. We had gone and picked up our niece, Dorothy, and her baby girl the night before for the weekend. I had told the kids there would be no school since we had company, so today would be a free day. It wasn't until mid-afternoon rolled around that our world would be rocked to its core.
When I heard the pounding on the door, I was in the kitchen. I rushed into the living room, wondering who would bang on the door like that instead of using the doorbell. I opened the door to see our friend Daniel, one guys that worked with my husband. His next words slammed into me like a load of bricks. “Fabian collapsed at work. They just loaded him into the ambulance to go to the hospital. I tried to call. Cassie tried to text but you didn’t answer, so I just drove over here.” They had tried to call and text. It was the first time I had regretted turning off my cell phone service to rely on Wi-Fi. I put on my shoes and told the kids that dad had been rushed to the hospital, but I had no details. I could tell they were scared. It was in their eyes. I was thankful that Dorothy was here. She told me to go and not worry about what was going on here. She would help with the kiddos. I headed out the door to the car. Daniel had waited for me. As I got in my car to leave, he grabbed my hand and prayed for his dear friend and all of us.
My thoughts were numb. I couldn’t think. I literally drove right past the hospital and ended up having to make a u-turn. After parking and walking into the hospital, I gave them my name and asked to see my husband. They had no record of him coming in yet. I had beaten the ambulance. I sat down in the waiting area, thinking of the conversation that my husband and I had previously. I had been talking to my husband about how he was working too much. I was angered because he was not taking the time he had for lunch to just sit down, eat, and chill for a few. I had told him his job was not worth dying for. We lived right around the corner and nothing major was going to happen that would not allow him to sit down and grab a bite to eat. I sat in the emergency waiting room thinking of that conversation and I could not even explain the range of emotions I was feeling. The security guy at the desk called out my name and told me that my husband had just arrived. I went to the desk, and he put a hospital visiting band on my wrist and then let me through the doors. I was led to a temporary room they had moved my husband to and upon seeing him, my eyes filled with tears. The medics were just taking the restraints off of him as I was coming through the curtain. Blood covered his head and face and he had a huge knot forming on the right side. He was finally coming to and seemed groggy. My husband had to be sedated because he had become combative in the ambulance. The nurses came in and started cleaning him up and gave me a bag for his belongings. It felt like hours had passed. Our mayor and his son came by and gave me a hug. Ray, my husband’s father came up to see what had happened.
A few hours later the doctor came in with the results of the CT Scan and told my hubby’s father and I that my husband had suffered a moderate-to-severe brain contusion from the impact of the fall, as well as several skull fractures to the right side of the head. The impact also caused a tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure, which resulted in more skull fractures to the back of the head. He has swelling on the brain along with several broken facial bones and the possibility of surgery was likely, but that they had to wait for the swelling to go down to re-evaluate. I sat there listening to this doctor tell me I needed to prepare for the worst as I watched my husband just lay there. My thoughts were a mess as family and friends came by to offer support. There are so many things that I don’t recall during those first few hours in the ER.
Mom and dad had to help me find my car. I could not remember where I had parked for the life of me. I didn’t get home from the hospital until well after 1 am and the kids were already in bed, thankfully. They admitted my hubby to the hospital and he will remain in ICU, where they can monitor and wake him every few hours. The doctor said he was ordering another CT scan in the morning. The nurses had put this padding around the inside of the bed in case my husband suffered another seizure. He had only had two seizures that I knew about, and they were both self-induced. They will also give him morphine for pain. Doctors and nurses explain things so differently. It can be really hard to understand. The neurosurgeon will visit soon and if he gives the go ahead, my husband will be moved to a regular floor. He is suffering from headaches and dizziness and also complaining about his right elbow.
They have done many tests from MRIs, EEGs, X-rays, and tons more, but there are no determining factors. They still cannot pinpoint exactly why he collapsed. I got a call from my husband’s boss and the video camera out in the shop bay caught his fall entirely on tape. At the very beginning, there appears to be some sort of vapor that my husband walks through. I have not seen it yet. The neurosurgeon told me he was without oxygen for a little over three minutes, which has caused brain damage. Severe brain damage can occur at four minutes plus. He is in a lot of pain and the doctors have increased his pain medications. He hasn’t been sleeping well and being woken up every few hours to have vitals checked doesn’t help. The plastic surgeon paid a visit, and we received good news - his facial bones are still in alignment and will heal on their own, so no surgery will be required. Yay! But it will take time to heal. Time. Hospital food can be downright bland and since the doctor gave my husband the all clear to eat solid foods, he wanted a burger and fries, so I swung by Burger King on the way back up to the hospital that evening. He is still dizzy and having headaches, but talking and making jokes. My husband is such a strong and amazing man!!
Days and hours have merged together for us. Test after test. Doctors in and out of the room constantly. At times, I am not sure if I am coming or going myself. My husband spent only four days in the hospital, two days in ICU, and another two days in a regular room before they released him to go home. It felt longer. We were finally home and the kids were thrilled to see daddy, as I had only taken them up there twice. That first night, he slept like a log. Me, not so much. I was just so thankful that God had let this wonderful man stay with us. I woke up every hour to check on him that first night. My husband has a long way to go. He will have months of therapy before he may return to work and will go through a program at the hospital called BITS (Brain Injury Transitional Services). We have been told that this process could be lengthy.
The last night my husband was in the hospital, mom and dad brought me a gift. It was a cell phone. They both told me that there should never be another time that I am without a way to be contacted or vice versa.
The graphic video below was captured by one of the security cameras at my husband's job. I intentionally sped it up for viewing purposes. The music playing is called "False Knight" by Christopher Larkin from the game Hollow Knight.
Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) can occur from a bump or blow to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object, or an object piercing the skull and into the brain. No matter the type of TBI a person has, damage to the brain occurs right away. The symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of damage to the brain.
A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that worsens or does not go away, repeated nausea or vomiting, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
My husband was diagnosed with a moderate Traumatic Brain Injury. He suffered a cerebral contusion (swelling and bruising of the brain, mixed with blood from arteries, veins, or capillaries), skull fractures to the right side of his skull, along with several facial fractures. The seizure he had caused more skull fractures to the back of the skull. He was enrolled in BITS (The Brain Injury Transitional Services) program at one of our local hospitals. He went through months and months of intense therapy that included physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapy for two years.
He still experiences the following problems following his Traumatic Brain Injury:
Physical problems—headaches and dizziness, problems with balance, and muscle weakness.
Sensory problems—sensitivity to light, sound, and touch; hearing loss or ringing in the ears; changes in vision.
Behavior changes—being more emotional or feeling anxious or angry; feeling depressed or having mood swings.
Problems with thinking skills—difficulty paying attention, remembering, and learning new information; difficulty planning, setting goals, and problem solving. We have a dry erase board and everything is written down.
Speech and language problems—problems finding the words to say what you want or need; needing more time to form sentences and articulate words. Trying to hold an everyday conversation and forgetting some words that you are trying so hard to form is daily for him. Sometimes, it is easier to write things out.
Every TBI is different. My husband tried to return to work, but after almost two years (and another six months of therapy during this time), the side effects of his traumatic brain injury took a toll on his body and left him unable to work. Fatigue, memory loss, not being able to stay on task or complete those tasks, became too much for him. After medically retiring from his job in October 2018 (following an emergency back surgery and a few months later - a neck surgery), he filed for Social Security Disability. Other injuries he sustained that were not treated at the time were a labral tear in his right shoulder, detached bicep, a torn left hip, and a torn RCL ligament in his right elbow. After two long years, two denials, and a SSDI hearing with an awesome attorney - my husband was granted permanent disability and awarded Social Security Disability benefits. He had proved his case.
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