Whether we know it or not, most of us depend upon others to live our lives. With our social nature comes the desire to relate to others in a positive manner. Some people, through events that have happened in their life, become wise and able to guide and help others who are going through similar experiences.
Linda Arms is one of these people.
In early 2006, she had an accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury. Her life soon after the accident was a difficult one filled with pain and struggle. But she persevered through determination and hard work to become an inspiration for others who have sustained similar brain injuries.
Linda Arms is this month’s Teach Believe Inspire Award honoree for her work in educating and helping victims of traumatic brain injuries.
Nine years ago, Linda Arms had just turned 50 and was preparing to retire from a high-stress job. An active woman who enjoyed hiking, skiing and diving, she was healthy and strong and looking forward to the new opportunities retirement would bring. Feeling like she was at the pinnacle of life, things had never been better.
As is often the case, fate was about to take her life in a new direction. Arms was involved in a freak accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury.
“I was suddenly toppled from what I thought to be my personal peak into a deep hole by a freak accident that left me a victim of traumatic brain injury,” she wrote on the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association website.
Everything changed overnight. Professionally, she had lost everything and found herself in a state of shock and confusion.
A common feeling among TBI survivors, the person she knew to be herself was gone. Her new life was now filled with obstacles, both mentally and physically.
“My muscles had lost so much strength it was hard getting up from sitting, going up stairs, lifting even small things,” she wrote.
Her brain had been injured and was beginning a years-long healing process. Arms, like other TBI survivors, had problems focusing on tasks and certain activities were too much for her brain to deal with.
“My view of the world became very simple and telescopic. I could only focus on a very small piece of what was before me.”
In the first few years after her accident, Arms had difficulty using her brain. In this way, an injured brain is like an injury to any other part of the body. If one breaks their leg, they cannot use it for a while. When able to begin using it again, you have to take it easy. Of course a brain injury is much more serious than a broken leg, but the point is that it can take a long time for a brain to heal.
It can be invaluable for TBI survivors, their loved ones and caregivers to hear stories like Arms’. It helps to understand the recovery process many go through immediately following a TBI.
After her accident, Arms had to work hard to keep thoughts in her head. Working out problems and even communicating was a struggle for her at first. She had problems finding words in her head, and people had to speak slowly and simply for her to understand them.
“I could describe it as cotton balls muffling everything in my brain, muffling my thinking; or as muddiness where the thick murkiness slowed everything in my head.”
She rarely left her house because once ordinary sounds were now intolerable to her.
If there’s ever a time to have a positive attitude, it’s after a traumatic brain injury. Arms found that her TBI actually gave her certain gifts she would not have otherwise been given. For instance, with her brain no longer cluttered with millions of thoughts, she was able to connect with the quietness and beauty of nature in a way she hadn’t experienced before.
She learned to appreciate the people in her life and what was truly important.
Arms no longer takes the little things for granted. Even stirring mashed potatoes offers her a chance to reflect on how far she has come. The fact is that no one knows exactly how a brain will respond to an injury. Most importantly, everyone is different. Doctors and nurses do everything they can when a patient comes into a hospital with a traumatic brain injury, but there is so much about how the brain recovers from trauma that is still a mystery.
The term Arms uses for “that elusive thing that has caused the problems and healing associated with [her] brain injury” is the “brain fairy.”
The Brain Fairy
After Arms’ brain injury, she and her husband looked for answers to the myriad questions that arose about the recovery process and TBI treatment options. They often couldn’t find the information they needed.
Recently, Arms decided to share what she learned by creating a website devoted to “promoting awareness of brain injury, providing resources to those living with TBI and to educate about good brain health.”
The Brain Fairy website has many resources that can help those recovering from a TBI as well as their loved ones. It covers everything from brain science to brain health, legal advice to ways to strengthen your brain and much more.
Arms has come a long way since her brain injury. She’s living her life while striving to help others who have had a brain injury. She advises others to “be happy you have options in living a fulfilling life and finding joy even with limitations.”
It takes a special kind of person to inspire others to reach their potential in life. Arms is doing exactly that for countless TBI survivors and their families across the country.
The Brain Injury Law Center is honored to give Linda Arms the Teach Believe Inspire Award for all she has done to promote brain health and inform TBI survivors and their families what it’s like to suffer a brain injury and persevere toward a happy and fulfilling life.