Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury

Matt Sarad

Member
Messages
900
My TBI was March 22nd, 2013, the result of a bike accident. While car camping, we took clunker bikes and in a rush didn't take helmets. We hadn't planned to climb a road we had hiked in the moonlight the night before, but chugged up to the top for the ocean View in Morro Bay, CA.
On the ride down I hit a pothole and bump in a shady spot and flew about 20 feet with a terrible landing. Broken collarbone, collapsed right lung, numerous broken ribs and vertebrae, hairline skull fracture, hemorrhaging, contusion, concussion, and a lot of my blood on the pavement when I awoke to someone calling my name.

I was out for about five days and came to when my girlfriend, now my wife, appeared in my consciousness in my ICU room. I left there after a week and moved to a rehab facility and the Centre for Neuro Skillsfor cognitive, work, and physical rehab.

I didn't play guitar for two months while the collarbone healed. The shoulder was pain ridden for a year, which meant that I went from 15 minutes playing time to an hour after that first year. Grip strength was lessened considerably.

My brother and friends put me in their blues band where I couldn't remember the names or chord changes like I had pre accident. 60% loss of hearing in my left ear and tinnitus replacing the loss made playing music live a challenge. At one gig it sounded like we were all in different keys so I had to stop mid song on stage. Pissed off the bassist who refused to play anymore, even though we had been in our first band together as teenagers in 1969.

It took three years to remember all my original dadgad tunes on acoustic.

Another bassist refused anymore gigs after I " threw him under the bus" while changing tunes mid song, something I don't remember.

So now, I notice that I can't play complex songs I used to know with precision. Songs I write are played differently about 80% of the time. The drummer gets it. The bassist scrambles to follow my directions.

Anyone else have similar stories from head injuries, strokes, the DTs?
 

Ephi82

Member
Messages
2,577
Keep on keeping on......music has incredible curative properties. Have it work for you.

All the best buddy
 

auger-1

Member
Messages
194
wow - ya kudo's for keeping at it....getting with the right guys....and some that can change it on the fly...have an attention span to help out ...for the bigger picture
the song... just think if they played with Zappa.....what would the expectation be....??
keep on doing what you love to do....that is what its all about.
I hope for you to have a speedy recovery... and who knows ...when you get it all back... you have a kick ass band that can change tunes on the fly.....
positive vibes
 

harmonicator

Member
Messages
4,598
Hey Matt. I suffered a TBI when I was 10 years old after taking a massive spill over the handlebars of my bike. Had an orbital blow-out fracture around my right eye, in the hospital for weeks. I was lucky to recover rather quickly with age being on my side. RE your post, coincidentally, I lived in Morro Bay for 20 years, and my brother's wife used to work for the Centre for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield. I am very familiar with the paved road up black hill from the golf course, as well as all the trails. That used to be my daily hike! I'm not able to offer any professional advice, but perhaps this article may provide some good ideas:

https://blog.bulletproof.com/bouncing-back-after-traumatic-brain-injury/

Anyway, I wish you all the best and success with getting it back. Hang in there and stay positive.

If you're not familiar with jazz guitarist Pat Martino, check out his story. Regained all his playing ability after a crippling brain aneurysm.
 

Clifford-D

Member
Messages
17,051
Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you the best.

The Pat Martino story could be very uplifting for you. Pat is known for his tbi recovery from an aneurysm and having his corpus collosum severed by surgery. an amazing story that ends with him relearning music after losing his past in so many ways. He is once again back to his world class playing self. He still has deficits in his life but manages. He is a shining light for many people with tmi.

Good luck.
 

bgmacaw

Member
Messages
8,083
Yeah. I had a series of strokes about 5 years ago that nearly blinded me and caused right side paralysis. With time and therapy it got better. Most of my vision came back and most of my feeling came back too although I still have some weakness and numbness. My wife says I'm more grumpy though.
 

WayneM

Member
Messages
1,592
In March 1990, I had a stroke (at age 39). I lost all words....I could not talk, read or write. At the ICU, the found that I had 2 silent heart attacks (at that point, 2 full blocked arteries not repairable and a aneurysm heart). This caused a clot that went to my brain.
I had played guitar since a I was 12yrs old. I went back to work in 3 months (I was a Engineer in a Steel Plant and was part of a team running a 80 million dollar new installation). At work with about 20% of my prior word vocabulary (at that time) I was stressed.

I found that all of my music memory was associated with words....that part of my memory was shot!
I waited until I was about 44 yrs old until I started to try to play guitar again.
At age 48, I jammed with some neighbors one night (for the first time) and they told me that I am in the the band.
I asked "what band"? They wanted to start a band and they wanted me to play with them.
After 2 yrs of practice every week, we played at a open mic night.
The owner of the bar offered us a gig (she enjoyed our 5 songs).
This band (with me as a member) played out for a few years.
I quit the band just before my second stroke (2005).

I still play, but not out. The second stroke killed my timing and some of my memory recall.
I am still trying to improve....sometimes I can play reasonably well and other times not as good.

I still love playing and owning guitars and amps.....however, it will never be the same.
I deal with this and I am happy with what I have.

Best of luck to the OP....empathy is there....I feel your pain.
 
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Guitar Josh

Resident Curmudgeon
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
18,886
I deal with TBI alot in my line of work. It's a tough road to hoe. I've had people tell me they basically cannot remember anything, lose keys that are in their pockets/glasses on their face, walk into rooms and have no idea why they are there, and lose large tracts of time. The good news is that the brain is a wonderful instrument and with work and practice, you really can help yourself tremendously. Don't be proud - look for and get help. Its out there and can really improve your life.
 

Matt Sarad

Member
Messages
900
Thanks for the tremendous and powerful responses. I am familiar with Martino and what he went through. I bought Martino vinyl in the 70s and saw him at NAMM one year(I think...). I have come a long way musically, if learning When You Wish Upon A Star in four more months reading a fingerstyle version from TAB counts.
Listening to rehearsal recordings from 2011-2012 I wonder what the heck I was doing on the solos. I have the speed back, but the ideas are more just repetitive lines and modal scalar runs.

Speaking of Zappa, I brought early tunes to the band: Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance and Lumpy Gravy, which is more difficult.

Cheers from Downtown Bakersfield,

Matt
 
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splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
25,364
yeah.
dangerous neurosurgery in 1992; saved my life, removed one of my ears, had to learn how to hear again, suffered aphasia, years of recovery..... but, recovery includes the ongoing residual effect of seizure-like episodes, which have --- thankfully --- become much more sporadic, though still occurring.

some tough roads, matt, but i'm still aware of my great good fortune..... among other things, that i can always hear music inside me, and i can play.
 
Messages
12,030
Yepper, severe left sided infarct/CVA/stroke in July 2006. I lost most everything motor on my right side, and spent a lot of time recuperating(years) from the stuttering(middle vertebral artery). It's been humbling and a real eye opener. Friends helped me down off the ledge a few times. It has taken the better part of a decade to be able to play with any fluency again. I still have meter issues. I have never lost the ability to know when I am hearing/making music.
 
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WayneM

Member
Messages
1,592
yeah.
dangerous neurosurgery in 1992; saved my life, removed one of my ears, had to learn how to hear again, suffered aphasia, years of recovery..... but, recovery includes the ongoing residual effect of seizure-like episodes, which have --- thankfully --- become much more sporadic, though still occurring.

some tough roads, matt, but i'm still aware of my great good fortune..... among other things, that i can always hear music inside me, and i can play.
David.....I did not know about your health issues. You have a strong disposition...amazing.
I started having seizures about 1.5 years after my second stroke......very scary.
Fortunately, the docs finally found the right meds for me after one seizure that sent my to a hospital. I have not had one in about 9 years (not even those scary twitches).

We all have only 2 choices in a situation like this - give up or go on with you life with all the strength that you can muster.
The only correct choice is the second of the two.
 

burns

Member
Messages
1,752
I had a stroke and brain surgery in 2015. Really affected my right side. Walking and talking are an ongoing process. I used to hybrid pick everything but now I'm learning to pick everything (just holding a pick without it spinning is a big deal!). It takes me a month to learn what it used to take 5 minutes but it sure beats the alternative. It's very uplifting to read some of the stories in this thread!
 

Jazzandmore

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,043
OP, this is a REAL thread! By that I mean, a lot of threads that get posted daily are meaningless filler, whether it be asking if my guitar looks cool, to folks wondering why some famous musician would want to use totally different gear.

But what you all are talking about is touching the real things of life. So bummed to hear that a number of you guys have had to face serious issues that damaged your health, in some cases permanently. My mother had several strokes back in the late 90's. As a result she had to come live with me so I could look after her. She wanted to take piano lessons again after many years of not playing. She was fortunate enough to find a place in Denver that specifically worked with older folks that had suffered some kind of stroke/heart attack/etc. Unfortunately her brain just wouldn't allow her to really lock on and be able to progress even with the simple stuff. Really hurt to see her be at home and not be able to play. She still enjoyed listening to music thankfully.

I'm in awe that you guys express such a strong and positive drive to keep on moving forward. Great attitudes do make a difference!

I also think it's threads like this that open a window of understanding. There are a bunch of folks in this thread that I recognize from many other threads. Folks like @splatt that I knew was a world class and well known musician, but had no idea he had to overcome such hurdles. I know that @bgmacaw and I get into little arguments in threads regarding expensive guitars and that kind of thing. But when you read guys stories in this thread, and I have no doubt there are many more like it among TGP unfortunately, it should remind us that the crap we argue about is:

1) truly not important compared to the real challenges in life
2) the guy we are arguing with is a real person and may be facing all kinds of things, do we make his life better by jumping on his case in a nasty way? Probably not.

Kudos to your then girlfriend, now wife, for staying by you all this time.

@bgmacaw I'm still gonna give you grief every time you use one of those "tone is in the wallet", or "more money than sense" cliches you love ;) But the truth is that I wish the best for all you guys here that are dealing with these issues and still working to keep music in your life.

For all the guys here that shared their stories, so impressed you all didn't give up, you keep fighting to play. Truly music does make our lives better and you all know that to be true.
 

Sam Karnatz

Member
Messages
673
My brother took a header off his bike in Central Park years ago (left his helmet in the shop...) Found by cops in the middle of the night...or he probably wouldn't have lives. Took him two years rehab living with Moms before he could even begin to do for himself...plus, seizures, which he found out about after moving back to NY....and falling off the subway platform in a grand mal. Been fifteen years or thereabouts now. He's seizure-free thanks to (I think...) cannibidiol and living here in CA. He lacks some 'executive' functionality. But he never was much of a diplomat anyway.

Then there's my stroke. I just woke up stupid one day: couldn't talk right felt woozy. Got up went to Safeway, came back and cooked breakfast for a guest at my (then) BnB. Felt crappy and was getting back in bed when the Wife said: "I'm taking you to the hospital..." Helicoptered to Stanford for some of the nation's finest neglect, released two days later. I couldn't even play bass...
That was a decade ago. Happy to say I play better now than before... And that has to do with being determined to get it back. I practiced harder than I ever did. Those habits stuck with me and I've raised my skills all the way to 'mediocre'. I don't feel any bad effects except restless leg...but don't trust my body any more...

Your brain has an innate ability to heal itself from these things....Neural pathways reroute, but it takes some time. Make sure your bandmates understand this. And if they can't deal, find ones who can. Best luck on your recovery.
 




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