Growing up I played many sports that put me in danger of getting concussions. When I was diagnosed with my first on during my sophomore year of high school, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I didn’t know what a concussion was or how it could affect you. I went to a neurologist who told me to go on “brain rest” for three weeks and come back. I sat in my room in the dark with migraines (and all my other symptoms), sleeping 18-20 hours of the day.
When I went back after three weeks he told me I was cleared to go back to school and sports. I still didn’t feel 100% myself given I didn’t really remember how much had changed after that long amount of time. When I went back to school I was three weeks behind and failing all my classes. Five out of eight periods of the school day I was down at the nurse’s office because of my head and nausea. My first day back into sports I got another concussion that was worse than the first (that I’m not sure I was over). My mom took me to another neurologist that she thought could do more for me. He told me the same thing as the first. Brain rest. My mom wasn’t taking that as the only way of treatment so they gave me an MRI. It came back normal.
After another three weeks, I went back and he cleared me just like the last. Being in school was a chore. I never wanted to get out of bed to go because I would be in so much pain. My headaches would cause me to get sick. My nausea would make it impossible for me to move. I had so much trouble with light sensitivity. I graduated high school and went to college. My first semester of my freshman year I was diagnosed with yet another concussion. After going to two different neurologists that didn’t seem to do much I went to yet another who said the same thing. I dropped out of college and had more trouble and worse symptoms than before.
All the time that went by I didn’t know what it was like to feel good. I started working a full-time job after I left college. When I started to call out more often than normal, I knew I had to do something to help. My boss pointed me towards Dr. Stu. My first day there he asked me a large amount of questions to see if he could help. He was positive that he could and it gave me a lot of hope. The second day we started the tests. By the third day you could see that a lot of my symptoms had gotten less severe or they were gone completely. By the last day I had no symptoms at all and I was amazed!
When I initially went in I was in a fog. Around noon at work, it was hard to keep my eyes open. When I got tired my brain had to work so much harder to do simple tasks. Now that my brain has gotten stronger, my life is so much easier. I can do things with ease that I couldn’t do before seeing Dr. Stu.
In February of 2013 I suffered a traumatic brain injury. This injury completely changed my life in more ways than I could imagine. I am a father of three boys, a husband, and a small business owner. Every single aspect of my life was adversely affected by this injury. It rendered me unable to work, drive, be a father to my children, and a husband to my wife. The symptoms I suffered from included speech difficulties, balance problems, ocular motor dysfunction, depression, insomnia, continuous ringing in my ears, impaired reflexes, difficultly walking, debilitating headaches, light and sound sensitivity, vertigo, nausea, memory problems, herniated discs in my neck, and other emotional problems.
Shortly after my accident, I began treatment with several physical therapy facilities. I was being treated on an out patient basis by a major rehabilitation hospital in my area. The therapies I received at this hospital included vestibular therapy, speech therapy, and neuro-physiological therapies. Also, I was getting therapy from a major eye hospital in my area. In addition to that, I was getting therapy for my neck at a doctor that specializes in physical medicine.
Along with the physical therapies, I was prescribed an incredible amount of medications. I was given medications for my pain, vertigo, depression, cognitive impairment, and muscle relaxers. This was not a good experience for me. These medications not help me recover, they only masked my real symptoms, as well as gave me a load of side effects that created a whole other set of issued for me and my family to contend with. When one medication was not successful, we would move on to another one with a whole new set of side effects. I rode through this roller coaster for a year and a half. At that point I was discharged from the rehabilitation hospital. I was in disbelief because I was still suffering from vertigo, devastating headaches, light and sound sensitivity, balance problems, ocular motor dysfunction, depression, insomnia, impaired reflexes, and occasional nausea.
My family and I had given up hope. I felt like I would be stuck in this hell for the rest of my life. Fortunately, a friend of ours mentioned that she knew a doctor that had a brain center and helps people with problems similar to mine. At this point I was willing to try anything to help get my life back. My wife and I met with Dr. Stewart Lakernick for a consultation. He was able to evaluate me and he determined that he thought he would be able to help my situation. Immediately I was impressed with his ability to observe physical attributes that I was displaying that no other doctor or specialist had noticed. His keen ability to evaluate a persons physical condition allows him to diagnose a cognitive deficit and implement a course of treatment that targets each specific deficit.
I started therapy with him the following week. I was quite skeptical because I thought, what can this chiropractor accomplish that a major rehabilitation hospital couldn’t accomplish. Dr. Lakernick worked one on one with me for a solid week. We worked on different exercises to help improve specific areas of my brain. With each passing day I began to see improvement in all of my symptoms. Half way through the therapy he evaluated my progress. At this point he uses the data he receives, from a series of tests to alter the therapy in order to maximize results. It seemed his approach is customized according to each individual patient, whereas, the rehabilitation hospital was more like a standard mold, and if you don’t fit that mold, then there is nothing that they can do for you. At the end of the week I was reevaluated. I showed dramatic improvement in all areas. My balance was improved, my visual gaze improved, my headaches improved, my reflexes were more responsive, I was not depressed, and I had no light and sound sensitivity. It seemed like a miracle.
Over the next year I would experience periodic flair ups of some symptoms from time to time. I would return to do a few days of therapy with Dr. Lakernick to get things back on track. I partially blame myself for some of these events. I am a very “A” type personality and my brain was still in a very fragile state. I felt like I was back to my normal self and I pushed myself beyond my capacity.
But, every time I would return for therapy, he would get me set straight again. He would have to explain to me that I’m not “superman” and I need to give my brain time to heal.
It has been almost 4 years since my injury. I am back to work full time. I have been returned to the man that I used to be. I can be a father to my children again. All thanks to Dr. Lakernick. I have never met a doctor so caring for his patients and passionate for the work that he does. Dr. Lakernick genuinely cares about the well being of all of his patients. He would always say to me that the patient he is currently with is his most important patient. He always made me feel like I was his most important patient. My family and I are eternally grateful to him for his compassion and his ability to help me get my life back.
I feel it is of vital importance to our community that people become more aware of the plight traumatic brain injury victims experience. This type of injury effects every aspect of your life and your family’s life. I feel it is a public service for everyone to be aware that this type of therapy exists. I was lucky to find out from a friend, otherwise I would have never known about it. I think in general that the medical community does not recognize this approach because it does not fit in with the normal standard treatment of medications, and cookie cutter therapy. Dr. Lakernick was my life boat, and now I want to share my life boat to other people who are suffering.
This past summer I became a patient of Dr. Lakernick, in his Brain Center. I believe this experience changed my life forever.
Throughout my childhood and into my early adulthood, I received numerous concussions (10 that I know of). During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I received my latest concussion. I fell off of the pull-up bar in my school’s gym while I was working out one evening. I was knocked out for a couple of minutes and I do not remember the exact moment my head hit the concrete floor. I landed on my neck and head in a very awkward way. I struggled a lot with post-concussion syndrome, but after this accident, I experienced a lot more stress. After struggling with reading, light changes, balancing, focusing, and constant headaches and head pressure, my mother and father decided to bring me to the Brain Center to learn about what was going on.
My first day of meeting Dr. Lakernick, I was out of it. I didn’t want to be there and I was very annoyed that I was viewed as “not myself.” Dr. Lakernick changed my perspective by videotaping my sessions. The first day, Dr. Lakernick asked me questions about my injury and my symptoms. I felt annoyed because I answered those questions to doctors before him and I felt like it was pointless to say them again. I was always told to rest and take medicine for any pressure or headache I felt (my other doctors didn’t do anything to help my change in personality and mood swings). The session ended with testing my reflexes and my balancing. I did very poorly.
Dr. Lakernick had a plan for me. He used various techniques that targeted the different pathways in my head. He focused a lot on my eye movements. I had many problems with blinking and that was due to a weakness in my ability to look left and right and up and down with certain speeds and focus points. Incredibly, Dr. Lakernick knew what to do to fix and strengthen me.
The next week I began my training. The first thing Dr. Lakernick did for me was fix my balancing problem. With specific head movements, my head soon began to feel less strange and I was able to balance myself with little error. Shortly after, I worked on my reflexes and my balancing again, but this time I was much better. I immediately felt like a new person. I recognized how much I was suffering and that there actually is a way to fix me.
Throughout the week, I worked hard to improve. Dr. Lakernick pushed me until he could see (in my eyes) that I had enough. He never forced me to do something he didn’t think I could handle. He allowed me to relax and take breaks when needed.
After a week, all of my reflexes and balancing improved drastically. On the first day, I was seen as a “fall risk.” By the end of the week. I was no longer viewed as a risk.
I didn’t understand how sad my life actually was with how my head made me feel. Dr. Lakernick expressed how he thought I was depressed. I couldn’t believe that, because I didn’t think I was, because that’s all I knew. My symptoms were very upsetting as well. I was annoyed easily, aggressive, and had incredible pressure and headaches. I was very light and sound sensitive. I can say that after the week, I had very limited symptoms. I was no longer angry and annoyed. I was rarely sensitive to light and sound.
In the end, I watched my first and my final sessions. I looked at myself and I noticed how sad I was. I couldn’t believe that the patient in the video was actually me. I felt sorry for him, because I feel completely different now. I barely remember how I felt before I went through therapy. All I can do now is focus on my life and getting better a day at a time.
This past semester was my major test for how I would be as a student. I finished with a 3.6 GPA for the semester. I had one of the tougher schedules in my major and I was still able to excel. If it wasn’t for the Dr. Lakernick, I wouldn’t have been able to focus this semester as well as I did.
I cannot express how thankful I am for the experience I went through. It changed my life for the better.