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April 3, 2013 / Mark Kerrigan

I Have Damage All Over

Me photoAfter my TBI, I assumed because of my poor decisions, that I had frontal lobe damage only–or maybe a little elsewhere. When I was only a few years out from my TBI, I asked my mother what my CT-scan looked like–where most of the damage was. “It was all over your brain,” she said. “There were spots all over your brain,” she said for emphasis. Surely she was exaggerating…
Doing research on what the lobes of the brain do, I discovered that she wasn’t. From what I’ve read, I learned that I, indeed, must have extensive damage all over.
I took a neuropsych eval. a couple of years ago, and damage to the parietal lobes was evident as I learned that I’m in the bottom 3% for dexterity in my left hand and in the bottom 1% for my right. I guess that’s because most people are right handed. Also, as I admitted in an earlier post, I have always had a hard time putting leftovers into a container to put in the fridge.
There is limited damage to my occipital lobes (since they are in the back of the head away from any sharp points which often cause damage to the frontal and temporal lobes). However, I still occasionally run into a doorjam or have difficulty discerning a change in color (think paint chips). My vision did, in fact, change dramatically after my TBI.
Since the point of impact was just in front of my left temple, it seves to reason that I have loads of issues with things that the temporal lobes control. As my wife can attest, I have selective attention. All joking aside, when I’m in a busy environment or when there are lots of stimuli around me, I have a hard time focusing on the task at hand. For this reason, some 13 years ago, I was diagnosed with ADD–as a result of my BI. Finally in January of 2011 did a psychiatrist with experience with TBIs tell me that no, I was not ADD. ADD is something you are either born with or you’re not. Only when I learned about the temporal lobes did I realize why it was that I presented signs of having ADD.
Have you ever had someone talk to you, listing a bunch of facts or numbers, and though you were doing your best to listen, your still found you were getting confused? I know I have. That’s a problem with the reception and organization of verbal material. Surprisingly, I don’t have problems with long-term memory, but my personality has changed drastically. I’ve always been talkative and gregarious, but now I’m much more likely to get–and stay–depressed.
Among the issues I have relating to the brainstem, I have a rapid heart rate–which I always thought was a result of the stimulants I was on to control my diagnosed ADD–and I sweat like a “crack addict.” Additionally, my startle response is almost nil. Ninety-five persent of the time I do not get startled or scared. My son has given up trying to sneak around and up behind me yelling boo since I never jump. But periodically, when I see something like a car wreck that has just happened, I get almost a visceral reaction and cannot stop shaking.
The problems I have resulting from damage to the cerebellum are quite extensive. It’s laughable to even pretend that I’m coordinated–I used to be, but no more. I have an odd gait, or the way I walk. A boss I had 15 years ago said, “Mark, you know, I’ve been watching you walk, and it looks to me like your left foot doesn’t really know where to go.” I thought, Thanks, asshole. But then I realized he was right: my left foot almost looks like it flops. I don’t know how else to describe it. Now when I tell people about it, I say, “My left foot kinda looks like it doesn’t know where to go.” Sorry, boss.
So I guess my mom was right. I do/did have damage all over my brain. Kinda glad I didn’t know how bad it was until now because it might have held me back from doing the things I’m good at.
Keep getting better, and I’ll talk to you soon.

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