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Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen continue their discussion with Filmmaker Jerri Sher about the many different harmful side effects of letting a brain injury go untreated and how a movie can illustrate this subject that doesn’t often garner enough attention.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I’m Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
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Welcome back. We are still here with our friend, Jerri Sher, the producer of Quiet Explosions. We’re just having this great conversation about brain injury and the effect of it. And it’s such a great movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should see it. You can see it on. I believe it’s Prime and Vimeo. It’s just, it’s a really a great movie. So, but we want to talk in this episode about the effects of not treating brain injuries.
And Jerri, you’ve told us about Alan. People don’t know this. That long exposure to anesthesia, not for everybody, but for a vulnerable population it damages their brain. Just like you were in a car accident.
Our assistant, Karen, I have her brain when she first started working with me. Big fat, healthy brain, and then she had an aortic aneurysm repaired. It was an eight hour surgery. When she came back to work, six weeks later, she’s not the same. She used to be on top of things and she’s taking care of my patients. I’m like, this is important to me and she’s not on top of things anymore. Initially I got frustrated and then I’m thinking something changed with the surgery. How I first found this out. It was probably 25 years ago. I treated this alcoholic in Oregon and she got better. And so, I have bad brain, good brain. I love that. And then, she had knee surgery and she calls me up. She goes, I have Alzheimer’s disease. I’m like, what do you mean? And she’s like crying. So I scan her again, her bad brains back. [crosstalk [00:02:43] It got me thinking that general anesthesia for vulnerable people can damage their brain like heaven.
I’m not so sure. I think, for vulnerable people. I’m not sure it has to be 12 hours. That happened to me. I went for four-hour surgery. I kept telling you, I don’t feel right. I’m not as happy and I feel like I’m walking through mud. And I was like, is it physical? Is it hormonal? But when we scan me, it was my brain. It was the anesthesia.
It was not a happy brain. And so, you went in a hyperbaric chamber
Mm-hmm (affirmative) Opt my exercise again. And.
Opt your supplements.
What were some of the common themes, Jerri, that you saw? The people who struggled. So we’ve already talked about memory loss, suicidal ideation. What else did you see that surprised you?
Well, Shawn Dollar, who you know very well, our famous surfer, he actually had bouts of crying. He was almost like in a fog. It was like his brain was foggy all the time. He couldn’t function. And that was very prevalent in a Green Baret. Also, Andrew Mayer and Kevin. So I’ve found that people, first of all, I couldn’t remember anything. They had no short-term memory whatsoever. But they have crying bouts. They also, many of them had insomnia. They couldn’t sleep. They were very agitated and they had huge anxiety. And the interesting thing, which you probably saw this, in Monday or Tuesday, in the Wall Street Journal this week, there was a huge article about COVID patients. Now, months ago, had the same exact symptoms as these people with TBI and PTSD, mostly [crosstalk [00:04:35].
And I said to myself, to my publicist, you need to call this woman to read this article and tell her about this movie. If people watch Quite Explosions, healing the brain, there are methods and ways to help yourself. To go to the Amen Clinic. To just try hyperbaric oxygen. TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and so on. I am just so grateful to all the people who contact me. And I’m sure you guys, hey, thank you for making this movie. I was about to kill myself and I saw the movie and now I’m going to stay alive. Thank you. What a feeling?
It’s nothing better. There’s nothing better, but undiagnosed brain injuries. One of the big things I learned early on is people forget that they’ve had brain injuries. After Tana and I met January 1st, 2006, it was immediately taken with her. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s kind. She’s thoughtful. She’s articulate. And, but I will never fall in love with someone until I see their brain. Not going to happen. And so, a couple of weeks later, I’m like, “Hey, you haven’t seen the clinic do want to come and see the clinic?”
So I can see your naked brain.
And she had a healthy brain. Except, I could see where sometime in the past, in the left side of her brain, it had been hurt. And I’m like, “Have you ever had a brain injury?”
And I’m like, “Nope. I’m a neurosurgical ICU trauma nurse. So for me, brain injury means you’ve had part of your skull removed. You’ve got a brain drain. I can see gray matter that’s brain injury.” And say, I’m like, well.
I’ve learned a long time ago that you have to ask more than once. And I’m like, “Are you sure? Have you ever fallen out of a tree off of beds, dove into a shallow pool, been in a car accident, got a concussion, playing sports?” And then, you said,
Yes. But I’ve gotten a really bad car accident where it flipped two and a half times going 75 miles an hour. But I’ve walked away from it. And so, I thought I was okay because I didn’t break any bones. I wasn’t in a coma.
So, if we just [crosstalk [00:07:05]
No. I know shaken baby syndrome. You go to jail for it. So,
So, has sharp bony ridges, 75 miles an hour.
Shaken baby syndrome.
Yeah. Severe shaken baby syndrome, right?
Yeah. When you’ve explained it that way, and the funny thing is I’m going to survive because I was laying back, but my head slammed against the center console. So that’s probably where it happened.
Which is why in the movie, they refer to it as the invisible illness. Many people have this, they don’t even know it.
Invisible, you can’t see that they lost a whim when they come back from war. It’s in their head. And this is what was so astounding to the 10 different characters in our movie from different walks of life, different socioeconomic areas, different geographic areas. Yet, when they all met at the cast and crew that they were crying, tears of joy, that they knew that they each had the same exact symptoms and they had so much a bond with.
It’s amazing thing.
And what I find interesting is it’s, it’s obviously it’s a continuum. So you’ve got people who are, who are severe and like the people that you talked to and you really helped through this, Jerri. But you’ve got people who are either more like me, or maybe a little worse than I was. We’re functional. We’re okay. But we’re struggling with certain things and we don’t really know why. And we think it’s really just our fault. And so it’s like, I need more discipline. So, I was rigid discipline because I knew I had to be like rigid. And my life was, if you looked at me from the outside, everything’s good. So many people who are listening, it’s like, okay, we’re functional. I pay my bills. I go to work. I’m doing okay. Everything’s fine. Financially, I’m not in the red. I’m okay. Like everything’s okay. But what I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t meeting my potential.
After I fixed that after I realized what it was and I started doing the right things. Wow. I mean, it’s just, everything became easier. I was happier. Things became easier. And then I had anesthesia and it became hard again. It was really interesting. And that’s what I want really people to know. And that’s why we are so happy you’re here because people don’t know these things. And so unless it’s severe, they think that they don’t have a problem. No, it doesn’t have to be severe.
And it’s additive.
It’s robbing you of your potential.
And it adds up. We’ll talk about some of the treatments and the next episode. But there was a new article just last week in the Economists, on the incidence of traumatic brain injury in prisons.
And what about the homeless?
There’s another study from Toronto on 58% of the homeless men, 42% of the homeless women had a significant brain injury before they were homeless. And I did a study with Rob Johnson at Sierra Tucson, large drug treatment hospital in Arizona, 44% of the new admissions for that hospital had a significant brain injury before they were homeless. It may be more important than you have genetic vulnerability to mental health issues. And people go, but it’s genetic. It’s like, [crosstalk [00:10:32] because everybody was in the car when they had the accident.
And then, and nobody knows because this Jerri and I talked about and you and I know. Most characters, so they see psychiatrists never look at the brain. And so they go, oh, you have stick to these nine symptoms. You’re depressed present with, for some brains. It’s just not the right thing.
But it also increases shame and stigma. If you really don’t help these people understand where it’s coming from. The movie Quiet Explosions does such a great job of really, it just does such a great job of really showing, decreasing that stigma, decreasing shame, showing how much these people struggle. And they’re really, these are highly functional people who now are really struggling and they’re in pain. So I just, I strongly recommend you watch the movie. If you know, someone’s struggling. If you’ve struggled, if there’s anyone that you think could benefit from understanding more about the effect of brain injury. Even when you can’t see gray matter. But when you’re not like me, where you think it has to be, that you’ve lost part of your skull. No, it’s, it can be a car accident that you walk away from.
Need to lose consciousness. Jerri, didn’t that surprise you?
Well, I’ve learned so much. Honestly, I was like a sponge, just soaking it all up. I had to be the encyclopedia and the dictionary for everybody. But to translate it in a way that people could understand it with not like huge medical jargon that they would get turned off. In quietexplosions.com, which is the website, there’s a resource page. Everything is on there, Dr. Amen Clinics, all the clinics all over the country where Dr. Gordon’s doctors who have been trained all over the country. There’s so much on that website. We have quotes from doctors all over the world, and it’s just amazing. You can get a lot of information on the website, as well as, seeing the film. People write to me afterward and I’m sure they send notes to all these doctors as well. We do respond.
I’m very grateful for people who reach out to us and we want to do everything to help every human being. The point of me making this movie was to help more people and to positively influence society in the realm of traumatic brain injury and PTSD. And through this journey, not only did I learn so much, but I became friends with some of the gurus and most brilliant people in the world who deal with the brain. And I just feel so grateful for that, honestly.
Now your brain is so important. When we come back, we’re going to talk about some of the treatments that are covered in Quiet Explosions. You can learn more about at quietexplosions.com. You can also watch the documentary on Amazon Prime or Vimeo. We’re so grateful to Jerri for writing, directing, and producing Quiet Explosions. Stay with us.
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