Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury #4: Better is, by definition, better.

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Blog entry by Kent posted 07-17-2021 02:08 PM 685 reads 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Life in the "Fun House" Part 4 of Woodworking and my Traumatic Brain Injury series no next part

It has been over a year and a half since the last entry in this blog and a lot has changed, almost all of it for the better.

The biggest and most obvious thing is the pandemic. Well, for the purposes of this blog, that has had a negligible impact on my progress. The biggest change and most helpful aid since the last entry is that I’ve had a new workshop built. It’s 20’ x 24’ with 12’ high ceilings.

There are some power tools in there, but it’s set up so that I can surf between bouts of handtool woodworking. The beneficial effects of the reduced transits to the work area and the ability to carry on and do something else while I set down a task that is flogging my brain are both HUGE plusses for me.

As you can see, there are a LOT of tasks that are all partially complete and several more in the queue awaiting my energies and focus.

So I do some work and then give that channel a rest. Sometimes I’ll get up from the PC and just wander around the shop to put things away or just move them around to help get me to focus on whatever comes next. Given enough time, I eventually get things done, albeit slowly. For example, while ripping these boards to glue up…

I cleaned and loaded up this 1860s tool chest and built the crude but effective plane till to its left…

I’ve also rejuvenated some saws

built some garden boxes and topped them off with some tasty mulch (according to the Chief Inspector)

and I’ve filed (yes – filed!) the bevel back on a badly chipped and damaged 2” socket chisel.

Moving between tasks has allowed me to feel better about my progress because over any given month or two, I can see some progress in my health, my shop and my skills even when the day-to-day grind feels like I’m trudging through thick mud.

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

2 comments so far

View northwoodsman's profile


617 posts in 4905 days

#1 posted 07-17-2021 08:12 PM

Hey Kent, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed going through all 4 parts of your blog. They really lifted me up and helped me understand the challenges. I’m facing the same challenges but I couldn’t put them into perspective for my family and friends to understand. I was a jack of all trades, I used to build things, I was a woodworker, a welder, I could tackle almost any construction project, electrical project, or plumbing project. On March 1, 2020 I tore the vertebral artery (one of two) out of my brain and a week later I had a stroke. For the first few days I couldn’t sit up, then I learned I couldn’t walk. I had double vision for 6 weeks. Every day for 5 weeks I was getting tested by neurologists, therapists, psychologists, etc. and I was off the charts. The team that was analyzing me would meet at the end of each day to try to come up with something for me to do the next day because tasks that should take me an hour to complete out I was doing in 5 – 10 minutes. I couldn’t go home however because I needed physical therapy to be able to walk again and once I left I couldn’t return because of Covid restrictions. It gradually came together and I was able to leave rehab by late April. I eventually began to drive and I went back to work full time (office type job). It’s now been 17 months since I left rehab. I’m still trying to figure out what is prescription drug induced issues and actual physical or mental issues. Prior to this incident I had great health. But like you stated, I go out to the shop and by the time I get my materials and tools out I’m so tired and worn out that I need to back in the house and rest (that’s what I’m doing at the moment). I can maybe get 30 minutes of shop time in then I put everything back up and have to go take a nap. I’m only in my mid 50’s. I have a terrible time judging distances in close proximity. I trip over things, knock things over, and run into doorways when I try to turn into a room when I’m still a few inches shy of the doorway. I’m constantly stepping on my dogs or tripping over them. I’m always dropping things because if someone says something or if I think of something else, my concentration is gone and my hand just lets go of whatever is in it. It’s so frustrating!!!!! I’m glad that I’m not in it alone. I wish that your accident wouldn’t have happened but let’s continue making lemonade out of these stinkin’ lemons.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View Kent's profile


677 posts in 2954 days

#2 posted 07-19-2021 01:50 PM

NorthWoodsMan – thanks for reading all four entries ;-)

After 7 years so far of this, I’m still noticing new symptoms and issues. Just this morning I suffered a bout of vertigo as I stepped away from the coffee machine. It turns out that when my wife reached for something across the countertop behind me, she blocked a part of the counter’s reflection in the window behind the coffee machine. That, in turn, was caught in my peripheral vision and I confused that input with my movement and poof! vertigo. I’m not happy about the vertigo but I am happy that I can track and trace more and more of the things that trigger it.

In the beginning of my journey, I think I was like “that guy” who said that his car was “not running right” and was asking the mechanic to fix it. Right?! Sure, mechanics joke about this sort of thing, but now I can relate to the frustration of being “that guy”. With vision therapy AND a naturally process-oriented mind, I was naturally inclined to learn about how the brain worked. By doing my best to be aware of my surroundings and my symptoms (which isn’t easy given the injuries) I was able to capture more and more causes. I can now describe my symptoms much better.

One of my best defences against vertigo is by using tripods; not the commercial OTS camera devices but literal three-legged supports. Almost every time that I’m standing somewhere (using 2 legs), I add a third point of reference (leg) using another part of my body. This can be by leaning my hip or my shoulder against something, by using handrails when they’re available or by having a cane for when I want to just want to stop and reorient myself. When I say: “by using handrails”, I don’t mean hanging on for dear life but rather just placing a couple of fingers on it and tracing it with them as I move along. All I need is the reference. I’ll do the same thing with counter edges and even just walls. I joke that I sometimes resemble an ape swinging through the jungle as I move one hand forward for a new reference while I allow the arm behind me to lose its reference.

Every brain injury is very different so every path to recovery will be unique; we must all find our own accommodations and learn and adapt to our own limitations. My path to recovery really only started once I started learning what was wrong. I’m thankful for the improvements that I’ve made and especially thankful for being able to see the humour in it sometimes. Trying to stay positive is one of the best steps that we can take along the way.

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

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