Returning to CLA after TBI, David Reimann met with Kennedy and her team of graduate researchers up to three times a week, figuring out strategies that would help get him through classes. To counterbalance his problems with short-term memory, they recommended he record lectures on his iPhone or use a smart pen as he took notes. (Retracing a section of one's notes triggers the pen to replay the matching audio recording.) They helped him estimate the time it would take to write a paper or take a test.
The same tools helped Kacie Carlsted, a senior at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, successfully complete the coursework she needed to earn a B.A. in mathematics and psychology. Carlsted, a native of Holland Lake, Minn., who sustained a TBI during a car accident after her senior year in high school, can't remember much about her life prior to the tragedy. She often gets dizzy and has recurring problems with short-term memory. But Kennedy's coaching has helped her become more plan-full, self-sufficient, and confident. "I've learned to organize my time better," Carlsted says. "I needed to learn how to set aside time for being with friends, doing homework, and making sure I eat."
Carlsted doesn't always reveal her TBI to people she knows because she doesn't want anyone to treat her differently. But she does find social interactions more challenging now than prior to the accident. "I find it hard to come up with something to talk about. If the other person starts, I'm fine. But beginning the conversation is difficult for me."
The impact of TBI is complex and broad. Initially, both Reimann and Carlsted had good reason to believe their lives would never be the same. But working with Kennedy has restored some of the normalcy of being a student, being a person, says Reimann. "My brain injury was bad. I feel blessed for the recovery I've had," he explains. "But TBI doesn't define you as a person. It doesn't change you at your core."