After 4 years and 6 brain surgeries, South Ogden woman staying optimistic

SOUTH OGDEN — Not even six surgeries, a mysterious brain infection and a promise that she’s about to look like a creature from another planet can get Christine Jacobson down.

The 54-year-old believes her faith is sufficient to handle anything, including currently going about without part of her skull and serving others while toting a medical IV.

A member of the Holy Family Catholic Church, Jacobson points to her life experiences so far as examples of her strength.

Moments after she learned she had an infection below her skull four years ago, she was rushed into emergency brain surgery.

“My name is Christine Jacobson,” she recalls saying to medical personnel preparing to cut open her head. “I am of sound mind and body. If I die, my last dying wish is for you to take all my organs and use them.”

Faith in a God, believing he would use her for good, is what gave Jacobson the courage to face that moment, she said.

When she woke up from surgery, realizing she was still alive, Jacobson said she determined right then and there to boost her efforts to live the best life possible. Many of those efforts led to her being named as the Athena Award recipient last year by the Ogden-Weber Chamber of Commerce.

The award is reserved for an inspirational woman member of the chamber.

Understanding TBI: Part 1 – What happens to the brain during injury and the early stages of recovery from TBI?

What is a brain injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to damage to the brain caused by an external physical force such as a car accident, a gunshot wound to the head, or a fall. A TBI is not caused by something internal such as a stroke or tumor, and does not include damage to the brain due to prolonged lack of oxygen (anoxic brain injuries). It is possible to have a TBI and never lose consciousness. For example, someone with a penetrating gunshot wound to the head may not lose consciousness.

Commonly accepted criteria established by the TBI Model Systems (TBIMS) to identify the presence and severity of TBI include:

Damage to brain tissue caused by an external force and at least one of the following:

  • A documented loss of consciousness
  • The person cannot recall the actual traumatic event (amnesia)
  • The person has a skull fracture, post-traumatic seizure, or an abnormal brain scan due to the trauma

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Causes of TBI

Statistics from Centers for Disease Control for 2002-2006 indicate that the leading cause of brain injury is falls (35%) followed by car crashes (17%) and being struck by an object (16%). Emergency room visits due to TBI caused by falls are increasing for both younger and older people. However, if you focus only on moderate to severe TBI (those injuries that require admission to a neurointensive care unit), car crashes are the most frequent cause of TBI, followed by gunshot wound, falls, and assault.

The Importance of Feeling as Though We Belong – TBI Survivor

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After my Brain injury I worked hard to get back the skills and abilities that I had lost, driven by the desire to get back to
where I used to be. It was obvious to me that getting those fundamental skills back; walking, talking, tying my shoes, etc., would get me there.

However, after months and even years of failure, stuck in a depression and frustration, I saw this wasn’t working.  There was something missing. I decided to look at my life after brain injury differently, and after much thinking about what was missing in my life, I was able to see a new way forward.

Even though I had worked like the dickens to get back what I could, I learned that just getting those skills and abilities back wasn’t enough. I saw that the quality of my life depended not on the things I could do  or how well I could perform, but on who I was as a person.

I finally realized my main focus should be on once again feeling whole, finding my place in the world, and feeling like a human being.

The Need to Belong

The ability to feel whole and feel human is not tied to being able to do or accomplish things, but rather, it is directly related to the ability to belong and be a part of what’s going on around you. Feeling as though we belong; to a community, a social group, a band of people, etc., validates our existence by adding meaning to our everyday activities.

When we feel as though we belong to a group of like-minded individuals, we are not so alone. We feel comfort and we live with a greater purpose, whether we belong to a club, group, or a family unit. Being part of a community makes you feel human and brings the best out in you. When you belong, you have a voice and you have a presence and are accepted for who and what you are.

Hypothermia Raises Survival Chances In Traumatic Brain Injury

Lowering the body temperature in people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), as soon as possible after the trauma, may significantly improve chances of survival in adults, suggests research from Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Purposely lowering the body temperature, known as therapeutic hypothermia (TH), involves reducing the body temperature of a person to protect neurons from being killed off or damaged.

Professor Pankaj Sharma, Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Research at Royal Holloway, said:

“Lowering the body temperature to treat people with TBI is a controversial treatment, but one that our latest research has shown to reduce deaths and long-term injury. We have undertaken the largest such analysis of data on the use of therapeutic hypothermia and have found that patients have an 18% better chance of surviving and a 35% improvement in neurological outcome if they are given this treatment.”

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY GROWING CONCERN

The World Health Organisation has predicted that traumatic brain injury will become a major cause of death and disability across the world. TBIs can be caused by many things, including car accidents, but most are caused by falls.

Currently there are around 5 million people in the US and 7.7 million people in Europe living with a TBI-related injury. Around 50% of those affected are unable to return to work, costing the economy $56 billion annually in the US alone.

American Football has recently come under the spotlight after research suggested that 40 percent of NFL players have suffered a TBI.

NOT INDICATED FOR CHILDREN

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of around 3,100 cases of TBI in adults and around 450 cases in children. They found that cooling the brain to a temperature of 33c for 72 hours, and then allowing the patient to return to their normal temperature of 37c at their natural speed is the most effective treatment.

“Whilst cooling adults is effective at providing the best possible outcome, cooling children instead can prove fatal. In children between the ages of 3 months and 18 years, cooling provoked a 66% increase in mortality,” said Professor Sharma.

“This research has far-reaching implications in medicine, potentially affecting the treatment of millions of patients world-wide. We hope that the results of this study encourage medical practitioners to consider the use of this method to enable people who suffer these injuries to live fuller, longer lives.”

Texas Plans Extensive Study on Brain Injuries in High School Athletes

Texas is beginning what state officials say is the nation’s largest effort to track brain injuries among young athletes.

Starting this week, two dozen high school sports will be tracked in an attempt to gauge whether rules or equipment changes improve player safety and what more can be done to protect athletes. Information to be recorded includes the cause of an injury and the recovery time from an injury.

The project is a partnership between the University Interscholastic League, Texas’ governing body for public high school sports, and the O’Donnell Brain Institute at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Texas has more than 800,000 public high school athletes, and the study will be a key step in developing a national database of brain injuries in youths, officials say.

“Until we understand what the frequency of concussions is across the state, or a region of the state, we can’t determine when rule changes, equipment changes or things like recovery programs are really being effective,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, a professor of psychiatry, neurology and neurotherapeutics who will lead the study.

Chelsea’s Winning Streak Reaches Nine

The fiery Chelsea striker Diego Costa muscled West Bromwich Albion defender Gareth McAuley off the ball on Sunday before cutting inside and curling a shot into the top corner in the 76th minute of a 1-0 win for host Chelsea.

Decompressive Surgery Cuts Death in Traumatic Brain Injury

Patients with traumatic brain injury and raised intracranial pressure who underwent decompressive craniectomy — in which a large section of the skull is removed to allow the brain to expand — had a far lower mortality rate but were more likely to be left with severe disability than those treated medically, according to a new randomized study.

The results, from the Randomised Evaluation of Surgery with Craniectomy for Uncontrollable Elevation of Intracranial Pressure (RESCUEicp) trial, were published online in The New England Journal of Medicine on September 7.

“This is groundbreaking as it is the first intervention that has shown a major difference in outcome in this population — in particular a large and dramatic survival benefit,” lead author, neurosurgeon Peter Hutchinson, FRCS, commented to Medscape Medical News.

Mortality was reduced from 48.9% in the control group to 26.9% in the surgery group.

However, the concern is that patients whose lives have been saved by this procedure are generally left with a severe level of disability, with more patients in a vegetative state or with lower severe disability (dependent on others for care) or upper severe disability (able to live independently but requiring support to go out), Professor Hutchinson added.

The rates of moderate disability and good recovery were similar in the two groups, he said, “so the big question is, ‘Is it worth it?’ That is the fundamental issue.”

Brain Injury : 5 Things Every TBI Survivor Wants You to Understand

1. Our brains no longer work the same.
We have cognitive deficiencies that don’t make sense, even to us. Some of us struggle to find the right word, while others can’t remember what they ate for breakfast. People who don’t understand, including some close to us, get annoyed with us and think we’re being “flaky” or not paying attention. Which couldn’t be further from the truth, we have to try even harder to pay attention to things because we know we have deficiencies.

Martha Gibbs from Richmond, VA, suffered a TBI in May of 2013 after the car she was a passenger in hit a tree at 50 mph. She sums up her “new brain” with these words:

Almost 2 years post-accident, I still suffer short-term memory loss and language/speech problems. I have learned to write everything down immediately or else it is more than likely that information is gone and cannot be retrieved. My brain sometimes does not allow my mouth to speak the words that I am trying to get out.

2. We suffer a great deal of fatigue.
We may seem “lazy” to those who don’t understand, but the reality is that our brains need a LOT more sleep than normal, healthy brains. We also have crazy sleep patterns, sometimes sleeping only three hours each night (those hours between 1 and 5 a.m. are very lonely when you’re wide awake) and at other times sleeping up to 14 hours each night (these nights are usually after exerting a lot of physical or mental energy).

Every single thing we do, whether physical or mental, takes a toll on our brain. The more we use it, the more it needs to rest. If we go out to a crowded restaurant with a lot of noise and stimulation, we may simply get overloaded and need to go home and rest. Even reading or watching tv causes our brains to fatigue.

Toni P from Alexandria, VA, has sustained multiple TBI’s from three auto accidents, her most recent one being in 2014. She sums up fatigue perfectly:

I love doing things others do, however my body does not appreciate the strain and causes me to ‘pay the price,’ which is something that others don’t see.  I like to describe that my cognitive/physical energy is like a change jar. Everything I do costs a little something out of the jar.  If I keep taking money out of the jar, without depositing anything back into the jar, eventually I run out of energy. I just don’t know when this will happen.  Sometimes it’s from an activity that seemed very simple, but was more work then I intended. For me, like others with TBIs, I’m not always aware of it until after I’ve done too much.

3. We live with fear and anxiety.
Many of us live in a constant state of fear of hurting ourselves again. For myself personally, I have a fear of falling on the ice, and of hitting my head in general. I know I suffered a really hard blow to my head, and I am not sure exactly how much it can endure if I were to injure it again. I am deeply afraid that if it were to take another blow, I may not recover (ie, death) or I may find myself completely disabled. I am fortunate to have a great understanding of the Law of Attraction and am trying my hardest to change my fears into postive thoughts with the help of a therapist.

Others have a daily struggle of even trying to get out of bed in the morning. They are terrified of what might happen next to them. These are legitimate fears that many TBI survivors live with. For many, it manifests into anxiety. Some have such profound anxiety that they can hardly leave their home.

Jason Donarski-Wichlacz from Duluth, MN, received a TBI in December of 2014 after being kicked in the head by a patient in a behavioral health facility. He speaks of his struggles with anxiety:

I never had anxiety before, but now I have panic attacks everyday. Sometimes about my future and will I get better, will my wife leave me, am I still a good father. Other times it is because matching socks is overwhelming or someone ate the last peanut butter cup.

I startle and jump at almost everything. I can send my wife a text when she is in the room. I just sent the text, I know her phone is going to chime… Still I jump every time it chimes.

Grocery stores are terrifying. All the colors, the stimulation, and words everywhere. I get overwhelmed and can’t remember where anything is or what I came for.

4. We deal with chronic pain.
Many of us sustained multiple injuries in our accidents. Once the broken bones are healed, and the bruises and scars have faded, we still deal with a lot of chronic pain. For myself, I suffered a considerable amount of neck and chest damage. This pain is sometimes so bad that I am not able to get comfortable in bed to fall asleep. Others have constant migraines from hitting their head. For most of us, a change in weather wreaks all sort of havoc on our bodies.

Lynnika Butler, of Eureka, CA, fell on to concrete while having a seizure in 2011, fracturing her skull and resulting in a TBI. She speaks about her chronic migraine headaches (which are all too common for TBI survivors)

I never had migraines until I sustained a head injury. Now I have one, or sometimes a cluster of two or three, every few weeks. They also crop up when I am stressed or sleep deprived. Sometimes medication works like magic, but other times I have to wait out the pain. When the migraine is over, I am usually exhausted and spacey for a day or two.

5. We often feel isolated and alone.
Because of all the issues I stated above, we sometimes have a hard time leaving the house. Recently I attended a get together of friends at a restaurant. There were TVs all over the room, all on different channels. The lights were dim and there was a lot of buzz from all of the talking. I had a very hard time concentrating on what anyone at our table was saying, and the constantly changing lights on the TVs were just too much for me to bear. It was sensory stimulation overload. I lasted about two hours before I had to go home and collapse into bed. My friends don’t see that part. They don’t understand what it’s like. This is what causes many of us to feel so isolated and alone. The “invisible” aspect of what we deal with on a daily basis is a lonely struggle.

Kirsten Selberg from San Francisco, CA, fell while ice skating just over a year ago and sustained a TBI. She speaks to the feelings of depression and isolation so perfectly:

Even though my TBI was a ‘mild’ one, I found myself dealing with a depression that was two-fold. I was not only depressed because of my new mental and physical limitations, but also because many of my symptoms forced me to spend long periods of time self-isolating from the things — like social interactions — that would trigger problems for me. With TBI it is very easy to get mentally and emotionally turned inward, which is a very lonely place to be.

Tyler Wright Opens Up About Owen’s Brain Injury in Radio Interview

a new interview on Australia’s Public Broadcast Network, Tyler Wright dished on what is perhaps the year’s most troubling and least understood story: the condition of her brother Owen. His brain injury at Pipeline last winter sent him to the emergency room, then forced his withdrawal from the first half of this year’s World Championship Tour, and eventually, the whole shebang.

For Tyler, Owen’s injury comes in her best-ever year competitively. With wins in Snapper, Margaret River and Rio, she’s in the number two spot, trailing number one Courtney Conlogue by a scant 750 points. And for the first time, she’s mounting a determined run for the title.

Tyler’s interview, like Owen’s sparse social media updates and public statements, still leaves us wondering about many details. What is Owen’s medical diagnosis? How exactly did a warrior like him succumb to this injury while so many other surfers escape hideous wipeouts unscathed? Will he be the same hellion he was one year ago? How long might his recovery take?

Still, Tyler gives a window into Owen’s injury, his recovery, and what it’s been like to deal with her brother’s injury, particularly given the emotional timing.

“It’s been a crazy injury. It’s been hard as a family to deal with someone that’s had a brain injury. It’s surprising, I’ve found not a lot of people know what it involves and how to really take care of someone in a position like that. It’s a very intense injury.

I spent a lot of time with him in the first six months with it. At the same time, dealing with him sometimes has made my career choices easier. It comes down to for me choices have been made so much easier. I gained perspective through a few experiences I wouldn’t want to have again ever. Through those experiences, I’ve learned and grew up a little….It’s impacted my life a lot. And at the same time, it’s been challenging. He’s got an incredible story and it’s beautiful.”