Tag Archives: severe head trauma

Is Your Brain a Time Bomb?

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In 1989, when I was a junior in high school, I was struck in the head by an eight pound ball of iron. I suffered a Grade III concussion, a brain contusion, and brain swelling. I survived the incident but to this day suffer symptoms. This post is intended to raise awareness of the long-term effects of brain trauma and Post-Concussion Syndrome for the millions of people who endure living with a wounded brain.

Sensitivity to Light

If you’ve ever had a migraine, you understand how sensitive you are to bright lights. Imagine that times forever, and you’ll get an idea of what photophobia is like. Prolonged exposure to bright light gives me a skull-splitting headache, and it’s a relatively common symptom of severe concussions.  I can’t spend more than five minutes outside without sunglasses, and sometimes, even indoor lighting can be an issue, especially fluorescents. You know, the kind used in virtually every public building ever. So sometimes, I have to wear my sunglasses indoors, as well. No, I’m not trying to emulate the Blues Brothers. I just want to pick up some chips and salsa without feeling like a marching band is practicing inside my skull.

Years ago, some friends took me to an outdoor art exhibit. Naturally, I wore my prescription sunglasses so I could enjoy the day and not end up curled in a corner whimpering. We got invited to an after-party, and because my regular glasses were at home, I was stuck in shades long after dark. Some hipster quipped about the Terminator terrorizing the party, and it drew quite a laugh from the crowd. There’s no explaining photophobia in that moment. There’s only skulking away alienated and humiliated, having just been owned by a hipster.

Headaches Become a Fact of Life

You know those people who refer to every little headache as a migraine? Not the people who suffer from real migraines; a real one will put the strongest person in bed. I’m referring to the people who call the slightest tension headache a migraine. Yeah, I dislike those people. For a full year after the accident, I lived with a constant headache. Some days, it was a dull ache, others a sharp, piercing ice- pick. On bad days, it pounded my skull so violently I questioned benevolence in the universe. After that first year, the headaches became less and less frequent, but I came to know them the way an aficionado knows cigars. To this day, I also get occasional sharp, blinding pains near my scar.

After that first year, once the constant one faded, I learned to ignore most headaches and accept them as my reality. Today, I still rarely acknowledge anything less than a skull-pounder and even those barely slow me down, so whenever a co-worker rubs their temples and whines, “I have such a migraine” I have to squelch the desire to laugh at them. A real headache debilitates you. A real headache puts you in bed and makes every sound and light a test of your will. People who have suffered brain trauma know that any headache that doesn’t land you in bed is merely a nuisance, hardly worth announcing to the world.

Swiss Cheese Memory

Amnesia is a common Hollywood trope for head injuries, but what they never show is the inconsistency of cognitive dysfunction. Since the accident, some days, my memory works flawlessly and I’ll remember the stat line of the punter for the 85 Bucs. Other days, I’ll forget your name as I’m telling you mine. Others, I lose my car keys twelve times. On really bad days, I stare at my keys trying to remember which one goes to what.

Once, I met John Rhys-Davies at a Sci-Fi convention and got to have a real conversation with him. We talked LOTR and Sliders and the back injury he suffered on the set of La Femme Musketeer. The encounter was nearly perfect until, as we were about say farewell, he quoted a line of Shakespeare. As an English major, I scoured the splotchy patches of my memory for the play’s title and noticed the flicker of disappointment on his face. I wanted to explain about my injury, wanted him to know I wasn’t just a dumb bumpkin, but once more the moment was lost.

Sleep Disruption

Insomnia is a frequent condition after a brain injury. Some nights, I merely have difficulty falling asleep, but once I do, I rest through the night. Some nights I sleep for twelve hours. Some nights, nothing works. On those nights, especially when a few string together, I crave rest so badly, I contemplate hitting myself in the head to see if that will allow me to sleep. Of all the side effects I endure, I feel this one has the most stigma. Go-getters are early risers, but my internal clock has shifted so obtusely noon is now the crack of dawn. None of my friends or family understand why I don’t just sleep like a normal person, and no matter how many times I try to explain that I can’t because of the injury, I still feel like they’re judging me. I look fine. That injury happened years ago. Surely I’m over it by now.

When I got my assistantship teaching assignment in grad school, the department had assigned classes alphabetically, so guess who got two 8:00 AM classes?  Guess how many of my “friends” jumped at the opportunity to trade with me?  For my final year of grad school, I ran on three hours sleep a night, at most. If there can be any positive spin, at least I had time to grade all those papers.

 Nobody Can See the Mark

One of the most difficult aspects of head trauma is that no one can “see” what’s wrong. Even standard imaging techniques like MRIs and CT scans can only detect the subtle changes to the brain while it’s in a resting state. If neurologists can’t detect it, how can the average person? If I come to work on an hour’s sleep because my insomnia kicked in, I sometimes hear whispers through the grapevine that I stayed out all night drinking. If only. When I wear my shades in my office with the lights off, those whispers escalate. If I turn down 8:00 AM assignments, I’m simply lazy. After explaining the accident for the zillionth time, I watch their eyes travel up and down my body, searching for some physical sign of impairment, and even after I show them my scar or let them touch the dent in my skull, the doubts still linger in their eyes.

A few years ago, a colleague slipped and fell on a patch of ice in the parking lot. She had no visible injuries but suffered a concussion from the whiplash of the abrupt fall. Because she “looked” fine, our superiors couldn’t grasp why she couldn’t handle her usual workload. But I understood. All those tiny blood vessels and axons and synapses, as fragile as snowflakes, were violently shaken in a way nature never intended. I reassured her that in time she would find herself again and adjust to her new reality because I had managed to do so, and I spoke up for her with our superiors. Still, because we show few if any external signs of damage, they have a hard time grasping that our impairments are just as real as someone who has lopped off a finger. 

It Forces You to Change Your Life

When you’re in a crowd, your brain is able to process almost all the information subconsciously while you consciously focus on whatever you’re doing. For me, however, crowds are a nightmare. When too many people are moving in too many directions and having too many conversations, my brain becomes overloaded and within a few minutes, I can become completely disoriented. You can try to avoid crowds, but just like light, you’ll soon realize crowds are everywhere. So I take back roads with less traffic, shop during off hours, and work jobs that offer solitude. I don’t often go to live sporting events or concerts or even restaurants because the cacophony of noise and motion still completely overwhelms my brain a quarter of a century removed from the accident.

The worst example of this sensory overload occurred at another convention where I was attending as a guest author. I arrived a night early to get my badge, find my panel rooms, and have a plan, hoping to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same plan because as the escalator deposited me into the lobby, I found myself in the middle of at least two thousand people, elbow to elbow. Within seconds, my senses were overwhelmed, and I struggled through the throng to find an exit sign.  The disorientation was so bad I had to withdraw from the convention and spent three days at home to recover. Isn’t there a line somewhere about the best laid plans?

It Also Changes Your Personality

Many people know about Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who underwent a major personality change after suffering a brain injury. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t take a tamping iron fired through the skull to make a difference. After the injury, I became much more introverted and quiet. Like many who’ve suffer severe concussions, I’ve battled depression. Mood swings are common as well.

Not long after the accident (I think I still had my stitches – all 36 of them) my pickup truck stalled and wouldn’t refire. I tried and tried and tried to start it, and with each unsuccessful attempt, my frustration escalated. In a fit of rage, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed a shovel from the bed, and proceeded to beat on the hood until I couldn’t lift the shovel again. Before the accident, I rarely lost my cool, but in that first year after, I was a walking rage machine. Today, it takes quite a bit to push me to that point because I’ve learned to check the cauldron of emotions as they course through me, but if I do reach it, something will probably get broken.

Also before the accident, I was highly analytical and serious-minded with a nearly photographic memory. Afterwards, while much of my analytical ability remained intact, in addition to the memory issues, I became much more creative and free-spirited. While neuroscience still can’t fully explain why this happens, one plausible theory is that it’s akin to Frontotemporal Dementia. Because of the rewiring that occurs, the interactivity within different regions of the brain changes, resulting in a fundamental shift in cognition. More than likely some mechanism that inhibited creativity was damaged by the accident, which “turned on” my latent creative skills. In extreme situations, this can lead to Acquired Savant Syndrome, such as the case of Alonzo Clemons, who suffered a brain injury at three and developed a profound mastery of sculpting despite not being able to tie his own shoes.

Your Brain Becomes a Time Bomb

The weird thing about concussions is once you’ve had one, you’re more likely to get one again; after your first concussion, your chances of getting a second go up 400 freaking percent. And subsequent concussions can be catastrophically bad, even if you don’t have apparent permanent damage from the first. This is because if you only damage a small number of neurons, your brain figures out a way to work around it. The damage is still there, but you don’t notice it, which may falsely lead you to believe that your brain is as healthy as it ever was. Since those connections never heal, another concussion can destroy enough of them your brain can’t work around it any more, leading to more serious problems. Another complication that can arise is called Second Impact Syndrome, where after a concussion, even the slightest bump on the head before the brain has sufficiently healed causes it to rapidly swell inside the skull. Though rare, the mortality rate for SIS is about 50%, and the permanent disability rate from it is nearly 100%.

I cannot stress this point enough. People who have suffered severe brain trauma have to accept that their brain should not be exposed to additional risks. I struggled with this fact for years because I had been a competitive athlete, and after the accident, I felt compelled to continue to prove my toughness. Today, a quarter of a century removed, I recognize the folly of that thinking. Just surviving the incident is tough enough. Your body may still be strong and virile. Your muscles and bones may not have suffered permanent damage from the head trauma, so you sometimes may believe yourself still capable of competing in the sports you love. But your brain is permanently injured. You have to accept that fact and not expose yourself to further damage.

In college, I drove a delivery truck on the weekends. It was a refurbished moving truck with one of the rear doors that slides up like a garage door. One night, the door didn’t open fully, and in the darkness I couldn’t see it as I stepped up into the cargo bay. My forehead slammed into the aluminum guard full force. As I crumpled to the wooden bed (luckily falling into the truck and not three feet down to the concrete parking lot) my final thought before I lost consciousness was that I had just killed myself. Later that night, when I finally made it home, I couldn’t figure out how to make a tub hold water. Fortunately, I recovered with no further permanent damage, but from that moment forward I became much more protective of my head.

Your Health Becomes an Uncertainty Forever

Since brain damage can manifest symptoms in countless ways (or not at all), I constantly find myself wondering every time my eyelid twitches if it’s just normal body behavior, or if it’s my nervous system starting to break down. Having a concussion puts you at much higher risk for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic found that even a mild concussion made you four times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, and another study found that three or more concussions made you five times more likely to suffer early-onset Alzheimer’s. Additionally, multiple concussions can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is the degenerative brain disorder that has prompted the NFL to address the concussion issue. And until neuroscience progresses further, there’s no real way to predict if you’ll get it until you start exhibiting symptoms.

Ever since the accident, if I hold my arm a certain way, my left index finger pulses involuntarily. For twenty-two years, I thought little of it, other than slight embarrassment when it occurred while I taught. Three years ago, my left hand began trembling more frequently and would occasionally cramp in a way that drew my fingers together in a twisted knot. I began experiencing other symptoms that mirrored MS and Parkinson’s. For six or seven months, while doctors ran test after test with no answers, I lived in absolute terror that the accident had slowly degenerated my brain to a lethal point. It turned out to be an unrelated issue concerning gluten sensitivity, and today, I won’t say I’m back to normal, but as long as I completely avoid gluten, I do fairly well with it. But the lingering effects of that scare are that I can no longer tell if I’m aging normally or degenerating more rapidly than my peers. I now fear every sharp pain near my scar, pains I ignored for twenty-two years because they were simply my reality. And where I once shrugged off the memory lapses, I now question if my recall is worsening or if I’m just imagining it. Those fears are real, as real as any of the other side effects, and living with those constant concerns for my brain’s health can become rather tedious.

You Slowly Gain Acceptance and Adapt

Despite all these limitations and discomforts, over time, I’ve learned to accept my reality. The process wasn’t easy, and for the first five or six years after the accident, I wallowed in self-pity over everything it had taken from me. Then, one day, the epiphany struck me that I was lucky just to be alive. I’ve since learned, through years of trial and error, to find pleasure in the things I can still do and let go of the things I can’t. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things because I know firsthand the fragility of life.

I’ve learned to stop trying to conform to society’s expectations of who it thinks I should be and embrace the reality of who I am.  I’m one who has survived a trauma that should have killed me, and that fact alone is pretty special. I’ve carved out my niche based on the skills the accident unlocked, and I’ve learned to be grateful for each and every day regardless of how many times I lose my keys or misplace my sunglasses because I’m simply still here.

If you’re living with the effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, please know you’re not alone. Please know that you can carve out a fulfilling life if you learn to work within and around your limitations. You’ll never again be the person you were before your trauma, but in time, you can find the new you, one who is a survivor, one who discovers new talents you never knew you had, and one who finds pleasure in the little things. In time, you too can learn to operate within the boundaries of your wounded brain.

D.A. Adams is bestselling author of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series and a survivor of severe brain trauma. You can follow him on Twitter @authordaadams

A special thank you to Chris Radomile, who assisted with the development of this article. You can follow him on Twitter @raddystuition

On the Death of Will McKamey

Image from Navy Sports.
Image from Navy Sports.

I never met Will McKamey, but the news of his death has struck me personally. Those of you who read my March 7 post about my accident when I was 16 should understand why. Twenty-five years ago, that could’ve easily been my family grieving the loss of a son. To the McKamey family, you have my deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss. I know in this moment those words won’t offer much comfort, but hopefully the outpouring of love for your son across social media will in time help you heal.

I’ve been working on an article for the last couple of months about my experiences with severe brain trauma and post concussion syndrome in an effort to raise awareness. In memory of Will McKamey, I will increase my efforts to land this article with a major outlet so that more people will understand the seriousness of brain trauma. RIP Cadet McKamey. The world has lost a promising young man

An Eight Pound Cannonball to the Skull

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A quarter of a century, that’s how long it’s been. Twenty-five years. The number staggers me. On March 7, 1989, at roughly 3:30 PM, an eight pound cannonball struck my forehead, lifting me from my feet and flinging me a few yards backwards. The blow itself felt little more than a slight thud, and at first, there was no pain, only extreme disorientation and faces crowding around asking if I were okay. I only lost consciousness for a few seconds, though had I been a boxer, I would’ve been TKOed. For some insane reason, no one called an ambulance. Instead, they called my mother and told her there had been an accident. While we waited in the locker room, I joked with the coaches about wanting out of spring football practice. Mom and my grandfather came to the school and rushed me to the ER, where I was immediately taken to an examination room.

I will never forget the pain of the anesthetic needle piercing my scalp. Nothing before or since has hurt like that, and to this day, the memory causes me to tense. As the doctor sewed up the wound, we joked about how he had shot putted in an abandoned quarry and occasionally had to dodge falling rocks. I’ll spare you the details of the procedure.

Later, in my room, as the anesthesia wore off, the headache that would accompany me for a solid year emerged. Overall, I was in good spirits until I went to use the bathroom and saw my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. My skin had turned ash gray; my eyes were sunken and hollow; blood stained what parts of my hair were visible around the bandage; and the image in the mirror looked more like a skeleton than a sixteen year old athlete. I freaked out and began groping at the bandage. That part gets a little foggy, so I can’t remember who all rushed into the bathroom and got me back to bed, but I do remember sobbing uncontrollably and resisting them. That’s also about the time my brain started swelling.

Imagine a balloon expanding inside your skull. It’s an unpleasant sensation. I don’t know how long it lasted, but my body went into shock. My blood pressure reached 200 over 140, and my pupils stopped dilating. It’s difficult to describe this part because the deeper into shock I went, the calmer I became. One moment, I could hear the helicopter landing outside to rush me to Knoxville and my parents freaking out and a nurse frantically begging my pupils to respond, and the next, all became quiet and still. My best description is that it felt like slipping into a perfectly warm bath. The headache vanished, and the most exquisite tranquility overcame me. There simply aren’t adequate words to describe the presence I felt, but after that experience, I can never fully call myself an atheist because I felt something.

I have no idea how long I was like that. Maybe seconds, maybe hours. I do remember the nurse exclaiming, “Oh, thank God” when my pupils finally reacted to her light, and suddenly all the sounds were back. And that headache. Oh man, that headache. No matter what migraine you’ve experienced, I’m sorry, but you haven’t really had a headache. Though not as sharp and blinding as the needle, it throbbed and pulsated and bashed the inside of my skull. To this day, it takes quite a pounder for me even to mention my head hurting.

The next couple of hours are fuzzy. There was a wheelchair ride to a CT scan, and chilly nighttime air as we crossed an outdoor area. I remember seeing fear in my father’s eyes for the first and only time. The rest is a haze.

I wanted to sleep so badly, but back then, they still believed that sleep after head trauma produced coma, so every few minutes a nurse made sure I remained awake. Other than Tylenol, I got nothing for the pain, and that was like throwing a cup of water on a house fire. All night, in the dark room, I stared at the ceiling, listening to the single beep of a monitor. Mom slept fitfully in the corner. Dad had gone home since I had stabilized and he had to work the next day. I can’t remember what I thought about through the night, but I remember the pain. I remember being simultaneously thrilled to see but annoyed by the brightness of the sunrise.

When I was released from the hospital, I had lost twenty pounds in three days, and the next few weeks are pretty blurry. I missed at least 20 days of school and failed trigonometry. Even now, I get upset that the school board didn’t grant me a medical withdrawal from that class. For five or six years, I moped about all the accident cost me, until one day I realized just how lucky I was to be alive. I still deal with several permanent effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, but I recovered without serious cognitive impairment. Today, I appreciate each day for the blessing it is, and even on my worst ones, I remind myself that at least I’m still above ground.

So here I am a quarter of a century later. I’ve taught a couple thousand students, written four novels (five if you count that awful first one, which I don’t), and fathered two amazing sons. I have the greatest friends a person could ask for and parents who have supported and encouraged me at every turn. I also have a sister who loves me and four amazing nieces who make me smile, with a great nephew on the way. I have a woman in my life who thinks I’m pretty cool and accepts me with all my flaws and scars. In short, I’m more blessed than I deserve, so on this day, I’m grateful for every blessing that mercy granted me twenty-five years ago.

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

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A dull thud tapped me on the forehead, like someone had taken their palm and bumped me playfully.  The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the ground with two shotputs in my lap, which strange because I’d only been carrying one.  I rolled them away and tried to get my bearings, but everything was a swirl of colors and sounds.  Then, I felt a tickle on my eyebrow, like sweat was dripping, so I reached up to wipe it away and pulled back a hand coated in blood.  That’s when I knew something bizarre had happened.

On this day in 1989 at roughly 3:30 in the afternoon, I nearly lost my life.  An 8 lb. shotput had struck me on the right side of the head just above the hairline. I suffered a nasty laceration, exposing my skull, a severe brain contusion, and at the time, when they still graded concussions, the highest grade concussion on the chart.  Fortunately, it had hit me on the hardest part of the skull and didn’t fracture or even crack the bone.  Also, because of the angle, it mostly glanced off my head instead of impacting with full force.  I spent three days in the hospital, lost 20 lbs. from the trauma, and literally nearly died.  To this day, I live with some symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.

For many years, I wallowed in self-pity for everything the accident took from me: mostly the opportunities to play college football and join the marines on an ROTC scholarship.  Then, one day I woke up and realized that I was fortunate simply to be alive.  Today, as I mark the 23rd anniversary of the day that changed my life, I want to focus more on what the accident has given me, namely an appreciation for my life and my creativity.  Without those, I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and I’m fairly happy with that man.

In terms of appreciation, I see each day as a blessing, as time I’ve been granted by grace.  Even with all the turmoil and difficulties of the last five years, being alive and on this earth allows me the opportunity to learn and grow and laugh and love.  I’ve gotten to experience fatherhood, and if it took enduring that accident a hundred times to have my sons, line me up.  In terms of creativity, I’m convinced that at least in part, the injury awakened some part of my brain that had mostly been dormant.  At the very least, it forced me to turn my attention away from athletics and towards writing, so I see now that the accident has given me far more than it took.

Not too long ago, I found Bobby, the boy who had mistakenly thrown it, and got to tell him, after years of needing to share this, that I had never harbored any ill-will for him, even during the worst of my headaches and the darkest of days.  We were unsupervised kids, and even if he had had been trying to hit me, there was no way he could have done so on purpose.  It was just a dumb, fluke accident.  I hope he knows in his heart that he wasn’t to blame, and I hope he doesn’t carry around any misplaced feelings of guilt.  Bobby, if you happen to read this, I love you, man.

So today, as I remember that day and the subsequent years of symptoms, I ask all of you to do one thing.  Contact those you love most and tell them how you feel.  Don’t wait.  Do it now because you never know what split-second, dumb fluke could end their or your life.  Embrace your darkest moments, for even those days are blessings.  None of us are promised anything on the other side; everything beyond this world is pure speculation, so cherish each day on this earth.  Any day above ground is a good day.

Tuesday Night Ramblings

I’ve been keeping low key an issue I’ve been dealing with for the last 7-8 months, but now that I think I finally have some answers, I feel more comfortable sharing it openly.  Last summer, I started noticing a lot of unusual trembling and shaking in my left hand, and occasionally I would get a severe cramp in that palm which would draw my fingers together into an intensely painful knot.  Then, I started noticing that the coordination in both my hands was deteriorating, to the point that both typing and handwriting required tremendous amounts of concentration.  My balance and equilibrium also started to erode.  Ever since my accident, my equilibrium has been a little off, but by the end of summer/beginning of fall, just walking required a lot of effort.

For a couple of months, I ignored the symptoms, hoping they would go away, but by mid-September, things had gotten so bad, I had to accept it and face it head on.  At first, I really thought I had Parkinson’s.  People who have suffered severe head trauma are 11 times more likely to develop it than the general population, and when I read the ten warning signs of the disease, six of them matched what I was experiencing.  Fortunately, it was ruled out by three different doctors fairly quickly.  The downside was that none of them could tell me what was going on. By mid-October, I had developed random muscle spasms all over my body.  Sometimes, they were faint, other times intense, and there was no predicting when or where they might occur.  By that point, I was also feeling indescribably bad.  The closest I can come to describing it is that I quite literally felt like I was dying.  It took everything I had to get out of bed, up the stairs, in the shower, and to work.  By noon, I was so exhausted, I could barely concentrate, and even mundane tasks, like grading an essay or preparing a lesson plan, tasks I had performed thousands of times, took everything out of me.  At one point, I was so scared, I actually wrote letters to my sons to be given to them when they’re older in case I was dying.

The neurologist I was seeing ran test after test after test, and all of them came back normal.  After reading her dictations, I don’t think she ever took my symptoms seriously and truly seemed to dismiss me as some kind of hypochondriac.  Those of you who know me well should know that it takes a lot for me to even go to a doctor, and I’ve pushed myself and worked through all kinds of injuries and illnesses over the years.  Fortunately, my primary care physician did take me seriously and never treated me like I was imagining anything.  He’s a good doctor who has earned my respect for his compassion and kindness.  He knew I haven’t been faking anything or seeking pain meds or trying to file some bogus disability claim.  From the beginning, all I’ve wanted were answers.

Sometime in late November/early December, I had a long conversation with my cousin who has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and she convinced me that because of our family history, I should consider that I might have a sensitivity to gluten.  When I got to thinking about it, over the last couple of years I had begun to add breads, especially whole wheat, and beer back into my diet.  For several years, because of avoiding carbs, I had almost completely eliminated gluten by default.  Desperate to get better, I eliminated it from my diet again.  For the first few weeks, I didn’t really notice any difference, but then, sometime in mid-January, I realized that the muscle spasms had vanished, and much of the trembling had dissipated.  Also, that terrible feeling of dying was completely gone.  In short, I feel like I’m on the mend.

Today, I saw a GI specialist, and while the results of the blood work haven’t confirmed anything yet, he told me that gluten sensitivity can create a myriad of neurological symptoms by depositing a kind of plaque in the brain.  He also affirmed what I had begun to suspect, that I was already my own double blind study.  8-9 years ago, I eliminated gluten and got healthier.  Then, I added it back and got sick.  And he warned me that if I added it back again, the next time the symptoms would probably get even worse.  There are no guarantees that some of the neurological issues won’t already be permanent, but I should know in 4-5 months just how much I will heal.

While I won’t say I feel completely healthy today, I feel well enough to function, and I can live with where I am now, even if I don’t get any better.  Four months ago, I thought I was dying, so I’ll take it.  To those of you who already knew much of this, thank you for all of your support and concern.  For those of you who didn’t know, please understand that I didn’t want to make this widely known until I had some answers and knew what I was facing.  Again, nothing is fully confirmed, but I’m fairly certain I’m on the right track.  As I learn more, I’ll share more information, and I’ll try to write a few entries detailing the effects gluten can have on a neurological system.  Until then, cherish your health and nourish your body.