Talking it out: ABI survivor and caregiver stress

BY: MARK KONING

Whether you are a survivor or caregiver to someone with a brain injury, it is sometimes quite difficult to find a confidant that you can feel comfortable talking with when it comes to issues such as the stresses, emotional trauma or everyday hardships that can be inflicted upon one’s life. An individual can run the risk of losing friends, or in some cases, even family members.

two friends talking
photo credit: Two girls talking via photopin (license)

Continue reading

Vanilla Protein pancakes to start your morning

BY: JANET CRAIG

While breakfast may not be in fact the most important meal of the day, our columnist Chef Janet Craig has this mind blowing vanilla protein pancake recipe for you to enjoy, which might just put that ‘most important meal’ of the day theory to the test.

As always, this recipe is easy, nutritious and delicious. So what are you waiting for?

Vanilla Protein Pancakes
PHOTO: JANET CRAIG

Vanilla Protein Pancakes

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 to  1/3 cup club soda

3 egg whites

1 cup vanilla protein powder

Stevia to taste

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Heat a nonstick pan on medium high and use a coating spray. Cook pancakes and serve with berries or light agave syrup.

Chef Janet Craig recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.  You can find out more about her HERE.

Satisfied Soul Personal Chef Service logo

Songs to celebrate ABI strength + thriving

BY: RICHARD HASKELL

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”

– Confucius

Human beings are emotional and irrational creatures. We’re guided by the heart, and we respond emotionally to the sounds that music creates.

According to a paper presented at the University of London, music can even affect our perception of visual images.

The role of music in brain rehabilitation therapy has undergone some significant changes as a result of new information gathered from research into music and brain function. Because music is a highly-structured auditory language, one that requires perception and cognitive motor control, researchers have now found it can be a vital way of retraining and re-educating an injured brain.

For example, people who have suffered an ABI often have difficulties regaining speech, particularly if the trauma happened on the left side of the brain, the side that controls speech and comprehension. Music areas are located on both sides of the brain, and music can be used to bypass the language channels that have been damaged. This “backdoor” approach has been used to teach those suffering an ABI or a stroke to regain their control of speech, often by means of singing familiar songs.

Therapists and physicians now use music in rehabilitation in ways that are not only backed up by clinical research findings but also supported by an understanding of some of the mechanisms of music and brain function.

In 2011, American congresswoman Gabby Giffords suffered an TBI after an assassination attempt on her life. Five weeks later, she was experiencing a challenging time relearning how to talk as she attempted to recall words for certain objects. A therapist implemented a program of music therapy and from then on, her progress skyrocketed. Nineteen months later, in September 2012, Gabby was able to walk on stage at the Democratic National Convention to address the delegates. And just two months after that, she met her assailant face –to- face in the courtroom where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The power of music in brain injury rehabilitation is two-fold –

  • It provides unconditional emotional support and enjoyment for an ABI survivor
  • From a medical perspective, it’s proving to play a significant role in the healing process of brain injuries.

Songs that instill a sense of strength and survival take on a special meaning for those with the affects of brain injury.

Here’s a list of 15 – in no particular order – with just this theme – compiled especially for Brain Injury Awareness Month – ENJOY! 

Heal the World – Michael Jackson

From Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous, the uplifting Heal the World was the song he was most proud to have written.

Carry On – Olivia Holt

This song released in 2014 by actor and singer Olivia Holt explains that life is full of challenges and that we must make the best of them by simply carrying on.

It’s Gonna be Alright – Sara Groves

This song by American contemporary Christian singer Sara Groves was included on her 2005 CD Add to the Beauty, its lyrics offer words of reassurance to those facing hard times.

The Climb – Miley Cyrus

Written for the 2009 film Hanna Montana, The Climb focuses not only on overcoming adversity but recognizing the merit in dealing with struggle. Try not to get too distracted by Cyrus’ back-in-the-day G-Rated appearance.

 Hall of Fame –The Script ft. will.i.am

The lead single from The Script’s third studio album #3, Hall of Fame also features hip-hop artist will.i.am and focuses on following dreams and achieving greatness in yourself. 

Don’t Give Up – Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush


Inspired by the depression-era photographs of Dorothea Lange, Peter Gabriel wrote this song in 1986 and recorded it with Kate Bush for his CD So.

Ain’t no Mountain High enough- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell


This classic from 1967 with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell relates the timeless message that having a special person we can depend on is paramount. 

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Written by the American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, Brave appeared in her fourth studio album The Blessed Unrest and deals with having enough courage to say what you think and the importance of being yourself.

Hey World (Don’t Give Up) – Michael Franti & Spearhead


Musician, filmmaker and humanitarian Michael Franti wrote this song about holding on in hard times and remembering that all things are possible.

 So Small – Carrie Underwood

So Small was the first single from Carrie Underwood’s second studio album, Carnival Ride, released during the summer of 2007. In her own words, “it’s a feeling song on how people invest so much of their time and energy into things that aren’t really important, and how they don’t really realize it until it’s too late.”

Go the Distance – Michael Bolton

Written for Disney’s 1997 animated feature film, Hercules, Go the Distance focuses on reaching a goal while facing obstacles and the power of persistence.

Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey

Journey’s classic anthem from 1981 relates that no matter how difficult the circumstances we may find ourselves in, the solution is simple – never give up!

Not Afraid – Eminem

This 2010 release by American rapper Eminem contains a defiant message urging us to take a stand no matter how difficult the odds. 

You Gotta Be – Des’Ree

Written by the singer with the track’s producer, Ashley Ingram, You Gotta Be was the first song on Des’ree’s 1994 album I Ain’t Movin’. New York critic Stuart Elliott described it as “an infectiously sunny tune about the affirmative powers of self-confidence.”

When You Believe – Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston

Written by Stephen Schwartz for the 1998 animated feature The Prince of Egypt, When You Believe was recorded by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston for the end credits. Its powerful message is simple – miracles can occur if you simply believe in them.

#areyouaware

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Eat your GREENS this Brain Injury Awareness Month!

BY: JANET CRAIG

Brain Injury Awareness Month is here – and to celebrate ABI awareness and help us get our green veggies on , our columnist chef Janet Craig has written a super-green salad recipe for us to enjoy.

(Because green is the colour of brain injury awareness!)

asparagus, fiddle head and pea salada
PHOTO: JANET CRAIG

 

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus cleaned & cut into diagonal pieces

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

1 to 2 cups fiddleheads, fresh or frozen

1 bunch of green onions cut into diagonal slices

  • If you want to add protein the a cup of Feta cubed is nice

Dressing:

1 lemon, zested & juiced

1/3-cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

salt & pepper to taste

1-tablespoon tarragon vinegar (or use 1 tsp dried tarragon & 1 tbsp white wine vinegar)

Instructions:

  1. Steam asparagus and fiddleheads (if peas are fresh add them) on high 2 minutes. Plunge into bowl of ice to blanch.
  2. Mix all vegetables into glass bowl.
  3. Mix up dressing and pour onto salad.

Chef Janet Craig recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.  You can find out more about her HERE.

Satisfied Soul Personal Chef Service logo

 

Concussions: the missing piece of the puzzle

BY: KAROLINA URBAN

Its been over two years since my last concussion, which I got while playing hockey. I still have difficulty focusing and remembering small details. I have anxiety and, at times, I feel down.

Although I no longer have a concussion, I don’t feel exactly the same as I did before my brain injury, and that is exactly what has captivated me for over the past several years as a researcher.

hockey skates on ice
photo credit: Week One:Skate via photopin (license)

I continually ask myself, why is it that we can’t fully understand what is going on after a concussion? What is the piece of the puzzle we are missing and how do we get people recovered to a point where they can get back to doing what they love without any consequences? How can we find a way to assess concussions that don’t rely on subjective symptom reporting? More importantly, how do we educate people about brain injuries so they make an informed decision?

These are just some of questions that go through my head.

I think most athletes can say they have lied about aches or pains they have had occur in games or practices. Many have played through broken bones, torn or sprained muscles or joints.

This is part of the team-first culture, where blocking shots, taking a hit to make the play, or playing through an injury is idolized. However, there is a huge difference between injuries to the body and injuries and injuries to the brain.

Injured hockey player
photo credit: Learning the hard way via photopin (license)

The brain is truly extraordinary. It makes it possible for us to do the things we love, such as communicate, learn, share joy and many other things. How we achieve tasks such as skating, or how we understand situations and make decisions involves complex processes with many thousands of connections, millions of neurons firing, tens of millions support cells and all of this is completed at an incredible speed.

And yet sometimes we treat the brain as just another tool in our body, a sacrifice to the team.

When I think of it from another perspective I realize this is the wrong way to look at it!

The brain is what gives us the team-first attitude, what helps us make the correct decisions, and to achieve specific skills. Without it functioning properly we can not be the best we can be. And this is the perspective I know have taken on when I talk to young athletes who have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury. But is this enough to keep them from playing is yet to be seen.

Recently I became an assistant coach for a competitive female hockey team. One of the players was tripped up and hit her head on the end boards. She came off upset, emotional, in pain and clearly could have sustained a concussion. After the ice clean she came back out and wanted to play. Despite all my knowledge about brain injuries, I found it extremely difficult to tell her she needed to sit out the rest of the game.

It is hard to tell an athlete they can’t go back out there and that they need to rests especially when its all they have known their whole life.

16447977753_17dffab6b1
photo credit: Young Athletes via photopin (license)

“Get knocked down, get back up.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“Sacrifice your body to win the game.”

But how can we change this? How can we ensure our trainers, who are responsible for pulling the players out of the game, feel comfortable and believe that it is the right decision? Or can we make the athletes realize they need to be more accountable for their own health and long-term development? Maybe it’s the combination of both?

I can’t say I have the answer, but I can touch on some ways to change this problem.

Mentors

We need mentors, we need people such as Sidney Crosby or Jennifer Botterill speaking about their injuries and what they could have done or should have done to prevent those months of symptoms.

We all know that players are more likely to listen to those who have gone through similar situations, especially when their idols. I can  say I probably wouldn’t have thought about the injury any differently if a doctor, teacher came up and told me not to do something or to be honest about the injury. I mean they told me not to play through a torn tendon in my knee in playoffs, which I completely ignored.

21954264285_eabd80049b-2
photo credit: Jordan Reed via photopin (license)

Education

Despite the media constantly speaking about concussions, there is a lack of knowledge about the injury, symptoms, possible long term impact, what to do when you have a concussion, and what resources are available.

One example of a recent partnership is between the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital Concussion Centre. This partnership is an example of how leagues are hoping to educate their players, parents, referees and coaches.

The brain is one of the most complex systems in our body, yet there is little time allocated to teaching about the brain, diagnosis, and rehabilitation.

Many medical schools only spend about an hour or so covering concussions. Physiotherapists have limited education on the subject, which is concerning as they deal with many athletes.

We need to develop supports and education for all stakeholders – parents, coaches and trainers.

 Karolina Urban is a former University of Toronto and Canadian Women’s Hockey League player. Currently she is a PhD student at the Concussion Centre in Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Hospital