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About My New Normal

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post. At 59, in great health and working full-time as a copy editor for AARP, Suzanne was planning a trip to London to celebrate her 60th birthday, when everything changed. She experienced a series of seemingly unrelated health complications... Read more

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ABCs of Brain Injury: S Is for Setback

Brain injury recovery often follows a circuitous path; just like the board game, Life,  it has unexpected twists and turns.

Brain injury recovery is a marathon, not a sprint, and, like the Boston Marathon, often features Heartbreak Hills of its own.

To the brain injury survivor,  who is trying to stay positive and celebrate any incremental improvement, it can be frustrating to have  a setback.

Last year, on Friday, July 28, I slipped on water in my garage that was there from one of those torrential summer storms, and I ended up with my wrist broken in two places and a small cut and fractured orbital bone where my head hit the concrete.

Photo | Carole Starr via Suzanne Tobin

But  Carole J. Starr, who I introduced in my last post, has taught me to “look for the silver lining.”

So here are two of them:

  1. Thankfully, the cut on my eyebrow was closed with just glue and there was no displacement of the orbital bone. Also,  I was grateful it was my left wrist, because I’m right-handed.
  2. I would have been totally helpless if it had been my right, unable to do any activities of daily living (ADLs) and would have needed an aide 24/7 or a stay  in  a nursing home or rehabilitation center.

I spent most of August in bed, alternately reading a chapter of Carole Starr’s “To Root and to Rise: Accepting Brain Injury,”  book, with a writing day to really think about the honest answers to the questions she posed after each chapter.

I also listened to many audiobooks, since that is  how I “read” since my brain injury.  My brain has a finite amount of energy, and  “normal” reading requires too much of that energy.

By the time I got the cast off and was in the midst of twice a week occupational therapy to restore my range of motion and strengthen my wrist and arm, it was late October, marking the fourth anniversary of my downhill spiral caused by the rare brain infection, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), which would separate my life into two distinct eras: before injury (B.I,) and after injury A.I.),

When  I finished the book,  I was surprised to look back and see how far I have come on the path to acceptance  since my diagnosis in mid-December 2013. Since Carole J. Starr has taught me to “look for the silver lining.”

If you are somewhere on the road to brain injury recovery, please share your thoughts on acceptance  in the comments section below. If you are a caregiver, please give us any suggestions you might have on bolstering your spirits and those of your brain injury survivors during a setback.

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Suzanne Tobin

About Suzanne Tobin

Suzanne Tobin is a former copy editor and designer for The Washington Post.


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