By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC

On April 2, 2013, Robyn Block of Eagle Lake, Minnesota, and a friend, went skiing at Lutsen Mountain not far from the Canadian border near Lake Superior. On her first run downhill, she and her friend slowly started out hand-in-hand.

In a telephone interview, 30-year-old Block said, “Then my friend asked me, 'Do you want me to hold on some more?' and I said no. Then I must have realized I was going too fast. So I tried sitting back, and then my ski must have got caught in the snow. That threw me forward and I went into a tree. The force of hitting the tree blew me backwards and I hit my head on a rock, which broke my head open.”

She sustained a “closed head injury, and chest and extremity trauma” severely affecting her brain and lungs. The ambulance driver on scene drove her to a waiting helicopter for transport to a hospital. She was in a coma 11 days. During her time in hospital, doctors, in order to control brain swelling, had to temporarily remove the left side of her skull. It was replaced a couple months later.

Said Block, “Now I'm starting to have severe head pain. I'm feeling the screws in my head. They did an MRI last October and my skull flap was deteriorating, meaning the bone was thinning around the parts where the bone was attached. That causes a lot of pain. A couple weeks ago, I went to the emergency room at Mayo (Rochester, Minnesota) because of being in so much pain.”

Block also reported short-term memory loss, a left leg that often gave out without warning, poor concentration, and mental and emotional instability. To get through her difficulties, she writes poetry and has help from Minnesota Brain Injury Force.

She advised people experiencing a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their family members: “The best thing I can say is to stay positive. My family and friends have stayed so positive and that has been a huge part of what has pulled me through. I've also tried helping (the general public) become more aware of TBIs.”

Lately, she has become frustrated because a judge refused her request to begin receiving federal disability payments, even though she had letters of support from doctors and neurologists. Part of the problem, she said, was the judge couldn't see her hidden disability.

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