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Living With Brain Injury Part 2: Adjusting to a New Reality
11/22/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Last night, we met Carole Starr and learned how she lives with a brain injury she acquired 14 years ago. Tonight, we meet Bethany Bryan of Kennebunkport, who suffered a brain injury more recently. Bryan discovered she had a brain tumor two years ago. Though it was benign, it twisted around her carotid artery and pressed against her brain stem and optic nerve. Her injury is a result of the surgery to remove the tumor. Patty Wight brings us the story of what it's like to learn how to lead a completely different life than you're used to.

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Bethany Bryan

Bethany Bryan (left), in her own words:

"I love game shows, expecially trivia game shows."

Audio from game show: "We want to see if you can win a million dollars!"

"One of my issues since brain surgery is short-term memory. And watching shows with history reminds me of things I just simply forgot. Like, things I knew the answer to before brain surgery. And I think I'd like to hear that they've helped my recovery."

Audio from game show: "The Sloan Great Wall is considered to be one of the largest known what?"

"My name is Bethany Bryan, and I am 41."

"My background story of how we get to this point is on May 20th in 2011, I was in a pretty major car accident. And in a bizarre twist of fate, had I not needed to go the ER - since my forehead was ripped open - and needed a cat scan, I would not have found out that I had a brain tumor."

"I was scheduled to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro that August. And the amazing ER doctor that stitched me up explained that, had I not been in the accident, not found the brian tumor, that I would not have made it off Mt. Kilimanjaro alive."

"September 15th of 2011, I had brain surgery to remove the tumor."

"Just assumed since I was in such good health pre-surgery, that there wouldn't be a lot of problems. But there was."

"I came back to Kennebunkport and stayed with my mom for a good three months before I could even function."

"I had extreme, extreme sensitivity to light and to sound. Even just what would normally be a nice breeze sounded like jet airplanes. Birds - noise. Cars just sounded excruciatingly loud. Even now, it's a lot better, but certain pitches and certain noises just will send me into absolute pain and migraine."

"Having it not be visible is also very hard. People assume either, 'O.K., she might get headaches.' Or, 'Yeah, she tires a lot easier.' But it's so much more in depth."

"And even friends that have been so helpful - you kind of have to remind them sometimes that I don't grasp things as quickly as I used to."

"So I have become a major list-er. If I don't write it down, it doesn't get done. Because sadly, another issue I have is I have no concept of time. When friends have said, 'I haven't heard from you in three weeks,' it's like we just talked two days ago."

"It's definitely taken away my independence. I had to move back in just for support issues, and unfortunately, financial issues from not being able to work yet."

"What was my life like before brain surgery? Wow. Very, very, very active. I was a personal trainer. I was always at the gym. I haven't even touched a weight in probably, like, three years. But in 1995, I was Miss Maine bodybuilding. I was always walking, training people, working out myself, going places in heels. You know, going out with friends. Driving. Hiking."

"Unfortuntely, I hate to be called a couch potato, but sadly, it has kind of happened."

"Really just can't grasp the fact that I really haven't been able to do much in two years. I just can't grasp it, that it's been that long. That this is - I've only gotten this far."

"But I've always loved Who Wants to be a Millionaire. And when I just last-minute heard they were having auditions at Foxwoods, a friend drove me, and just had a really great experience."

"When I passed the test, I was just ecstatic. And everybody there was just excited for me."

"This is the absolute final level. I made it through."

"I think it would be great to be on TV just to show that you can survive a brain surgery, a major brain injury, and you can still go do some amazing things."

Learn more about brain injury.

Photo:  Bethany Bryan displays a postcard from "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" accpeting her into the pool of contestants.  Photo by Patty Wight.

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