What we did to help our Son's Brain heal

Disclaimer:  This is not a medical reference and we are not medical professionals. We have no medical training and recommend that you use your own discretion and discuss with your doctor before implementing any of the things listed below. this is simply a list of some things we have done that we feel greatly benefitted our son and aided in his brain injury recovery process.


Seth’s mantra is “Quitting lasts forever, Pain lasts for a moment, so PUSH THROUGH IT!” That is something you will need to learn to do... Push Through It. While focusing on how far you have to go, don’t forget to look at how far you have already come. On the days you are weary... keep pushing. When there’s no one around to encourage you... keep pushing. When you are angry and frustrated, use that frustration to keep pushing. No matter how hard it is or how much it hurts — don’t stop fighting to get your life back. Push Through It! 

The following are some things that were very helpful during Seth’s recovery:

FAITH

Seth's faith has been one of the most instrumental parts of his recovery. His faith has inspired my own by watching how much he loves and trusts God. I'm not saying he's never gotten frustrated, but he continues to use his frustration to press through and keep fighting. There have been days I have struggled with this 'new life' brain injury has given us, but not Seth. He is ever constant and always 'praising his way through' this storm.


I know you can go through dark trials and season in your life that test your faith. These difficult times simultaneously reveal your weaknesses while revealing the depth of God's love for you. In the beginning, I blamed God and was angry at Him for letting this happen. This was my silent war. I would get by myself and fall to pieces, screaming into the silence all of my hurt and melting down from the weight of the pain. It was in this time that I came to know a different side of my Father, God. He showed me Grace as He allowed me to kick and scream my angry, hurt-filled words at Him, and all the while He just held me.


I could feel it. I came to know Him as my comforter, my Jehovah Jared. In my dark abyss I learned to trust Him. To really trust Him. To trust that He was big enough to carry my son through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and bring him through to the other side. Ironically, Seth had preached a message the night before the accident and said, "Nothing the enemy does to you can stop the Purpose God has placed inside of you. What the enemy meant to destroy you, God will turn it for your good and use it for His Glory!" I have watched in amazement as God has done just that. I now understand the real definition of Faith is Trust.

ATTITUDE

It is imperative to have a Positive Attitude and to remember that if you want your life back, you will have to FIGHT FOR IT. No one else can fight for you. They can only fight with you. It will not be easy, but it’s your life and your recovery and only YOU can determine the level of commitment you give to rebuilding your life.

SENSE OF HUMOR

Laughter really is the best medicine to help you focus on your future and make the best of your situation. It helps to learn to laugh at your mistakes or what you have to relearn. Laughter will also help keep you from falling into depression and feeling like a colossal mess-up. Watch funny shows or listen to a comedian; it is proven to release the 'feel good' Endorphins in your brain.

ATMOSPHERE

The power of a positive and uplifting atmosphere is essential to healing and recovery. Surround yourself with people who are encouragers. Limit your exposure to those who are negative and who stress you out. Music is great tool to help set your atmosphere. Seth starts out every morning with high-energy, upbeat music. When he is stressed, he ‘chills-out’ to spa-like music and sleeps to something similar.


MUSIC

The power music has on the brain in undeniable. There's a new study out that shows the MRI results of patients who, similar to those recovering from a brain injury, were trying to physically learn or relearn a task. Those attempting the task while listening to music learned it quicker, and the MRI showed the white matter growing with new connections. We had music constantly playing in the background of Seth's hospital room from the second night he was in ICU. To this day, Seth continues to play music with everything he does. He listens to a wide variety of genres (depending on his mood and time of day) and it's encouraging for us to know it's actually continuing to aid the healing of his brain.


MASSAGE

There are multiple proven benefits of massage, especially for someone who is bedridden or not yet fully mobile. Seth never developed 'drop foot' and the medical staff attributed this to the fact that his dad began giving him massages several times daily while he was still in a coma. Seth's dad also stretched the muscles in Seth's legs and feet as much as his injuries would allow. He would particularly focus on stretching his flexor (the muscle that flexes the foot upward and aids us in walking) in a simulated walking motion.


In addition to the massages, a nurse advised us on Seth's third day in PICU (while he was still in a coma) to buy him a pair of converse tennis shoes that were one size too big. He wore the tennis shoes while he was bedridden and we also put pillows or folded blankets at the foot of his bed so the soles of his feet would press against them.  This technique helped keep his feet straight and positioned at a 90-degree angle to help prevent drop foot.


**Drop Foot is a gait abnormality commonly experienced by brain injury patients. Atrophy occurs from not using the flexor muscle. Our feet naturally point forward when not in use, causing the muscles to weaken in bedridden or incapacitated patients. Drop Foot makes it more difficult for patient to 'flex the foot' when learning to walk again.


AROMATHERAPY

Seth was hospitalized for five months and I will never forget the smell of a hospital room. Seth was still wearing diapers when he was discharged, so this was also an issue we had to address when he came home. (If you have ever had to care for or visit someone who was incapacitated, you know what I mean). That smell has an effect on you psychologically and can mentally wear you down. It's the power of aromatherapy, but in reverse. I researched essential oils and we used them in massage oil and other ways to aid Seth's recovery. The following is a list of the four oils we feel benefited Seth the most:

  • Peppermint - We learned a trick from a pediatric nurse early on who showed us how to fill a fresh humidifier water bottle (the humidifier is generally found on the wall by the hospital bed and is used for breathing treatments). We would fill the bottle and put a few drops of Peppermint oil in it, turn it on without the hose or anything, and it would literally blow the vapor into the room as an instant odor killer. 😉 I continued doing this at home with in a diffuser in his bedroom. Seth also suffered from chronic motion sickness and I found that applying Peppermint oil on a cotton ball and leaving it in the ashtray of our car would immediately kill the distinctive smell associated with chronic motion sickness. 
  • Frankincense - This oil promotes brain healing so I would add a couple of drops to his diffuser and even rub a couple of drops on his pillow inside his pillowcase. Take caution and do not apply essential oils to anything that will have direct contact with the skin (some of the oils can burn the skin).  
  • Lavender - Lavender is a natural microbial that aids in relaxation and helps you sleep. You can add a couple drops in bath water.  It is an excellent tonic for nerves and anxiety issues. It benefits the brain and nervous system and can also be helpful in treating migraines, nervous tension, or emotional stress. It has a well-researched impact on the autonomic nervous system, which is why it is frequently used as a treatment for insomnia and to regulate heart-rate variability. One study followed subjects taking exams. When the participants combined the use of Rosemary and Lavender oils, the study showed a significant decrease in mental stress and anxiety, as well as increased cognitive function.
  • Rosemary - Rosemary is an excellent brain and nerve tonic often used by students to study more efficiently and for increased concentration during exams. It stimulates mental activity and is a good remedy for depression, mental fatigue, and forgetfulness. Inhaling Rosemary oil seems to lift your spirits immediately. Whenever your brain is tired, try inhaling a little Rosemary oil to renew your mental energy. If you are a caregiver or a patient, the excess cortisol in the blood that occurs due to trauma or chronic stress can wreak havoc on the body’s hormonal balance and efficiency of metabolism. A study released in 2003 found that inhaling Rosemary oil and Lavender oil for five minutes significantly reduced the levels of cortisol in the test subject’s saliva, which could seriously decrease the dangers inherent from chronic stress, help boost the immune system, and fight off cancer causing free radicals. 


LETTING GO OF THE PAST

The person you were before your accident, and the person you are now after acquiring a brain injury, are two different people. The ‘essence’ of who you were remains, along with some of the memories of your past, but understanding and accepting that you are different will help you move forward in your recovery. This is true for both the patient and the family members. (I tell Seth he is the new and improved Seth 2.0 version 😉)

GRIEVE

It is a normal part of the recovery process to feel sadness and a great sense of loss for the person you once were and of the life you would have had. The grieving process is actually a continuation of letting go of the past. Until you and your loved ones allow yourselves to grieve, you will remain stuck in an in-between place and unable to move into your future.

EMBRACING AND ACCEPTING THE ‘NEW YOU’

This stage will be difficult for those around you. Although they are grateful you are alive, it is still difficult to see a loved one in so much pain. It will hinder your recovery if you are constantly trying to ‘become the old you’ everyone knew.

SUPPORT BASE

Surround yourself with people who are patient and encouraging — those who will give you a good motivational speech and keep you focused forward. You will find that many of your old friends and family will not be strong enough to stay in your life. Many people you were close to will abandon you because they don’t have what it takes to stand and fight this battle with you. Get mad, and then Get Over It!!! Don’t waste your energy or lose your focus trying to figure out ‘WHY’ they no longer call or visit. Make New Friends by getting involved in Special Olympics or finding a support group. You only need a couple of true blue, stand-by-you friends.

EXERCISE

Do what you can with what you’ve got! Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Don’t be discouraged — the recovery process is slow. If you do a little everyday, then every day you will be one step closer. Set small goals and then work hard to achieve them. Brain injury will cause you to feel very tired quickly, but using your energy to exercise will actually produce energy. It is medically proven to help to grow brain cells, especially in the hippocampus area, which affects memory. Exercise also releases Serotonin which helps you feel happy and optimistic. And when you exercise outdoors in the sunshine you are getting a double dose of the ‘feel good vitamin,’ Vitamin D.


When Seth came home from the hospital, he had to use his wheelchair because he could not walk long distances. He wore a brace on his right leg and needed assistance to walk short distances. We began with two people, one on each side of him, holding onto his arms and walking him down the street we live on. Once he could walk unassisted, we began working with him the same way to be able to jog... then to run. He still had to wear a brace on his right hand, which was closed into a fist. We bought tiny dumbbells and would help him lift them. We took a tray and put nuts and bolts on it and had him put them together and then take them a part. Think outside the box and do something — anything — don’t just sit idle waiting on the perfect therapy to ‘fix you.’ Work hard to fix yourself.

BRAIN GAMES

The great thing about technology is that you literally have Brain Games at your fingertips any time of the day or night. Seth was still unable to use his right hand, and was not too coordinated with his left, when we begin downloading some brain games in the hospital. Card game and board games were also great — anything you can do to force the brain to process and think strategically is helping it to get better. For example, if you struggle with Speech, as Seth did, we found it helped him to practice a page or more of handwriting each day. This process helps rewire and rebuild the Language Center in the brain.

NUTRITION

Nutrition and vitamins are very important for your brain health. The following are all very beneficial for new, healthy brain cell growth and improvement in memory and cognitive function:

  • Blueberries - While Seth was still in the hospital, we put blueberries in everything as soon as he was able to eat real food. He ate tons frozen or fresh blueberries and he drank gallons of blueberry juice. We put them in oatmeal, yogurt, ice-cream, etc. Seth continues to eat 2 cups per day in oatmeal or a smoothie.
  • Coconut Oil - We would give him 2 tablespoons a day of cold, pressed coconut oil. We also used this as a lotion massage his body after showering. Coconut oil is proven to bypass the blood-brain barrier to give the brain energy. Seth continues to take 2 tbsp per day.
  • Fish Oil - In the beginning, we would give him 12 a day (6 in morning and 6 at night). He now takes half that dose.
  • Turmeric Curcumin - He takes one a day.

GRATITUDE

Be grateful to God for a second chance at life and be fully aware that every day is a gift. Take notice of all the small things in your life that remind you that YOU ARE ALIVE. You are less likely to be depressed when you begin to give thanks for everything in your life, no matter how big or how small. They are all reminders that God sees you and you are important to Him.

PURPOSE

Be confident in this... You are still here for a reason. Now it’s up to you what will you do with your life. Will you waste it or make it count? You can bring Purpose to your Pain by using what you came through to encourage others who are going through a difficult or traumatic situation. One way we do this is by going back to hospitals and visiting TBI patients. We also volunteer with Special Olympics and participate in community events. Helping others serves as a reminder there is always someone fighting a battle more difficult than yours. It is empowering to know that you took what was meant to destroy you, and used it to give someone else Hope that they can overcome their own struggle.

Your story is not finished. There is nothing stopping you from going back to college to get a degree or maintaining a job. You may have obstacles in front of you resulting from your brain injury, but they can’t stop you unless you let them. You will have to be creative in figuring out a way around or over those obstacles, but you can overcome them if you don’t quit. No matter what the well-intended experts say you can or cannot do, it is up to you to prove them wrong. It may take you longer to do it, but if you fight hard enough and long enough you will succeed.

One of Seth’s tattoos is the Latin phrase “Carpe Diem,” which means “Seize the day!” It is more than a saying, it is a philosophy of life that means, “Live your life today, with no regret for tomorrow. Don’t waste a breath God has given you.” I pray you Live your life in a way that inspires others.

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