Overcoming Traumatic Brain Injury

Three years ago, 24-year-old Adam Bullough was riding a bicycle down a gentle slope when he suddenly flew over the handle bars and fell, crushing the back of his head. The result was every parent’s worst nightmaretraumatic brain injury.

Adam had been a phenomenal athlete, a fine musician, and a self-assured, outgoing and fearless individual. “All of these things changed,” said Dr. Bullough, a professor of teacher education and associate director for teacher education research in the Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling. “The whole back of his head was crushed. We were told he would likely suffer severe cognitive damage and be unable to walk, see or communicate.”

For weeks Adam was in a coma. With such devastating possibilities, family, friends, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints living across the country fasted for him. “Things started happening then that were astonishing,” said Dr. Bullough. “He turned a corner in such a short period of time.”

In a new book titled Adam’s Fall, Traumatic Brain Injury, the First 365 Days, Dr. Bullough describes his family’s struggle with severe head injury and Adam’s journey to restored health. The book is mainly comprised of journal entries and letters written by Dr. Bullough, supplemented with explanations of medical terms and situations related to his son’s condition.

Dr. Bullough’s main reason for keeping a record of the recovery process was to provide understanding and hope. “When somebody's in a coma, they don't have a clue what's going on,” he said. “After such severe injury, Adam had to learn to become himself again. I wanted my son to understand what had happened so he could work through the difficulty and the anger.”

"This experience was hard and in many ways terrible,” Dr. Bullough said. “But a lot of good things also happened. Our family is closer than it used to be. I think we're a little kinder. I think we're a little more patient."

The book is dedicated to the hospital nurses, doctors and therapists who tirelessly cared for Adam as he endured more than ten significant surgeries. “The people we worked with were just astonishing,” Dr. Bullough said. “They worked their hearts out for Adam.” Remembering a particularly remarkable example, Dr. Bullough described how a hospital nurse helped Adam remember how to play the guitar by working his left hand in chord patterns. “He didn't need to do that, but he did,” Dr. Bullough said.

Today, Adam is still in the recovery process, but he is becoming himself again. “His body isn’t the same, but he is functioning well cognitively, still bilingual, still able to compose music, and still smart,” Dr. Bullough said. “He just looks a little different.”

As they have worked to endure such a great challenge, the life-changing dynamics of Adam’s injury has changed the entire family forever. “This experience was hard and in many ways terrible,” Dr. Bullough said. “But a lot of good things also happened. Our family is closer than it used to be. I think we're a little kinder. I think we're a little more patient.”

4 July 2011