Posts tagged TBI
Eating is Hard
I have been working on this blog post for months. I started 6 months ago and then it sat here. I would open it periodically and stare at my screen, type some things, delete them, type some more, delete those. This is a very personal piece of my story that i haven't shared publically, but I want you to know the real and raw parts of my story. Not just the polished bits that can take over when you share yourself online. So I never gave up on this post even though I was tempted to trash it completely. Finally the right words came, but it got really long, so I broke it up into two parts.
Look for Part 2 on Monday.

In late 2007, I couldn't eat.

Seriously, literally, I was UNABLE to perform the act of eating food. Such a basic thing I never knew I took for granted, but there it was. I was in the hospital, unable to chew or swallow and my food was delivered through a tube in my nose, directly into my stomach. Forget room service! I had gastric service that would feed me while I lay in a coma.

On Nov. 24, 2007 I was hit head-on by a drunk driver while driving from the airport to visit my dad in Nova Scotia.

The feeding tube delivered calories (because I can't really call it "nutrition") while I was in a coma and continued to feed me even after I woke up. The tube came out after a few weeks but my body had forgotten how to eat. I remembered what do in theory, but my muscles and reflexes didn't do what they were supposed to. And the empty space where my front teeth had been made it even harder.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

My toddler who is learning how to eat for the very first time in his life right now, chews, swallows and drinks better than me at that time. I was severely brain injured, my swallowing reflex was gone, and I had to relearn this most basic skill.

It all began with thickened water.

This gelatinous liquid was supposed to help train my swallowing muscles while minimizing the risk of choking, but my god, it was vile. Solid food wasn't any better. My meat, veggies, and potatoes were delivered in pureed stripes of pink, green, and white, which in my unwitting state, I happily spooned into my mouth. And coughed. A lot. Nothing seemed to go down the right way.

Then came the cups full of paste-colored Ensure, or fluorescent-but-somehow-chalky pink Boost.

Then the day came that I successfully chewed and swallowed a bite of banana.

Oh, hooray! That was such a good day. It meant I could stop eating purées and I was allowed to eat soft foods! REAL food. My missing teeth and broken jaw made anything crunchy a no-no, but oh, BLISS, I could have FOOD!!!!

But it was still hospital food.

My doctors and nurses said I could eat whatever I wanted though, as long as it didn't require work to chew. After being fed through a feeding tube for weeks, and lying motionless in a hospital bed, my healthy, athletic, 6-foot-one-inch, 170 pound frame had dropped to a very skinny and unhealthy 140 pounds. I was officially given the green light to chow down as much as possible because I needed to regain that weight, and I was burning insane amounts of calories to heal.

My first request was for fast food.

There's no way I could bite into a burger, but my seriously loving fiancé would go out and pick up whatever I asked for (often in the freezing Canadian winter weather), come back to my room, and take bites for me, chew it, and feed me like a baby bird. I'm not kidding. Talk about love, and that greasy, salty food tasted so, so good. 

My doctors, of all people, should have known the impact my nutrition could have on my healing, and especially the healing of my injured brain. But all they cared about at that time was the quantity of calories I was consuming. The quality didn't seem to matter and it certainly made my taste buds happy.

Now I know those fast food meals are engineered to excite our taste buds without providing the nutrition we really need, but back then, all I knew was that it tasted good, and made me feel  more "normal."

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

My Partial Dentures

My Partial Dentures

When I left the hospital, I was still missing eight of my front teeth. 

The ninth was so damaged it was just waiting to be pulled out. I finally had a partial denture made that made my smile appear normal at first glance, but it was anything but functional. I just wanted to feel like myself again so changing my diet was not at the top of my priority list.

Wearing my new partial

Wearing my new partial

I ate mostly home cooked meals, but I still reached for processed comfort foods almost every day. Eating wasn't fun. My partial didn't stay put. One afternoon when I was out with a visiting friend, we went to a popular sandwich shop for lunch and I ordered the roast beef and cheese. When we brought our orders outside and I took my first bite, I found I couldn't bite through the meat and the pressure on my front false teeth would flip them off my molars where the partial clipped on. I ended up picking the sandwich apart and eating it with my fingers. Eating an apple? Forget it. 

I wore the partial denture for 4 years and it limited my food choices in a big way because everything that went into my mouth had to be super soft, or cut up into small pieces. My diet gradually improved, but I didn't know how to eat for wellness and healing. I was wooed by health claims on food packaging and their loud, colorful promises. And my brain injury made me especially susceptible.  And although I was injured when I was 23, I couldn't get dental implants until I was 27 years old.

I just wanted to stay home where I could take my partial out and eat comfortably with a fork or spoon, missing teeth and all. I couldn't think clearly or do much more than get through each day, so I just ate what was easiest. Almost everything had to be cut up like I was a small child. I handled it well enough and I laughed about it a lot. But eating was hard. I was miserable.

When it was finally time to get oral surgery and install my dental implants, I was so happy that I didn't care that I was having invasive, reconstructive surgery. My surgeon removed metal plates, rebuilt my jaw, removed my wisdom teeth, and installed titanium posts that would eventually hold my new teeth. I was given some serious drugs for conscious sedation that made me so loopy and relaxed, I remember seeing chunks of bone leave my mouth and thinking, "oh, there it goes."

I. DID. NOT. CARE.

It was pretty amazing stuff but the elation I felt was completely real and independent of any drug. Throughout my recovery period, I remember being amazed as I ran my tongue over my implants, feeling the new posts that would give me my smile back. My whole face was in agony but I was smiling already.

TEETH. I would finally have teeth again.

READ PART 2: How Eating Became Easy...

 
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What My Full Recovery From A Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Looks Like

On Nov. 24, 2007, I survived near death when I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. I fell into a coma, my body was a broken mess, I had to be resuscitated in the ambulance, and I was hospitalized for three months.

But after working hard to heal for over seven years, I achieved a full recovery.

My Whole Healthy | Maggie Yount | Broken humerus | broken bones |motor vehicle accident | Drunk Driver | TBI | Traumatic Brain Injury | Recovery

Not every victim of traumatic brain injury can say that. I think most probably can't. These photos are just a peek inside what my injuries looked like in the early stages of my recovery, and I know that NOT achieving anything close to a full recovery was a very real possibility.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and I hope my story can inspire others and perhaps be a stepping stone to the next level of recovery for anyone who is a victim of TBI like me. Instead of writing about it, I made a  video so I could just talk to you. This is by no means a complete account of what I experienced following the accident, or what I still live with every day. But I think it helps me connect with you in a more personal way and shows a more accurate picture of who I am now.

After making this video, and even trying to write this little post, I know I thought of things to add, and promptly forgot them again. Like exercise (the aerobic type)! That helped me in a huge way. And I forgot to talk about it and only just remembered it now two days after recording the video. So there you go.

We've all experienced trauma, but it's what we do with it that defines us. Watch the video and let me know in the comments how you transform your trauma! Share this post if you found it helpful and let me know if you have any questions. I'm here for you. 

xoxo

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5 Reasons Why Organic Food Could Save You! (Part 1)
I love food. I always have. Ever since I was tiny, I could always be counted on to have a healthy appetite and maybe that's why I grew to have my 6-foot-1-inch frame! I grew up eating a fair bit of organic food thanks to my parents having at least some awareness of its importance, but I never really knew why eating "organic" food really mattered. I tried my best to eat well but didn't think twice about chowing down on fast food now and then - especially when I had to regain the 30 pounds I lost in the hospital while I was bedridden and fed through a feeding tube! It's only in recent years that I've learned why organic food and organic farming is so critically important if we want to stay healthy.

Produce, meats (except fish) and processed (packaged) foods can be labeled as organic but for this post, I'm focusing on produce (plants) alone because organic meat is a whole other subject that I'll tackle in another post and processed food just isn't real food, organic or not. Organic candy is not healthy!

Modern agriculture's technology has allowed us to grow food in volumes that were impossible in the days of small family farms, but bigger is not necessarily better. We've distanced ourselves from where our food comes from and convenience foods have trumped knowing how to cook. There is a push happening to take us back to knowing where our food comes from but it's not an easy change to make when our food system works very hard to keep us in the dark, and we're constantly bombarded with messaging that junky convenience foods are better, easier and preferable.

They're not!

Fresh organic produce from my local grocery store. 

Fresh organic produce from my local grocery store. 

"Organic" is a term regulated in the United States by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and in Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In order for food to bear the organic label, it must meet specific criteria. According to the USDA, , "Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used."

Sound good? Here are 5 reasons why you can love it even more!

• Buying organic can save you money!
An organic strawberry

An organic strawberry

Seriously! I know people think "organic food is so expensive!" but if you buy fresh or frozen whole fruits and veggies and you buy fresh produce in season, it packs a nutritional punch so you don't need to eat as much. Junk food offers almost no nutritional value so we eat tons of it and are often still hungry when it's all gone. We feel like crap and we just spent a bunch of money of seemingly "cheap" food, and for what? Buying in bulk saves cash and if you can't eat or use it all before it spoils, did you know you can blanch (plunge it in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then ice water to stop it from cooking) and freeze your own veggies? I haven't tried freezing my own fruit yet. We freeze our vegetables when we have more peas and beans than we can eat from our garden! If you have a local farmers market, food direct from the farmer can be a lot cheaper than the grocery store and many farmers now offer CSA programs where you get a bulk box of produce or meats fresh every week or month.
Don't you feel better knowing it doesn't have anything toxic sprayed on it?

Don't you feel better knowing it doesn't have anything toxic sprayed on it?

Buying organic food can save you from exposure to toxic pesticides that could harm your health!

A recent study confirmed that if you eat organic food, you will reduce your exposure to pesticides! A pesticide called 1,3-D used on conventionally grown strawberries, for example, is believed to cause cancer.
Most pesticides are not selective and can be toxic to nontarget species including humans, and many of these cause neurotoxicity. Major pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) are actually more toxic to human cells than the declared active principle (AP). For example:
"Ethoxylated adjuvants found in glyphosate-based herbicides were up to 10.000 times more toxic than the so-called active AP glyphosate and are better candidates for secondary side effects. This may explain in vivo long-term toxicity from 0.1ppb of the formulation and other toxicities that were not explained by a consideration of glyphosate alone. These adjuvants also have serious consequences to the health of humans and rats in acute exposures"
Not every produce item NEEDS to be organic though and you can see the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" on the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
• Organic foods can provide more nutrition than their conventionally grown counterparts, saving your health and your wallet
Studies showed that organic tomatoes have higher levels of polyphenols and flavonoids (both antioxidants), and not only tomatoes - a study by Newcastle University shows higher antioxidants in organic food across the board. Organic milk has been shown to have higher levels of Omega-3s, a beneficial fatty acid, because cows producing organic milk must be grazed on pasture for at least 4 months out of the year, whereas cows on conventional dairy farms typically eat grains like corn year-round which does not raise Omega-3 levels in the milk. More nutrition equals more bang for your buck!
• Organic foods can save the health of your kids
Developing children are far more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults. Infants' still-developing kidneys and liver cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult, and babies and children may be exposed to higher levels of pesticides because they breathe faster, are closer to the ground and tend to frequently stick their hands in their mouth.
• Organic farming supports wildlife habitats for the bees, birds and butterflies we love to see, saving the pollinators of our food
Organic food matters.

Organic food matters.

Since it's been in the news a lot lately, you're probably aware of bee colony collapse and the decline of birds and butterflies. Monarch butterflies have been hit hard by increasing herbicide use wiping out the milkweed they need to breed. Milkweed is the ONLY plant a Monarch's larvae will eat. Bees' numbers are declining rapidly and although the bee deaths' cause hasn't been definitively named, many signs point to pesticides for having "sub-lethal effects" on bee colonies. Birds are being affected, too, with a certain class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (that has also taken a lot of blame for killing bees), being blamed for the decline of 14 species of birds.
Organic farming, on the other hand, supports the habitats of these little fliers, and other wildlife. Scientists from Oxford University say organic farms support 34% more plant, insect and animal species than conventional farms! 

For my fellow Canadians, Canada's organic regulations are not clearly stated for consumers like those in the US, and it required some digging. Thankfully, the CBC did a bit of that in 2011but instead of clearly stating what organic means in Canada, the regulations are buried in this document. The procedure of organic certification states, "A certification body shall certify an agricultural product as organic if it determines, after verification, that...the substances used in the production and processing of the agricultural product are those set out in, and used in the manner described in, CAN/CGSB 32.311"

CAN/CGSB 32.311 is a list of permitted substances in organic food production. Reading quickly through the list, it doesn't look like Canada permits anything crazy or much different from what's allowed in the US but man, talk about creating some major legalese that is not immediately clear to consumers! Basically what they're saying is, certified organic in Canada means that the food has been produced using ONLY the substances on their "permitted" list. So to know what that really means, you'd have to go read the whole thing, and then check it periodically to see if it has changed.

So way to go, Canada. Way to make the law dense and impossible for consumers to quickly understand.

Real food is so pretty.

Real food is so pretty.

In the US, the use of the term "natural" on food only means something on meat and poultry packaging. The USDA states that "natural" meat and poultry means, "A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)."

But for other foods, the term is not regulated by the USDA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FDA says only, "FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."

The term is equally ambiguous in Canada.

Do you have questions about organic food? Natural versus organic? Do you think organic is worth it or a waste of money? I'd love to know what you think! Leave your comments and questions below! 

And if you like the photos, I added some to my photography site.

xoxo Maggie


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Bonus Blog! My Q&A with Bethany

I had the honor to be interviewed by Bethany at From The Pasture this week, and I want to share it with you! We go a little deeper into my story than I've written here on the blog, and it sheds a little more light on who I am and what brought me to this place in my life.

I'd love for you to read it! Feel free to leave comments below, or over at From The Pasture.

 

"I met Maggie a few months ago when she stopped by the farm to pick up an order. Her bubbly, inviting personality made it super easy and fun to chat with her. After a little while, she opened up to me about her incredible story (which we’ll talk about below). It completely blew me away!

I was so imporessed not just by what Maggie had been through, but also by her positive outlook and persevering spirit. Ever since then, it’s been a joy to keep in touch with Maggie and see all of the amazing things she’s doing to empower and inspire others to live healthy lives. She even started a blog about it (check it out at mywholehealthy.com)! I hope you’ll enjoy learning about Maggie and her story as much as I have!

Let’s start from the beginning. Can you give us a bit of background on where you were at in life before the accident?

First of all, I just want to say thank you for having me on From The Pasture! It’s no secret that I love your blog and the Primal Pastures farm. I’m honored to be interviewed by you!

So the accident happened in Nov. 2007 and the summer before, I was living in the San Diego area and working..."

READ THE REST BY CLICKING HERE


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