In the Words of a TBI Survivor Eric Middleton tells the story of his severe traumatic brain injury and ongoing recovery. E-luminations
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E-luminations  |   December 01, 2015
In the Words of a TBI Survivor
Author Notes
  • Karen Fremont Brady, MS, CCC-SLP, currently treats Eric Middleton at Boulder Community Health in Boulder, Colorado. She works with patients at the acute, inpatient and outpatient levels of care. She also enjoys integrating music into her practice and directed two aphasia choirs.
    Karen Fremont Brady, MS, CCC-SLP, currently treats Eric Middleton at Boulder Community Health in Boulder, Colorado. She works with patients at the acute, inpatient and outpatient levels of care. She also enjoys integrating music into her practice and directed two aphasia choirs.×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Traumatic Brain Injury / E-luminations
E-luminations   |   December 01, 2015
In the Words of a TBI Survivor
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.EL.20122015.np
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.EL.20122015.np
Editor’s note: This article is told in Eric Middleton’s words with only light copyediting.
I was injured on Sunday, September 8, 2014, at night when I was riding a cooler cart for fun and crashed, but do not know how it happened. Very quickly, I was in an ambulance taking me to Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette, Colorado. I was there about three weeks. They put me on a ventilator immediately. I had a craniotomy because there was so much swelling in my brain on the left side. This is a time I cannot remember.
At Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colo., I saw speech-language pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, doctors and nurses. My basic problem-solving skills had to be good enough before leaving. They helped me to work on physical coordination and balance. They all made sure I was working at the highest level possible and pushed me to work harder. They also watched me constantly to ensure I was not impulsive, and I didn’t pass out.
I was injured and I didn’t know what to do. I had to trust all of these people to give me the right treatments.
After I was able to come back to my home in Erie, Colorado, it was recommended that I go to Mapleton Center at Boulder Community Hospital for more speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy rehabilitation. They wanted me to practice strategies to be able to do things that were easier before my injury. I also needed to be able to drive again. This was about improving conversations with people every day. We worked on understanding, reading and talking to make my brain more effective.
At one speech session at the University of Colorado, Boulder, someone asked me where I keep food in my house. I know this immediately, but I could not say the word “refrigerator” even though it was in my brain. Because of that frightening experience, I was shocked about this challenge. Even though I know everything about a refrigerator, I couldn’t say it correctly.
In addition, I did hyperbaric oxygen therapy. HBOT brings oxygen back into your body and brain. I had sixty chambers in about three months, and it took about one hour for each chamber. After this treatment, the changes from my brain were simply amazing. Many people even mentioned it and told me I looked different than before the hyperbaric. I believed in this treatment after I completed it. I am a better person.
Thankfully, my health today is extremely positive, but I am still working on getting better every day. Even though I experienced a severe brain injury, I learned some solid information to share with other people. I tried each day over the last year to recover much faster than some people thought I could. While this was a challenge, I recovered many parts of my life after this injury. Everyone’s brain is a little different, which presents a challenge. I also learned from some amazing people.
My family and friends love me and support me every day, but my brain has gone through changes we do not always understand. Here is how I am today:
  • English words are a random challenge.

  • Anger is more intense on some days.

  • Depression actually slows my recovery on some days.

  • Some non-English words are now better.

  • My memory is improving.

  • I am learning new skills such as singing in an aphasia choir.

I would like to educate from my experience to help more people. Talk to the family going through an injury. You can make friends understand and help in specific ways. Listen to many professionals who know a lot about an injured brain and can teach you some basic facts. If you meet someone with a brain injury, take a few minutes to tell them to believe in themselves and provide encouragement to them and their families. If you do this, it supports people in an amazing way.
At the end, I am simply upset that I was injured randomly many months ago. I am also upset at the amount of time it takes to improve my brain. However, I must also admit that there are still a number of brain changes that are stronger than before the injury. Finally, today I am now healthy, I have clear thoughts and can continue my life going forward.
Eric Middleton is married with two children and lives in Erie, Colorado. Before his injury, he was the director of marketing for a hospital supply company and traveled the world. Although he is not working now, he appreciates that he has more time to spend with his wife, children and family. Being social with his friends and family every day makes him very happy.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2015
Volume 20, Issue 12