Brain Injury Patient Thanks Rehab Team, Mizzou Therapy Services
After reading a passage aloud, Molly Deimeke, right, summarizes what she read to Kristel Kronk, MS, CC-SLP, speech language pathologist at Mizzou Therapy Serivces.
Hair stylist Molly Deimeke was ecstatic in February when she passed a certified educator test for John Paul Mitchell Systems. Although she has aced the yearly certification exam many times, the 2015 test marked a milestone because it was her first test following a traumatic brain injury in May 2014.
“I lost my ability to read,” Deimeke said. “I had to start over, at the kindergarten level. The test was harder for me than it’s ever been. Before the accident, I would cram a week before. This time, I studied every day, beginning in December and all the way through January.”
Kristel Kronk, MS, CCC-SLP, speech language pathologist at Mizzou Therapy Services, helped Deimeke, 31, of Martinsburg, Missouri, regain her ability to read and speak coherently. It took a team of experts in speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy to help Deimeke recover motor skills and cognitive function that she took for granted before her accident. Deimeke started all three therapies in July, attending appointments twice weekly. In October, she completed therapy. Her physician cleared her to drive again. She has returned to styling hair and teaching other hair stylists.
Molly Deimeke of Martinsburg, Missouri, practices her balance at the Mizzou Therapy Services-Business Loop Clinic. Following a traumatic brain injury in May 2014, Deimeke needed physical therapy as well as occupational therapy and speech therapy to recover.
“Speech therapy was the hardest for me,” Deimeke said. “Physical therapy was the easiest for me because I enjoyed it but balance was the hard part.”
Becky Edwards, MPT, MHA, clinical supervisor of Mizzou Therapy Services-Business Loop, said difficulty balancing is common for traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.
“When you hit your head, it can cause damage to the inner ear and affect your balance, known as vestibular dysfunction,” Edwards said.
A self-described risk taker who loves to travel, Deimeke was overseas in Laos when she fell off a double-decker truck serving as a taxi. She fell approximately 10 feet onto the street and then rolled 20 feet down a hill, witnesses later told her. Deimeke doesn’t remember her injury or much of her early treatment, which included surgery in Thailand to stop her brain bleed and a long hospital stay in St. Louis before returning to her family home in Martinsburg, Missouri. Deimeke does recall, however, all of her experiences in Columbia at Mizzou Therapy Services and the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic with her physician, Peter Hwang, MD. Because March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, she feels this is a great time to share her story and emphasize the importance of good rehabilitation care.
“If I wouldn’t have done the therapy, I would have stayed in a weird childhood place,” she said. “I didn’t know at that time I had to go through all of these steps to heal me but they guided me through the steps I needed to take here.”
Deimeke joined a support group for brain injury survivors in November and said it is helping her move forward. At a support group meeting she became fast friends with the group’s facilitator, Dina McPherson, a fellow brain injury survivor. They chat like old high school friends about their lingering TBI effects, such as losing their sense of smell and tricks to spice up foods since their sense of taste is diminished.
“You never heal 100 percent from a brain injury,” McPherson said. “The brain rewires itself and adjusts but it will never be 100 percent the way it was before the injury.”
Deimeke said she is grateful to be alive and is thankful for her outstanding rehabilitation care and ongoing support through the brain injury support group.
“Hearing someone else has struggled with something that you are struggling with really helps you to see that you are not alone and gives you hope,” Deimeke said. “Now I want to teach other people by telling my story.”
Occupational therapists assist people in recovering skills they lost as a result of injuries, such as relearning how to dress, cook and read maps. Occupational therapist Lisa Smith, OTR-L, guides patients like Molly Deimeke, above, through routine cooking and baking exercises in an operational kitchen space at Mizzou Therapy Services.