Dear World, TBI Is Serious

Dear World, 

My name is Kelly Thune. I have a mTBI. You would never know by looking at me. It is serious. Very serious.`

During the 2018 Winter Olympics, Toyota Company aired commercials of athletes competing with courage and fortitude despite their physical disabilities. Never once was there a depiction of an automobile. At the time, I wrote in my journal, I wonder how a similar commercial could be produced for individuals that have invisible disabilities (like the mTBI that took my career away.) Last year, I wrote a letter to Toyota commending them for their advertising and awareness and suggesting the idea of doing the same for those of us with invisible injuries/disabilities. They responded they may not accept commercial/advertising ideas from the public per company policy. Nonetheless, I can always hope that the person on the receiving end of my email, by virtue of reading my email and having the ability to share it, knew that I had already shared an idea. There needs to be greater awareness and education for disabilities that are not visible; as evidenced today, January 22, 2020, by the President of the United States. 

Look at that person in the picture. Who do you see? That is me, Kelly Thune. I am intelligent and hold multiple degrees. I have a strong work ethic; I have served the children of our nation as an award winning and published public school science teacher and school administrator for more than two decades before I was injured at work. I have dedicated myself to giving to people with my empathic heart. I am physically fit and if you were to look at me in person or at my picture (attached), you would have no idea that I suffer from multiple mTBIs. It is very serious. Read this to learn why.  

You would never know about four years ago a student at the school where I was an administrator kicked the door shut, trapping my head bi-laterally between the door and the door jam causing some very serious injuries. According to my primary care physician who observed blood in my ear the day of the incident, I had a partially ruptured eardrum. According to the ENT I saw after my primary care physician, that same incident possibly broke the cartilage in my ear. The incident caused a serious concussion (the second in two years); one that resulted in Persistent Concussion Symptoms (formerly known as Post Concussion Syndrome), Post Traumatic Vision Syndrome, and injury to my neck. 

I called my doctor who got me in right away.The “typical” concussion symptoms were not present; my eyes dilated just fine. I had a headache. Nausea? Some. Dizziness? A little. And my eyes would not focus. Over the next few weeks my symptoms became significantly worse, unbearable. 

The Cat Scan was clear. The MRI was clear. I felt horrible. Every day. Day after day… after day…

I can not read like I used to. 

I can not drive for an appreciable amount of time. I have to pull over and sleep if I take a trip longer than 45 minutes away. My mTBI is not serious?

I find it impossible in order to concentrate in order to read, write, or use screens. Writing this causes significant discomfort. Every head injury is different, and for me, at first it was a threshold limit of 10-15 minutes before debilitating symptoms began. Three-Four years later it is 30-45 minutes depending on my quality of rest, the quality of my food, or other neuro-feedback in the environment that might overstimulate me. If I try to concentrate on something I feel a vice grip-like pressure forming around my skull and I get sweaty. 

My skin hurts all the time, but especially when I am overstimulated by things that are everyday occurrences for a “normal” person; lights, noise, everyday living activities. 

My ears never stop ringing; ever. 

I have headaches all the time; always, at the base of my skull, top of my head, and behind my eyes. 

I fall into an asleep-like state when I hear bothersome noises; like at my daughter’s orchestra concerts. While I attend the concerts, I wear special glasses prescribed by my concussion vision specialist for photo-sensitivity in this case to stage lighting. Artificial lighting triggers headaches. And my intolerance to noise, especially tones like that of a violin cause me to shake, I sink in my chair (even with ear plugs), and sometimes it causes me to cry. I find that I cannot concentrate and overstimulation from the noise and light causes my brain shuts down to avoid the pain. I started college as a music major before deciding to complete degrees in science, education, and leadership. Music is important to me. Both of my children are gifted in music and not being able to fully enjoy their participation is a serious disappointment.  

Neuro-fatigue is different than being tired. Neuro-fatigue means you can do everything and nothing. One minute you are fine and the next minute your battery is totally dead and you must lie down and sometimes sleep; right then! It is not being tired and pushing yourself to keep going. Your battery is dead. Some days I am ok other days I am terrible. It depends on how much is required of me in a day, how much stimulation I must endure, how well rested and how well my body has processed the food I have eaten. If I have an event that I must attend, I have to prepare myself before and after. If my children have a concert, for example, chances are the next day I will spend most of the day in bed. 

My moods are all over the place. I was the most even stabled school administrator. I can not deal with stress. I know how, but I am unable to. I do everything in my power to use my skills. It is a phenomenon that is perplexing to me knowing the even personality that I was born with and that I have exhibited my entire life until now. And when someone suggests that this is purely psychological, I know that it is not. I can feel that my brain is different. And we hear of professional athletes whose personalities change, they rage, they become ridden with anxiety and depression and commit suicide. Post mortem they are diagnosed with CTE. This is frighteningly serious.

And, on most days, I look fine. To the outside world. “Kelly, you look great!”

Why – oh why can I do some things, but not others? “Kelly, you look great!” 

I wish everyone would stop telling me I looked so good.  I do not feel good. 

If I read, I feel like I am going to throw up. “Kelly, you look great!”

If I drive I feel like I am going to throw up. “Kelly, you look great!”

Other things are still so so hard. “Kelly, you look great!” 

I just cannot see. “Kelly, you look great!” 

Reading? Forget it. Using a computer? It is so challenging. My eyes hurt. I keep getting a burn across my head and headaches behind my eyes and at the base of my skull. “Kelly, you look great!” 

I feel dizzy and forget what I am doing sometimes. “Kelly, you look great!” 

Please, just, stop. 

I am an advocate and have done everything and more to learn and transform;, not to mention I have been treated horribly by “the system.” I am stalked outside my home and followed in the grocery store; my children are frightened by insurance company strangers. I go to independent medical doctors that seemingly have less knowledge about my condition than I have taken the time to learn in these years. My union said they would not help me because I was working for a new employer and even though I had decades in the system, I was not tenured. This is disgraceful for someone who dedicated her life to children. Yet, I have not given up. As a matter of fact, through the gray stone, with sisu, I stop at nothing and get better every day. I use my process of SISUTANY to improve day by day by day and you can too!

I may look great, but World, my injury is invisible, my life has changed and this is as serious as can be, very serious. So, please be kind to everyone because some adversities are invisible and you just never know.