Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

December 6, 2018

Just a Few Words About Doctors

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:12 pm

I have been well-blessed for having been the beneficiary of wonderful, caring and invested doctors after my brain injury and, really, throughout my life.  But I came across an article today in our local news because, for many of us after brain injury, we are throwing all of our hope and faith into our doctors’ ability to fix our brains:

Six doctors were charged in an unsealed indictment Thursday with cheating Medicare and Medicaid out of almost $500 million and fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic by illegally prescribing more than 13 million doses of prescription pain medication.

While this is one case of gone-wrong doctors amidst a sea of mostly honorable and wonderful ones, it is a reminder that we have to take charge of our care and that of the parents and children we are responsible for.  Whether it is our case after brain injury, our parents needing to find competent and compassionate assistive care or our kids being trusted to pediatricians, it is up to us to take control of all that we can in order to avoid the dangers of darker care-providers.

It was mainly the blind trust in doctors which kept any one of dozens of people from unmasking and stopping Dr. Larry Nassar from molesting hundreds of gymnasts and other athletes under his care.  We have all read horror stories of this doctor or that.

Doctors are people.  And, as much as most are wonderful and caring, there are the darker ones who are distracted, uncaring, in it just for the paycheck or just plain dangerous.

Invest in your care and that of your loved ones.   Get second opinions.   Ask questions.  Do research, even when you annoy them with what you found on the Internet.  Ha.

Please take Kara yourselves.


November 23, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:30 am

Very excited and proud to announce my third audio book is now available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  Particularly excited because so many brain injury survivors struggle to read, like I do.  It’s difficult to follow the written word and, as I’ve found, too many audio books are narrated too fast and are hard to follow along with.  I paid special care to ensure my narration was clean and well-paced.  Thrilled to offer this as an additional tool in survivors’ recoveries.  Was wowed to hear of people using the first audio book of the original Fork in their TBI support groups and rehab sessions.  That means more to me than I could ever well-express.

In this narration, I really felt connected to you.  I laughed during it.  I cried some.  It was a special opportunity and experience for me to feel how the best part of such a challenging experience is the ability to share it and help others with it.  Feels great.  :))))))

Remember that, if you go to Audible and sign up for a free trial, you can obtain my new audio for free.   Yay!

Hoping this is another way to add to your successful recovery as you ROCK THIS LIFE!!!!


November 22, 2018

The Truth About Stuffing

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:09 am

When I was a kid, my Mom managed to prepare Thanksgiving Day feasts for a dozen or more every year with a bird that was always so big that the oven door didn’t close all the way.  We didn’t have enough chairs or matching silverware or fancy napkins or room for everyone to scrunch around that tiny table.  There weren’t microwaves yet so we turned the back patio into a an extra refrigerator for the day and everything kept warm on plugged-in hot plates tethered to every outlet.

Oh, I loved that stuffing.  While the 22 or 26 pound bird was the scene-stealer and the dinner’s highlight, it was the stuffing I waited for.  It was the stuffing I snuck in the early day when no one was looking.

You can make stuffing in a number of ways.   Sage or cornbread or cranberry walnut.  Seems everyone’s favorite is the kind they grew up on.  Mine sure is.

That first Thanksgiving after my Mom’s first stroke was my first attempt at pulling off a Thanksgiving meal.  Oh my…We don’t have to revisit some of those moments.  LOL.

My brother, Craig, and I had only a vague notion about how my Mom’s stuffing went together.  We bumbled and fumbled over each other that first year, trying our best while our Mom sat silently at the kitchen table, both laughing and crying.  We were both laughing and crying, too.

Stuffing can be traced back to all sorts of origins.   People stuffed meats and vegetables and fish.  They used everything from breads to herbs to vegetables and cheeses.

I have long-assumed that stuffing was an inexpensive meal-stretcher for those who needed a filler when maybe the meats were smaller and their families grew larger.

Over the years, I have tweaked and often failed in my attempts to get my Mom’s stuffing perfectly duplicated (Kara, put the sage down and step away)…   More than twenty-five years later, I come pretty close now.

But, while I was prepping my stuffing this morning, I was thinking about how it compliments.  How it fills.  How it stands in.  How it, maybe, makes up for.

And I realized how, in any life, we each have to keep making and keep adding stuffing to fill the holes that heartbreak and disappointment create.

Many of you know that my Dad actually died right on Thanksgiving Day.  Even after eleven years, the memories dare to darken this day each year still.

Today it occurred to me that, over these years, I have added the people and the activities and the outlets that bring joy to sadness and which bring light to darkness.

You are my stuffing.  You.

You are where I go, you are whom I choose, you are one of the many ways I fill the holes and compliment life when the meats are a little too wanting.

Thank you, all of you.   Thank you for the simple warmth, the wonderful support, the gentle smiles and even the belly laughs I enjoy on FB, through my blog, in our exchanges and from all the ways you touch my heart.   You are the ones I return to sneak from on more days than you could know.

Thank you.  Thank you for being my stuffing.

I wish you warm, wonderful moments of Thanksgiving today and always.

Love you.  Kara

November 20, 2018

Love Tim Green

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:12 am

Did any of you see the 60 Minutes segment on Tim Green?  What an incredible man!  What an incredible life!!!

This story had a slant towards repeated concussion and how that may play a role in those who eventually are diagnosed with ALS and similar neurological conditions.

But what I took from it is this man as such a warm, adorable, wonderful example of a multi-faceted, broadly-successful life in so many areas.  He went from a football all-pro to now an author of more than 30 books and, as his disease progresses, he invites and utilizes new technologies to allow him to continue to write.

He is an inspiration.

Even with such a debilitating condition, he has continued to participate in his loving family and he has continued to participate in his love of football, coaching youngsters in any capacity that he can.

He finds a way.  He continues to participate.  He goes out and enjoys his life each day.

I hope you will find him as warm, lovely and inspiring as I did.  Love this guy.


November 16, 2018

If You’re Going To Display Santas On Halloween…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:43 am

It is only now that I can speak of the trauma of Halloween day.  Ha.  I arrived at the counter at my neighborhood CVS, only to see huge, life-size Santas already on display.

I felt immediately panicked.

I had read that, in an effort to further boost early holiday shopping, name brands had devised strategies to trick us into early feelings of Autumn and the holidays.  Some, for instance, were already advertising their pumpkin spice lattes by early September.

I was aghast.  I hadn’t even put away my capris yet!!!

It wasn’t until I saw those Santas on Halloween morning that I decided I would fight back.   So I decided that I’m going start Thanksgiving early.

Care to join?

As the cold and the snow arrived early here in Michigan, I was leaning towards sour and starting to feel grumpy.  After all, Autumn is my favorite season and I felt we had been cheated of some of my favorite weather weeks of any year.

But then there were late hurricanes on the East Coast and, next, California lit up like a tinderbox.  All while I watched coverage from my cozy home in Michigan.

Hard to be sour, really.

I’m officially starting Thanksgiving early because, for all the things we complain about (even those valid bugger things that deserve our scorn), most of us who are reading this are lucky and fortunate and blessed beyond measure.

We may complain of early Santas at CVS and snow on top of beautiful Autumn leaves.  We may grouse about the endless political ads that took over the Midterm season.  Some will lament their teams who didn’t make baseball playoffs, who are limping through football season or who are stumbling out of the gate of basketball season.

But most of us have it pretty good.

The death toll in California is rising as courageous, exhausted first responders continue to find victims who literally melted to death in their cars.  There are some on the East and Gulf Coasts who have never fully recovered from their Hurricane devastation, let alone Puerto Rico.  And already snow and ice storms are coming to sneer.

With Daylight Savings time came darker, colder mornings and so many I know went right into the dumper because, for the next six months, they will rarely see light as they leave for work and return home again after those rare glimpses of sun.

And, yes, I am a Detroit Lions’ fan.  God help me.

It’s important to jumpstart Thanksgiving early for many because, it appears, she’s going to need to warm up a bit before the parades and the food and the football and the relatives next Thursday.

Many, on both coasts, will struggle to muster givings of thanks when all that they have called home has been lost to the fury of Mother Nature.  Many are displaced and misplaced.  Some would give anything for burned Thanksgiving Day biscuits and too-dry turkey…

As most of you know, I’m still dealing with those stubborn dizzies which continue to make daily activities a hardship.  This year has been a struggle and I know many of you have been challenged and dinged up some this year, as well.

But, at every turn, I have been helped by people with hearts of gold who have offered and given and laid their coats down in mud puddles before me.

They are champions of Thanksgiving.  They are larger than any float we will see in those parades.  They are the Godsends who remind me, at every turn, that Thanksgiving is always about what we have.  Not what we don’t.

And Thanksgiving is welcome early.  Thanksgiving is welcome every day.

Let’s call to her.  Invite her.  Surprise her with the many, many measures of our best realization and appreciation.

If they’re going to start Christmas on Halloween, let’s all start Thanksgiving early, too.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours.

November 8, 2018

Did You Vote?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:01 am

Did you vote Tuesday?  Did you wake up this morning and feel badly that there was another mass shooting with multiple casualties?  Did you forget to water the plants or forget that load left in the washer or the dryer again?  Did you forget to pick up coffee filters for the third time?  Did you turn your collar to the new north winds and wish we had a longer Autumn?  Did you read the headlines?  Did you think of someone you need to call or email?  Did you lament the physical changes you are experiencing when you looked in the mirror and realized you are not 23 anymore?  Did you burn the toast or leave the mayo on the counter overnight?  Did you jot down another to-do list and carryover all the things from the to-do list from days before that you haven’t gotten to yet?  Did you pick up your meds, make that appointment, put air in the low tire, start to think about Thanksgiving, roll your eyes that stores had Santas on the shelves the day after Halloween, feel relief that there are no more election commercials, check facebook this morning, check your phone yesterday another fifty times?  Did you run out of stamps or printer ink at exactly the worst time?

Did you?

I think we are closer to that vague term of “normal” than we give ourselves credit for.

I can remember, in the days after losing my virginity or losing my parents or acquiring my brain injury, being out in the world and feeling different.  Different because I had changed.  Because I was not the same person I had been just a day before.

I can distinctly remember driving home from the hospital the day my mom had died and being stuck at a red light.  The person next to me glanced my way and I said to myself, “Do I look like someone whose mother just died?”

What I’ve realized over the years is that, no, I didn’t look any different.  Even when my brain injury encouraged my use of a wheelchair or a cane or when my arm hung strangely to my side.

I looked like everyone else.


As I’ve gotten older, I’m no longer the only friend whose parents died early.  I’m not the only one who lost a career, couldn’t drive for a long time, struggled to make ends meet, tried and faltered, changed jobs, changed addresses, changed my thinking.

I realize now how we are all the different versions of same.

I met a man who, while standing in the cold, confessed to me that his hands don’t take the damp weather well from injuries he sustained in Vietnam.  When I started getting dizzies last Christmas, I cannot count how many people shared their stories of decades suffering similar challenges.   When I’m driving down my street in the morning, I often see a woman slowly motoring the length of the block in a motorized scooter.  There’s that man I see at the store who winces a little when he starts to stand up.  Friends have reported so many issues and new conditions that I find myself forgetting to ask about them even days and, usually, weeks later.

We’re the same as everyone else.  Just different versions of the same.

Once I realized that, I started to present more sides of me.  Sides of me that people liked more.  Sides of me that I liked more.  Sides of me that brought happiness, shared joy, ended in laughter.   And, the more I did that, the smaller my injury became.  The greater the shadow it retreated into.

The bigger my best became.

Too many of us grow a rancid resentment because we are angry that no one can understand what this is like.  Too many of us carry it as a chip on our shoulders.

But I don’t know what my friend’s breast cancer felt like.  Or my other friend’s kidney cancer.  I don’t know what my friend’s MS feels like or my other friend’s heart attack.  I don’t know what my friends feel like who have kids.

We all have unique lives.  Unique experiences.  Unique stories.

As different as our brain injuries have made us feel, they have, instead, simply made us more like everyone else.   When, for so long, we have felt isolated and alone out there, it is a joining comfort to realize we aren’t on an island, after all.

We are all part of the different same.

October 20, 2018

Defined By Your Elbow?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:19 am

When you look at your body, your mind and your life, would you say you are defined by your elbow?  By an unusual ankle?  How about your spleen?  Anything remarkable about that spleen?

There are certainly people who are defined by small parts of them which have made huge impacts.   There are people who are defined by their extraordinary voices, pitchers and quarterbacks with rocket arms, dancers and boxers defined by quick and incredible feet…

A lot of times we, ourselves, define people narrowly.  We picture them and just one image comes to mind:  Tiger Woods in his Championship Sunday red shirts and black slacks or Whitney Houston rocking that National Anthem.  Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk.

We sum them up.  We condense their whole.

Too often, we, ourselves, end up being defined by our brain injuries.   We join those who have suffered catastrophic events in their lives and we summarize them as they were this or they were that until X happened…

We do that to ourselves, too.

Part of the great goal in recovering successfully from these injuries has to do with that old spleen of ours.  That odd kidney.  That one elbow.

It is to force the definition more broadly.

If we look at a person and only see their amazing voice, their incredible arm, their lightning-fast feet, their blazing serve, then we tend to write them off when those superior tools fade and when they are cast aside by the next new singer, golfer, boxer, dancer.

But there is so much more.

Those people have parents and siblings, spouses and children.  They have homes and pets and neighbors and interests.  They celebrate birthdays and question their futures and fear their next chapters and dread their failings.

We are all so much more than one elbow.  One kidney.  One event in our lives.

Most people will experience a discreet event when their lives took a major turn.  A divorce, a spouse dying, a hurricane that ravaged their town and splintered their home…

And yes, suffered a brain injury.

Our goal, as we move ourselves to and through a successful recovery, has to do with defining ourselves and our lives as a set of parts.  Like a body.  A collection of things that happened to us and made us who we are going forward.

A story of life.

It helps to take some time, here and there, to remind ourselves how we are so much more than just these injuries.  How can you define yourself in ten different ways?

I am a spouse, I am a homeowner, I am a writer, I am a sports announcer, I am an audio narrator, I am a University of Michigan football nut, I am Swedish, I am an Aunt, I am a woman, I am a sexual abuse survivor, I am a recovered brain injury survivor…

What are you?

Many stars and artists learn, like we do, how much can fall apart when all that is prioritized is that one thing.  Our lives are like our bodies:  if we feed them only steak or we feed them only sugar cereal, they will fall apart at some point.

We have to nourish all the parts.

Recovering successfully after brain injury is a daunting project, yes.  It is consuming.  But you’ll find encouraging symptoms of successful recovery when you recognize how you need vegetables and fruits and desserts and chicken and bacon in your diet to please all aspects of you.  To feed and to nourish them.

If you can define yourself, right in this moment, as ten different things, encourage yourself to feed and to nourish them all as equally as you can.

Brain injury can only be the one priority for a while because, like a pitcher’s arm or a boxer’s hay-maker or a singer’s voice, the rest of a person’s life has to be rich enough to sustain that person.  It has to be large enough to absorb him or her…

When that voice goes or that arm fails or that brain injury stops healing.

What’s next?


October 16, 2018

Beyond the Red and the Blue

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:14 pm

When I was in high school, our colors were purple and gold.  We were the Vikings.   Our rival school back then was green and white.  They were the Warriors.  After I left high school, they combined the two schools and chose blue and silver.  They are now the Titans.

On Saturday it was our Home Coming and, because I am the public address announcer and because many from my class were returning to celebrate our 35th reunion, it was a special day.

I spent the day looking out for pockets of purple and gold, for the ones donning their green and white and, too, the younger ones in blue and silver.  Amid the huge crowd, there was a smattering of each color in every direction and it was a warm thrill to see everyone return (and a delight to see how many still fit in their letter jackets!).

As I left the stadium after a long day, I was so filled with the goodness of all of it.  Yes, we did look for the colors that will forever bind us, but it was in the sweet and nurturing ways of good.  It was a nod to a time when colors gathered us for so many better reasons than simply hating the other side.

Today it seems we are hopelessly divided between the red and the blue.  It no longer seems to matter what either side has to offer.  Nobody is listening.  Nobody even wants to have a conversation with someone from the other political party.  The lines are deep.  The crack in the foundation is wide.  The anger is white-hot.

I guess Saturday reminded me that we need to get out beyond just the red and the blue.  Maybe, in this climate, there isn’t a way closer just yet.  But Saturday reminded me that there has to be more.  More than just this.

Whether you were purple and gold Saturday or green and white or blue and silver, there was a lovely oneness to the atmosphere.  We were reminded that we all returned to the same place from which we had come.  We all returned home.

It was great not to think about politics that day.  It was great to jump back in to the warmer waters of sweet innocence.  To a time that, in this time, looked awfully right and tempting in its simplicity.

Maybe we all need to set down our reds and our blues more often.  To go out and find some other colors to remind us of other things.  Often better things.  It is autumn in Michigan and the leaves are at their peak.  I hope to go color-hunting soon.  Yellows, reds, oranges…

Red, white and blue used to be a noble set of colors to stand for, stand behind, join together beneath.  But, split up, and with only white as white-hot hatred, those colors have brought out the worst in us.

Saturday reminded me that it’s time to go pick raspberries and pumpkins.  Time to go see the leaves.  Time for cider mills and fresh donuts.

In order not to be so angry all the time, we actually have to live not so angry all the time.

Wishing you a wonderful season of beautiful colors.


September 28, 2018

Excited to Share :)

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:08 am

I always come here when I’m so excited to share something new.  A next step.  Some kind of victory over my injury.  And yours.

We have all learned, excruciatingly well, how life events bump us and nudge us in new directions.  As I’ve reported here before, I’m still suffering the daily dizzies of a new neurological condition that has been complicated by my brain injury and is now passing the nine-month mark.   The last neurologist I saw said, “Yes, you have something wrong with your brain but we cannot help you.”


With my new limitations that have cost me one of my jobs because I cannot stand and look down, I’ve had to reinvent myself again.  I’ve begun to narrate books for audio “readers” and it’s a thrill when so many of us with brain injury have a heard time now reading.

I’ve had to learn so much about recording and editing audio tracks and it’s a new challenge to stay in the game when the work is so tedious and exhausting and difficult.  There are days when my brain injury makes my voice recordings flat or my editing such a tangled abyss that I have to install my strategies of time, patience, new ways to look at it and, of course, chocolate chip cookies.

But, I’ll tell you…..It’s also such a thrill!  Even after 20 years with this injury, to keep charging.  To keep testing myself and proving to myself that I’m more than just an old dog struggling with new tricks.   I feel alive.  I feel inspired with the new.

I know how I’ve said so many times that, this second life after injury doesn’t just have to be about trying to do what we used to do and being frustrated by that.  For me, it is to tally how many things I am able to do in the time I have left.  To try everything and gorge myself on the possibilities.  I hope you are too :)))))

And so,  I am entirely excited to present, “Hasten the Rising-Empowering Women In Love & In Life” on audio formats now available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon. On the shoulders of the Me Too Movement, in this contentious time and, more importantly, when we have the opportunity to save women, younger ones especially, from dark people and dangerous relationships, join me in helping to boost their self-esteem and to empower all of us. If you go to Audible and join through my book there, you can get it free with the free trial. In the back of the softcover book, I put a place where you can sign a heart when you hand it to a young woman, any woman, you love and want to keep safe, empower and show your support for. Let’s replace the Me Too Movement with a next generation of the safe, the powerful, the RISING.

Hasten the Rising: Empowering Women in Love & in Life by Kara L. SwansonHasten the Rising: Empowering Women in Love & in Life
by Kara L. Swanson
Link: http://a.co/d/7tkWxC2

September 12, 2018

That Link Some Of You Requested

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:19 pm

Hi there!  Many of you wrote asking for this same link so I figured I’d just post it:

I’ll Carry the Fork!  Recovering a Life After Brain Injury is now on Audible.  With this link below, you can sign up for Audible with the free membership and get my book on audio file for free.  Hooray!!!!!!

They give me 25 free clicks with this so use yours fast!  Just click on the link below or copy and paste it (when I clicked on it, my audio book came right up on Audible).  Use it to get your free copy of the original Fork, now available.  Hooray.  Enjoy  :)))



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