Martijn suffered his concussion in October 2015 during a soccer match at school when a ball was kicked at considerable speed against the back of his head. He lost consciousness for a few minutes but seemed to recover and was sent home by the gym teacher.
As parents, we already wondered whether this had been a regular concussion after just a few days. He kept forgetting words, feeling very nauseous, and suffered from an intense headache. He had suffered concussions before, but never had the severity of symptoms he suffered from this time. He looked a kind of yellow, appeared to be somewhere else a large part of the time and made odd sounds when you tried to get his attention.
After a few days it appeared that he was not able to read anymore, kept having a vomit reflex and had headaches that he rated at a 9. After a few weeks we were pressured by the school to send him for a few hours a day to attend classes. We only tried this for a few days, and found that he simply was not well enough. We visited two neurologists who told us it was just a concussion and that the best option they could offer us was to begin Martijn’s rehabilitation. By that time, our son could not deal with any loud noises, strong smells, or bright lights. He would periodically experience what I would describe as some type of seizure, his eyes would rapidly blink or he would begin vomiting and feel very tired and ill. He was not able to read text at close range, not able to watch fast moving cartoons on the TV, not able to play his favorite video game, Minecraft, anymore, and could not be part of a conversation with more than two people. Sometimes, we would go for walks and his system would simply shut off when there was a sudden strong smell or sound, and I would need to help him get back to the car. Instead of getting better, he was only getting worse. We decided to forget about school and purely focus on his recovery. At that time, we did a lot of sensory integration therapy and some physiotherapy to help reduce his tense back and neck muscles.
The rehabilitation center could only offer us ways to deal with the situation, but no tips on how to improve it. In all, Martijn missed out on his education for almost a whole year. He started to improve close to the summer of 2016, and we started a plan to return him to regular schooling the following school year.
That did not work out as planned. In our safe and input free environment, he functioned quite well. He could read again, although it did not go as smoothly as before. However, in a large school with more than a 1,000 students, his return did not turn out as well as we had hoped. All his symptoms returned, like vomit reflex, shakes, headaches etc. So we then decided to switch to private education. We started to feel quite desperate after the previous year and a half.
The private school that he attended have very small classes, and Martijn managed to attend about three mornings a week, but by afternoon he was at home, either in bed or occasionally we would try to do some of his homework together. The therapies being offered by the healthcare professionals in the hospital and rehabilitation center did not seem to be making any positive improvements.
In May of 2017, we started treatment at a TBI rehabilitation center called Roode Draak, here in the Netherlands. The center was started by a mother whose son also suffered a TBI, and they helped us immensely with a combination of reflex therapy and low laser therapy. We had already participated in vision therapy at Oostende in Belgium, which helped with convergence and accommodation, sensory integration therapy, which helped to reduce the symptoms, we also tried acupuncture, bioresonance and a lot of other therapies, and we had a QEEG made at Brai²n in Antwerp, which showed some disruptions.
Then, at some point in the Spring, I watched a webinar of an American woman with TBI, and she mentioned Plasticity® Brain Centers. This gave us hope that there might be a solution to Martijn’s difficulties after all. There was just one problem, Martijn was in no condition to take a flight from the Netherlands all the way to Orlando, Florida in the United States. However, just before summer, Martijn decided that he could brave the flight if it would lead to a better outcome, and we booked the tickets and signed up for Plasticity’s® 5-Day intensive rehabilitation program.
We are still so pleased and grateful that we were in a position to be able to afford this. It has made all the difference. First of all, we were impressed by the extensive intake by Dr. Antonucci and Dr. Barton. This showed very clearly which areas of the brain were not working like they should.
Over the last six months we visited Plasticity® twice. After only a day, our son started to feel better. He found it difficult to explain to me, but he experienced the world differently. His nausea started to disappear as well as his headaches. We were amazed. The final report by the end of the first week also showed a lot of improvement. After this first week, we received some exercises to do at home for 3 times a day. He did his exercises very diligently, every day, and kept experiencing improvement.
We went back again in October for another intensive week. Dr. Barton and Dr. Antonucci were very pleased with all the progress Martijn had made in the intervening months. Dr. Antonucci explained, very clearly, during our first visit how concussions can cause a connectivity disorder, and that Martijn really needs to practice, day in day out, to reroute the brain again. He also explained that Plasticity® can give you a boost in the right direction, but then it is up to you to continue to improve. Our son really misses his old life, so he is working very hard to get it back, this includes the daily exercises. Of course, he gets fed up with them sometimes, but then he remembers his goal again and keeps going.
Before Martijn went to Orlando last October, he had started playing basketball. He noticed that he felt some kind of delay in focusing when trying to focus on the basket. After a week training in Orlando with Dr. Barton, this was already way better and he still feels that this improves all the time. After his last visit he also finally felt that he could read again like before his last concussion. Because of this, his homework takes much less time and far less energy than before.
Since our last visit in October, Martijn has managed to go to school most mornings. His grades are amazing and cognitive activities take up much less of his energy. He is still not back to how he was before October 2015, but he has got a large part of his life back. His autonomic nervous system has calmed down, energy levels are way up, and he even started to attend school for 5-8 hours a day this week. He moves around much better, is hardly every dizzy, and his balance issues have gone. He hardly ever rapidly blinks his eyes, the stuttering is almost completely gone and his vomit reflex is gone. Martijn no longer suffers from headaches and nausea, which means he can go to the 3D cinema again (still uses earplugs but he can be part of it again), and we can go to restaurants again. So bit by bit, life starts again, and best of all, his FIFA skills have dramatically improved since his last visit!
We will continue with our functional neurology sessions with a center in the Netherlands, and who knows, we may return one day to Plasticity® for another week.
Apart from functional neurology we also use the low-level laser, reflex therapy, and he takes high doses of fish oil and various vitamins on a daily basis. We also follow the GAPS diet and have started looking into the Wahls protocol.
We are forever grateful to Dr. Barton, Dr. Antonucci, and the rest of the team at Plasticity® Brain Centers for putting in all the hours of research and study which gave Martijn a chance to live a normal life again. We really think these positive results should be shown to rehabilitation doctors and neurologists. It would have saved us a lot of worry and hours and hours of searching the web for more information about what was happening to our son. We were told that maybe he should learn to live with his limitations. Imagine if we would have done that while there are sound solutions available.