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In An Instant

By Dr. Nancy J. Nelson

A tear slides down my cheek as I make the long ambulance ride to the emergency room. If I could talk I would say not to take me, but the only part of my body I can control are my eye lids; one blink for yes and two for no. I have made the ride so many times the EMTs know me by name. I know I will be asked the same questions by the doctors about stress and anxiety and will be given the same diagnosis (pseudo seizures) and will perhaps be asked if I want to see the hospital counselor. 

            Six and a half years ago I suffered my fourth and perhaps most significant head injury while in Connecticut to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. All ten of her children, along with in-laws, ex-in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and play relatives were there for the fun. The night before the party I went with a brother and sister to hear another sister perform with her band. In an instant my life changed.

I was later told that two men had gotten into an argument. One shoved the other who knocked into me while I was on the dance floor. I remember moving in slow motion, falling to the floor and rolling onto my back. To me the whole event lasted less than a minute. To those around me, protecting me, I was out 20 minutes.

            Plagued with seizures, intense headaches, and neck pain, I began spiraling into a deep depression. Projects were left unfinished. I would come home from an unproductive day at work, lie on the couch watching reruns of reruns on TV, and sip wine, hoping to feel – to feel anything. I went to doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and alcohol treatment; yet I kept getting worst. While in alcohol counseling I watched a film about Dr. Amen’s work on diagnosing brain problems. There was one picture of a brain scan of a woman who had suffered brain injury from a concussion. “That’s me!” I thought.

            I nervously drove to one of Dr. Amen’s clinics in Tacoma, Washington, a five hour drive. This was my last hope. I thought if they could not help me no one could. Previous doctors had dismissed me as depressed, stressed, and had seizures to get attention. Dr. Clements at the Amen Clinic read my brain scan results along with the paperwork I submitted. I wanted to cry when he told me I suffered injury to my brain that was treatable with medication.

            Slowly I am beginning to feel like my old self. Projects are being finished. I no longer drink wine to be able to feel. I am becoming happier and am again interested in life. The Amen Clinic gave me my life back largely because they listened.