Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

July 14, 2014

Let’s Fix Forward

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:04 pm

So many discussions on brain injury are centered around what has already happened. Well, that makes sense. We talk about and write about and blog about and even bitch about the damage we’ve endured from injuries suffered to our brains.

When I go out to speak, in many of my blogs, and in my Fork Bytes audio downloads, my focus is increasingly about moving on and heading forward.

A lot of that is just the natural commentary of my life. It’s been 18 years now since I was brain injured and a lot has happened since then.

I have moved on and thank God for that. I’m in a super place now. I’ve created a second life after injury that accommodates the symptoms that never healed and I’ve found ways to be successful in many jobs and activities. I am in a great relationship, I have great friends and family. I’m truly in a terrific place.

One of the inspirations for any of us to emerge from a brain-injury-consumed life was highlighted today in the news and I couldn’t wait to share it.

My brother is an eye doctor and I’m so proud as punch of him. Over the years, he has developed a keen expertise in disease detection. Not just in the eye but using the eye as, literally, a window to our well-being.

Today, all over the news, reports came out that there is exciting confidence in an eye doctor’s ability to perform routine eye exams which can detect brain plaques, an early marker of Alzheimer’s disease.

This is exciting news because this early detection could come YEARS before any symptoms show up, allowing a patient to get further testing and enjoy earlier medications which could prolong their cognitive health.

In recent years there’s been a lot of impressive research linking brain injury to a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Now, I happen to think that sucks.

For those of us with brain injuries, we should automatically be disqualified from any future damage or disease to our poor peanuts. I mean, geez, really? That’s a bit of piling on, don’t ya think?

One of my dearest friends (Happy Birthday, Kim!) turned 50 the other day and her birthday always makes mine six months away. I’ll be turning fifty six months from now and I’m already acutely aware of the changes that aging is taunting me with.

I feel an increasing urgency in the belief that we really need to get our engines all firing as hot and high as we can and soon. If there is a higher incidence of cognitive problems for those who have suffered previous head trauma, then we all have to realize that the battle is not yet over.

It might simply be the calm eye of the storm.

There is an exciting new research result out of Finland that finally proves right all the blah blah blah our doctors have been droning on and on about for years.


Two groups of aging people were watched for several years. The one group followed a healthy nutrition plan, increased their physical activity, improved their cardiovascular health, regularly socialized and engaged in brain games.

The results were encouraging and exciting. They proved that, indeed, we CAN DO SOMETHING to protect our brains and keep more of our futures bright.

It’s conflicting news for the brain injured who, by necessity, often rely on routine and dependable activities to help create ability. What I’m suggesting now is that we need to do more. Our of our norm. Out of our element. Out of the box.

We need to create safe environments which encourage and nurture new activities and talents. We need to learn again and still and constantly. We need to challenge ourselves, to surprise ourselves, to walk down the halls of our minds and blow open those doors and flip on those light switches.

All of us.

Yes, we may be war-weary warriors but I find it hard to imagine a fight more important to stand up for. Many of us have spent years cursing our brains for what they forget, for what they mess up, for what they fail to do.

I submit it’s time to raise up those precious peanuts of ours. To celebrate them and cherish them and feed them. Arm them.

It’s time to get busy learning new things. Learn a new language and music is a language itself so pick up that tarnished trombone in the basement, go buy a harmonica, find an old banjo at a garage sale.

And let’s rock!

We can do something positive for our brains. Something that can help us, not only rise out of the past that often shackles us, but something that propels us into a positive future that we can actually affect.

Let’s learn how to polka. Let’s watch movies with subtitles. Let’s eat brain foods and improve our cardiovascular health. Let’s put ourselves through brain happy boot camp and come out the other side ready to wage war on Alzheimer’s and dementia.

I want to be writing this blog when I’m six months from turning eighty. Will you be able to read it?


  1. Whoop Whoop. Well said. Go for it everyone. I can really say that this approach is really working for me. Onwards and upwards. No looking back.

    Comment by Kym Taylor — July 14, 2014 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  2. We needed a Whoop Whoop, Kym. Thanks!!!! Big smiles here. Kara

    Comment by karaswanson — July 14, 2014 @ 8:48 pm | Reply

  3. I’m with Kym!! A big Whoop Whoop polka style!!!!!

    Comment by morrowsue — July 14, 2014 @ 9:22 pm | Reply

    • Polka Style, yes. Ha.

      Comment by karaswanson — July 15, 2014 @ 6:53 am | Reply

  4. Hi Kara,

    I agree the more you use your brain the more it will work for you. There is the saying, “Use It! or Lose It!” I learned Spanish in college. I knew it pretty well, but since I have not had the opportunity to speak it regularly, my ability with the language has diminished. I guess if one tied her arm to her side and left it there for months, her arm would lose its usefulness, too. Once released it would need to learn its function all over again.

    Reading, writing (especially writing,) playing word games like Scrabble, or playing quick eye-hand coordination games on the computer like Bubble Speed or Candy Crush Saga engage your brain and keep it “on its toes.” I expect to be writing my blog, Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury and my personal blog, Donna’s Blog for many years to come. It’s brain exercise and it’s fun.

    And, Kara, I expect to be reading your blog when you are six months from turning eighty . . . and then some.

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski

    Comment by donnaodonnellfigurski — July 15, 2014 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

  5. Kara, sharing this with group today and gathering any questions they may have for YOU. šŸ™‚ Hope your day is wonderful!

    Comment by Barb George — July 24, 2014 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  6. I will look forward to them. :))

    Comment by karaswanson — July 24, 2014 @ 8:03 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Kara, 1988 was the year of my car accident due to a stroke from a mixture of cocaine and vodka: I was 18 years old. Moving on for me has included a series of relocations: California to New Jersey to Florida to Michigan where I am now moving forward in a head injury recovery program at Rainbow Rehabilitation Center. I decided, after 25 years, that it was time to re-address this TBI recovery thing; and this time to do it sober! Ironically, through AA and NA meetings, I am learning to progress in my TBI recovery. I am gaining more acceptance of myself; as an addict/ as a TBI survivor. Here, I’d like to share a line from a reading we do. It deals with acceptance and the serenity that comes from accepting life completely on life’s terms. “I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in this world, as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” Thank you, Kara for your words which really inspire me to change the way I see me recoveries: addiction and TBI.

    Comment by Hilary — July 30, 2014 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  8. Thanks, Kara, for sharing this. I suffered a TBI eleven years ago. I could not return to my career as a critical care nurse and, due to my other injuries, I could not return to the physical activities I once enjoyed. But I eventually returned to school and received an MFA in writing, and have written a memoir. I carved out a new identity for myself. I work hard to keep my brain from crumbling to bits and pieces. I learned to play chess, though I’m not very good at it. I play the Irish fiddle, though not as much as I should. I do crossword puzzles here and there, and read, a lot! Thanks again, for the kick in the butt to protect our brains. And, I’m with Donna Figurski – I’ll be reading your blog when you’re six months from turning eighty.

    Comment by melissacronin — August 4, 2014 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

    • You are a fabulous success story. I would love to hear you play the Irish fiddle, a favorite of mine. Please let me know if you have a snippet somewhere you could email me or where I could see it posted. šŸ™‚ Congratulations on your courage and willingness to change and sculpt and rock a whole new life. :))) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — August 4, 2014 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

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