About This Book

Did you know a traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs every 18.5 seconds in this country? TBIs occur due to accidents and sports, and are also common in returning soldiers. Chances are you, or someone you know, has been touched in some way by this experience. The personal stories in this book, by TBI survivors and those who love and support them, will help and encourage you and your family on the road to recovery.

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When your loved one is recovering from a traumatic brain injury—five great tips for caregivers

Based on Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries by Amy Newmark and Dr. Carolyn Roy-Bornstein; foreword by Lee Woodruff

Caregivers are thrust into a brand new world overnight when a loved one suffers a traumatic brain injury. And they need advice and comfort from other caregivers and TBI survivors. The collection of 101 stories from caregivers and TBI survivors in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries serves as a portable support group for the TBI community. Here are five of the many tips for caregivers in the book.

1. Remember, a TBI can be invisible to others. Keep in mind the public may not recognize your loved one is impaired, as David A. Grant learned after his traumatic brain injury. Without obvious physical signs or changes, David and other TBI survivors have all heard someone say "but you look so normal." Even though David knows "that all is not as it appears," others don’t have the same understanding. It can be hard for people to understand why someone, seemingly fine, moves more slowly or has difficulty with a simple task. You may need to be more patient about their impatience. As David writes, "My TBI continues to teach me a level of patience, understanding and compassion I never had before my accident. When someone passes by you and does something you didn’t quite expect, remember that they might just be one of us. After all, we look normal." When strangers do not have that same understanding, they may need to be educated.

2. Respect your loved one’s feelings about his loss. After a TBI, your loved one may want to continue doing things he normally did before the injury. But as Marshall Campbell learned after he sustained a TBI in a car accident, that’s not always possible. Marshall had to learn to accept his family’s support. As the only man in a household of women, Marshall says, "I felt I needed to protect my manhood." So he continued driving despite his memory problems, which frequently left him lost and confused, and he didn’t tell his girls. "I just wanted to keep that strong protective image that I had with my girls. I did not want to lose that role," Marshall says. "But truth be told, I needed them much more than they needed me."

3. You have more strength than you think. You will find new strength within yourself as your loved one recovers from a traumatic brain injury. That’s what happened to Betty B. Cantwell during her husband’s long recovery from brain surgeries to remove blood clots, and then a stroke. Their roles reversed practically overnight. "He, who was strong and in charge, became weak," Betty writes. "I, the weaker one and a follower, became strong and more independent." Betty relied on her faith, prayer, and writing poetry to help her through the hard times and low points. Now, six years later, Betty says, "my husband and I are learning contentment with our situation."

4. Ask for the help and support you need. It took a long time for Sarah Kishpaugh to admit to herself and others that she needed help after her husband’s traumatic brain injury, which severely altered their lives. "My attitude was: persist and conquer," she writes. Sarah feared reaching out to friends for support and comfort because, she writes, "giving voice to pain makes it real, and I wasn’t ready." Instead she remained stoic about the problems facing her and her husband’s recovery, often flat-out lying about the situation. But pretending takes it toll — as Sarah learned one day. Stopped at a railroad crossing, waiting for the light, the enormity hit her. "I collapsed, sobbing, behind the wheel. I punched a friend’s number, finally ready to share my awful truth," Sarah writes. "My force field thinned a bit after that. I learned that there are people who will weep with you in silent compassion."

5. Help your loved one find new purpose. If your loved one gave up her career, help her find a new one that’s also fulfilling. TBI survivors often need to find a new purpose in their post-brain-injury life. And that’s what occupational therapist Amy Soscia helped Dan do. He had suffered a serious brain injury while serving in the Army. Now depressed and unmotivated, he needed a new reason to live. Amy helped him discover that reason in volunteering as a side-walker at a children’s horse therapy center. Dan says, "When I’m at the center, I feel good about what I’m doing. I feel my best when I’m there and when I’m doing something useful. It just makes me feel good."

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