The return of Dr. Gablehouse – Work after TBI

Bust out the lab coat and stethoscope! In my last post I shared some big news that I was going in to work a 4 hour test shift at the clinic. Before you get too excited, no I am not “back to work”, this really was only a test. Success depends on where you set your goals, and my main goal was to get through the 4 hours in good enough shape to be able to drive myself home, and I did. The clinic scheduled hour-long appointments, instead of the usual 30 minute appointments, and I needed every bit of that hour to finish each appointment. They were only routine appointments, and nothing difficult. The frustrating part is that a routine visit like that should be fast, and I normally would have had time to finish up the appointment, make a couple of phone calls to clients, answer an email, and check on a hospitalized patient during that 30 minute time slot. Instead, it took twice that long just to get through the appointment and write my record.

Simply being in the office for 4 hours was difficult. As I would write-up my medical records in the doctor’s office, one doctor would be on the phone talking to a client, another doctor would be discussing the next patient with the technician, a dog was whining in the treatment area, and I struggled to stay focused. I had to step outside a couple of times to get away from the noise and give my brain a break. I am definitely not ready to jump back into working, but I’m glad I tried it and it gave me a sense of where I am…and that was humbling.

Kili did not have this much pep this week, but he will be back at it soon.

I have continued to practice my veterinary skills as Kili got sick this week, and I was trying to figure out what dose of medication to give him. Prior to the crash I could calculate most drug dosages in my head, but that isn’t happening. I had to try 3 times WITH  a calculator and got three different answers, and then had to write everything out step by step on paper, double-checking each part of the calculation several times before I finally felt I could trust I had done it correctly. Part of me wanted to cry, and part of me wanted to scream and throw the calculator across the room. But instead, I split the pill in half and managed to get Kili to take it with some peanut butter. Of course he promptly vomited up the pill, clearly unappreciative of the effort it had taken me to give it to him.

Since August 2015, I have had a lot of improvements, however I am realizing why it can be so hard to see those improvements. Early on I was in complete denial about the degree of my injury. When it is YOUR brain that is affected, that injured brain doesn’t do a very good job of self-assessment. A year ago I had times when I thought I should try to go back to work, and even with the improvements I’ve had, I’m still not capable of going back. It takes an outside perspective to truly evaluate the deficits. Even now I am terrible at recognizing what I am capable of doing, and recognizing when I should stop. Last week I had a Functional Capacity Evaluation with an occupational therapist. If I had known what that involved ahead of time, I would have said it would be no problem, and I would have been wrong. Interestingly, I found out that my fine motor skills are diminished, and it is a good thing I’m not performing any surgical procedures anytime soon. Also, the therapist kept telling me that it was okay to stop a test if I was getting symptomatic, but then every single test she had to be the one asking “Do you think you should stop?”, as I was swaying and reaching for the wall trying not to fall over but determined to put the peg in the next hole.

Right now I’m not sure what the next steps are. It would be good for my brain to continue going in for “practice” shifts, but I also know that I’m not much help to the clinic, and once they hire another doctor there likely wont be room for me. However, I will continue to chat with the clinic and post an update when I know more.

Gorgeous views through the old burn area on the North Fork Course at Buffalo Creek Recreation Area.

On the running front, there are 11 days to North Fork 50k. We had a great training run on the course this past Saturday, and I’m feeling ready to see where I am compared to last year’s race. I’ll push myself, but may not go full-out, because it will be a training weekend, and the URT group is running 25 miles in the Lost Creek Wilderness the day after the 50k. Ouch. I’ve been focusing on increasing my speed at the 50k distance, but after North Fork, it is time to pick up the mileage and start getting in a lot more climbing. Never Summer 100k is only 2 months away, and that 13,000′ of gain is going to hurt!

Momma bear and adorable cub tracks seen on our Saturday run.



2 thoughts on “The return of Dr. Gablehouse – Work after TBI

  1. Congrats on the step forward, frustrating I am sure, but you will get there. I had a similar accident in 1987 on a road bike ride when I was 15 (was not wearing a helmet). I was VERY fortunate to have gotten help right away and had a great neurosurgeon, the best in the region, who happened to be on call that Sunday. I was on dilantin for quite some time, had bad headaches and occasional dizzy spells that happened a few times per year until I was 23 or 24. These spells would come on suddenly (with about a minutes notice) and would be severe, where for several minutes my eyes would flick up and down and I was completely useless for several minutes, it was like I was in a laundry spin cycle, which would leave me exhausted for the entire day. Then it just stopped happening. I guess I was also lucky to have youth on my side, I suspect it would be much worse if that happened to me now. The only thing that I have not gotten back is my balance, which is generally something I can work with most of the time, but at night is still significantly compromised. Not to mention the massive scar on my head that makes me look like Frankenstein, but overall, feel quite thankful that I survived considering they said without treatment, I was hours from death. Good luck in your recovery, hope to finally meet you and Josh out on the trail one day. Jeff.

  2. oh kristen, how frustrating, but you are getting better and are so strong! i am sending good wishes your way.

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