What It’s Like to
Suffer a TBI

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in ,

In Short: Frustrated and Frightened.

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July 6, 2007, was a bright sunny day and I was on my way home from Costco. I was stopped at the stoplight at 38th & Steele in Tacoma, Washington.

All of a sudden, WHAM! I was rear-ended by a woman who claimed “she didn’t see me.”

I was stunned; we pulled over, exchanged information, and examined our cars. I received the brunt of the force, but saw little physical damage. I remember thinking, “Oh no, not again,” because this was the second rear-end collision in less than 18 months.

Immediately, I went to my chiropractor who advised me to go home, rest, ice, and return the next day.

Because of the accident, my life was severely altered. I knew something had changed and I was “different.”

This wasn’t my fault, and I was not happy about the financial burden this caused our family. Rather than enjoying the “golden years” with my retired husband, our lives were dictated by my limitations and special requirements. My increased medical expenses took precedence over everything.

Never before was control of my mind in question. I am intelligent, high-functioning, and a quick learner. I now know what it means to struggle. Every day has been a challenge; what used to be simple/routine became a chore. I felt stupid and mentally dull at times. I was reading at a 7th grade level even though I graduated from college with honors.

I was so messed up I couldn’t think straight. I suffered loss of memory, extreme physical pain, an aversion to the computer, lack of focus, stress, depression, hypersensitivity, anxiety, nightmares, and impaired vision. I was finally diagnosed with a mild TBI — traumatic brain injury. However, there was nothing “mild” about this situation!

A scan of the author’s brain after her injury. (Supplied by the author.)

Picking up the pieces and restoring my life has been my mission since the accident. No one knew or could diagnose when/how/or if I would improve, all because of a rear-end collision.

It was often lonely and I felt misunderstood. To most people, I looked fine. However, they could not “see” what was going on in my body and brain. Being a motivated individual, I was determined to improve my condition. I began to seek ways for my body and brain to improve without depending on prescriptions and traditional methods.

All my life I’ve had an aversion to doctors, but now I was forced to face my fears. There was no way out if I wanted to regain my health. Who wants to be reading at a 7th-grade level and be in chronic pain? But, it was often a lonely and unchartered journey.

I began to think about my Japanese heritage and the female samurai warrior I’d once read about. What made the samurai warrior so successful? With what little mental capacity I had, I began to research and discovered they lived by a code of ethics known as bushido, the way of the warrior. This intrigued me and became the driving force behind my recovery.

Bushido instilled in me a determination to overcome any challenge. The TBI was the most arduous challenge I have ever faced in my life. I set a goal to write a book emphasizing the principles of this ancient code; it was published last year. The code of bushido is my passion, the guide to my recovery, and can be the pathway for others no matter their circumstances.


Lori Tsugawa Whaley is is a third-generation Japanese-American author, TEDx speaker, life coach and storyteller. She teaches individuals who want to make a difference in the world the ancient principles of the samurai so that they overcome their challenges and live their lives with courage, honor and integrity. Her web site is LoriWhaley.com.

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1 thought on “Suffer a TBI”

  1. Lori, your story is compelling. I’m so glad you are reaching out, so other people can be encouraged by your recovery and success.

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