A Life Undiagnosed: The Gift of Finding Answers
The following information shared is via my training and affiliation with The Brain Treatment Center (BTC), The USC Center for Neurorestoration, and the permission to share the following stories and data. I am not a physician; however, I have had the privilege of working under amazing doctors and am happy to share, and answer any questions!
A LIFE UNDIAGNOSED
As a toddler, my brother Seth was a happy child full of life and laughter. Sadly, his life changed at three years old when he fell from a few feet high, hit his head and went unconscious. After his fall, he was not the same. A trip to the emergency room left my family without answers as the CT and MRI showed no issues. As we were leaving the ER, he was dizzy and started to vomit and he was still sent home. My parents struggled to help Seth return to that boy that he once was. After his trauma, he was unable to process and understand speech the same way, had trouble controlling his behavior, struggled in school, and was extremely quiet and shy. My parents took Seth to numerous doctors and specialists and were a given wide range of possible diagnoses. They insinuated he could be on the Autism Spectrum, that he could be deaf, or that he had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Physicians turned to drugs and wanted to put him on a lifetime of adderall that he did not need.
Imagine spending your childhood with multiple "possible" diagnoses and being told all of the things that could be wrong with you. I am a believer in the power of diagnosis and the healing it can do. But in my brother's case, doctors were unsure of the cause of his changes and would label him with many disorders. If only I knew then what I know now - many areas of Seth's brain were injured from a traumatic brain injury, something that wasn't as publicized in the media in 2003 as it is today. Seth lived with his trauma and stereotypes until he was 14, and then something incredible happened.
THE BRAIN ZAP (MeRT)
My uncle Johnny Carabajal, a Combat Medic Army Veteran and inventor, was working at the BTC at the time in Newport Beach, California. He was able to get Seth a spot in the clinic that would ultimately change his life forever. When we first arrived to The Brain Treatment Center in 2014, the clinicians helped to clarify that his symptoms were due to a head trauma rather than previous misdiagnoses and decided on a prognosis and course of treatment.
So what is this treatment? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive neurostimulation method. A coil is used to alter magnetic fields in the brain which causes current to flow and cause the brain to be more active. MeRT (Magnetic eResonance Therapy) is The BTC's coined term for TMS that is individualized per person. TMS traditionally uses the same frequency and placement on the brain for all patients, while MeRT places the coil on different areas of the brain at personalized frequencies based on the prognosis. MeRT is used to treat a wide range of conditions such as: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression and Anxiety, addiction, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Autism, Developmental Delay, Insomnia, Chronic and Acute Pain, and many more.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE COIL
The Lobes of the Brain
The images below are Functional Electroencephalograms (EEGs). These images show the brain's frequency which represent functional differences in the regions of the brain. The triangle at the top of each is the nose, and this is a bird's eye view as it overlooks the surface of the scalp. In the images, red is where the most activity is happening in the brain and possible over-activity, the darker blues and black are where minimal activity happening and the brain is essentially asleep, and green is a healthy in-between.
Seth received treatment on his frontal lobe. The left EEG was taken prior to any treatment that Seth had - you can see that the main areas of the brain that were working were in the back and the front was heavily lacking in activity. This explained a lot because the frontal lobe is responsible for motor function, impulse control, behavior, memory, and language - this is what declined after my brother's trauma. The middle EEG was after a week of treatment - notice the brain growing active towards the frontal lobe. At this point, Seth was making eye contact with us, jumping in and out of the pool at our hotel which was unlike him, and speaking more frequently. The final EEG on the right was after 17 treatments.
THE SPARKLE IN SETH'S EYES
As my uncle performed the therapy, Seth was a good sport, and by his third treatment, we watched him mentally wake up. He truly had a sparkle in his eyes and an excitement for life. He continued to make eye contact with us and began to emerge out of his shell. I remember he used to wear a huge hoodie everyday, it was his safety blanket that he could hide in it. By the end of his treatment, he took it off and I never saw that hoodie again. He now is 18 years old, has his drivers license, and is a senior in high school. He played soccer, basketball, and is in jiu jitsu. He will graduate in May 2019. This treatment gave Seth the chance to be a normal, stubborn teenager - and believe me he is. But I am so thankful that he is rather than being locked in his own mind. I am so proud to be his sister, because treatment was not easy and is emotionally exhausting. He stuck with it and embraced the changes to become who he always was.
THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME
So what did all of this mean for me? When we took Seth to California for his treatment, I was a senior in high school. This trip made me fascinated in the study of the brain and was the beginning of my career in this field. My sophomore year of college, I was looking into internships and I knew that I had to be a part of The BTC. So I searched online for the head scientist's email and composed an email asking if I could intern at their clinic - and it took around a year to hear back and get the okay - but he said yes! My second summer of interning for the company, I was at the San Diego clinic where I met a whole new team and patient group. However, this summer would be different than my last.
After the clinic manager heard my story and about my TBIs, I was granted the chance to change my brain as well, (Thank you Bob Augello and Erik Won for listening to my story and for the life changing opportunity). I went through six-weeks of MeRT. This changed my life more than I ever thought was possible, and I finally understood what Seth and the other patients had experienced. Treatment was hard for me in the beginning, I had to break bad habits and reawakening the brain is emotionally difficult. I had to process many experiences that I had gone through, but in the end I was a totally different person. I was not tired throughout my days anymore, I could focus, I was happier and overall a much healthier person. My brain quite literally woke up and lit up like fireworks after my summer at The Brain Treatment Center.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO RESET YOUR BRAIN
Though MeRT is only available at a few clinics worldwide currently, it is possible to progress your brain. Aside from a healthy, balanced diet and consistent exercise, get adequate rest, get your brain working with brain games on your phone or juggle to get both sides of your brain working together. I know how hard it can be to live life sluggish, drowsy, and in a blur - but that's the gift of learning. Knowledge provides ways to consistently better our lives and pushes us to never give up.
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