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Anoxic & Traumatic Brain Injury & Hydrocephalus

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    Anoxic & Traumatic Brain Injury & Hydrocephalus

    Hi. I'm new here. I don't have a spinal cord injury, so I don't know if I belong. But this forum (CareCure) is the only place I've seen any intelligent conversation on topics relevant to my life. I'm a left high-above-knee amputee with brain injury. I have balance issues, and I'm full-time in a wheelchair. Since I didn't see another place to introduce myself, I'll give a quick background before I move forward. It will seem a bit of a novel, but it's the only way for me to give an accurate picture. I'm having some better-than-usual continuity for a few days now, so I decided now is a good time to post here. Maybe I won't sound like a complete idiot.
    On Thanksgiving Eve 2010 I was involved in a collision with a pickup truck while riding my motorcycle, that left my leg in the road and my blood in the ditch. I never lost conscientiousness, but I have no memory of events for about 3 weeks, except a few random "pictures" in my head that have no context. After a few days in the hospital, my wife thought that my shoulder looked funny. X-rays showed a type-5 (total) shoulder separation. I guess the doctors were so focused on the hole at the end of my leg they never saw anything else. Later in the week, my wife mentioned my talking was erratic (she equated it to "Rain Man"). At her request they did, a CT scan, I think it was. The results showed a "volume loss advanced for age". Then nothing else was addressed. There seemed to be a lot going on with infections and such; I had dialysis a few times. Although I have no memory of it for about 3 weeks, my physical recovery went along as expected. I was at home in about 5-6 weeks. After my leg healed, I was fitted for a prosthesis, then we scheduled to have my shoulder re-attached. I was laid up with one arm and one leg for the better part of 3 months. About the 6-month mark, I started looking at the world outside of me, and wanted to be involved. I had no doubts as to my future. It was going to be a slight adjustment to my lifestyle without a leg, but everything else would be as normal soon enough. About 9 months after the wreck, I had my 1st attempt at returning to work. Although for unknown reasons, no matter how intensely I worked, I never learned to walk with a prosthetic. So, we found alternative ways for me to work around my machines. It took about 2 years of various successes and failures, to get through the depressions, and the physical challenges of doing my job, before I was ready to do actual work. Though not completely in hindsight, I really see I worked for an incredible employer. That's where the new phase of my recovery started.
    Before my wreck, I was an accomplished senior toolmaker. I rose to the top of my field and I even taught others the trade. I was known to others in the trade around the country. I was noted for being above-average intelligence and well-read. I used trigonometry daily. I introduced using CAM software to the job. My peers and bosses respected me for my talents, and treated me very well.
    I had noticed that I had some memory issues, and I would randomly drop names & words during conversation. In the early days, I just attributed it to all the medications I was taking. Although I could still run my machines and perform all the basic functions of my job, I found I couldn't solve new problems. I would go blank looking for solutions to the types of challenges that used to be routinely solved. I couldn't understand new software, I couldn't do even basic math, and I can't read more than a couple of sentences without losing my place. Finally, the stress of constant failure became unbearable. I assumed the stress was inhibiting me from doing my job, and not doing my job as expected was creating more stress. I met with a doctor hoping for relief from the stress, and he decided to look back at the old CT scans. He wondered if there was more damage that wasn't obvious. After a series of cognizance tests, he found I had some definite deficits in my memory and ability to figure things out. Most are considered moderate. It was determined I have an anoxic brain injury from bleeding out at the wreck site. It's also very likely I've had an undefined traumatic brain injury, since I had banged my head pretty good. After studying the results, and knowing my history, he explained that I will, most likely, be basically stuck in place (in my head) from here on out. I could access old memories, but had trouble making new ones. That's why I couldn't pick up how to use new design software. Unfortunately, we could only guess that it also affected my physical balance and dexterity. But, it might also explain why I still can't walk.
    Well, since I can no longer be expected to do my job, I had to be let go of my employment. ...Enter a new round of depression & despair. I loved my job. I would do it for free if my bills were paid. I used to be there on my days off working on my own projects. Going back to work was my primary inspiration to recover. Losing my job after 20 years with the company was heartbreaking.
    So, here I am, finally climbing back out of depression, disabled and lost. I manage to keep busy tinkering, but without a proper shop set up for me, I really don't do anything of consequence. I feel dumb as a box of rocks. I have no clue what I'm capable of. Some things I think should be no problem, I fail. Other times, I accidentally do something smart.
    About a year ago, the doctor asked if I would be willing to try a medicine for Alzheimer's called Aricept. Although the nausea has been rough, it has made a difference in my daily life. I take part in household business. I have some continuity of thought. But it's not consistent. Some days I have more clarity than other days. I've been on this medicine for about a year now.
    I decided to try to find out more about my brain injury (which is how I found CareCure). I met with a neurologist, and she promptly started me on an additional Alzheimer's medicine called Namenda XR. She also scheduled an MRI for me. The first attempt failed because I panicked in the tube. I don't remember ever being claustrophobic, but so many other things about me are new, so, why not that. I finally got the scan done, and within two days she calls me and says, besides the expected dead brain cells, I also have an excess of fluid on the brain. I don't remember the details of the conversation, but she asked if she could schedule me for a spinal tap. Among other things I don't remember, they are going to inject dye in my brain and watch it disperse over a few days. I'm waiting for that call. It's been about a month since that meeting. I'm nervous about the procedures, and possible treatments. And I'm wondering if there really is very much to gain, since I'm damaged otherwise. I know I wanted answers, but I wanted to know what I was working with, not what I could fix.

    So... I guess I'm asking about treatments and prognosis for hydrocephalus. What all does it affect? And, I guess I'm asking if the chain of events and my experience with brain injury makes sense. Is there something else I should be looking for?


    I have the results of the procedure the spinal tap was for. It was a cisternogram to check for normal pressure hydrocephalus. The results came back negative. That means the headaches and the memory loss and the rest of the brain issues I have are all mine. So...there is little chance of any more recovery. Needless to say, I'm very bummed about that.
    A bit of good news - The Namenda XR, in combination with the Aricept, seems to working well. Even the nausea has subsided. My memory seems to be better on a daily basis, with fairly good continuity. I can remember yesterday with reasonable confidence. I have taken over the household bills and some shopping. I can get overwhelmed quickly if I take on too much, I still get confused easily, but as long as I keep at everything methodically, I seem to accomplish more than I have in the previous 4 years. I still don't have my words and names, or many other things, on demand. But we have figured out that I may not be as dumb as I feel. I may just be slower than I'm used to. Given a longer uninterrupted time span to work out even a complicated task, I can. That's a huge relief to me. Occasionally I will do something that is very smart. It gives me hope that if I can set myself in a proper environment, I may produce something even I would be proud of.