Traumatic brain injury: a survivor’s contributions by Michelle Clarke

Brain Awareness Week 2007

March 13, 2007 19:10

by Michelle Clarke – Social Inclusion; understanding and compassion

The intricacies of the brain, consciousness and the grasp that it is okay to be different:-

The year was 1993 or perhaps 1994, I lived in Zimbabwe and the past time that I most enjoyed was horse riding in the Veld near Sunset.

On this occasion….I was being brave. I had learned to canter so it was time to jump. An arena, an enthusiasm, the taste of speed and miscalculation and there was change, I went over the horse and under the horse.

Outcome: private emergency ambulance – a team who I will never know who most likely saved my life. There was only one elderly man as Neurosurgeon in Zimbabwe at that time. From there life became a pilgrim path of exploration and many bumps and turns on the road.

Welcome to Brain Awareness Week. Let us all take the opportunity to learn about the brain, about acquired brain injury, about diseases of the brain, about mental health implications,

Funding is needed in particular for areas of rehabilitation. Let us look in earnest to the Government, to socially and ethically responsible public companies, to philantropy and to Minister Cowen’s (Minister for Health, later Taoiseach) ability to set up a fund whereby families can get tax benefits and give donations to their own family members, when badly affected by brain injury. To sustain a traumatic brain injury is a life sentence but there is always a nugget – the experience gained suggests, seek the inherent talent and then nurture it. It is after all okay to be different.

We are constantly informed when we ask for help and advice that no head injury is the same.  The confidence of the neurosurgeon in Ireland in the 1990’s is now undermined because MRI and neuroscience which in particular has made such advances.  The internet is the adaptive technology that opens doors to the ever inquiring mind that a person who sustains a traumatic brain injury needs to engage with.

Can’t believe it is 2007, 2003 the body seemed to give up because I sought to use the head too much.  They call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and it is just that.  It is that drop dead exhaustion that consumes you to the point that all you seem to do is sleep. You become agoraphobic, fearful of people, fearful of constantly falling over, dreading the phone; the reason is that your system can’t cope.  The sound from the phone caused me to freeze rigid and likewise the doorbell.

Today I note in the Irish Times – Professor Ian Robertson from Trinity is to give a lecture in the Institute of Neuroscience.  I became acquainted with Professor Robertson’s book on Mind Sculptor as I hoked around bookshops in Dublin trying to add little droplets of light to my very dark brain.  Tomorrow’s lecture is about bizarre twists of self awareness; there are to be revelations and I can’t wait to be enlightened; the enlightenment is how I cope with the existence.

Consciousness in the case of traumatic injury is impacted by same; a myriad of factors change it substantially.  One dimensional tires the body so much faster but the greatest gift I have been given is a partner who had time to give and with character.  KT decided to we should have a dog and the breed (no choice) a rescue dog became my closest friend. Between them, they have coaxed me out for a walk to Upper Baggot Street Village, a coffee at O’Briens and gradually to interact with people again

To return to Professor Ian Robertson, Trinity Neuroscience, and the lecture the Institute of Neuroscience – Good Luck tomorrow.  Think of those who do not die in road traffic accidents, think always of the marvelous work done by the Neurologists in hospitals like Beaumont, St. James, Mater and then think about life for these people after the National Rehabilitation Hospital. Funds are badly needed. Ireland is one of the most underfunded countries in Europe in relation to Neurology.

Thank you to the Institute of Neuroscience in Trinity and to the endeavours of all involved in the work of research and making the outcomes general knowledge.

A quotation from Friedrich Nietzche, Philosopher

‘Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path that they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal’

(Amended: 22nd August 2015)

WordPress.com permits me to edit and correct many spelling mistakes; inconsistencies that open publishing does not permit.


BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK 2008

March 10, 2008 21:14
Acquired Brain Injury by Michelle Clarke – Social Justice and Ethics 

I have just heard that it is Brain Awareness week a year on since I started writing on this topic.

We know that if people have cancer, the body politic is shouting out for the provision of Centres of Excellence.  For illnesses under the headings of neurology and psychiatry, it appears to be quite the opposite. Funding under these headings ranks them close to the bottom in the EU listing. I suppose the disadvantage being that the outcome is not so rewarding, it is basically rehabilitative with low potential of upwardly mobile earnings wealth potential.

The National Rehabilitation Hospital does outstanding work but the follow on provides a different picture. People with acquired/traumatic brain injury are often left to the resources of homes for the elderly or family, if spouse/partner decides to opt out and not participate in the recovery or rehabilitative process.

Excellent work is carried out by the Peter Bradley Foundation, Headway and others but this is only a drop in ocean when one considers the number of people who sustain head injuries in traffic accidents, due to crime (daily we hear of violence and victims who if they do not die, they remain a fraction of the former self and we hear no more), those who get concussions while playing Rugby, Gaelic, Hurling, Soccer, falls etc. Why do we hear that scuffles invariably result in people kicking hard at the head of another person?  Then in a rampant illegal drug culture, there is an ever increasing number of people, their children who are brain damaged from drugs; and in addition to this alcohol addiction causes brain damage also. The Head, the Mind, the Memory, are the neglected topics and receive inefficient funding from Government. Personally, I attribute this to a form of ignorance and fear.

Brain injury can often include mental health problems. This means we need to look at the Neuro-psychiatric area of medicine. It sounds good but I would heartily suggest to anyone who ends up in this category and who gets into difficulty in independent living and is desperately trying to keep in the circle you had once be part of, it is the Community Services that hold a moral and ethical duty to provide the support services.  The Department of Health lag far behind countries like Denmark in the services they provide for people with a dual diagnosis of traumatic brain injury and mental health issues.

Community health services in Ireland do not exist.  There are buildings defunct of character …… they close on the Thursday and if possible they transfer patients to different locations and this can often be with the Gardai to assist (yes, where mental illness is concerned). We need forward thinking medical people who have the courage and convictions to fight for the rights of their patients. There have been people like those in Aware (St Patrick’s Foundation) for people with mental illness but they thread a hard path seeking most of the funds from fundraising.

One more point. Why and how is it possible that the move of the Mountjoy Prison to Thornton Hall includes prisoners who are diagnosed with mental health/brain injury conditions. Where is the rehabilitative and conducive reasoning here? This is the use of Power to sideline a group of people, already marginalised to a form of isolation but with duplicated stigma of criminality attached to them. Is this fair and equitable? I don’t think so. I would ask the question is there any research that medically identifies prisoners who previously sustained brain injury and subsequently encountered mental health problems. I would say there was many a fight, a fall from a bicycle, a blow to the head and there are many who fall under this category who find themselves later in prison, with no mention of previous concussions or the implications.

Let us get serious. Stop the Stigma. Take down the barriers and let’s have a multi-disciplinary approach that includes an accepted input from patients.

Look out for lectures given at Trinity College Dublin Neuroscience and other universities, locations. I would suggest an occasional review of the New Scientist magazine. Neurology, Psychiatry provides a host of really interesting information and research.

Amended 22/08/15:  IMC did not facilitate corrections and proof reading would have yielded many errors.


a little frustration:-

May 27, 2008 20:48

Too little attention, funds, rehabilitation,  for people with Acquired Brain Injury

by Michelle Clarke – Social Justice and Ethics 

 

When are we the Irish going to get to grips with Violence; Guns, Fast Cars, Blows to the Head, unplanned violence in Garda stations et al.  All of these are about life threatening situations. Yet can somebody tell me why Ireland ranks as one of the lowest in Europe, in medical capability, to deal with these problems. I heard last night on the media of a comparison of standards between Ireland and Mongolia in terms of neurological medicine and no doubt this included rehabilitation; (yes, the option that exists for those who live versus die, those who but a few decades ago would not need rehabilitation, burial would suffice).  Mongolia being more advanced.

I watched Orla Hardiman, Neurologist, Beaumont speak with the commitment, compassion, dedication, to what was once central to medicine – the Hippocratic Oath. This has a core message ‘If you can do no good at least … ‘Do no harm’.

‘Harmed’ are the patients.  The Accident and Emergency departments daily host the casualties. They treat the wounds of the body but in the case of the head, treatment is different, critical and in need of neuro-surgeons and neurologists. These are the people to limit the harm. This harm is specialised and unpredictable and their skills are aimed at gaining the best outcome for the patient.

Harm goes a stage further here. Neurologists, hospitals can do so much but once you pull through, it is another journey of life you must face. This journey is for your family, your friends and for the opportunities you once had, in my case, a husband who opted out in a cowardly way, through  extra marital affairs, leaving me in Zimbabwe in care and struggling.

The Harm of the HSE in Ireland is that we do not have the proper the facilities for Rehabilitation. We do not have personal assistants to take pressure off our family and assist us to co-ordinate clothes, a walk, a medical appointment, pay bills. Yes I go really hard on a HSE that harmed my need to reform and alter my life to help me cope and accept my diminished life.

I became old at 32 and they tell me I am now 49. Day in day out I read the papers and hear the news and there are fatal car accidents, shooting, attacks, knives, young people from lower social echelons who are not aware of  prior head injuries which in other circumstances would provide a valid defence for an irrational behaviour.  This is harm and ongoing harm among people who are mainly young and really do not understand what a brain injury is. The media have an obligation and the Government to match the crime and the outcome in neurosurgery and awareness of the delicacy of our brain to physical impact.

Harm and self examination: The time has come for those who drink and take illegal drugs to start taking responsibility for their lives. All of you who glamorise yourselves to go out, try to imagine what you look like when you are ossified drunk, minus your panties, possibly sexually explored and worse you don’t remember. I know what not remembering is about daily.  Memory is wiped each day; it goes with traumatic brain injury which for each person has different outcomes and consequences.

I have rattled on perhaps but I would just like people to take some time out and think about this outcome:-

‘Man shot HIS FRIEND as ‘FAVOUR’ to Drug Dealers’

If the shot is to the head and the man does not die; it is lifelong engagement with what some call ‘silent epidemics’.  Drug Dealers: these are people who are responsible for causing brain damage to so many people because we know illegal drugs including alcohol in excess causes brain damage.  Too often people with traumatic brain damage often followed by mental illness diagnosis are left to fend for themselves in what can be a hostile world by comparison to their prior life.

August 2015:  Amendments were absolutely necessary; sentences, spellings, rambling are so clearly identified in the original posting (2008) on open publishing site.  However with determination, support, a recovery sufficient to live if you can put in place a regime, a discipline with support of a carer, or a partner, is possible.


Feedback:

What a relief to me the voice in the wilderness. Adaptive technology moves me beyond Ireland to global.

June 20, 2008 23:17

Brain Trauma among US Vets from Iraq

Hi Michelle,

Good to see you back. This article is interesting. It documents the results of Brain Trauma suffered by US troops in Iraq who are exposed, often repeatedly, to roadside bombs. There are an awful lot of them: http://counterpunch.org/hallinan06172008.html

Extract: “The Pentagon says about 20,000 GIs have returned with TBI, but most experts say the figure is much higher. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, says the figure could be as high as 150,000.

TBI is hardly new. Some 5.3 million people in the country are currently hospitalized or in residential facilities because of it. And its consequences surround us.

For instance, researchers have found a relationship between TBI, and problems like addiction and homelessness. “Unidentified traumatic brain injury is an unrecognized major source of social and vocational failure,” says Wayne A. Gordon, director of the Brain Injury Research Center at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine.

One Mt. Sinai study of 100 homeless men in New York found that 80 of them had suffered brain trauma, much of it from child abuse. A similar study of 5,000 homeless people in New Haven, Conn., discovered that those who had suffered a blow that knocked them unconscious or into an altered state were twice as likely to have alcohol and drug problems and to be depressed. It also found higher rates of suicide attempts, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”


July 9, 2008 22:54

I think a little different Jack…..I believe in Mentors, Minder Dogs, Angels

by Michelle Clarke – Social Justice and Ethics

Jack Russell

Thanks for the reply and your reference to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and Dr. S. Everington and his years of experience in an exceedingly large practice (by Irish standards) of 10,000 patients in South East London.

I think I am inclined to agree with him i.e. if his view is that the psychologists 2 days per week in the practice, did not add anything to his prescriptive treatment.

I recall when I lived in England in the 1980’s that visits to doctors practices was about time capsules…..I mean the nurse spent 8 minutes with you and the doctor say 5 minutes. The practice administrator was charged with the task of keeping time and administration effective.

To me, and I have traveled route of Neurology in Zimbabwe, Optician, Ophthalmologist, Audiologist, heart specialist ad infinitum and replicated in Ireland so much so that all I can emphatically say is that you need a form of mentor to link a person who can advocate on your behalf (and it is vital that the person is independent and paid for by the State). Otherwise your rehabilitation is scattered by the four winds and your recovery is more about hindrances than progressive movement forward. For example, in my case I became overly exhausted and moved into Chronic Fatigue http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases…/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/…/con-20022… where I have been landed like a beach whale of life, capable of little. This has been going on since 2003.  Improvement since 2009 post hospitalisation for lithium poisoning https://www.quora.com/Can-a-lithium-overdose-kill-you

About Cognitive Behaviour Therapy……This has distinct advantages but it is not necessary for your psychiatrist to be you clinical psychologist. His function is more clinical; to determine your moods; your level of anxiety etc. If you have an element of trust in your psychiatrist, as I have had and have, then you can briefly discuss anything you need to be clarified. It gives you more of sense of responsibility and diversity in your life.

The Trinity Horizon programme in 1997 http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/…/making-work-schemes-work-1.1252990 which later merged into http://edepositireland.ie/…/Work-Life%20Balance%20and%20Social%20Inclusio.. greatly assisted me.  It was structured; Monday to Thursday 9 am to 3 pm.  15 people were selected and we were engaged in creative writing, social functions, personal assertiveness classes, health awareness, drama, physical activity, group counseling and one to one counseling.  It ran for 9 months but we remained in contact a numer of years thereafter.  There were 15 women involved and we bonded well through our shared experiences. (Separately to the rehabilitation programme I had the major benefit of attending with the sanction of my psychiatrist, a most progressive and enthusiastic counselor). All provided different components that were about survival from the effects of brain injury, depression, suicidal focus, marriage breakdown et al.

The word is multi-disciplinary but to get this to work in Ireland is about a miracle particularly when one illness begets another and basically what I can only describe as drop dead exhaustion leaves bed, and not even wanting to eat, then you most definitely need more to help you cope. You need someone who can give you time, can convince themselves not to walk on by and nuzzle in and give you the patience and support that you need for an indefinite period. Believe me – there are exceptional people out there. I know but you need support.

To the Irish Government. You may cut on carers, assistants, supports but my advice is don’t – you will gain in finance in the long run from the debilitated person who is empowered and enabled.

Please find alternatives before considering closing down programmes like the drop-in centres in Cork or Castlebar Dublin. Just listen to the people at grassroots.


July 14, 2008 22:27

‘Knowledge is no load’ particularly for those who have had a Stroke or who have sustained traumatic brain injury or other neurological conditions.
by Jack Russell my canine companion who was my best Tutor

Jack Russell aka Michelle Clarke here.

You must be tired of writing Michelle so I have decided to give you a paw!!!

Jack Russell, the minder dog, has good news. It gives insight to perspective and being a dog I am very alert to perspectives…..

Until recently, if you had a stroke your prognosis was very poor. Your mobility invariably would be restricted and speaking could be a real problem. Communication might be forthcoming but the problem would be the level of comprehension the stroke victim has and the fact that this deficit may not be recognised by the world out there….and the patient would remain hidden under a layer of frustration that could suffocate the life’s blood out of them. (Some people refer to the ‘Locked In’ syndrome).

To know, to understand, to communicate, to comprehend – without these, frustration takes over.

Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD has written a book worth reading.

The title is:  ‘My Stroke of Insight – A Brain Scientists personal journey’.

Jack Russell goes on to say: This woman is 36 years old, a brain anatomist and in December she suffered a brain haemorrhage, (Stroke). By the end of the morning, she couldn’t walk, talk, read, write or recall her life. Audaciously she summoned her medical knowledge, to the conditions of a stroke.

Remarkably in her book she has outlined her experiences – ‘my left eye pulsed with a slow and deliberate rhythm, she felt both irritated and bewildered’. She compares the pain in her eye as sharp, ‘like the caustic sensation that sometimes accompanies biting into ice cream.  She closed the curtains to stop the piercing light. She then thought about her blood circulation or lack of it and got onto to her exercise bike.

She tells us of the sense of dissociation that took over. She comments on the irregular feeling of her body. She talks about a riveting sense of wondery.

When her normal muscular coordination faltered she talks about her mind feeling completely preoccupied with ‘just keeping her upright’. She then went for a bath but had to support herself. It is the following words that I think may reassure a person with brain injury that they are understood and believe me, this is essential.

”I could sense the inner activities of my brain as it adjusted and readjusted all of the opposing muscle groups in my lower extremities to prevent me from falling over. My perception of these automatic body responses was no longer an exercise of intellectual conceptualisation……..I was momentarily privy to a precise and experiential understanding of how hard the 50 trillion cells in my brain and body were working in perfect unison to maintain the flexibility and integrity of my physical form’.

The last line…..’Ignorant to the degree of danger my body was in, I balanced my body against the shower wall……’  (TBI no such memories exist).

As a Jack Russell, with an acute sense of hearing, balance that let’s me walk on a cliff edge, smell that sniffs out the foxes when they roam on the street midway through the night and smell wakes me from my deep sleep…………..I really appreciate that this woman has taken her suffering, her knowledge of the brain, medicine and science and shared it with people. Well done. We need more interaction and rehabilitation urgently. Funding Please for Rehabilitation ABI Stroke TBI Neurological conditions………Wuff Wuff

Jack Russell selection of quotation:

Betrayal. Confucius (c.551-478 BC) Chinese Philosopher

‘To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice’

To the medical profession and the Minister for Health. Is betrayal involved in the commitment to health provisions for all people?


September 19, 2008 20:14

At last:  Ireland’s First ever Neurological Institute … a life line … long needed.

by Michelle Clarke – Social Justice and Ethics

Thankfully – such a surprise for me to read in the Irish Times Healthplus article by Fiona Tyrrell the good news that a house in Eccles Street http://www.neurologicalinstitute.ie/, is to return to former glory as the Georgian house (adjacent to the Mater Hospital), but with a significant change in purpose, it is to become Ireland’s First Neurological Institute. This acknowledges an element of our inadequate healthcare system that has been ignored despite of the rising numbers of people with TBI/ABI neurological illnesses (MS, Parkinsons), stroke victims who have had to exist without neurological rehabilitative supports, leaving Ireland significantly behind the practices in other Western European countries.

Since a horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, I have been floating in an orbit, fitting in nowhere or with nobody because brain injury make its it hard to assimilate and leaves you unsure in certain situations. You can often be left outright forthright and often substantially altered in personality from your pre-accident person. You struggle in that ‘locked in world’ -. mobility problems are clearly identified but those within, is another often altered but hidden problem – it is the one in your head catapulted by factors as in my case, no short term memory and one dimensional. You struggle, you try, you are exhausted, the one dimension focus sometimes makes you look clever but the truth is you over focus and arrive at a new outcome that makes you different.

You keep trying and in my case I was lucky. It was an experience route and feeling of being a pioneer to make people aware with the underlying drive to help other people.  Trinity in 1997 was carrying out a research programme for Women with Depression. The syllabus and other 15 people chosen were part of an interesting programme funded by the EC with the research by the Womens Studies Department in Trinity, Horizon i.e. EU funds and St. Patrick’s Hospital. I can only answer for me but this gave Hope, add to this an excellent psychiatrist, Dr. Jim Maguire, decd, and certain unsusual people, this “Hope” helped me grow, seek to understand, accept difference and learn that you lose certain areas in the brain but others flower and grow.  Writing became the haven even though I have had to learn to accept this is similar to what William Butler Yeats referred to as automatic writing.

Then I gained access to Trinity BESS…..I struggled with illness but the ideas stimulated, hosted and fostered, allowed me to use the computer as my research tool to cover up the aphasia (language difficulties), to use it as my memory, then to write angry letters to politicians about access to psychiatric services and the lack of neurological services.

Trinity College Dublin provided me with discipline and libraries, 2nd hand book shops and Hodgis and Figgis. To this day to walk into a library or a bookshop is possible whereas buying clothes, shoes is not possible. Books immediately trace to place in my pre-accident memory, often childhood and there I start to reactivate memories and add them to the day’s event and if I have the physical health Holds within the day, I might even get to share my experiences with other writers on a citizen journalism site. In my own funny way I traveled through the years ‘learning to use tools, websites, blogs, the US, American Scientific etc, aimed at forming an identity that my brain could no longer do. Chronic Fatigue is a real illness and it is about never ending sense of drop dead exhaustion. Recently research has found that if you have TBI you can get Chronic Fatigue. I did and it was just before my final exam BESS in 2003. There are days when I cannot leave the bed……and this is an other neurological illness that does not gain credence in Ireland.

I also met a man (Mensa) brain, and he got me a dog, called Jack Russell. Perhaps his mensa brain and my fuddled brain allows an odd mutuality that works…..we may be both outsiders looking in and the Jack Russell is the representative of evolution that helps us identify.

The Heading is on the Irish Times Article Tuesday 16th September 2008

Making headway in neurology: President McAleese will launch Ireland’s first neurological institute.

The house is in Eccles Street and forms part of the Mater Hospital neurological department. Important, it is a non profit venture.  It involves diagnosis and the key is treatment management. Support which is vital and counselling to patients suffering MS, Parkinsons disease and other neurological condition is provided. Listening skills, understanding, mediation, are all vital components. Personally, marriage of 15 years ended accrimoniously with a third party involved and it took several traumatic years and involved court proceedings. There was no provision by the courts to secure my future i.e 32 from never being able to work again. So much for loyalty and a 15 year marriage. Protection of Law is needed here but for the vulnerable.

Well done to the Neurologist, who is a forthright speaker on radio programmes, a visionary as well as a neurologist Professor Tim Lynch. This will establish Neurology as a Pillar of medicine – it will allow a greater amount of mutuality and multi-disciplinary teams for research and rehabilitation that allows the patient to forge their identity with a source of reference. Prof. Lynch is keen to point out that the institute has been ‘developed in partnership with the HSE but he remains frustrated the poor provision to date of neurological services and let me include the appalling standards for psychiatric patients and particularly those in the community. We ought to stand ashamed. Neurological or Chronic Fatigue or Psychiatric are not fashionable illnesses – they don’t invoke the compassion that breast cancer does. Equitable distribution of resources ought to be the basic standard in medicine.

Facts about Ireland and its Neurologically affected people
There is only one neurologist per 200,000 head of population in Ireland, compared with 18,000 in Finland and one per 108,000 in the UK. Please think of the number of car accidents  say driver dead and others often form the TBI. Why has Ireland so low a level of neurologists in eastern Europe. Chris Reeves actor RIP drew my attention to the fact that the hospital in Israel is one of the best neurological hospitals in the world. I suspect the Northern Ireland hospitals were expert in this field at the height of the troubles.

How many neurological conditions ranging from migraine, epilepsy and sinal to stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinsons disease and Alzheimer’s, frontal lobe dementia or Lewy body dementia and the unfamiliar neurological conditions. Yes, it is high – 700,000.

Personally, I believe it is a lot higher. My experience with HSE was hit and miss. I missed all the time and eventually got located, near doctor, hospital, VHI…..the problem being that with memory deficits, exhaustion from Chronic Fatigue, muddling that led to insecurity which in turn led to agoraphopia. Yes welcome to Ireland’s first Neurological Institute to the idea of media link, deep assimulation and shared experience routes.

Michelle Clarke

Quotation by Gandhi ‘You have to be the change you want to see in the world’


Forward to 2011

March 6, 2011 16:05

Brain Awareness Week: The Master and his emissary a book to explore

by Michelle Clarke

March 2007 was the first of the Brain Awareness Week programme. Having received notification on the email from the Neurological Association of Ireland, Headway, and others, it is perhaps prudent to remind the Citizen Journalism site readers of their input to keeping the powers that be aware of the impact of head injury, neurological conditions, the impact of mental health issues associated with head injury in the hope that future contributions can be made.

Quote from earlier writer. We need to get reassurance from those who plan to reform the public sector that people with disabilities will not suffer.

‘Funding is needed in particular for areas of rehabilitation. Let us look in earnest to the Government, to socially and ethically responsible public companies, to philantrophy companies and to Minister Cowen’s ability to set up a fund whereby families can get tax benefits and give donations to their own family members, who are badly affected by brain injury. It is a life sentence but there is always a nugget – the experience gained suggests, seek the inherent talent and then nurture it. It is after all okay to be different’

To add to the advice already stated over the years and for those unable to visit the lectures and events being held, I highly recommend this book: The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist. This takes neuroscience into the psychiatric to the philosophical to those with left brain dimensions versus those with right hemisphere emphasis.


May 9, 2013 15:22

Europe: May is Brain Awareness Month

by Michelle Clarke (Blake) – Brain Awareness

Every year, people are becoming more and more interested in the Brain. President Obama has lately made funds available for serious research into the brain and European governments are doing similar. The private sector like IBM Watson http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/what-is-watson.html/Smart are paving the way for the connections with the computer and its capacity to mimic.

Ireland is making its contribution via Trinity College Dublin (Professor Ian Robertson; Professor Brian Lawlor) https://www.tcd.ie/Neuroscience/.

The focus, and thankfully as person with TBI, the research concerns interventions to delay dementia. We are all living longer and the aim is to live independently and with better health. We need to know how to mind our BRAIN related health.

Some interesting points revealed at lecture in Trinity and some links to look up as follows:-

‘Despite the fact that 70% of Europeans are interested in medical and health research, less than 10% of researchers aim their dissemination activities at the general public’.  Google:  Hello Brain http://www.hellobrain.eu/

Check Out Neuro Enhancement for Independent lives NEIL too.  https://www.tcd.ie/Neuroscience/neil/


March 14, 2013 16:40

The Secret Millionaire & Headway

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

The Brain and the month of May is the European Union acknowledgement that as people live longer, dementia, brain injury, stroke will become more significant in our lives and much more costly to the exchequer.

Do we care? It was good to see the Secret Millionaire on RTE 1 last night and the visit to the Headway run programme in Finglas, Dublin. Too often people sustain brain injuries in car accidents, a kick to the head, a fall from a horse, and their lives change dramatically. In a split second, you say goodbye to the person you were and you suddenly have to adapt to a whole new way of life. The people at Headway carry out great work in helping people to adapt to these changes but insufficient time, money, research, information gathering from those affected with ABI, is a crisis in the making.

The Brain needs to be respected. It is not beyond the realms of comprehension of every human being and its exploration does not have to be left with the academics only. The brain and its interconnection involves every intricate interaction of every human being with their living environment and their consciousness daily and it is time for academia to cross that divide and allow people with TBI for example to contribute to their research and findings in a more dignified and respectful way. Maybe something can learned by the academics, the psychiatrists, the psychologists, the neurologists, the people who work with the like of Headway Ireland in their day to day routine. Trinity College appears to be paving the way with the Neuro Enhancement Independent Living https://www.tcd.ie/Neuroscience/neil/ research study stating that they want it to be more user friendly. Ageing and adaptation is a core need that we need to address now and this is about engagement and awareness.

It is worth checking out the co-author of a study, Michael Woodley, who has written on this topic in the journal Intelligence. It seems and is worth noting that the Victorians were ‘quicker, smarter and more creative than the people in contemporary Britain, according to a study’. What is interesting is the new way of assessing intelligence based on ‘reaction times’ and that our IQ has dropped by an average of 14 points – and we are slower. What this is in effect saying is that this has led to a decline in both the innovation and creativity that we identify with Victorian Britain. Michael Woodley states “That these findings strongly indicate that the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations”. He also points out that this dwindling intelligence was most likely due to a “reverse” in natural selection, ie clever people having fewer children. The emphasis therefore according to James Thompson, a chartered psychologist …

“Reaction times” are a real measure, with a reasonably large correlation with IQ, so this is an alarming finding and needs further investigation’.

You ask a person with an TBI what it feels like? You might be surprised how creative and innovative they become and how they cope. Science needs to open up to include people who have a contribution to make, albeit their reaction times may be considerably slower.

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5 Responses to Traumatic brain injury: a survivor’s contributions by Michelle Clarke

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