TBI - My experience with a Traumatic Brain Injury (includes graphic image)
A bit of an adventure nut since birth, my safety has always been at risk. At age 3 I was discovered standing on the roof of our house happily waving to our neighbors. But even a fall from that height wouldn’t have compared to the injury the left me with a triple skull fracture and paralysis when I was 23 years old.
Two feet of powder had fallen on the Rockies exceptionally early in the season on September 26, 1996. My roommates and I knew the only place with enough base coverage to snowboard was the several hour hike up St. Mary’s Glacier. St. Mary’s is a beautiful peak with multiple pitches and bowls that terminate into a small glacial lake about two and half hours from Denver. The riding that day was pure joy. On our last run, I dropped into the bottom bowl, made a high speed heal side turn and it all went pear shaped. The edge of my board caught a rock that was just covered with the fresh snow and I pitched, head first, full speed into the rocky edge before the lake. The first thing I made impact with was a rock in dead center between my eyes, which sounds horrible, and it was, but it was my saving grace.
That part of the skull is the thickest with a sinus cavity acting as a damper. The doctors told me that if I had hit anywhere else, it would have been fatal. I sustained three skull fractures, a broken eye socket, and a broken C3 vertebrae in my neck. I was unconscious and was paralysed from the neck down, though regained consciousness about an hour later when vomiting up blood from the crushed sinus cavity. After several hours of waiting for rescue, the decision was made to carry me out, as my vitals were crashing with shock, blood loss, and with hypothermia setting in. Luckily my friends were well trained in first aid and did everything right to save my life.
I had x-rays, cat scans (which I threw-up in), and an MRI to determine the extent of the damage. Luckily the fracture on C3 presented little risk of permanent damage and I started regaining feeling in my body after about 12 hours. The skull fractures were more concerning as they extended through the skull causing cerebral spinal fluid to leak, risking meningitis. The results of the MRI showed significant bruising to the frontal and occipital lobes of my brain.
After 4 weeks in the hospital, I was released with no instructions other than to just rest and to wear a helmet when doing sports that could cause a head injury. At that time there were no protocols developed for recovering from TBI. No mention of diet, supplementation, or HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy). I have had no noticeable effects from the injury, other than a general sense of calm and lack of reactivity to stressful situations. Maybe it was just being so close to death or maybe it is actual brain damage, but since the accident my fuse is exceptionally long. Poor drivers which used to upset me no longer matter. Stressful work and financial pressure have little effect on my mood. I have continued a life of adventure. I was back snowboarding (with a helmet) just 8 weeks after the accident and enjoy surfing and snowboarding still today.
As I did not notice any ill effects from my injury, I just continued my life as normal. Eating the standard American diet, drinking alcohol, and really not looking after myself. That is until my father started the steady downward spiral of cognitive decline in his mid 60’s. I became fascinated with the brain and brain health. I absorbed every form of information I could get my hands on from podcasts and books to the vast amount of research papers on the subject, and attending lectures given by leaders in the field of brain health such as Neurologists Dr. Dale Bredesen and Dr. David Perlmutter. From this research I learned that in addition to my genetic risk (Apoe4), I was at a much higher risk for cognitive decline due to the TBI. I was scared. It felt like there was a loaded gun, trigger cocked pointed at my head. I immediately changed my diet and lifestyle to include daily brain healthy habits. I began following a protocol developed by Dr. Dale Bredesen, which recommends a cyclical clean ketogenic diet that reduces inflammation, a comprehensive supplementation regime, and HIIT (high intensity interval training). These changes lead to almost immediate results. I lost 25lbs of body fat, added lean muscle tissue, and my cognitive function, working memory, and word recall all improved.
I learned that we (especially people who are recovering from a TBI) need to provide our bodies and brains with essential nutrients on a daily basis, and that it’s not always possible to get it through diet alone. Most people (including me and I eat a lot of fish) don’t get enough Omega 3 DHA in our diets. DHA comprises approximately 30 percent of the lipids in the human brain and is essential for brain function. To transport and utilize DHA we need another important molecule Choline, found in eggs, fish, and organs meats such as liver. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans are deficient in choline. To repair damage and maintain function both nutrients are essential.
This lead to taking copious amounts of supplements on a daily basis. Fear is one hell of a motivator, but taking handfuls of pills everyday is a burden and compliance becomes an issue when traveling for work or life just gets in the way. Chris and I worked with expert formulators to create Memento Nootropic Creamers to provide essential nutrients designed to support brain health. We specifically targeted Omega 3 DHA and Choline as key ingredients in our formulations for their synergistic effects. We encourage you to learn more by visiting our website builtforyourbrain.com.