Here are a few patient success stories detailing their brain injury journey and road to recovery while at Pate Rehabilitation.
One day, Jack suffered a stroke that affected the right frontal lobe of his brain. Once he was medically stable, Jack’s doctors decided he was ready to leave the hospital and begin his brain injury rehabilitation at Pate Rehab. When he first started at Pate, Jack could carry on slow, normal conversations, but he would often say inappropriate comments to women. At the same time, although Jack was fully capable, he would also refuse almost all physical activities, including daily showers and attending meals. To those with an untrained eye, Jack’s lack of physical activity was mistaken as laziness. However, Jack’s neuropsychologist immediately began to suspect that his unfiltered comments and, what appeared to be a lack of motivation, were both results of his brain injury. She believed Jack wanted to do all the right things, and that he wanted to take care of himself, but couldn’t because a crucial part of his brain was affected.
Jack’s therapists and neuropsychologist helped him regain his ability to perform these functions. At first, his therapists had to physically touch the body part he needed to begin an activity. For example, when the staff would tell him that it was time to brush his teeth, they would hand him the toothbrush and touch his elbow to help him get started. Over time, Jack needed fewer cues and eventually needed none at all. He could once again begin his daily activities on his own.
Jack’s neuropsychologist also worked with his team to help him “filter” his inappropriate comments. This learning was accomplished by Jack identifying a nonverbal gesture staff could use to let him know what he said wasn’t appropriate, while being respectful and not embarrassing him in front of people. In private, therapists would review the inappropriate comment with him and practice better ways to say what he was thinking.
After about four months of determination and dedicated work with his treatment team, Jack made significant strides in his rehabilitation journey. He improved enough to go home with his wife, was able to personally take care of his basic needs, and eventually obtain employment. Jack’s story is a shining example of the importance of a neuropsychologist in brain injury rehabilitation. Without a neuropsychologist as a member of his team, Jack’s story may have been dramatically different and it is likely that he may not have progressed to his current level of independence and command of social skills.
Rocky suffered a severe brain injury when his motorcycle wrecked into some escaped livestock on the road. Before the accident, Rocky was a single father raising two children and had a stable job. After the accident, Rocky was diagnosed with “diffuse axonal injury,” which means the axons (long parts of his brain cells) all over his brain were damaged and couldn’t communicate well with each other – and he was in need of intense brain injury rehabilitation.
When Rocky came out of his coma, his therapists in the hospital taught him how to perform everyday skills, such as walking, talking, and feeding himself. Rocky also began to learn basic information about his brain injury and his orientation in society, such as his name and his current location. To do this, his therapists would ask him the same questions, in a quiet therapy room, every day, such as:
- “What is your name?”
- “What is today’s date?”
- “What city are you in right now?”
- “Why are you in the hospital?”
With daily repetition of these questions in the same room, Rocky started to learn how to answer these questions correctly. Because he was functioning better physically, Rocky’s doctors said he was ready to leave the hospital and begin his next phase of treatment at Pate Rehab.
When Rocky arrived at Pate, his therapists noticed some strange behaviors and inconsistencies in his ability to talk about the date and where he was located. His therapists reported this to Rocky’s neuropsychologist. Rocky could answer all the orientation questions correctly inside a quiet therapy room, but when he was in a different setting he was no longer oriented to location and why he was there. For example, when walking outside and his therapist asked where he was, Rocky started to walk away from Pate property to go “home” which, he believed was “just over the hill.” Rocky would say he was in Anna, Texas, but at the same time he was sure his own home was “just over the hill.” In reality, “just over the hill” was actually 75 miles away. Rocky’s neuropsychologist was able to describe this condition as “reduplicative paramnesia,” a condition which causes Rocky to believe that his home was “duplicated” and existed in two places at the same time.
Rocky’s repeated attempts to leave the Pate campus were his brain’s way of trying to make sense of where he was and what was happening to him. In a quiet room, Rocky could say where he was and what happened to him, but when distractions increased and he saw outside landmarks, he could not figure out where he truly was. This made it unsafe for Rocky when he would go outside.
With the help of Rocky’s neuropsychologist on the treatment team and awareness of his “reduplicative paramnesia,” they were able to develop ways to help Rocky overcome this condition. The diagnosis also allowed the team to provide education to his family on how to transition him home safely. Within a month, Rocky was more oriented and his behavior dramatically improved. He no longer tried to unsafely leave the campus, and he was able to discharge home with his parents and continue to help raise his two children.
Tish, a successful makeup artist, one day contracted a severe infection which ultimately spread to her brain, leaving her with a brain injury. On the day of admission to Pate Rehabilitation, her therapists recognized that Tish had trouble with visual memory – a fairly common problem after a brain injury. But her visual memory issue turned out to be much more complex – Tish’s therapist and neuropsychologist quickly realized that Tish wasn’t able to recognize faces, even those of her husband and child. Although, as a professional makeup artist, she was trained to be able to identify facial features, her brain injury now prevented this; because she could no longer recognize facial features, a disorder known as “prosopagnosia,” she could no longer recognize her friends, family and clients.
Tish’s neuropsychologist and therapists discovered a way to help Tish learn how to remember people again. First, Tish learned how to tell whether or not a person was a staff member by looking for staff name badges. She then studied staff photos of her therapy team and was taught how to write down identifying features next to the photos. For example, Tish noted that her therapist, Lisa, was “short and had her hair in a ponytail.” This practice extended to the rest of her therapy team, and with repeated practice and support, Tish learned how to focus on other identifying features such as hair style, perfume, height, etc., to quickly recognize people. In an effort to help her quickly recognize her son, she learned how to remember all the clothing in which she had dressed her son for daycare. Tish even learned to identify her clients without facial recognition, and many of her clients are still unaware that Tish does not recognize them by their faces alone. Even though Tish was devastated at her initial diagnosis of prosopagnosia, her treatment team helped her through the emotional reactions so she could successfully beat the odds and return to work as a makeup artist.