The Little Brain That Could: The Story of a Head Injury Survivor

Amy Price
by Dr. Amy Price
My husband and I were injured in an auto crash. We were stopped at a light and someone rear ended us. To this day I have little recollection of the crash or the events that surrounded it. We sustained significant spinal injury and endured multiple spinal surgeries/procedures. My husband had to have his hips replaced. I was left with brain damage, cervical instability, a broken sternum and internal injuries. Our crash-related expenses topped one million dollars. Additionally we were unable to work for many years and this was crippling financially. Victims are seldom compensated in proportion to their losses. We find it is better for clients in similar situations to focus on getting well than on litigation. In the end spending money to save your brain is a critical investment in your Amy Pricefuture as well as contributing to the happiness and security of the family. In searching for a solution for my own brain, I saw a March 2004 Newsweek article by Mary Carmichael entitled “How A Brain Heals” featuring Dr. Bruce Dobkin’s work with stroke victims at UCLA. He hooked paralyzed stroke victims to a treadmill with supported harnesses to teach their legs to walk again; it worked for some people. In rehab, I found one side of my body retained the ability to work the machines while the other side did not and that I could use the working side to train the broken one. I emailed Dr. Dobkin and he very graciously answered me and gave me hope. I knew that if I could support my brain in a similar way, it could recover. I wanted to find some kind of brain program that would retrain lost skills. I started with ‘Reader Rabbit’ and our granddaughter was my ‘trainer’. She shared the steps she took to sequence thoughts and I relearned this.

Why did you choose to use the Captain’s Log, as opposed to other software?

Because I had a background in mental health I knew it was important to find a clinical solution that went from impaired to superior and trained the maximum amount of skills. Learning Amy Pricelives in layers. A task once learned through repetition attains automaticity to make way for new input. But repetition alone presents an impoverished route to learning. Novelty followed by reward enables learners to sustain engagement. Without novelty or challenge the mind defaults to an automaticity mode, which decreases learning optimization. Rewards need to be genuine, time specific, and measurable. Captain’s Log uses novelty, engagement and multiple levels across sensory pathways to train memory, processing, attention, motor skills and even proprioception ability. It is tailored to allow for individual and functional brain differences. My adventure with Captain’s Log started after the brain injury and continues today in my work as a clinician, consultant and brain scientist. I credit Captain’s Log with restoring my brain function and that of multiple clients and recommend this system because it works.

At what point did you begin to have hope that you would actually recover?

I didn’t have hope, I had determination. I moved forward because to live with the brain limitations was unthinkable. In multiple measures I was diagnosed in the bottom 1-3% of the population in brain function yet in those brain areas resistant to brain Amy Pricetrauma I remained in the top 2 %. I could not afford to consider failure, rejection or the prognosis of others. In life we need to back ourselves and remember who we are. It actually got worse before it got better for me. I still remember the terror I experienced when my brain could not perform the simplest tasks and the shock on the faces of friends, family and colleagues as they faced this with me. They were loyal and protective and I continued one step at a time. I noticed a functional improvement in less than six weeks but it took me 18 months of training to regain finer functional capacity. It takes infants about eighteen months to learn categorization and language formation and they continue to develop from there, yet sadly, after brain injury, progress can be hampered by outdated theory that suggests there is a ceiling on recovery. We have watched many clients make impressive recovery even years after injury and have found that sometimes the greatest progress is made after the paid weeks allowed by most insurance firms. The nine and eighteen month maximum medical recovery myths are built on outdated unproven science and will need to be shattered by evidence based medical research.

Have you recovered to a higher level than you would have thought was possible?

Amy PriceI didn’t think about this, I couldn’t afford to; I just did my best. One day about a year after starting Captain’s Log it came to me that I needed to go back to university and recover my professional skills. My surgeons graciously wrote me recommendations and I was accepted. The students and professors were wonderful and supportive; they helped me find my way. I told myself if I passed the course I would continue but when the first papers came back with passes but not so great scores I was crushed. I interned with a seasoned professional Dr. Rohn Kessler; he and his wife faithfully encouraged me to believe in my ‘Spark of Genius’ and continue. The Brain Injury Association found me a mentor because I wanted to know someone who had gone on to a doctorate after a brain injury. They assigned me to Dave Stevens, a trial lawyer in another state who is a great friend and encourager. I continued to move forward, attain multiple qualifications and today I work as a brain scientist and help others recover.

You seem very passionate and “driven” about your life and also about spreading the word about Captain’s Log. And you make “no bones” about saying what you think about things! Were you always this way, or do you just feel that this is an extra important subject?

Before the crash my husband and I spent 30 years as international motivational speakers and missionaries. I shared with people that where God is there is hope and help. I learned that the things that are important need to be said clearly. Recovering the brain is one of those things. When people put all their energy into inferior solutions they lose hope. BrainTrain helped me, and it Amy Pricehas helped multiple others who I have worked with. The elegance of this therapy is the ways it can work with those at most any level of functional deficit to deliver improvement. As a brain professional I use Captain’s Log because it works, and I am passionate about it because it is the product I credit with restoring my brain. You can watch for future research papers written by me on what makes brain training successful. I am so thankful for the vision and foresight of the Sandfords. They pioneered this solution when others failed to see its worth. Many treatments offer the chance to get into a normal range of function. Normal was not enough for me; I wanted recovery and that is what I aimed for. In the beginning I was driven because I was afraid and needed to prove to myself that I could still function. Now I am passionate about living and doing things that matter.

Where do you get all of that energy?!

I am insatiably curious and there are always more opportunities and ideas that present themselves than there are hours in a day. Eric Kandel, brain scientist, cell biologist and Nobel Prize winner for his work on memory said as he got older he realized he couldn’t dance at all the weddings. He lives life to the fullest and chooses his weddings carefully. He makes the most of every dance, this is my plan too.

What personal traits do you think drove you to persevere where other people might have just given up?

Faith in God, an indomitable will, and seeing through the eyes of experience the fate of those who give in to despair. It is not my destiny or anyone else’s to live without hope. Life is like a game – except the only way you lose your place is by giving up. Anything worth pursuing will be a challenge.

What advice would you give to someone else finding themselves in the same predicament?

You are not the sum total of what happens to you but rather you become who you are because of what you learn through life’s challenges. A very important project I am involved in was birthed in those days of heartache. It was a door many people can wait a lifetime for and never see. When you choose to reframe your destiny, your tools can come at unlikely times and through unusual sources. The future of the seed is within itself and your future is waiting on the inside of you. Go and meet it. When Amy Priceadverse circumstances surround you like quicksand it is more important to learn to float to the top where there is a solution than to sink and struggle with a blaming mentality. Learn to say thank you, especially to your family and accept their limitations. No one can be there for you all the time, but they will do their best. My husband and I have worked through the roadmap of life together. Stop caring what people think. Make getting your brain back your first priority. Find a quality brain professional who will work with you to use Captains Log four times a week for 45 minutes a day. Say goodbye to the person you were because you will lose your sense of direction by looking backwards. The way to reclaim yourself is by giving the present your full attention. Your diligence now will prepare your future. You will mess up; forgive yourself and try again. Life is like an ocean there is always another wave, wait for the next one and use past experience to improve your learning curve. Kindness and laughter are yours to enjoy. Follow your dream and back yourself. In the end who you are matters more than what you do.

Amy Price is a postgraduate student with the International Programme in Evidence-Based Health Care, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford. Amy is a member of Kellogg College.

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