Bridge Back from Brain Injury Despair


Posted on 23rd May 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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In 1997, Becca Martin and I created It is certainly the most important thing I have done in my career. One of the most important contributions of that page was that its Bridge from Despair was the first internet collection of stories from those who had suffered the tragedy of brain injury on the internet. The internet was young then, and people were just beginning to discover the value of the connection it creates.

Yesterday I got this story, and I thought this blog would be a good place to tell this story, a story we will probably add to

Dear Mr. Johnson,

10 months ago I had a serious car accident and was in coma for 1 week. I had 3 brain-bleedings and 2 brain contusions. While I was in the coma my parents were with me and spoke to me. My father is German and we live in Germany, my mother is English. And I think she spoke a lot in English with me, because since the coma I often think in English. I am very, very grateful to them that they were by my side. This is the most important thing in the world. The love of your parents. You feel it and you know that they are with you, although you are in the coma. To give this deep love is the most comforting and the most beautiful thig you can do to the person you love. And to know that there are people who don`t look at you like doctors look at their disabled patients is comforting. I want to thank you very much for your work. You really help the people. If you come back, sort of return to the world, it isn`t easy at all to talk to people about this time. Mostly they don`t understand, how could they?

I had just one possibility to get to know another person with a near death experience. And this was so different from mine. I don`t remember anything concerning the accident. And I even lost months of memory before the accident, but I can recall my near death experience. I saw multiple universes in higher dimensions. I`m sorry, I don`t know why I am telling you this. Maybe because I don`t know anyone I could talk to about this. Since I am reading books about the quantum-physical possibility of multiverses I feel a bit reliefed, because I know now, that there`s a scientific explanation for what I saw. But I know that every physicist I`d talk to about this topic would bring me to the booby hatch.
I know, that I was very lucky, that I can think again.

The neurologist couldn`t explain my improvement. Although I have problems remembering things, I want to finish the exams on the university in Munich. It might sound queer, but after I have been hating the woman who ran into me far too fast (and sometimes I still hate her and try not to do it) I thought that following Kant`s categorial imperative and wishing a peaceful earth for everyone, I hope that I can release the hate. And I am grateful that I was able to go through this near death experience.

You give the people hope, information and the feeling that one can talk about the accident. Thank you!

Thank you Lisa for allowing me to post your story on this blog.

TBI Support Group – Mint Julip


Posted on 2nd May 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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From one of our favorite former clients:

I had a good time at our TBI support group meeting today. It was a small group with only about 6 of us. Drake has changed their rules and does not allow us to serve or bring refreshments. We are only allowed to have them if we order them from Drake directly, which our TBI group can’t do since it does not have any funds.

So, I told our local TBI contact person that I would like to share with the group, the therapeutic value of growing mint. I brought several plastic baggies with mint plants along with the directions on How to Grow Mint in a Container Garden. I also shared with them the therapeutic value of making something with the mint….like Non-Alcoholic Mint Juleps. Pulling out all of the necessary items and the directions, I asked the group to help me figure out what we needed to do.

We worked on a variety of skills at the beginning of our meeting. Cognitive skills like gathering together necessary materials, figuring out what materials we should distribute to everyone first, reading and following directions, sequencing. Physical skills and coordination involved in scooping ice out of a container with a ladle and placing it into a cup, using tongs to grab the mint sprigs and place in their cups. One member new to the group said the mint sprig should be placed in the top of the straw…so we had the added challenge of using very fine motor skills! Social skills like enjoying each other’s company, “clinking” our plastic cups together and sharing our hopes for this year. Another member came in late, so we re-tested our memory as we worked together to make a Mint Julep for her.

Today’s group was a rewarding experience for me. I was able to do a skill I used to do prior to my TBI on a smaller scale. It was fun and I felt great! And now I have to take a nap and recover.

And the recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • _ cup (or more) fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Crushed ice
  • Prepared lemonade
  • Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

To Make Mint Syrup:
  • 1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint in a pan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  • 2. Turn off burner and set pan aside for about an hour to cool down.
  • 3. Strain out mint leaves by placing strainer over the container you are using for your mint syrup. (If the holes in your strainer are large enough to allow some of the leaves to go through, place a paper towel or coffee filter inside your strainer.)
  • 4. Refrigerate mint syrup.

To Make Drink:
  • 1. Fill cup with ice. (Crushed ice works best)
  • 2. Fill cup about _ full with prepared lemonade.
  • 3. Pour a small amount of the mint syrup into your cup of lemonade. Taste and adjust according to your preference, adding more lemonade or more mint syrup if desired.
  • 4. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a straw. Sip slowly and enjoy. (Especially good on a hot summer’s day.)
  • 5. Optional: Make some sun tea and use in place of lemonade.
–Cindy Schneider

Thanks Cindy.

In Memoriam Bryant Jennett – Glasgow Coma Scale Author


Posted on 9th April 2008 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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In general, brain injury research and work is a pretty anonymous field. I can rattle off a bunch of names of researchers, but even most defense experts have never heard of many of these people. One of the names that almost everyone in the brain injury field has heard is Bryan Jennett. If they haven’t heard of him, they have heard of his most famous work: the Glasgow Coma Scale, commonly referred to as the GCS. The GCS score is the most single common denominator in all of head injury diagnosis, and any cursory review of a brain injury medical record will have a GCS score on it.

Bryan Jennett, CBE, M.D., the brain injury expert of Glasgow, Scotland, died on 16 February 2008. For a nice treatment on Dr. Jennett click here. The North East Center also includes a nice comment on his work on such link by Nathan Zasler, M.D. that is worth reading – Reflections on the Life and Work of William Bryan Jennett, CBE, M.D., FRCS. Dr. Zasler had this to say about Dr. Jennett:

“During his career, Dr. Jennett not only distinguished himself as a clinician and scholar but lectured and wrote extensively on issues relating to brain injury.

“He remained one of the driving forces behind some of the more recent international work in the area of disorders of consciousness over the last 15 years. What was most amazing was Dr. Jennett’s ability to look back on his own work and be constructively critical of it, including acknowledging some of the limitations of his own thinking. He continued to provide encouragement to other clinicians to pursue further honing of our collective understanding of the complexities of both assessment and management of this special population of persons with acquired brain injury.”

Only if this generation of doctors, scholars and researchers can share Dr. Jennett’s passion and vision for the future of brain injury research, will the advocacy that propelled Dr. Jennett’s career, be fulfilled. I hope his death reminds the medical community of that what we don’t know about brain injury is infinitely greater than what we know. Research on…

Next: the GCS score. What it tells us and what it does not.