Intensive Therapy at Cognitive FX | Brain Injury Recovery

With Rett and Anna from Cognitive FX

Last month I had the pleasure of spending four days at Cognitive FX (CFX) in Provo, UT to participate in their EPIC concussion treatment.

I was headed to Utah to keynote at the Utah Brain Injury Alliance conference on Friday, and was invited to spend four days (versus the traditional five days of treatment due to my speaking engagement) working with their amazing team. I was still struggling with overstimulation, overwhelm, and neuro fatigue and they were confident they could help me overcome these annoying symptoms with their treatment protocol. 

My week started out with a traditional MRI of my brain and cervical spine, along with a functional MRI — or fCNI (Functional NeuroCognitive Imaging). This imaging is done in the MRI machine while doing cognitive tasks … such as “think of as many words that begin with the letter T as you can.” The results show where your brain is or isn’t getting proper blood flow. 

Getting my final fMRI at Cognitive FX.

In my case, I wasn’t getting nearly enough blood flow in a large majority of the areas they measure. In some of my areas I had virtually ZERO blood flow. Most notably, my test showed I was lacking blood flow in the areas that affect:
– attention and cognitive focus,
– spatial processing,
– cognitive and motor operations,
– visual search abilities,
– memory encoding,
– working memory, and
– word retrieval

These results validated everything I had been feeling for the past 4.5 years. I had been told by numerous healthcare providers, including a neurologist and a neuropsychologist, that I was basically faking it and that these issues couldn’t possibly be from hitting my head. I was told I needed antidepressants, Ritalin, and sleeping pills — all of which I refused even after they tried their hardest to convince me to take them. I instinctually knew that these drugs were “band aids” and wouldn’t actually address the core problem — at the time, I didn’t exactly know what that was other than a brain injury.

In 2016 I found Dr. Jeremy Schmoe at Midwest Functional Neurology Center (MFNC) in Minneapolis. I was 2.5 years into my recovery and had given up on doctors after my experience with the neuropsychologist. He was the very first doctor to “get it” and make the connection between my eyes/vestibular system and what was going on with me symptom-wise. You can read more about my experience working with him HERE.

Dr. Schmoe took me from feeling like crap 24/7 to feeling about 80% better during a week-long intensive treatment. My balance and dizziness had subsided, and my memory was improving at a rapid pace — I was beyond thrilled that a doctor had finally been able to help me. I was able to function at a level I hadn’t felt since my injury, yet I was still struggling with some of the cognitive challenges mentioned above. 

About a year after starting my treatment with Dr. Schmoe I met Dr. Alina Fong, one of three co-founders of Cognitive FX,  at Brain Injury Awareness Day in Washington DC. I instantly connected with her and her attitude towards pharmacology — basically if you didn’t need antidepressants and Ritalin before your injury, you likely don’t need them afterwards. Instead, you need to address the core problem (um, hello — the brain)! Listen to my podcast with here HERE.

with Katherine Snedaker from Pink Concussions, Anna Empey from CFX, and Rekha Iyer a fellow CFX patient.

When Dr. Fong invited me to come work with them the week before my keynote, I was thrilled. I knew I still had room for improvement in my recovery and that it was mostly cognitive challenges that were lingering, vs. physical challenges. 

My test results blew me away. Even the staff was surprised that I was able to function at the level I currently was given what the results were showing. I know this was because of the hard work I did with Dr. Schmoe in the two years since I first met him,  because I was basically a walking zombie when I walked into his office on the day of my exam.

My four-day treatment schedule was based off of my test results so that they could hone-in on the areas that needed the most work. I spent the entire day 9am-5pm working with their team of cognitive therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and others who roles are escaping me at the moment. 

It was intense, and I had a break-down mid-day on Wednesday. I had been warned that this would likely happen throughout the week, yet it still took me by surprise as I hadn’t had a true break-down since I started working with Dr. Schmoe. The entire team at CFX pushed me hard, really hard. I was doing two or three tasks at a time all day long, with minimal rest breaks. We were encouraged to eat snacks every hour and drink plenty of water. 

Working with Jessie during a PT session at CFX.

I was nervous that they would push me “too hard” and I would be fried on Friday when I had to give my keynote speech. However, I felt absolutely AMAZING on Friday. I chatted with people all day long — which usually wears me down. I gave a great speech, and then I even went out to dinner afterwards!

The true test was the following week when I went out to eat with a friend. It was a Saturday night, the place was packed, there was a ton of restaurant noise, and I was talking with my friend across the table. He stopped at one point and asked me, “Are you doing ok? Is this too loud for you in here?” He knew that this overstimulation would normally drain me down and I would eventually have to leave. When he asked me, I looked at him and was surprised that it hadn’t bothered me, not even a little!! It wasn’t until he brought it up that I even noticed. 

I noticed again this week while at a Starbucks coffee meeting with a friend that the crazy loud restaurant didn’t bother me! This was a HUGE breakthrough in my recovery!

Another breakthrough for me was learning how much my attention (or lack thereof) was affecting me. During my intensive therapies the therapist pointed out how I am easily distracted and will drift away from my task at hand. Making a conscience effort to NOT drift away was a powerful strategy, and one that I hadn’t even been aware of that I was lacking. 

On the final day of treatment, I did another fNCI test to see where my improvements were. It was so amazing to see how all of my hard work had paid off! Almost every single one of my brain levels came up into healthy functioning levels, with the exception of my basal ganglia — which controls rudimentary cognitive and motor operations. However, I did come up in others areas of the brain related with the basal ganglia, so there is much hope that I can continue to improve in this area. I knew from my work with Dr. Schmoe that the basal ganglia was the main area I had damaged, so everything suddenly clicked into place and made a lot of sense. 

I am continuing to do my exercises at home, given to me by both CFX and MFNC. I am feeling better than ever thanks to these amazing clinics. They truly understand brain injury and how it affects our different systems, and they also understand how to help our brains rewire themselves so that they are working most efficiently. 

Know that there is hope, because these doctors do exist!!

Getting my final fMRI results from Rett at CFX

Basically, when our brains get injured they respond to the trauma by rewiring itself around the damaged areas. This is why different processes in the brain can take longer than they did before our injury (word finding, attention, etc). What these clinics do is help our brains rewire back to the efficient route they were originally taking before the damage occurred, which in return should cut down our processing time. Without an intensive, targeted treatment plan, our brains will continue to take the route that they have created since our injury … which will leave us feeling sluggish, foggy, slow, and all around crappy. 

I am so thankful that there are doctors out there who are on the cutting edge of brain injury treatment, and who are dedicated to educating patients and other providers on how the brain works and how the systems are inter-connected. We need more industry leaders like Cognitive FX and Midwest Functional Neurology Center to elevate post-concussion care and continue to give out the knowledge of how our brains work and how we can continue to heal it, no matter how many months or years out you are after your brain injury. 

 

Volunteers & Sponsors Needed | Two-Year Awareness Campaign |

💚💚💚 VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!!
I am gearing up for a two-year international awareness campaign to put a face on brain injury and highlight the approx. 50 million Americans and 10 million Canadians that live with this invisible injury.
I will need a plethora of volunteers across the US and Canada to make this happen, so now is the time to VOLUNTEER!!
I will need help with a variety of tasks including: helping with check-in, data entry, contacting local media, coordinating events, planning snacks, and so much more!
If you are interested in being a part of my crew, please fill out this brief application so that I have all of your information (survivors, caregivers, providers, and family members are all welcome to take part!) I will be in touch with you soon! Fill out the online application HERE

💚💚💚 SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES
In addition to volunteers, I am also seeking major sponsorship on all levels. If you or your company is interested in being a part of this phenomenal two-year awareness campaign, please fill out my brief survey and I will email you the full sponsorship proposal to review!
This two-year project is going to take a TON of coordination and effort, and sponsors are the ones who will truly bring it to life and make it possible!! Fill out the online survey HERE

How CBD Oil Is Helping Me Sleep Post Brain Injury | Entangled Biome |

Entangled Biome is a full spectrum CBD oil farmed and produced in Eugene, Oregon by Dean Foor and Emmett Black. I had been researching CBD oil for well over a year, trying to find an organic brand that I knew I could trust.

Because everything we ingest and put on our skin goes directly into our blood stream, therefore, our BRAINS, I knew I wanted a quality product that I could rest assured was safe and toxin free. 

At the Utah Brain Injury Conference I met a guy named Joe who introduced me to Entangled Biome. I gave the 900mg tincture a try that evening before bed and a slept like a baby — wanting to make sure it wasn’t possibly a fluke I continued to try for over a month.

Every evening before bed I would take one measured squirt under my tongue … if I found I was having trouble falling asleep I would take another squirt. Or if I woke up in the middle of the night and was wide awake I would take another squirt. I have found that I consistently am sleeping like a baby using this product.

I am also using the CBD salve and massage oil to rub into any painful spots on my body — mainly my neck that has three bulging discs. I am finding great relief from my pain when I use these products. They also make bath fizzies, soaking salts, as well as a product line for pets!

They are offering my readers a 15% discount on your first order with coupon code: 15Tribe2018 visit www.entangledbiome.com to order — I make no money off their products, I just want to share a safe, quality product with you!!

The products I personally use:
– Wellness Tincture900mg FSHO for $99 which will last you approx. 6 months (it has 300 squirts in the bottle)
– Triple Strength Relief Salve 450mg FSHO for $39
– Massage Oil 300mg FSHO for $39
– Bath Fizzies 50mg FSHO for $9

Hemp derived CBD oil is made from the Cannabis plant with less than .03% THC and is legal in all 50 states.

Here is a great video of Dean keynoting at the Utah UCANN conference, he explains a lot about the measures they take the ensure their product is organic and pure, and what FSHO is:
https://www.facebook.com/utahcann/videos/2107223859328721/

What is full spectrum hemp oil (FSHO)?
CBD is one of the constituents found in the Cannabis plant. Full Spectrum Hemp Oil leaves intact the natural entanglement of all phytocannabinoids and terpenes. It is the belief of OM Hemp that the Full Spectrum of phytocannabinoids is responsible for the relief in discomfort that so many users report, and not just an isolate or a discrete cut around CBD, as many supercritical or subcritical CO2 extraction systems provide. The Full Spectrum includes all naturally occurring phytocannabinoids and terpenes such as (not in any particular order, nor a comprehensive/exhaustive list): Cannabidiol (CBD), Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), Cannabinol, Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabigerolic Acid (CBGA), Cannabichromene (CBC) and as well as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).

Why use full spectrum CBD oil?
The use of Full Spectrum Hemp Oil allows for what is known as the ‘Entourage Effect’ or sometimes described as a ‘Therapeutic Ensemble’. The ‘Entourage Effect’ is the belief that the full array of phytocannabinoids and terpenes when together, work synergistically, or, in concert, providing more pronounced beneficial effects than just one isolated compound. Those seeking relief may miss out on that very effect if only CBD isolate or a discrete cut around CBD is administered. By formulating products that use Full Spectrum Hemp Oil, the entangled phytocannabinoids and terpenes can interact and entangle with the naturally occurring endocannabinoid system found in humans.

Quality and safety:
Processing of the industrial hemp involves ethanol extraction. This method is the preferred method by OM Hemp because of the nondiscriminatory extraction of all phytocannabinoids and terpenes present in the trichomes of the industrial hemp. The extraction wash is then routed to our Rotary Evaporator. The Rotary Evaporator is effectively a laboratory grade still. The Rotary Evaporator is filled with the extraction wash and the ethanol is recovered leaving the Full Spectrum Hemp Oil. Internally enforced quality assurance and quality control steps are followed to exacting standards to provide the safe and quality product that OM Hemp promises to deliver.

Quality control — organically grown in Oregon:
Our industrial hemp is sourced locally, near Eugene, Oregon. The source farm has received an Organic Certification from the USDA. What does all this mean? It means that we at OM Hemp believe in, demand, and verify quality. This verification and validation of quality is paramount to OM Hemp. The products we produce are tested and used by us and our loved ones. That last point should make it clear that we have just as much of a stake in the purity and quality of our products as anyone else who has chosen to use those products. We fully intend, and do not take lightly, being the stewards of safety and quality of our products, for us, our loved ones, and anyone else who has put their faith in us to deliver safe and quality products. CBD isolate or other CBD compounds can be purchased abroad in such places as China, the Netherlands, South America, and various locations in Europe that are used in making the products of other companies. However, we at OM Hemp find comfort in our quality assurance and quality control because we personally visit the source farm and have face-to-face interaction with our professional industrial hemp cultivator located here in the United States.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Amy Zellmer is an award-winning author, keynote speaker, and advocate of traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is a frequent contributor to Thrive Global, and has created a private Facebook group for survivors (Amy’s TBI Tribe) and also produces a podcast series (Faces of TBI).

She sits on the Brain Injury Advisory Council (BIAC) through the Brain Injury Association of America and is involved locally with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance. She travels the country with her Yorkie, Pixxie, to help raise awareness about this silent and invisible injury that affects over 2.8 million Americans each year.

In November, 2015 she released her first book, “Life With a Traumatic Brain Injury: Finding the Road Back to Normal” which received a silver award at the Midwest Book Awards in May, 2016. Her second book, “Embracing the Journey: Moving Forward After Brain Injury” was released in March 2018.

Vote 2018 | Public Policy | Informational Webinars | Midterm Elections

I will be joined by Mollie and Zack from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Public Policy team to bring you a series of FB Live events to help you prepare for the 2018 elections. These nonpartisan discussions will help you better understand the importance of your vote in the US elections!

You must be a member of “Amy’s TBI Tribe” on Facebook to participate in the live events …. replays will be posted here on this page and also sent out via email if you are subscribed to my newsletter.

{Video One}
handout for this video click HERE.

{Video TWO}
handout for this video click HERE.

 

 

{Video Three}
handout for this video click HERE.

 

 

{Video Four}
handout for this video click HERE.

 

 

{Video Five}
handouts for this video click HERE & HERE.

 

Amy Zellmer Receives “Social Change” Award from Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance | MNBIA |

With the Public Policy team: Mollie, Jeff, me, Zack

Last night was truly such a surprise and incredible honor as I received the award for “Social Change” from the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.

I was awarded this by Jeff Nachbar, head of the Public Policy division. I have worked closely with Jeff and all of the Citizen’s Advocates over the past three years as we rally at the Capitol and attend “Tuesday’s at the Capitol” every Tuesday during session. It has been such a joy to get to know Mollie and Zack who replaced Erica when she moved on — and I do have to give a shout-out to Erica. She is truly the one person that reached out and kept me coming back to the MNBIA!!

Jeff has taught me pretty much everything I know about politics and how public policy works. He took the time to answer all the questions I had (and I had a lot) and would happily repeat the answers when I asked the same questions over again! I have learned how a bill is created and turned into policy and how a budget is approved and appropriated for.

He also gave me a crash course before I headed to Washington DC last June where I lobbied to save Medicaid (MA, Medical Assistance). It was truly exciting to see the bill get voted down while I was in DC — and I also gave a rally talk at the MoveOn.org rally on the Capitol lawn!

This February was truly an advocacy highlight when Jeff asked me to be the closing speaker at our “Disability Day at the Capitol” rally as we kicked off the session and disability month.

I know that what I am doing is creating change in the world, and helping survivors realize they’re not alone — and hopefully helping the healthcare profession understand more about this invisible injury that affects over 3.5 million American’s each year. 

I was given this award in recognition of all of my efforts to raise awareness across the globe through my podcast, TBI TV, brain health summit, Huff Post articles, books, and traveling across the country speaking to support groups and keynoting at conferences. I have made some truly incredible friends during all of my advocacy work, and I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything!

I do everything I do out of a passion to create more awareness so that others don’t suffer alone the way I did — I want to get resources into the hands of survivors and caregivers sooner rather than later. If sharing my story can change just one person’s journey — it is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears!!

You Make A Difference Award | Dr. Jeremy Schmoe | Midwest Functional Neurology Center

With the MFNC staff: Lori, me, Dr. Schmoe, Dr. Erik, Dr. Kassie, Ashley

This week I gave away my very first “You Make A Difference” award to Dr. Jeremy Schmoe at Midwest Functional Neurology Center (MFNC) in Minnetonka, Minnesota. I presented him with an award for “Outstanding Provider” for his dedication to helping TBI survivors find relief from their lingering symptoms.

I decided to create this award to recognize individuals across the country who are making a difference in the TBI community, including: providers, advocates, survivors, caregivers, and organizations!

I knew that my very first award would be going to Dr. Schmoe, because without him I doubt I would be anywhere near the level of recovery that I am today! It is because of his vast knowledge of the vestibular, central nervous, and neurological systems as a Functional Neurologist that I was able to find relief from my lingering fatigue, dizziness, memory deficits, and eye disorders. No other doctor came anywhere near helping me with my symptoms, and I was often left feeling like I was making it all up and there were days I considered ending my own life.

Some of Dr. Schmoe’s patients were on hand to see him receive his award!

When Dr. Schmoe read one of my Huffington Post pieces he realized I was local to him and reached out to me — this was 2.5 years into my recovery. I blew him off for awhile because I didn’t believe anyone could help me at this point (after being told as much from numerous doctors before him). I finally decided I had nothing to lose and went in for a consultation/exam. I was blown away by his knowledge, and his sincere understanding of how I was feeling. The rest, as they say, is history! (read more about my experience HERE).

So as a small token of my appreciate, I presented Dr. Schmoe with my inaugural “You Make A Difference” award!! Thank you, Jeremy, for all you have done for me and HUNDREDS of patients from across the globe!

Upcoming Book About INXS Front Man, Michael Hutchence, to Feature Quote From Amy Zellmer |

michael hutchence, inxs, tbi, brain injury, concussion, tina hutchence,I am so excited to announce the upcoming book by Tina Hutchence, “Michael: My Brother, Lost Boy of INXS” is due out this September and features a quote from ME! 

I was approached by Tina, who is the sister of the late Michael Hutchence – front man and lead singer of INXS – if she could use a quote from one of my articles she had found on Huffington Post.

This news came the morning after I had received a really nasty email from one of my haters, so it really impacted me to know that my work is reaching thousands (if not millions) of people around the entire world.

 

I am much more emotional since my brain injury, as well as more intuitive. When I started chatting with Tina, I immediately knew I was going to become fast friends with her, and that her work was going to impact SOOO many people, and help create yet another conversation around TBI and how it affects more than 3.5 million Americans each year — and worldwide it is the number one cause of death.

Michael committed suicide in 1997 at the young age of 37. In her book, Tina talks about the challenges he must have faced living with a TBI and taking the stage — with flashing lights and loudsounds — every night on tour.

—–> LISTEN to the PODCAST replay HERE <—–

Read more about Tina and the pre-order herbook HERE.

Faces of TBI Podcast Featured on BlogTalkRadio |

Iamy zellmer, podcast, faces of tbi, BlogTalkRadio, blog talk radio, received some pretty exciting news Friday afternoon from BlogTalkRadio telling me my podcast was being featured on their homepage under “Noteworthy” podcasts!

I have been producing my Faces of TBI podcast since September 2015 and this is the first time I have received a feature on their homepage, so it is truly exciting!

I was told to keep up the good work with fantastic content on my podcast, which tells me I am doing something right when a tiny little podcast about brain injury is being featured on a global website!

A year ago, my podcast was named one of the “top 100 Rising and Popular Podcasts” by Simms media, you can read more HERE.

The episode they featured is “Return to Learn” with Roni Robinson fromChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia. You can listen to it HERE.

Don’t forget, you can also subscribe through iTunes so you never miss an episode HERE.

HUGE thank you to my podcast sponsor, Midwest Functional Neurology, for making this podcast possible!!

Member Spotlight | The Challenge! Magazine | Brain Injury Association of America

Amy Zellmer, brain injury association of america, advocate, The newest issue of The Challenge! is out, the quarterly magazine of the Brain Injury Association of America. 

I have been writing the quarterly column “Brain Injury Advisory Council Corner: Member Spotlight” for the past two years, and my Editor told me to write my own personal essay for this issue! It’s truly exciting to see my own face staring back at me in this magazine!

Amy Zellmer, brain injury association of america, advocate, I am so honored to be a part of this amazing organization! The advisory council is made up of TBI survivors with lived experience, and we work as a liaison between the BIAA and survivors across the country. As a council, we collectively have a global reach of over 91,000 — which is pretty impressive given there are less than a dozen of us on this council!

You can read the full article online HERE or download the PDF version HERE.

Choose Happy | The Power of Positivity |


Every single day you make choices. You choose what time to get out of bed, what to eat, and what mood you’re going to be in.

Choosing to see the positive isn’t always easy. Nothing in life is always easy. 

But the more you can choose to be positive and grateful, the more fulfilling your life will become.

The hardest part of my recovery journey was accepting “this might be the best i’m going to get.” When I finally had that conversation with myself, and decided to put my big-girl-panties on, it changed the course of my recovery — for the better.

Once we learn to accept who we are RIGHT NOW, we can start to move forward. Living in the past serves NO ONE.

Yes, you may have been an amazing guitar player or an economist. And right now you might not know how to read music or add numbers. But that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable and angry. It’s just a speed bump.

We all need to take time to grieve the old us, and to make sense of the way our world was turned upside down. For me, it took about 15 months. And once I made that shift in my thinking, everything changed.

I realized that this may or may not be temporary. So if  I wanted to help others and make the most of my life, I needed to come to terms with it.

I have touched tens of thousands of lives through my work. Whether through one of my articles, my books, a podcast, or meeting someone in person. There are many survivors who I may never know or meet or know their name, but they have been impacted by my work.

And you know what? Without this injury, I would have never walked down this road.

I am forever grateful for my journey. While I hope to never hit my head again, I know that everything happens for a reason and I was meant to take this journey.

When it feels like the world is closing in around you and you want to scream and cry — GO AHEAD. It’s ok. But when that wave passes: choose happy.