Updated: Apr 20

Anti-vaxxers are using fear against the COVID-19 vaccine. And it might be working.

And Then I Just Fainted

On Dec. 17, Tiffany Dover, a registered Nurse at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, received the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 dose while at work. Since healthcare workers were the first to get the vaccine, she was emotional yet excited. She could finally continue to help people and not worry about getting sick. It was a big event, so like the media coverage of politicians receiving the vaccine, local and national cameras were rolling. Seventeen minutes later, during an interview, Dover said she felt dizzy and then fainted. After, she explained to the press: “I have a history of having an overactive vagal response, and so with that if I have pain from anything, a hangnail or if I stub my toe, I just pass out,” she said.


The hospital tried to quell the chaos by quoting the CDC website as saying that “fainting can happen after many types of vaccinations. Fainting can be triggered by many types of medical procedures. In fact, CDC has received reports of people fainting after nearly all vaccines. Fainting after getting a vaccine is most commonly reported after three vaccines given to adolescents: HPV, MCV4, and Tdap.” The press announcement didn’t work.


Anti-Vaxxers Are Watching You

A small, vocal minority known as anti-vaxxers were watching, and Dover’s explanation made them angry. As Jonathan Berman, a doctor at the New York Institute of Technology who studies anti-vaxxer communities said, “But it made for a dramatic video.” Berman said anti-vaxxers are ravenous for proof that the vaccine is dangerous, and they insisted she was lying and in reality, had responded negatively to the vaccine. “People tend to believe their eyes, and seeing someone faint is scary. It gives you a visceral gut reaction,” Berman said. For anti-vaxxers, that’s a powerful tool.


Not unlike its dark history in other diseases, anti-vaxxer rhetoric during the pandemic has led some Americans to deceptively believe that COVID-19 vaccines will kill people, or that the government is using it to control and manipulate our democratic rights. And they are hunting relentlessly for any evidence that helps their cause, even if it means devastating families or healthcare workers with invasive social media tactics. Authorities on anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists are concerned that this wild-wild west mentality for death and mayhem could hinder efforts to defeat this horrific pandemic. The problem is, in many ways it already has.


Something Bad Happened To Tiffany Dover

So anti-vaxxers started trolling Dover online, searching her social media accounts for any usable evidence to prove something grim had happened to her. Their argument? How could she be a nurse if she faints after getting a shot? They ranted that because she had not posted anything on social media in the days following her vaccine, something bad had happened to her. Something bad did happen. But to a different Tiffany Dover.


The anti-vaxxers succeeded in finding a death certificate for someone with Dover’s name and age who lived in Higdon, Alabama, only a 28-mile drive from Chattanooga. They then went on a social media rampage, posting the death certificate, insisting that the vaccine had killed her. On bgdsearches.com, the post, with a video of Dover fainting read:


“We regret to report that nurse Tiffany Dover has reportedly passed away, according to the following reports posted on social media and other platforms today December 19, 2020. Reports are that Tiffany Dover, the nurse who fainted on television after receiving the vaccine inoculation, has died. Hard to confirm right now, since we know this would be the pro-vaccine people’s worst PR nightmare and they will want to cover it up. (sic)” And other comments to that post: “They stand in front to block it she is DEAD AND THEY ARE COVERING IT UP FIZER (sic) MUST PAY.” And:

“Update: someone found a video of her from before. She’s a (sic) actress, just like I thought. Look at the comments below, however they deleted the video. Because it’s not real, bad actress. I don’t believe the doctors are real either. Did you see how they acted. Sure didn’t look like someone was in trouble. (sic)”


The Nurse Is Fine And All Is Well

Later, the hospital Tweeted that the nurse was at home and all was well, but that Ms. Dover wanted to maintain her privacy. When that failed to persuade, the hospital said she was working a shift, and even showed a video of her with other employees. A Tennessee public health official stated publicly that they had no records of anyone who received a COVID-19 vaccine that died for any vaccine-related reason.


Dedicated anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists salivating for proof of their convictions, however, don’t want the power of the media taken away, Berman says. So, instead of retreating on Dover, they announced they refuse to believe she’s alive until she makes a statement with proof of a timestamp and date. They continued to harass her family and posted untruths on social media, prompting Dover to cancel all her accounts. They also implored they still won’t believe anything she says because she has been “paid off” to say she’s alive and well. And the video that the hospital released of Dover happily at work? “It’s a deep fake video or a stunt double. (sic)”


A post on Telegram, analyzing the video, said, “Tiffany Dover’s hair is a different shade and thickness, folded differently on her head, covered mouth, and you can’t see her ice-blue eyes.” The post continued: “They pushed the crisis actor to the front [of the group of nurses in the video,] too. This is further proof of the cover up of Tiffany Dover’s death… The vaccinations kill. (sic)”


Vaccine Hesitancy Is Killing Us

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that vaccine hesitancy was one of the top ten threats to global health. Health experts say anywhere from seventy to ninety percent of people need to be vaccinated if COVID-19 is to be controlled. “What it does is it protects those who aren’t vaccinated, so we would like to see seventy-five to eighty-five percent of the population vaccinated, because right now everybody is susceptible,” said Dr. Laura Cassidy, an epidemiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin.


In some polls, approximately two-thirds of Americans say they would get a coronavirus vaccine. Statistically, this number could change as the nation understands more about the vaccine’s success and potential side effects. Other polls show only about fifty percent of Americans said they plan to get the vaccine when it becomes available, and there are a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the anti-vaccination movement. Yet it’s a tough sell to those that have a deep-seated “American” belief that individuals know better than the government. And there are a lot of them out there.


Vaccine hesitancy is a term that really comes from the research habits of new parents introduced to vaccines for the first time, and because they don’t know where to go for answers, they rely on Google to search for information. Unfortunately, these new parents are bombarded with anti-vax messages, especially on apps like Facebook, where an entire cult of untruths exists. In the last few years, Google took measures to curve the number of groups associated with anti-vax sites, and it changed things considerably. Now, with the pandemic and more than one vaccine being offered, the anti-vaxxers have an entire new folly to engage in, and it’s frustrating scientists as they scramble to control COVID-19.


Yet there are others who are vaccine-hesitant, and it’s difficult to determine who they are. We know that White adults are more likely to be vaccinated than Black adults are, and that could be because minorities don’t have good access to healthcare and decades of abuse have corroded their trust in the medical establishment. Anti-vaxxer groups have a history of praying on Black people, as they did nearly a decade ago. When anti-vaxxers in Minnesota invited the disgraced researcher Andrew Wakefield (who inaccurately tied vaccines to autism) to give a talk to the state’s Somali immigrant community, immunization rates among Somalis declined. Just a few years later, that community sustained a large measles outbreak, and many died.


A History Of The Anti-Vax Movement

While the COVID-19 vaccine has spotlighted the anti-vaxx movement, it’s not a community that appeared out of nowhere. The Vaccination Act of 1853 mandated vaccinations for all infants over four months old and raised issues of civil liberties as well as religious concerns. The philosophy of health for many Americans simply did not contain scientific studies or analysis, and this is still part of the issue today.

Toward the end of the 19th century, smallpox outbreaks in the United States gave credence to groups fighting for vaccine campaigns, and a polarizing anti-vaccine sentiment. For mothers, especially, fear (like today’s campaign) persuaded a new mindset, as that early vaccination included scoring the flesh on a child’s arm, then inserting pus from the blister of an individual previously vaccinated.


Fear Is The Greatest Weapon

While fear is the greatest weapon, it seems, for the anti-vax soldiers, others, like Zachary Horne, a psychology professor at Arizona State University, decided to perform a study to see if perhaps scaring anti-vaxxers might just work. In the 2015 study, researchers split 315 participants into three groups.

One group read a story about a child with measles as they gazed at diseased children while listening to warnings about the importance of vaccination. The second group only read statistics demonstrating there is no link between vaccination and autism. The last read about an unrelated topic. The group exposed to the vivid anecdotes and shown graphic pictures were more likely to change their attitude toward vaccines than the other two.


Scholars like Berman and others believe this approach might prove effective with the COVID-19 vaccine. Yet he believes having conversations is better. "They're making a risk evaluation just like we're making a risk evaluation. They're doing it in a less reasonable and healthy way and arriving at the wrong decision. That doesn't mean that we have to call them stupid or act like they're foolish. It means we can have a conversation with them. Hopefully, that's a more productive way to go about it."


For The Greater Good

It’s no secret, especially since the pandemic began, that Americans tend to be more interested in personal security than the collective good. If you asked any pedestrian on the streets of South Korea why they wear masks, they would all answer, “For the greater good.” Not so in America. So, reinforcing mask-wearing and explaining how the virus could hurt your kids, for example, could change mentalities for the better. At least that’s what the medical community is hopeful for. Berman argues that anti-vaccination activism is connected intimately to how people see themselves in society as parents and members of their community. He believes effective pro-vaccination efforts must include these cultural aspects instead of battling social media posts.


Yet other professionals argue that adjusting attitudes is a pointless exercise. There is some research that shows giving people accurate information scares them even more and makes them more hesitant.

In another study, researchers found showing images of sick children (as in the previous study), made parents even more anxious about the vaccine, and negated their intent to vaccinate their children.


When Your Children Are Sick

In the end, perhaps most convincing is when your child is at risk of dying, and when that parent was once part of the anti-vax movement. And maybe, it’s these people researchers should listen to for advice on how to change the COVID-19 resisters. For many anti-vaxxers, the scare of a child’s death shakes them out of whatever they’ve read on social media. In 2015, Kristen O’Meara was one of those parents. When her three girls became infected with rotavirus and began projectile-vomiting and leaking diarrhea as they slept, the young mother was horrified. As her children recovered, she began to research - off social media - and discovered in books that there was a vaccine for rotavirus, and the same books exalted the benefits of vaccinations. In short, she discovered the truth of science and it changed her mind-set. Now she is a firm believer in vaccines.


She also realized in her experience that vaccine espousers should empathize that the vaccine-hesitant, like anyone, wants to be listened to, not ridiculed. “It is not crazy to wonder about all these unpronounceable, scary-sounding ingredients that are in vaccines,” O’Meara told The Atlantic.


Science Can Change The Future

As epidemiologists and behavior specialists agree, the challenge remains in convincing the most ardent vaccine deniers in a most difficult time. The real issue is the sparse resources dedicated to shifting the reluctance to get the vaccine, and doing so on a frenetic time schedule. Aside from the efforts of an amped-up production on the vaccine during this major crisis, there is little educational (and psychological) strategy for the public on understanding the true science evidence. At the same time, countering the enormous community of anti-vaxxers, a community that continues to organize using fear and social media, is daunting.


We must be cognizant that we’re never going to reach everyone who distrusts vaccines. Many of the most vehement anti-vaxxers distribute untruths to encourage the mercurial communities that science, and the government, are evil entities. It’s those individuals that never get the correct information. And it’s this capricious population we need to focus on. With an empathetic bent, and a handful of patience, science can change the future if we let it.



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Updated: Apr 20


Plant-derived oils are copiously touted to help every ailment. Science has an issue with that.


Samantha Brody is tall when she stands up on our Zoom call, and her wide cherub face displays an eternal enthusiasm. Her coiffed hair lays neatly across her shoulders as she puts a few drops of peppermint oil into a pregnant essential oil diffuser shaped like a teardrop. “My first experience with oils was not a great one,” she tells me. She pushes a button on the diffuser, and it glows purple and green and blue as a fine mist permeates the room. I can almost smell it. “I mixed up lavender oil with frankincense thinking it would help the sunspots on my hands. I didn’t dilute it and rubbed it into my skin. Big mistake.” The oil burned her skin, causing her hands to turn bright pink. Then her body absorbed the oil and she developed large rashes from head to toe. Only a doctor's visit, a shot of cortisone, and ten days of hydrating with water returned her to normal. “I confess, though, essential oils help me sleep. I swear by lavender oil.”


Essential History

While Samantha’s initial experience with oils was troubling, it is one based on a lack of knowledge for the user, a common gaffe with essential oils. While the oils are plant-based and natural, the safety of any oil depends largely on the person using it, and with any plant product, these oils can contribute to skin irritation, respiratory symptoms, and even hormone-related issues. Despite those cautions, the essential oil market is now valued at $7.3 billion and is expected to reach $14.6 billion by 2026. Yet science seems to scoff at those numbers, as research is inconclusive as to how effective the oils are, and even if they are good for you.


Essential oils have been used for thousands of years in cosmetics, perfumes, and for therapeutic purposes by ancient cultures from Asia and India, as well as the Egyptians and Romans. Today, essential oils are used to add scent to cosmetics and cleaning products, and to flavor food and beverages. Companies such as doTERRA sell the more medicinal versions – small vials filled with different oils for everything from better sleep to acne – and the company claimed its revenue exceeded $1.7 billion in sales in 2020. Yet this medicinal form is a late trend in the United States, as many other countries have used oils for centuries.


Dilini Vethanayagam, an MD and associate professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Alberta, says Western countries are simply late to the market. “I’m originally from South Asia, and alternative medicines are very popular there, but that’s over many decades of training,” she reminds us, as most consumers using essential oils don’t have PhDs in chemistry.


A Coping Mechanism

It has been theorized that people today – especially during a pandemic - are turning to essential oils because they are disappointed by Western medicine, and as a coping mechanism in anxious times. Writer Annaliese Griffin wrote in Quartz that it is especially true of women, since modern medicine and the tremulous U.S. healthcare system have failed them many times. “The medical system is even more terrible for women, whose experience of pain is routinely minimized by health practitioners. … Enter the wellness industry, which specializes in creating safe, welcoming, amber-lit spaces that make people feel cared for and relaxed, and which treat the female body as its default. … The problem is that the rest of the wellness industry hitches a ride on their coattails of compassion and competency, benefiting from the utter lack of warmth found in mainstream medical treatment.” Her sentiment echoes the lack of empathy in the medical field and provides another form of attraction to essential oils to heal our woes.


Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, and known for demystifying chemistry, tells us that many plants’ compounds are volatile: “Some [are] destined to attract pollinators, others to ward off bugs that have the intention of making a tasty meal of the leaves. It is the volatile chemicals that are regarded as the plant’s essence and are the ones captured in the ‘essential oil.”


Muddy Water

Many of the proclamations concerning essential oils are derived from studies demonstrating that the oils’ chemical compounds have certain benefits, for example, like tea tree oil, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties. The issue, says Schwarcz, is justifying the antibacterial properties to say it can cure your acne. It’s a leap to suggest oils can cure or treat medical conditions. To add to the muddy water, some claims are based on studies where essential oils were tested on rats or other animals rather than humans, or studies that were inconclusive, and of course, results indicating a placebo effect.


Schwarcz says that distributors in the essential oil market often make suspicious claims to drive sales. “Some of the people the company has snared with its promises of wealth through multi-level marketing end up making a bevy of claims about essential oils helping with cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, mononucleosis, and arthritis,” he says.


As with other complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), the essential oil market is unregulated. Just a few years ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to essential oil marketer Young Livings. They concluded the company’s websites and social media accounts were mislabeling their products as drugs even though they were not approved as such. The company was marketing their products as cures, treatments, and preventions for everything from viruses to Parkinson’s, all of which were unfounded.


The Sensory System

Some recent studies demonstrate there’s no convincing evidence that aromatherapy can help hypertension, anxiety, depression, pain, or symptoms of dementia. Schwarcz says that studies shown to prove the benefits of essential oils are not reliable, due to plain genetics and brain chemistry. “The scent of lavender may have a calming effect in some people and help with sleep, but it can cause headaches in others,” he says. And this highlights the complicated views on the benefits of essential oils.


Pam Dalton, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, says that while scents may be calming to people, “they likely aren’t working due to any pharmacological or biological effect, [but] rather a sensory/psychological effect.” You may enjoy the scent of mint because it makes you feel more alert when it stimulates a nerve that allows you to perceive exhilaration (or not).


There are valid data suggesting that oils may be beneficial, and PubMed defines them like this: "Aromatherapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering one's mood, cognitive, psychological, or physical well-being." There are ongoing studies for the oils as a natural treatment for stress, anxiety, and even for symptom management in cancer patients. Yet many of the studies are run by the large essential oil companies to try and counter-balance statements like this one from the National Advertising Division (NAD), which claimed false advertising in the oils.

A study in 1990 demonstrated that inhaling peppermint essential oil enhanced alertness, focus, and concentration, ingesting it, however, did not. Yet another one confirmed that smelling peppermint enhanced the accuracy of memory.


The sensory system is a tricky one. Smells often trigger memories and even physical stimulations, so studies done with essential oils are easily skewed. The reactions to oils are mood-based changes, in that scents create expansive neurological events that probably cannot be explained – yet – by physical science. An entire gamut of subjective memories is connected to scents, even scents from childhood. Dalton is at work on a cancer project funded by an essential oil company, but she says she’s still skeptical. Most research looking at the benefits of aromatherapy on cancer patients as complementary to chemotherapy is a bit of a stretch, and as with other treatments, the results are mixed.


Caveats

Then there are the hormonal caveats to using oils. Dr. Romy Block, board-certified endocrinologist and co-founder of Vous Vitamin, says essential oils may create endocrine disruptors that interfere with the natural production of hormones. "These chemicals can either lower or raise the normal hormone levels in the body," Dr. Block says, "causing disruption of development, reproductive changes or even interference with the immune system."


There's not enough evidence yet, Dr. Block says, but a series of essential oils were linked to hormone-related health complications. Lavender oil, for example, shows an association with early breast development in girls. Two popular oils, lavender, and tea tree are shown to lead to a condition called prepubertal gynecomastia (abnormal breast tissue growth) in boys.


Dr. Block advises against one of the most popular methods, diffusing lavender and tea tree oils, because of the potential complications, especially in children, teens, and even pets. The best strategy, she says, is to consult with your health care provider before you diffuse these oils. Most essential oils are generally considered safe to inhale or apply topically, yet not diluted properly they can cause different reactions in different people, as they did for Samantha.


Vethanayagam, whose practice focuses on allergies, says ingesting oils is probably safe in small quantities. “The lungs are very sensitive, but the stomach goes through many processes to take out the bad stuff,” she says. Yet not all oils are the same quality, and some are not even meant to be ingested because of that. Only the best, high-quality oils should be ingested, and most of the poorer ones say not to ingest on the label.


The Power Of Scent

Essential oils have a long history of medicinal use, but the science on them remains inconclusive. Yet that science is complicated by the power of scent and the varied reactions to applying them topically or using them in a diffuser. One thing is certain, essential oils offer comfort to many. “If the smell of lavender relaxes you for whatever reason, sniff it at bedtime when you find it difficult to disengage,” Dalton says. “If the smell of wintergreen makes you feel more energized, take a whiff when you’re heading off for a run on the treadmill.”


As we go to end our Zoom call, my new friend Samantha is touting the benefits of the peppermint oil she is diffusing. “You know? It just gives me that blanketed feeling of a hug that never ends.”





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Updated: Apr 20


An astonishing medical recovery puzzles science and provides optimism to traumatic brain injury patients.


Had Simon Lewis returned to his bungalow to get a different coat, or had they never taken the detour to look at a house, the accident never would have happened. This would be something he would think about the rest of his life. As it is, on an early Los Angles evening, Simon and his wife Marcy are heading west on Beverly Boulevard in a brand-new Infiniti Simon had just purchased. The immaculate street is lined with maple trees and the sun is beginning to set, flickering light between the trees. Marcy suggests they look at her boss’s newly renovated house since they are near, so they begin a detour. Suddenly a white van traveling at seventy-five miles an hour rips through the stop sign on Beverly. It blindsides Lewis’s car, slamming it into the curb, where it becomes airborne and is stopped by a maple tree at the corner of Beverly and McCadden Place.


Coma

Simon sustained a broken skull, jaw, arms, clavicle, and pelvis, with compound fractures in nine ribs. Yet the injury that would change his life was the catastrophic brain injury because of the crash.

Lewis went into a coma the night of the accident, on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of three to 15, GCS3 means no motor response, no verbal response, and no visual response. It was as close to death as one can get. Studies suggest that patients with GCS3-5 have less than a 10 percent chance of living a normal life, particularly if they fail to respond within fourteen days of the injury. Lewis remained in a coma for 31 days.


As horrific as Lewis’s accident was (it killed his wife, Marcy), his incredible recovery and tireless work for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) research has helped broaden TBI awareness. With TED talks and his book, Rise and Shine, he helps give hope to victims of traumatic brain injury, and his story demonstrates the brain's incredible ability to regenerate itself. Yet it also highlights a growing trend in brain science: cognitive training. "What my experience demonstrates is how much we can train the brain measurably and repeatedly," Lewis told the Sydney Morning Herald. "And that applies to everyone. We need to start screening children at school who are falling behind, and treat their difficulties, rather than writing them off. There are techniques that rebuild the processes of your mind."

The odds of surviving a coma are notoriously hard to predict, with brain injury being the most complex affliction for the most complicated organ in the body, yet cognitive training helped Lewis become a functional TBI survivor.


Cognitive Training

Cognitive training is not a new concept, but one that emerged in the 1940s to treat the brain-injured soldiers as they prepared to return home. The cognitive assessment and training market is predicted to be worth $18.01 billion globally by 2027, and much of that growth comes from brain training for every demographic. Its functionality is proven with the older population as well as children, and the market has exploded with phone apps, online platforms, and brain train groups. While these companies often make generous assertions about what their products do for the brain, scientists are ambivalent about some of the claims the companies make. Only some of the research demonstrates brain training works in non- TBI people.


A study published in 2010 monitored eleven-hundred adults that performed exercises designed to improve attention, reasoning, memory, and visual-spatial skills, and it concluded that they improved in accomplishing the tasks themselves, but those skills sometimes did not transfer to life improvements. Some scientists believe intensive brain exercises can exhaust people and be counterproductive instead of beneficial.


Neuroplasticity

Part of Lewis’s injury was a “catastrophic brain insult," where a stroke obliterated a third of his right hemisphere and induced a brainstem contusion with severe internal bleeding. Neuroscientists used to assume each part of the brain had a set, inflexible role, and if certain areas were injured there was nothing to be done, other than live your life with the deficits. With the science of neuroplasticity, or changing the way the brain functions, they have realized that the brain is more pliable than previously thought. With the right cognitive training, it is possible to alter other areas of the brain, so they are assigned the tasks of the damaged areas.


Cognitive training like the kind Lewis received and continues to do has proven results in TBI patients that emerged from comas. The challenge remains that the longer patients remain in a coma, the less chance they have of regaining full brain function. In Lewis's case, it took many medical professionals to rebuild his mind, and he attributes much of his recovery not to a world-class brain expert, but to Dr. Lois Provda, an educational therapist in West Hollywood.


When he was referred to her, in October 1995, his IQ was 89, just a point below normal (between 90-110) on the Revised Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. Provda treated him three times a week, and by February 1997, Lewis had an IQ of more than 151, a score that is considered genius.

“She had me working with Kapla building blocks, and memorizing numbers backwards and forwards,” says Lewis. “I had to put cartoon images in sequence, to help me with cause and effect, the idea that one event leads to another. Another exercise was called Interactive Metronome, where I’d have to write things with a metronome clicking out a beat. It was exhausting!”


Today, most of Lewis’s medical staff consider his brain to be, if anything, overactive. Alert and infectiously cheerful, he's morphed into a curious academic, slingshotting from task to task with pure enthusiasm. A Cambridge law graduate historically, he was always known for this intelligence, yet the way his brain seemed to remodel after his accident is unprecedented.


Recovery Isn't Just Neuronal

For recoveries in TBI like Lewis’s, it’s a patient's attitude and support system that really distinguishes how well that recovery goes, says Jeffrey Kreutzer, the editor of Brain Injury magazine, and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Patients who stay at home and say, 'I don't need advice, I'll figure it out myself, leave me alone' - they do poorly. But someone who seeks out social relationships or volunteer work, does much better. Recovery isn't just neuronal – it's a process that involves family support, as well as a positive attitude.”


Simon Lewis is an inspiring example of this attitude, although he is still receiving treatment more than two decades after the accident. His brain does not work in many ways, and he has significant disabilities. He wears special prism glasses to drive. He can think about lifting his left foot, yet it does not move. To walk, he uses a revolutionary device that stimulates the foot muscles. Without it, he cannot walk. There is still residual pain from his reconstructed pelvis, and vision issues in both eyes. "My memories used to be like a photo album," he says. "You could flick the pages and go back in time. But now, the album's gone, all I've got are the photos, and I can't tell what order they came in," he says.

Yet his memory – and his brain - are vivid and intact. He recalls the accident and the emotions that come with it as though it were yesterday, and that inspires him to spread TBI awareness, and it reminds us that cognitive training might just change brain science.


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