NEW FLOORS AND SPECT
Welcome back to the project.
This weeks post gets a little more technical which I'm sure I'll loose some with. I also jump around a bit which might make some of the information more difficult to digest or understand but that would also portrait my current reality. I will admit that this has become more challenging than I had envisioned but I'm learning a lot and starting to get a full scope of where we are and where we need to go. I think one of the biggest things I learned this past stretch is how trauma, no matter it’s origin (physical or emotional) can, over time lead to challenges within us that can often be overlooked. Lastly, my hope is that as time passes by and we get more comfortable and knowledgeable that I will be better able to articulate the lessons and subsequent treatments in a more consumable fashion to the reader. But for now, thanks for bearing with me....
I was first introduced to single photo emission computerized tomography (SPECT) imaging last fall when a great friend forwarded me Daniel Amens Ted talk from 2011 called "change your brain, change your life". Daniel is a Psychiatrist and the founder of the Amen clinic which now comprises of more than 8 centres throughout the US with the first location being established in Northern California in 1989. To say that his approach to Psychiatry has been controversial would be an understatement.... As Daniel discusses in his now famous Ted talk which has received more than 2.5 million views, Psychiatrists are the only practitioners in the world who don’t take an image of the organ they are treating. Since there inception, the clinics have, as a collective built up the largest database of SPECT scans in the world with best estimates at around 75,000. For many reasons that I won’t pretend to understand, his practice has long been met with decisive pushback in the mainstream Psychiatric world including from some of the most prominent teachers, educators and clinicians around the globe. That stance however, appears to shift slightly when the conversation extends into a traumatic brain injury patient. The ability to use images to pin point the areas of physical damage while at the same time gaining relevant information on how parts of the emotional brain may have been adversely affected has become much more widely accepted as common practice in recent years. At the suggestion of a few people out here I visited the Amen Clinic in Walnut Creek, just north of San Francisco recently and had my brain scanned. We celebrated this momentous occasion with alas committing to laying floor in the airstream. A look into my brains blood flow felt like as good a time as any to finally install a more functional and aesthetically pleasing underlay as the uneven plywood had grown old. After a long back and forth, we ultimately landed on life proof waterproof rigid core vinyl plank flooring in a nice trail oak shade. It was a toss up between this and manufactured hard wood but in the end the vinyl prevailed.
Back to the scans, we found the process to be very helpful and even a little cathartic in a way. The doctor was genuine and compassionate but didn’t beat around the bush... As he handed me a stack of papers, some including words and some images he began describing a fairly straight forward prognosis otherwise known as post concussion syndrome. At a high level he described it as the inability of your brain to have fully healed from physical traumatic impacts which, over time, cascaded into both cognitive and emotional deficiencies. As I listened intently, my mind began to wander. Firstly, I was thinking if a project rebrand would work - But there was something about the way that “What is Post Concussion Syndrome” that just didn’t seem to roll off the tongue. Secondly, as I continued to glance down at the sheets of paper it started to feel like a historical road map of my life and I began to understand and appreciate parts of my past with more detail and clarity. As the meeting wore on, he switched gears from the diagnoses to outlining the clinics treatment protocol. I digress slightly for a moment. Can you envision that time when you have visited your doctor and you tell them all the information possible to sum up how you are feeling and experiencing before you stop, get checked out, answer some questions and then await your fate... It’s interesting how much trust we put into someone has been to school for a little longer than most to ultimately decide what pivotal direction we might go as a result of their intuition, experience and training. Looking back in life can be a balancing act and I have no regrets but I am struck slightly by the history of medical interventions vs what we learned last week in Walnut Creek. That being said, where would we be without 3.5 years of self help books, long walks with my dog and having committed countless working hours that stretched well beyond my not for profit salary boundary. We now quietly hum the words second opinion before every meal. But you have to think, this type of thing must happen over and over again and in far more dire situations than what we find ourselves in. The more I thought of it, I could only see this all as a very positive intervention but not perhaps not something that I was particularly prepared for.
Back to the treatment, the good news was that much of what the clinic laid out in terms of treating the overactive parts of the brain (Deep Limbic System, Cingulate Gyrus Anterior and Basil Ganglia & Insula) with regards to supplements, medication, diet, talk therapy and overall stress reduction techniques including meditation and mindfulness were things that we have been on the right track with the exception of two bits of information that I found very interesting. 1. You can actually target medication and supplements based on what parts of the brain are showing as being to active or not active enough based on the scan. 2. The correlation between the physical symptoms and psychological symptoms is significant as they are more or less interconnected. ie, being depressed can lead to head aches and vice versa. All that being said, please don't forget my opening paragraph on SPECT and the Amen clinics... Maybe I'm just drinking the koolaide? It appears to be working whatever the case.
The better news however, came from the suggestions on how to get more oxygen to the brain, specifically to regions of the head that have sustained trauma and thus do not produce enough blood flow which can apparently, as we have learned, cause some issues. I found this piece really fascinating and have since commenced a daily routine with a few of their recommended modalities in this area which we will start looking at next time.
Thanks for reading.