Traumatic brain injury
Nothing could have prepared Graciela or her family for the truck that t-boned them.
“I was on the side with the most impact and suffered multiple broken bones and a massive brain injury,” she recalled. Graciela spent eight days in a coma at Texas Medical Center – Houston and woke up confused and unsure of what had happened to her. “I thought my legs were broken,” she said. She soon discovered that there was more wrong than just broken bones.
“My memory was my main issue,” she said. “I was having trouble remembering things about work, family, friendships and relationships.” Graciela also couldn’t walk or feed herself and her voice sounded very raspy. After recovering in the ICU, Graciela transferred to an inpatient facility in Houston. There she began relearning how to do things on her own and even began trying to get back to singing. “I was cleared for a diet, but the nurse or my mom had to feed me because my hands were injured,” she said.
After inpatient rehabilitation, doctors recommended more rehabilitation to continue refining her functional skills as Graciela wanted to return to work and school. Her parents opted to have Graciela admitted to Baylor Scott & White Institute for Rehabilitation (BSWIR) – Lakeway’s Day Neuro Program. It came highly recommended by her rehabilitation doctor in Houston and her parents believed Graciela would make great progress there. The comprehensive, tailored outpatient program provides intense, daily rehabilitation for people who have had a stroke, a brain injury or other neurological disorders.
Focusing on her goals, the Day Neuro team went to work and mapped out a customized treatment plan for Graciela, including physical, occupational and speech therapy.
Her physical therapist focused on restoring muscle strength and endurance to improve Graciela’s mobility. “The six-minute walk test was very annoying, but it was helpful because I got much faster,” said Graciela. She would walk for six minutes, at any pace to test her abilities. The exercise was repeated later to gauge her improvement. Therapists also made her walk backward, to improve her coordination and balance.
Occupational therapy reinforced daily living activities with Graciela like getting dressed and brushing her teeth. Her hands were damaged in the crash and these focused exercises helped to rebuild the strength and flexibility in her hands that she was lacking. She also relearned how to tell time on an analog clock, reinforcing some activities she may do on a daily basis.
Speech therapy focused on memory improvement with Graciela and, knowing that she was in the choir before, therapists used singing as a primary motivational factor. She practiced vocal exercises and sustained phonation tasks, holding a single tone for as long as possible. Even though it was difficult for her, this exercise helped strengthen her voice. Therapists also used singing to assist with her memory, allowing her to retain more information each day.
By the end of her stay at the Day Neuro Program, Graciela was able to graduate from high school on time and return to work. She looks forward to attending classes at a local community college and renting her own apartment. She noted her time at Day Neuro was incredibly helpful, “I have been getting faster [at everyday tasks], speaking more clearly and my hands have been getting stronger.”
For those who find themselves in a situation similar to hers, she said, “It is scary at first, but don’t be afraid. Be brave. Take it one day at a time.”