Concussion Is Brain Injury
By Shireen Jeejeebhoy
In the year 2000, the-Shireen-who-existed died and a new Shireen began the chaotic, lengthy, and remarkable journey of brain injury recovery
Concussion Is Brain Injury is about the chaotic yet lengthy journey of brain injury recovery. It chronicles my discoveries about my injury, people’s reactions, and real treatments. It gives hope to those who have suffered from concussions and those who care for them.
I wrote Concussion Is Brain Injury in 2012, and it’s time for an update. But I need your help. For my update, I want to fill in some of the pieces missing from the first incarnation: my most recent treatments and their remarkable effects, the toll brain injury takes on relationships, losing my ability to read, the marathon to get it back, and where God fits in. I want to make the book shine, to make it more raw and real, and to tell the other side of the story that Dr. Bennet Omalu began to reveal through his autopsies of football players. I want to tell the whole truth of brain injury: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I need your tangible interest in my book, your faith in me, and your help to do that.
On a cold, clear night, my husband brought our car to a stop going down a big hill. Two cars slammed into us from behind, pushing us into the car in front. Eight months of waiting and worrying later, of wondering what had happened to my memory, the doctor announced I had a closed head injury. A mild traumatic brain injury, they called it – mild because I could walk and talk, not because it was as mild as an ankle sprain. I wish! It killed the person that I was. It ripped apart my life and tore me away from the people who said they loved me. It destroyed my abilities, devastated my talents, and demolished my competence, my self-confidence, and my coping skills. It took away my humour, my curiosity, my emotions, my chattiness, my laughter.
And, in return, I received strategies, pacing instructions, monitoring, and advice to get over myself and to get on with my life.
I spent five years struggling on my own to understand brain injury and seeking real, effective treatment. I refused to believe there was no actual treatment to heal the damaged neurons and blood vessels in my brain. There was. I just had to go outside the medical establishment to find it. When I began active treatment, nothing happened for two months. I was told I had been scammed. Then, all of a sudden, wham, my emotions woke up; like a cloud of fire ants, they ricocheted in my head. I asked the clinic to dial it back. They did. Ever since that moment in late 2005, I have improved, sometimes in leaps, sometimes gradually, until today, I am no longer recognizable as the person the injury turned me into nor am I the person I was before my injury. I am becoming a new person.
Yet my journey is not over. Brain injury is a lifelong, permanent injury, and though I’ve come a long way, I still have far to go.
Who Am I?
My name is Shireen Jeejeebhoy, and I am the published author of two non-fiction books and three novels. I am also a photographer and blogger, with an active social media presence. Since 2005, I have kept a political blog called “talk talk talk.” In 2007, I launched my website at http://jeejeebhoy.ca along with my first book Lifeliner and soon dedicated the blog on my website to brain injury. Since 2009, I have written a novel, play, and/or book of poetry every year.
Why You Should Support My Campaign
Brain injury is an epidemic little talked about outside of the sports and military worlds. Yet it can affect anyone. It is a devastating, life-altering, and person-altering event that is usually left untreated, resulting in people feeling lost, confused, unable to recognize themselves, attacked by family, abandoned by friends, monitored but not actively treated by medical professionals, and struggling to hold onto strands of hope while being told to be grateful as they drown in grief.
Perversely, my background seemed to set me up to help myself after my brain injury. My family encouraged debating between us, reading broadly, learning, thinking differently, and being curious; as a kid, my parents made me look up the answers to my irritating questions. I grew up in the medical world and met nurses, residents, researchers, doctors, and very sick patients socially. I worked summers in a nutrition research lab. As a result, I am not in awe of doctors and have no trouble questioning their assumptions and demanding they do more. My BSc is in psychology, and I took courses in physiology and neurophysiology. My thesis was a single-subject treatment study I developed for ADD, a condition that brain injury can mimic in one of its cognitive effects. Lifeliner, my first book, is a medical biography, from the patient’s perspective, and it won an award and received praise. My desire to finish writing that book got me searching for active treatment after my brain injury.
I have learnt much and continue to learn more about brain injury and its devastating effects that ripple outward from the injured person through family, friends, and into society. I shared what I had learnt up to 2011 in Concussion Is Brain Injury, but I have much more to share now. I feel that there is no point in only me benefitting from what I know; there is no meaning in this injury and in my recovery if they are not a conduit for helping others. I wish to crowdfund so that I can make this book much more helpful to others.
Even though I worked with children who had brain injuries I found myself failing to understand some of Shireen’s frustrations and struggles and that is why I jumped at the chance to read her book. The book is a must read for ANY PROFESSIONAL who works for adults or children with brain injuries. It gives you the prospective [sic] of how frustrating our system can be and the lack of hope most professional give to people with brain injuries.
–Nancy Howson on Facebook
If the campaign is successful, I will hire an editor to condense and update the current version of Concussion Is Brain Injury with new content on the experimental treatments I’ve undergone, on the gifts and curses brain injury brings to relationships, on what I’ve learnt about reading, on my thoughts on CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), and on God and injury. I will also have a new cover created and launch an international marketing campaign. If the crowdfunding campaign is more than successful, I will create a website just for the book.
Concussion Is Brain Injury
This campaign needs the support of people like you. I cannot update Concussion Is Brain Injury on my own. I need strong backing to encourage me and to make this update possible. The best part: your contribution will be rewarded.
Whether injured or living with someone who is, this book gives a vivid glimpse into the chaotic journey of the brain injured. The insights are accurate and point out how daunting and variable the recovery path is. The author provides many strategies for progression of the healing journey to a new more functional reality.
–Dave on Goodreads
Excerpt from Concussion Is Brain Injury
I walked unsteadily between the throngs of people laughing and talking and eating cotton candy as they tasted the new wonders of Canada’s Wonderland one Saturday afternoon in 1981. The cold rain of the morning had steamed away under the June sun’s blasting heat. There was no shade. The theme park was too new for trees to have leafed out great shadows to shelter under. Buildings provided meagre side panels of shade. I had just left one such sliver to go find Dad. I put one foot in front of the other; I willed my dizzy head up; I set my eyes ahead of me; I put my mind on my purpose: find Dad somewhere over there near a ride he’d taken my younger brother and sister to. There was shade there too. The pale bricks underneath my feet soaked in the sun’s rays; the collected heat billowed up through my shoes into my legs and into my body. My heart couldn’t take it. And halfway across the wide, wide path I stopped walking.
My eyes dropped.
My view narrowed to the attractive brick path beneath my running shoes.
Fear clutched at my chest as my head plummeted down towards the relentlessly hot solid surface. Somehow I stopped myself.
People swirled around me as I stood there bent at the waist, watching the path beneath me to ensure it didn’t come any closer while I talked to myself. I have to stand up, I told myself. I can’t make it to Dad. I have to return to Mum. I have to stand up. I can’t stand up. I must stand up. I can’t walk back to my mother and aunt bent over like this. I waited for the familiar black strands of mist to clear from my vision; low blood pressure had dogged me for a few years, although never like this. The sun beat on my back while the people walked around me like I was an obstacle between them and their next ride. Finally millimetre by millimetre I cautiously straightened myself. I waited to ensure I wouldn’t keel over, and then I walked very, very carefully back to my mother and my aunt, who took one look at my white face and cold body and sounded the alarm. Minutes later ambulance attendants were futilely trying to measure my blood pressure. It had dropped to unreadable.
Decades later, I asked God why He didn’t let me die that day. I was a teenager on the way to her first year at the University of Toronto. I was a young woman full of potential, determined to study psychology and one day enter med school. I was the first girl on my father’s side who had survived in three generations, and I was following in my Dad’s footsteps. If I had died that day, I would have been remembered as a person who had a bright future. I would have been mourned and missed. I wouldn’t have become a failure, a fuck-up, an embarrassment with a destroyed life, shunned and left in the solitary confinement of brain injury.
Job spoke for all of us who have been flung into the abyss of brain injury when he said: “May the day of my birth perish.”
The day of my birth was a blizzard. Snow flung itself around the maternity hospital as the doctor dragged me out of my mother’s womb with forceps. Wind and cold stopped my grandmother from attending. The night of my second birth — the day of my brain injury — was cold too. But the sky was clear, the wind still. No snow, no drink nor drugs nor sleep obscured the vision of the sober drivers behind us as they slammed into the back of our car. My husband had been driving us home along the highway that crossed the north end of Toronto. We had stopped as the cars in front of us had braked in a snaky line down the hill.
The old sedan behind us slammed into our trunk. My husband told me later that he had seen him coming in the rear-view mirror. He had not warned me. Shocked at the violence of being hit, I raised my left hand up to protect my neck.
A car like ours, a new sedan built for safety, slammed into the car behind us, which again flung itself against our bumper. One of those two rear drivers forced us into the trunk of the red car in front of us.
And then …
I keeled over and sobbed like Job, like I had lost everything: my family, my job, my friends, myself.
And then …
I sat up. I felt nothing.
Call 911, my husband instructed me as he got out to assess the damage to the car. But the real damage was hidden inside my intact skull. The real damage was the sheared neurons, the tiny blood vessels torn and bleeding invisibly into the spaces between the cells that made me, me. The real damage took months to be seen and years to reveal itself fully to me.
This book is for all the people like me who have suffered a terrible trauma: to show that there is a way out. And this book is for me: to show myself how far I’ve come and that, like in the story of Job, the days can be full again.