I’m sure many other brain injury survivors like me go through a stage where they have other health issues affecting them at the same time. This can create some confusion about which is responsible for the symptoms.
In my case I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. For years, since being a teenager I had been borderline. But suddenly that changed after my accident.
I don’t know if that happened because of the radiation from the CT scan’s or just because everything in my body was struggling because my brain wasn’t running a tight ship any more. But as many of the symptoms can be similar to a brain injury it was difficult to know which was causing what.
First my GP found I was anaemic, the iron in my blood stores had all but been used up. Perhaps that was because of the blood I’d lost in the accident. So she put me on a high dose of iron tablets, which did help a bit with the tiredness. As iron transports oxygen in the blood its vital that everybody has enough iron.
Given that the brain uses 20% of your body’s oxygen and energy it becomes clear why a lack of iron in your blood can cause such problems.
But still I would have a foggy brain, so she ran more tests, and low and behold my thyroid just wasn’t pulling it’s weight. Hypothyroidism covered a lot of the symptoms I had:
- slow movements thought, and speech
- pins and needles
- difficulty swallowing
- dry skin
- slow metabolism
…just to name a few.
Given that this was still before anyone had explained I had a brain injury, I started taking the prescribed levothyroxine and expected miracles to happen. She did explain it takes time for your body to readjust so she advised caution with my expectations.
So in time I did feel a difference, a slight improvement. I felt was on my way back to being normal.
I had a brain injury so whilst treating the hypothyroidism helped, it wasn’t able to resolve the fact that my brain was still having to find new ways to process things.
I do not blame my GP, she did the best she could with the information she had. Dutifully she bowed to the expertise of the specialists. But actually she didn’t have much information sent to her from the hospital anyway. Before this happened I had only met her once about 4 years earlier so we were having to start from scratch. She didn’t know me and so where often your regular GP might be able to spot something different about you she had nothing to go on.
I’d never been one to go see the doctor each time I was ill. Usually my answer to everything was hot honey and lemon. But this time it wasn’t going to cut the mustard.
It wasn’t until I started attending the group sessions with Headway that I started to understand. Until then I didn’t really understand even how serious a concussion is. But as Annette started to go through the basics I began to realise.
As I’m only in my early thirties it’s hoped that in time I will make a “full recovery”. It used to be thought the brain would be fully mature by your late 20’s but in more resent years this has been revised.
New research shows the brain continues to develop after childhood and puberty, and is not fully developed until people are well into their 30s and 40s. The findings contradict current theories that the brain matures much earlier.
The prefrontal cortex is the region at the front of the brain just behind the forehead, and is an area of the brain that undergoes the longest period of development. It is an important area of the brain for high cognitive functions such as planning and decision-making, and it is also a key area for social behaviour, social awareness, for empathy and understanding and interacting with other people, and various personality traits.
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a neuroscientist with the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said the prefrontal cortex “is the part of the brain that makes us human,” since there is such a strong link between this area of the brain and a person’s personality.
So whilst I’ve still got to be patient, excuse the pun, I’m still hopeful for the future.
Have you had other medical conditions which have made it a challenge to identify the affects of your brain injury?