August Update

The past week or so has felt like things are moving forward. It’s really encouraging to actually make progress, and it’s feeling like that right now.

Good things:

-Hand therapy. My right hand got really screwed up during my accident, but the real headline there was the wrist. I broke and dislocated a few fingers, just for completeness. I did an amazing job on breaking that wrist, and that caused some problems with the ulnar nerve as it gets into my hand and fingers. It’s like putting your earbuds into your pocket, and the cord is all tangled. You can plug them in, but getting the knots out is a hassle. 

So now I’m getting back the use of my hand. When I came home, the fingers weren’t moving much. But I’ve been doing stretching exercises and other homework to get the fingers working. I’ve been sleeping with my right hand in a brace, which ties my fingers into an extended position. That’s been helping. If you look at my hand, it acts like a good one. The muscles have atrophied, and there’s exercise to fix all that. Last week,I was able to cut my food with a knife in the right hand! I’m celebrating that stuff now, and it feels like I’m on the way to being a grown-up again.

-Nerve Conduction testing. This was a combination of testing how much I twitch if I’m given an electrical shock, and if there are electrical signals going between my nerves and muscles. They try that by sticking a needle into a muscle and hooking it up to an electrode to detect the signal from the nerves.

The first kind of testing was interesting, which also recorded how nerves can transmit signals. That was a bunch of tests from my fingers up to the right shoulder. I messed that shoulder up in the accident, and there are clearly muscles not showing up anymore. The testing with needles hurt. I think it’s useful work, and it’s fine to put up with a few seconds of pain to figure out how to make a bunch of other stuff stop hurting. 

The woman who did the testing was good about telling me that I’ve got a ton of nerve damage. Some of that is probably fixable, and we’ll see how that goes. I’m meeting with my orthopedic doctor tomorrow, and he’ll be able to give me into and help with a plan.

-Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). I get to spend 90 minutes in a pressure chamber where they increase air pressure to 1.5 atmospheres. Then I get a bunch of oxygen to breathe. This treatment increases the amount of oxygen my blood carries, which goes to damaged tissue while it’s trying to heal. This is a scientifically-proven therapy for brain injuries, and it could really help with the physical damage to my brain. I’m going a few times a week, starting this week. We’ll see how that goes. It’s been said that I’ll feel an improvement. What’s also appealing is that improving the healing process for damaged brain tissue helps avoid common complications many months or years later. HBOT is often used for resolving issues seen in TBI victims a few years after the injury. This process may be heading off issues which might develop in a couple of years.

-Functional Neurology. I’m excited about this!  I had an initial meeting and starting evaluation with a great doctor and his team. A great deal of the measurements I went through were looking at how my brain can communicate with itself and how my brain knows where I am in the world. We looked at several reaction times and a lot of sensory processing, as well as working memory. 

There’s a bunch of intensive brain work to help me get back into good mental shape, and I’m feeling really good about that. A bit of joy is that the doctor gave me some good news: in his words, I’m “in shockingly good condition.” I’m not working perfectly, but it’s very unusual for somebody with my injuries to be as functional as I am. Now we’re going to work on latency. That’s incredibly ironic for me that I’m going to have to be satisfied with 250ms latency. There are no routers in the signal path, so we’re looking at application response times. It’s all running on dedicated hardware, so we’ll optimize the code and resource allocation. It’s mostly signal processing and streaming data, right?

The only thing I’m sure of after all of this work is that it’s going to be ok. All the problems I’ve got have resolutions. It’s really going to be a ton more work, and I’m on board. I put in a big effort every day, and I’m so completely glad I can do that. To me, the scariest outcome I can imagine is what happens if I give up or lose my desire to put in the effort to recover. That’s not who I am, and I’m marching towards the good stuff right there on the horizon.

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