Celtic Maze Blog


The Celtic Maze pattern symbolizes the journey of life and

the path of experience, & learning.  It symbolizes that there are twists, and turns, the challenges and obstacles in life, 

but that there are always open doors.

Brain Injury Awareness


*March is Brain Injury Awareness Month*


*Brain Injury Awareness Day March 22, 2017*


*Theme for 2015-2017 campaign: Not Alone.*


The Not Alone campaign provides a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families. The campaign also lends itself to outreach within the brain injury community to de-stigmatize the injury, empower those who have survived, and promote the many types of support that are available.” (http://www.biausa.org)




Education is key! In order to spread awareness about brain injury, it is vital that people understand what brain injury entails.


What is Brain Injury?

The Brain Injury Association’s (BIA) Brain Injury Facts and Statistics Fact Sheet provides definitions, typical causes of brain injury, and some statistics:

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI): any injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma; typical causes include:

  • Electric Shock
  • Infectious Disease
  • Lightning Strike
  • Near Drowning
  • Oxygen Deprivation (Hypoxia / Anoxia)
  • Seizure Disorders
  • Stroke/Blood Clots
  • Substance Abuse
  • Toxic Exposure
  • Trauma
  • Tumor



“More than 3.5 million children and adults sustain an acquired brain injury (ABI) each year. The total incidence is unknown”


“More than 12 million Americans live with the impact of ABI”


Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): a subset of ABI and is caused by trauma to the brain from an external force; typical causes include:

  • Falls
  • Struck by / Against
  • Motor Vehicle Accident
  • Assault
  • Child / Domestic Abuse
  • Gunshot Wounds
  • Sports Injuries / Concussions
  • Shaken Baby Injuries
  • Military Actions



“5.3 million Americans live with a long-term disability as a result of TBI”

“Males are more likely than females to sustain a TBI at any age”

“75% of traumatic brain injuries are classified as ‘mild’”

“Motor vehicle crashes and traffic-related incidences are the cause of 31.8% of TBI deaths”




Every person who experiences a brain injury will present in their own unique way. Below is a list of typical impacts that one may demonstrate, but it varies person to person based on factors such as: severity of the injury, cause of the injury, what part of the brain was affected by the injury, how long after the injury the person was diagnosed and treatment was started, as well as the person’s general health and age at the time of the injury.


General Impacts of Brain Injury:


Physical Impacts:

  • Difficulty Walking
  • Trouble with Balance
  • Falling
  • Clumsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Spasticity
  • Poor Coordination
  • Difficulty Grasping Objects
  • Headaches / Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Vision- Double Vision, Low Vision or Blindness
  • Trouble with Speech


Cognitive Impacts:

  • Memory / Short-Term Memory Loss
  • Ability to Process Information
  • Concentration and Attention
  • Following Directions / Conversations
  • Problem Solving
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Judgment
  • Decision Making
  • Self-Monitoring
  • Initiating Tasks
  • Spatial Orientation


Behavioral / Emotional:

  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
  • Egocentric Behaviors
  • Sadness
  • Low-Energy
  • Hostility
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty Understanding Behavioral Impact




Empowering Survivors. A most important piece of spreading awareness about brain injury comes directly from those who know brain injury best …The Survivors! In an effort to give a voice to those who desired to speak out and provide insight about living with brain injury, I developed an electronic survey through surveymonkey.com. This survey included three open-ended questions and was shared via Facebook in various groups that have a focus on brain injury awareness. A total of 41 people graciously provided responses to my questions, all of which will remain anonymous. Recorded below are the questions and a handful of responses.


What do you want the general public to know about surviving brain injury?

“It’s hard. Really hard losing the life you had. Always explaining why you can do somethings one day and not others. Having people not understand it.

ALL head injuries are unique.”


“No two cases are the same.”


“Just because we look find on the outside and we tend to put on a brave face, on the inside we are normally screaming and fighting for some normalcy that we had prior to our TBI.”


“Everyday is a battle.”


“That I am still me.”


“I wish people understood how tired I get doing simple things.”


“It’s bad, really bad, but there is hope.”


“I’m genuinely tired though not just a lazy me.”


“It’s an invisible injury and to look at me sitting I look ‘normal’ but my life is unrecognizable!”


“Our deficits are real and hamper our lives.”


“What a survivor needs is compassion, support from family and friends.”


“Recovery takes time. Somethings recover, while other things do not.”


“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever endured.”


“When people say ‘survive’ it sounds like they lost a lot, but I didn’t!  I learned to value life.”



What do you wish someone had told you / what do you wish you knew sooner about surviving brain injury?

“Things will probably never be the same but that’s OK. I was told so often you will get better soon. Every step is important.”


“I wish that my doctors and family members would have been more honest with me from the beginning that this kind of injury is so life changing instead of telling me that I was going to get back to work, and being my old self in no time!”


“It’s forever.”


“Accept the recovery process with a positive attitude.”


“Get involved in TBI survivor group(s) and research ways to increase brain function.”


“Survivors need people, not seclusion.”


“Everyday can be different.”


“Symptoms vary greatly.”


“Crying is normal. Sleeping is normal.”


“DON’T believe healthcare professionals (including occupational therapists) who portray recovery being ‘over’ after some period of time (6 mo, 1 year, etc.).”


“That it’s ok.”


“TBI recovery is possible. I work. I live alone. I know when to take my meds. I care for myself. It just didn’t happen right away – took like 15 years.”



How important is a support system in your life?  In what ways do you receive support / who is in your support system?

“My wife.”


“It is THE most important thing. Emotional, physical (for the first yr) and a hf.”


“It’s so important to have someone that is patient and tries to understand.”


“My husband, kids and parents are my support.”


“Very important, the most important is your loved ones excepting it and being supportive.”


“My support team is a local group that meets once a month and my family.”


“Very important. To handle anxiety, fear and depression, as well as physical disabilities.”


“My new church family is my support system.”


“I have a big support online.”


“My support system is my family and coworkers.”


“My family was amazing. I wouldn’t have made it if not for them.”


“I belong to several groups on FB.”


Support Systems. A support system as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is a network of people who provide an individual with practical or emotional support. A major goal of brain injury awareness is to increase public knowledge of organizations and resources available for support, amongst survivors and those who are on the journey with them.


Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA): This national organization’s mission is to advance awareness, research, treatment, and education and to improve the quality of life for all people affected by brain injury.

Visit http://www.biausa.org/ for more information


Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI): State association that provides direct support, information, resources, education and advocacy for people living with brain injury, their friends and family, professionals who provide research, treatment and services, and the general public. Each state has their own association.

Visit http://www.biami.org for more information about BIAMI

Visit http://www.biausa.org/state-affiliates.htm to locate another state


Brain Injury Association-Capital Area Chapter (BIA-Lansing Chapter): One of the chapters in Michigan. This group meets on the 1st Wednesday of the Month at 7:00pm. A typical meeting consists of an educational presentation followed by a group support session where individuals can share their stories, meet people in their area, and have meaningful conversation.

Visit http://www.biami.org/sglist for more information about BIA-Capital Area or for a complete list of support groups located in Michigan


American Brain Foundation: This foundation aims to brain researchers and donors together. Patient education resources, information about events, and reading resources (magazines, eNewsletters) can be found here.

Visit https://www.americanbrainfoundation.org/ for more information


Blogs: Read first hand experiences from people who are brain injury survivors, or create a blog entry of your own to share your story and inspire others!






Facebook: Join a group / page on Facebook. Connect with others around the country who may have similarities with you! Post thoughts, ideas, photos, encouragement, progress, good reads, resources, etc. Search for these pages on Facebook’s search bar:

‘Brain Injury Awareness’

‘Brain Injury’

‘Traumatic Brain Injury Support’

‘Moving Forward After Brain Injury’

‘Brain Injury Survivors’ Worldwide’

‘Brain Injury Network’

‘Brain Injury Stories’






Guest blog author: Melissa Byers is a student attending Eastern Michigan University to obtain a combined Bachelor of Science and Master of Occupational Therapy degree. She possesses an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts at Oakland Community College. Melissa’s experience includes working as a Certified Nursing Assistant and at a preschool as an assistant teacher. Melissa is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association since 2015. Her graduate research study “Hippotherapy: The Lived Experience of the Practitioner” was disseminated as a poster presentation at Eastern Michigan University’s Graduate Research Conference as well as the Lyla M. Spelbring Endowed Leadership and Conference in 2016.


"Our Favorite Things” Our 5th Annual Year in Review; 2016 Edition



One role of an occupational therapist is that of educator and sharing of resources. We’ve made a habit to compose a year-end post that reviews our “favorite things” of the year, to share some resources that make the world a little safer, a little more accessible, a little better regardless of our ability or disability.

…These are a few of my favorite things…



Read more at  www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com



A Bit of Blue by Sue Spencer


“ABC’s” Strategies for Caregivers Managing Stress



Caregiving.  Until you began caring for a spouse or aging parent you probably thought the role of caregiver applied to the role of a parent to a child.  The role of caregiving in relationship with a spouse or aging parent can vary from fairly incidental support for medication set up and assistance with medical appointment management, to 24 hour care for physical assistance with personal care due to progressive illness, or assistance for safety and behavior management due to dementia.





Read more at  www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com




With Liberty and Justice for All



“Social justice and occupational justice have received increased attention in the occupational therapy literature. This evolving discourse has focused on establishing a connection between the effects of social injustice and the resulting negative influences on occupational participation. This literature has also addressed the role of occupational therapists in responding to social injustice at the societal, population, or individual levels.” Braveman, B., & Suarez-Balcazar, Y. (2009). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 13–23.



read more at  www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com



untitled, by Sue Spencer



The English language is replete with ways to simply say, “I’m tired," perhaps because fatigue is a nearly universal phenomenon that we have all experienced at one time or another. Whether it is rubbing tired eyes and yawning while trying to pay attention to a long lecture, or finishing an exercise routine and your legs feeling “like jello”, we have all experienced the inconvenience and irritation of feeling fatigued. But for brain injury survivors, fatigue is one of the most common and sometimes most debilitating symptoms during the recovery process, becoming a barrier to doing the things they need and want to do in their day to day lives.



  read more at Strategies to manage Neurofatigue



I Grow... by Nikki Booth

Lessons learned from my Yoga Mat that make me a better OT.  Subtitled: An Old Dog can learn new Tricks



Perhaps the more obvious benefits yoga are related to movement. Yoga poses are excellent exercise to improve range of motion (joint movement), and to increase muscle strength through weight bearing and isometric muscle exercise.  Yoga is excellent “gross motor” exercise which from a neurological standpoint is the foundation to address residual hemi paresis (one sided weakness) and improve fine motor coordination. Yoga poses provide proprioceptive input to increase our proprioceptive sense (awareness of body in space, awareness of arms and legs to body).  Movement and yoga poses provide input to our vestibular sense (balance).


read more at  www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com




What does March Madness have to do with Brain Injury Awareness Month?


In twenty-plus of occupational therapy practice, the majority of it serving individuals and families in rehabilitation after a brain injury, I’ve observed some common characteristics of those who seem to cope and adapt more easily or more successfully. Although the list that follows started as a few bullet points, and morphed to loosely look like the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, there is NOT a sequence to these as “steps” to move through as a hierarchy. Rather I have recognized these all as important building blocks in the foundation of rehabilitation and resumption of roles.


read more at  www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com



“Successful Resolutions for the New Year”


"Lose weight" "fitness/ exercise more," and "budget / spend less"are in the top 5 resolutions made and broken in 2015.  I tapped my local friends and colleagues to bring you their suggestions and recommendations as experts in their fields for this presentation and this blog.  Dr. Brooke Van Buren Hay, PhD, JD, psychologist and attorney, provides strategies for helping people make successful behavioral changes to meet resolutions goals.  Carrie Crandall, RD Registered Dietician, offers suggestions for improving nutrition in 2016. Matt Malcangi, Certified Personal Trainer, provides recommendations for improving your fitness level and to maintain a healthy exercise program this year.  And from OT perspective,  I offered advice with money management / budgeting and sorting "wants" from "needs."



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 “Our Favorite Things” Our 4th Annual Year in Review; 2015 Edition.


This is my 4th Annual “Our Favorite Things” year-end blog post. I use the theme of Julie Andrew’s singing “My Favorite Things” which I grew up with as Christmas music, as I reflect on resources we’ve found that make the world a little safer, a little more accessible, a little better regardless of our ability or disability.


This year’s list is special. It is a list of functional technology that we at O’Connor Occupational Therapy Services are proud to embrace in our practice to innovate how we deliver occupational therapy, provide compensatory strategies, create cognitive orthotics, and build the scaffolding to help individuals live as independently as possible.



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…One particular evening in the weeks prior to Christmas, David received a Christmas card with a personal note from a family member. After reading the card and the message to him, a woman who was also a resident on the care unit, said something to David to the effect of “Honey, you should put that in your room so you don’t lose it.”  I can still see David and hear his reply. David was a man who through Dementia had experienced many losses, who often did not have enough language to express himself, calmly and profoundly responded “I will keep it in my heart.”


read more at www.Celticmaze.wordpresss.com



It Doesn't Matter How Many Times You Get Knocked Down


This is the story of Jon's hard work, determination, and accomplishment. As guest writer, Michelle gives voice to a Pollyanna hope of mine that someday our society will be comfortable speaking about brain injury, cognitive deficits, behavior, depression, and mental illness the same way we talk openly about physical illness and musculoskeletal injuries. Thank you Michelle for your very honest, thoughtful post. Congratulations Jon!



read more at 





"Somebody’s Mother" Happy Mother’s Day 2013


My Dad taught me a poem. Not as a child, not by telling me about it. Rather, from the depths of Dad’s dementia before his death. Even on days when his world was full of disorientation and confusion. He would randomly recite a few lines “the woman was old and ragged and gray...”


read more at 





Read more blog posts by O'Connor, go to http://celticmaze.wordpress.com/

The Celtic Maze pattern symbolizes the journey of life and the path of experience, & learning.  It symbolizes that there are twists, and turns, the challenges and obstacles in life, but that there are always open doors.

O’Connor Occupational Therapy Opens Doors to opportunities for individuals to live safely and independently in their community through RehabilitationEducation, and Adaptation.

517-881-1302 michael@oconnorot.com
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