Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury #1: Why this blog?

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Blog entry by Kent posted 08-09-2019 05:06 PM 945 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury series Part 2: Learning about "channels" »

In May 2014 I was run down by an SUV driver making a left-turn. In addition to a broken shoulder and leg bone, I literally cracked my skull when my head slammed against the pavement. Ouch. The last part caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I was diagnosed with a contusion. My symptoms kept me from seeing and thinking clearly. I was so messed up that I didn’t realise how messed up I was.

My initial treatments all addressed the bone and tissue damage, and so my TBI symptoms went unrecognised and untreated and my brain went about trying to heal itself and make sense of the world as best as it could. I was living in a fog for a few years after that. Eventually, some cognitive and vision deficits were noticed and I tripped across a vision therapist. Think of vision therapy as physiotherapy for the interface between the brain and the eyes. The biggest difference between physiotherapy and vision therapy is that when your muscles get tired doing physiotherapy, you can stop using your muscles and give everything a break. But when vision therapy gets tiring, your brain can’t be stopped.

I spent the next 2 years being mentally exhausted. On the positive side, I started to improve Overall, it was much like peeling an onion; once one layer was removed, I could see the next layer that needed to be removed. Repeat as required… I discovered (and fixed) more and more symptoms with two years of vision therapy. I had a blind spot on my left side that was about a 45 degrees arc! I had lost my 3D vision. My memory was horrible; I couldn’t even remember what I’d read several sentences ago.

The vision therapy worked well enough that I don’t need it any more and I am continuing to improve on my own. I started to find ways to describe my symptoms to others and to find accommodations (workarounds) for the deficits that still existed. Most importantly, I became very self-aware so that I could identify symptoms and try to fix them. And that brings me to woodworking and this blog.

As I improve, I am able to do more and more complex tasks and I’m able to do them longer and better. Like any sort of learning, what you learn today gives you a better foundation for future learning. Woodworking really works the visual and cognitive areas of my brain that were broken in the accident, and it’s something that I can do in small pieces. I use hand tools almost exclusively because of the feedback that they provide and because I can’t guarantee my performance and reaction time when using power tools. If a cut is getting away from me with a hand saw, I can just freeze and there won’t be any kickback or fingers removed.

Many tasks that are trivial for most people can be very difficult for me. This blog will be a reference about some of these situations and how I tackle them. It will also provide some insight into why some obvious solutions are either not obvious to me or sometimes not even possible right now.

My next installment will explain my “channels” and how they affect my shop time.

-- If I knew then what I know now, I'd have made a completely different set of mistakes.

3 comments so far

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12350 posts in 4548 days

#1 posted 08-09-2019 05:17 PM

Wow. You sure took a beating in more ways than one. Overcoming your visual difficulties sounds like quite a process. Looking forward to reading more about your progress.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Redoak49's profile


5274 posts in 3108 days

#2 posted 08-10-2019 08:51 PM

What a journey you are on and making great progress. I am very impressed with what you have done and will be reading your blogs.

View BurlyBob's profile


9009 posts in 3385 days

#3 posted 08-11-2019 06:36 PM

Kent, sounds like your making a inspiring recovery. It’s quite apparent that your determination and spirit will get you thru it.

My Best.

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