Navigating an Invisible Nightmare: A Story of Brain Injury
It's an all too common scenario. You're at work, you drop your pen, it rolls under your desk, you go to retrieve it and boom-you hit your head. It's that simple to incur a traumatic brain injury, which over 5 million in the U.S. alone face according to the Brain Injury Association. The silent epidemic of brain injury, impacting 1 in 60 people is the basis for brain injury awareness month.
It was just another work day for Chicago born Client Strategist Adriana Puente many years ago. Under IT's direction, Adriana went under her desk to get to the root of the technical issues at hand. A hard collision between her head and the desk met her on the way up.
"I didn't think it was a big deal. I didn't get a bump, which I learned later was a really bad thing, it meant the swelling went inside my brain,'' Adriana shares.
An often invisible injury, brain damage is commonly misdiagnosed, stigmatized and shrugged off, leading to further long term suffering. In Adriana's case, she felt ill the next day,feeling nauseous and groggy as though she was stuck in the clouds. Despite feeling silly about her injury, she took the advice of a nurse friend and went to the E.R.
''They said you have a concussion, here's an ice pack, take it easy for a week, and if you experience more symptoms come back. At the time I thought doctors were infallible so i just listened to the doctor,'' Adriana said of her initial diagnosis, highlighting that even the doctor can be wrong.
Despite taking the doctor's orders, vertigo persisted, along with light sensitivity,and short term memory loss, all of which are symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
''I was confused about what stop to get off of. Confused in general. My purse would be in my freezer and I would forget my keys all the time. I knew something wasn't right,'' Adriana explained of her symptoms.
Adriana was never told that physical therapy was an option to help with vertigo and loss of memory, so she kept going back to the doctor, elongating the painful process. Nobody would listen until she found the Brain Injury Association of Illinois, equipped with the right specialists and services for people in Adriana's position. One major lesson Adriana learned from all of this is that it isn't how hard you hit your head, it's where you hit your head that impacts your brain.
''It was the worst 18 months of my life. But after finding the right facility, they really helped me with physical therapy for vertigo, and speech therapy for my memory and cognitive issues,'' said Adriana.
Adriana's courageous intuition and persistence to overcome injury when navigating unforeseen injuries that lurk in every day scenarios.
''Advocate for yourself, if someone isn't listening to you go find the resources. Focus on the new normal, accepting the differences post accident, and celebrate the small steps and accomplishments, it is all apart of your journey,'' Adriana imparts.