Healthy Living: Healing from a brain injury through art

Channel 2 Morning Edition (6 a.m.)
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 8:55 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Painting a shoe requires a steady hand, focus, and depending on the design, patience. Jessica Nichols credits tapping into her artistic side because of her late grandmother.

“She was so creative and she was just amazing at everything she did,” said Nichols.

But, painting shoes isn’t just another hobby for Nichols. It’s a form of self-care after suffering a brain injury 3 years ago.

“I was working as a preschool teacher’s assistant and I was kind of crouched down and a little kid came up to give me a hug and so he ran and jumped on me and so I fell backward and I hit my head,” said Nichols. “It was pretty loud and I remember right when it happened I was like, oh was that my head.”

She said after that, she felt dizzy and nauseous and kept going to the bathroom, but during one of the trips, she passed out and hit her head again. Her CT scan came back normal, which meant no bleeding and doctors told her she suffered a concussion.

Nichols said, “I was just told to take the weekend off, sit in a dark room, but it just never stopped. It was weeks of a dark room. I was super sensitive to light, I was super sensitive to sound.”

Dr. Samuel Waller is a Neurologist at Coastal Neurology & Neurosurgery in Anchorage. He said, early on, a lot of things like concentration and memory are strongly affected after a brain injury. Waller said the brain is one of the most complex organs of the body and even the tiniest injury can leave you with lasting impacts.

“Life long weakness or numbness or vision changes or other things that really can translate into a life of significant disability, early on a lot of things like concentration and memory are strongly affected,” explained Waller.

In Nichols’ case, her hearing is still very sensitive.

“The only products I can be in the room with are apple products. Anything else that’s charging, I can hear the really loud screeching frequency of it,” she said.

It also left her without the ability to work or drive right now.

“Having a brain injury is really isolating, it’s really hard you know. There’s not a lot of people that understand,” said Nichols.

“What you’re experiencing is real, certainly in trauma, the long-lasting consequences, there’s therapies and other things we can do for you and maybe you just need a different work up or different evaluation to get to the root cause and a treatment that can help you get better,” added Waller.

Nichols doesn’t know how long her road to recovery is, but she does know that painting shoes bring her healing.

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