Frequently Asked Questions

Dr. Gorgens is frequently emailed with personal and professional questions regarding her various areas of expertise. Check out some of the emails and responses below: 

Medical Expertise Question

I just watched your Ted talk on prisoners and TBI. I was very impressed and found it quite enlightening. Although I was not in the least bit surprised, sadly. It makes perfect sense. Although I am NOT someone caught up in the criminal justice system, I am a 42-year-old veteran, ex-board-sporter, and survivor of not only many accidents but a very physically traumatic youth; with likely dozens of incidents of TBI throughout my younger life.

This whole field of study and treatment is all still quite new to me but already incredibly perspective-changing. I am personally DEEPLY affected by mine and things have been getting worse rapidly. I finally have a sense of hope!

Like many people, I found out about TBI after hearing a podcast featuring a Special Forces Green Beret Andrew Marr and a medical doctor who together started the Warrior Angel Fund to help rescue warfighters from VA-centered PTSD treatments which all too often lead to suicides, and restore them to a sense of normalcy and control. I was absolutely floored by this discovery. It was like the blinders had finally been removed.

I won’t get into my insane medical history over the last 8 years for now, suffice to say I have narrowly avoided death repeatedly and suffered unbelievably. Including a year ago nearly to the day, where a couple of pints of blood was necessary to bring me back. A lot has changed since then and I am on a daily continuously improving path. But addressing these TBI symptoms are now of the highest priority for me!

Long story short, a doctor has shown possible interest in looking into my case sometime down the road and maybe beginning treatments that could include hormone replacement therapy and neurosteroids among other supplements, etc.

I have to admit, something has just felt off about the process and I was wondering if I could inquire of your insight. I gather you to be exceptionally knowledgable and admirably passionate in this domain and hoped you might be able to steer me in the right direction.

Do you have any opinions as to what steps I should take to get headed in the right direction with diagnosis and treatment by TBI specialists? Is this something I can hope to find caregivers covered by insurance?

I feel as this has potentially opened a door into a healing life for me.

Any suggestion, feedback or direction is immensely appreciated!

Again, you and your work are amazing! KUDOS!

Dr. Kim Gorgens’ response:

Hi there, thank you so much for getting in touch and for sharing your story here. I don’t know that doctor’s work personally but I do lecture a LOT about the role of pituitary dysfunction after brain injury and, without going into a rabbit hole, I will say that there is compelling research to suggest that changes in growth hormone, testosterone/estrogen and thyroid hormone changes account for a lot of the behavioral, cognitive and physical sequelae of injury than actual changes in neuronal function. So yes, I recommend to that every client with TBI get a full endocrine panel as a starter and they can go from there to seek opinions from endocrinologists or—in the case of men—a urologist can sometimes be helpful (more likely to be covered by private insurance). I am equally impressed with the research on SLEEP and the biome for long-term management/improvement of BI-related complaints too. In both cases (hormones and sleep), we discounted them as too simplistic for decades and are coming back around. I am sure you saw this article in WIRED yesterday too but you seem like someone who would appreciate it (https://www.wired.com/story/i-am-human-brain-implants/). It’s an exciting time for TBI. Wishing you all the best, take care,

Kim

Seeking Advice for a Sister with a TBI

Dear Dr. Gorgens,

I hope you’re doing well. About 2.5 years ago, my sister (47 years old) sustained TBI from a ruptured brain aneurysm. She was very lucky, and not only survived but only suffered short-term memory loss. However, after she recovered from her injury her life has dramatically changed. She no longer works, and sleeps 70% of the day. She must nap frequently or else she suffers from debilitating headaches, which can result from minimal physical and/or mental activity. This is a stark change for someone who used to run marathons and work in computer programming. She has used a variety of medications – she currently takes Gabapentin – and has completed trials of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, with no significant improvement.

She recently heard your TED talk, and directed me to your website, as I’m trying to find therapeutic options for her to improve her quality of life. We also recently came across this article illustrating the use of an implant device to stimulate brain activity: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/13/health/implant-brain-injury.html

If you have any recommendations of practicing clinicians that could provide us with some therapeutic options whom which we could potentially meet, I would be eternally grateful. She lives outside of Boulder, in Nederland, and I live in New York City. We are willing to travel anywhere.

Please feel free to contact me at any time. I look forward to your response and would warmly welcome any suggestions you may have.

Dr. Kim Gorgens’ response:

Hi there, thanks for getting in touch and I am so sorry to hear about your sister—she is really lucky to have someone fight for her. I know some of the team members at Langone (Joe Ricker is terrific and did the cognitive measurement for that study) and I know their work to be excellent. Surgeons have used deep-brain stimulation for Parkinson’s and, more recently, depression, with a lot of success so I think this is an exciting expansion of that work with more to come. I saw this article yesterday in Wired too (you may already have seen it) but the documentary is in your neck of the woods so you might catch it first (https://www.wired.com/story/i-am-human-brain-implants/). As to local Colorado options, I haven’t been super impressed with the hyperbaric research either—your sister’s experience is what I see most often. The research on sleep and the gut biome are making me rethink things for my own work—helping her get a sleep routine mapped out for each day (including as many very short naps as she needs) and managing her frustrations is really key. Pain control is tricky but fixing sleep can make them more manageable she might consider neuromodulation therapies at home (http://www.headachejournal.org/view/0/VIFeb2017.html). You can make sure she is on the BIAC email list and uses their services (www.biacolorado.org). There are some clinical trials in Alzheimer’s Disease for resolvins that I am really excited about for brain injury too. I have a mentee in Fort Collins who is himself a BI survivors and now a neuropsychologist—Scott LaPoint and he would be an excellent addition to her team. His website is here https://www.linkedin.com/in/slapointpsyd/. And you can register her at www.clinicaltrials.gov too—the research continues to explode so she should stay at the front of this frontier to benefit first. I will also say that for the mood consequences of brain injury, the research suggests the most effective intervention is to keep the family and support network afloat so be sure you pay attention to yourself too—this is a really hard spot and you’re doing great work. Wishing you all the best and to your sister too.

Kim

An Unfortunate Common Experience of TBI Survivors and their Families

Dear Ms. Gorgens:

I am contacting you regarding the initiative that DU is pursuing, along with the BIA, the Courts, and the Denver Sheriff’s Department re TBI in Criminal Justice. And here’s why:

I am a DU Law Grad (2009), but I am also the wife of a TBI survivor (severe frontal lobe damage, 6 week coma), who has had many run-ins with the Criminal Justice System, which was one of the main reasons I attended law school.

My husband suffered his TBI (severe frontal lobe damage in this instance), several years before I met him. We met just after I graduated undergrad. We were still very young and did not have a clue that his TBI would affect our lives in any way. I had never learned much, if anything, about TBIs, nor had my husband received much in the way of support or information after he left the hospital.

My husband’s run-ins with the Criminal Justice System began before and continued after I graduated law school. Also, he was in and out of outpatient and inpatient institutional mental treatment facilities, sometimes after arrest, sometimes on his own accord. During this time, he was consistently diagnosed with shocking mental health disorders and serious psychosis, that eventually turned out to be substantially inaccurate and not a single one of these providers mentioned his TBI in any way.

He was continually prescribed ever more frightening medications, including Risperidone and a wide-variety of antidepressants, that not only made things worse, i.e. increased suicide threats and attempts, etc., it literally put our daughter and I in harm’s way more than once. Furthermore, I am convinced that some of the medications he was prescribed attributed to some of the inaccurate diagnoses.

There was one incident where my husband was placed on a concoction of meds (Xanax 3x/day, Valium 3x/day, Prozac, and Zoloft… no I am not kidding), and after taking these meds as prescribed for one day only, we all nearly lost our lives. This, unfortunately, was one of many suicide attempts I have had to deal with.

In the brain injury group that we are currently part of, these sorts of stories are not uncommon. Almost all of the TBI survivors tried different antidepressants and very few had positive things to say regarding any they were prescribed, i.e. the consensus was that they usually made them more depressed, irate, etc. All of them said their mood improved once they stopped taking these medications.

Anyway, I was studying for the Bar when I came across a website about frontal lobe damage, which listed many of the symptoms/side-effects thereof. I went down the list and realized that my husband suffered every single symptom/side-effect listed and I finally realized the mental healthcare system had been barking up the wrong tree (despite listing his TBI on all of his paperwork at these facilities).

Once we realized the role his TBI was playing in our lives, we sought help and we made clear that we believed his TBI was central to the mental struggles he faced. My husband began receiving treatment from a therapist who had significant knowledge regarding and interest in TBIs and, for the first time ever, his therapy had a positive impact on our lives. It has still taken MANY years from that point to get him to a good place. He had to do a lot of work to get there that did not involve medication, but he is now inspired to help others.

Also, I practiced Criminal Defense and Family Law for several years and was shocked at the number of individuals I came across with TBIs and how they were mistreated (much like my husband). I took it upon myself to help bring awareness to the Courts and local law enforcement regarding brain injuries, until I got extremely sick, which was triggered by the stress of all I had been through, and I was forced to give up my practice.

Because of all we have been through, my husband and I, along with our fly-tying and fishing company, recently started a non-profit to assist US Vets with TBIs in a very particular/unique way (through vocational rehab) and we hope to expand one day to civilians, but that is not why I am contacting you.

Inspired by my experience as a criminal defense attorney and my husband’s experience as a TBI survivor, I began writing a book. The book addresses how TBI survivors are perceived by the general public and too often by the Judicial System, the backlash this perception has on the TBI survivor’s self-esteem, self-worth, etc., how that, in turn, effects their loved ones, and the vicious cycle this creates, i.e. they end up feeling like the “losers” and “bums” that they are constantly told they are and they lose hope and their loved ones often fall into despair alongside them.

My hope with the book is to bring about change in the attitudes of the public toward TBI survivors, i.e. they are not “losers” and “bums,” they are struggling with a prevalent and debilitating, invisible disability; to shed light on the way TBI survivors are often mistreated at each stage of in the Criminal Justice System and the ripple effect this creates; and, to encourage change in the treatment of TBI survivors in the Criminal Justice System, from the point of first contact through the disposition of their case, the service of any resulting sentence, i.e. incarceration, probation, or parole, and support for TBI survivors thereafter to combat recidivism and encourage healthy rehabilitation and reintegration.

So, when I came across your project online, I was ecstatic. I would love to know more about what you are trying accomplish with this project and I am also curious whether there has been any discussion about involving the DU Sturm College of Law or other organizations in bringing about change in the Criminal Justice System and possible legislation to address the issues surrounding how TBI survivors are being treated at all levels of the the Criminal Justice System.

I would love to hear from you.

Kim’s response:

Hi—thank you so much for getting in touch and my heart goes out to you, you’ve lived our program, that’s for sure. I just did a TEDx talk on the program in June (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j78G4Pr6C1o) and am happy to talk more about it anytime. Maybe we can catch up over coffee sometime this winter—I’m sure you’re swamped juggling everything listed here but you should also consider a leadership position in the state. We really need people like you who understand the human stakes of TBI for positions like the MindSource board (http://mindsourcecolorado.org/trust-fund-and-board/)—they’d be so lucky to have you if you find you’d like to pay it forward. Look forward to talking soon,

Kim

Update:

Thanks for responding Kim.

Wow! Awesome presentation. Brought tears to my eyes. You hit the nail on the head. I love what Judge Bowen is doing and I hope other districts/Judges will implement his initiative.

I always ask people to think about seeing panhandlers on the street. Many people will see a perfectly healthy-looking individual and assume that the individual is just too lazy to get a job. Then, I ask them how would their opinion change if the individual was sitting in a wheelchair. Most people respond with empathy and many say they would give the individual money. Finally, I ask them how they would feel if they could see that the “healthy-looking” individual was suffering from a severe brain injury. Suddenly, most opinions change to empathy. The ones that don’t have a change of heart are generally the ones that are unfamiliar with the symptoms of TBI. I empathize with those individuals because it was not long ago that I had no clue about TBI symptoms, despite living with a TBI survivor.

I’m so thrilled to see so much forward movement in Colorado and across the US on this issue finally. That gives us hope and we are already spreading the news amongst our peers on Facebook, Instagram, etc., so they can share in our hope.

I will definitely contact the MindSource Board. The more I can do to help move the effort along and reach as many people as possible the better. Its been a long road trying to get people to listen and understand, but it is paying off.

I would love to meet you for coffee.

Thanks for your time and all you are doing to make this world less hostile toward TBI survivors and their loved ones.

Seeking Information for a Best Friend

Hello,
I just finished listening to your TED talk. It was an answered prayer.
I have a very difficult situation. My ex boyfriend, more importantly, my best friend, is currently in jail. Again. Since I met him, he has been locked up four different times. There were many more before that. A little over 10 years ago, he suffered a very serious head injury. He was bleeding out of his ears, was in a coma for three days, and when he woke up didn’t remember his parents. Thankfully, he did regain his memory of them after a few days. But this was a person who was kind, bright, happy and lit up the room when he walked in. But after his injury, he changed. To make a very long story short…he became addicted to alcohol. It has destroyed him. It has destroyed his relationship with his family, and every attempt at a romantic relationship. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde. Unfortunately, the last time I saw him, I called the police. I was in fear for my life. He had been drinking and told me he would kill me.

What I am asking I suppose, is advice. I don’t know how to help him. His family has all but turned their backs on him and my heart breaks because I can’t imagine an existence such as his. I have to believe there is some hope for him. I just know it’s deeper than any of us can understand.

I don’t want to lose this person. If there is anything you can do to help me, I would be so incredibly grateful.

Kim’s response:

Hi—thank you for reaching out, I really appreciate your heartache and your boyfriend is lucky to have you—research suggests he will do better if you do better so finding support for you is key too.

here’s where I would start: https://braininjurygeorgia.org/ and check out their support programming. There are a few more resources on the talk page too (other websites and books from folks like you)–https://www.ted.com/talks/kim_gorgens_the_surprising_connection_between_brain_injuries_and_crime. You’re doing everything RIGHT—hang in there!
Kim

Request for Additional Information

Dr. Kim,
What a great TED talk on TBI and crime!
I was full time jail chaplain for 13 years and have volunteered in prisons since the 80s.
Please provide more information about your work in the prisons.
Thanks!

Dr. Gorgens’ response:

Thanks so much—what a pleasure to hear from you. We have a totally rudimentary website with some of the work and we have a few more manuscripts under review and in preparation now—we’re funded now to look at longer term judicial outcomes for our folks and we’re doing some policy with the the National Committee on State Governments. There are such good people in the system (you know that) so it’s not hard to give them tools to make life easier all around. Look forward to talking to you soon!

Kim

A Desperate Plea from a Father

Dear Dr. Gorgens,

I am writing to you about my son. Several weeks ago he was arrested for allegedly threatening in a chat room to shoot up a school and children in it. I can tell you that the young man I knew and raised was never violent and could never cause harm to anyone. However, about three years ago he was hit by a car while riding on a moped. He landed face first and one of his eye orbits and part of his forehead needed facial reconstruction (my understanding is he has a metal plate in his forehead where the bone was crushed). We were so grateful that he was alive and not paralyzed that it never occurred to us he might have lasting psychological or perhaps even physical trauma to his brain.

We have not seen each other in over five years. Prior to his arrest, his brothers, and mother have been around him and they have told me that he has been exhibiting what appears to be a degree of paranoia and depression. We are wondering if he may have been affected by his injury.

He is being held in a detention center in isolation for his protection. I am very fearful he is going to be made an example of by the court. He has been charged with “MAKE THREAT/FALSE INFO RE ACT OF TERRORISM/WMD.” We cannot afford an attorney and so he was assigned a public defender. I have placed several calls to her; but, she has not yet called me back. This only serves to make me wonder what kind of representation my son has and if he will be represented well.

I was at a complete loss as to how I might help my son, when my niece sent me your TedTalk about brain injury and the percentage of inmates who have it. Dr. Gorgens, I am hoping against hope that there might be something you can do to help my son. We are desperate to find some way to save him either from himself and/or from a justice system that is so often merciless and driven by sensationalist news stories and politics.

Would you be kind enough to write me back and let me know if there is anything you can do to help? Thank you Dr. Gorgens for taking the time to read this message.

Kim’s response:

Hi there—I am so sorry to hear about your son—what a heartbreak all around, this is the kind of story we see all the time. One suggestion would be to ask your son’s attorney to make a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation which can help inform his care (it can be more helpful now, pre-sentencing, than later). I have a good colleague in the area, Dr. Noelle Lafforge (http://www.drlefforge.com/index.html) and here is one member of our professional society in Nevada with a specialty in brain injury. You’re doing everything right—we’ve found that if you can keep the family afloat, the inmate or probationer does really well—you are already there. Wishing you the best—keep calling that attorney too. Take care,

Kim

Aging Inmates and their Need for Housing

Good afternoon Dr. Gorgens,

I am in the Senior Care business and have a Masters Degree in Health Administration. I have experience in managing different types of Senior living communities as a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Colorado.
I became discouraged with the common corporate model of Health Care because for most communities it would be a battle to give the care needed for residents and promised to their loved ones due to the financial pressure to make profit. That said, I decided to create my own and during my research to provide this I began to think about all those who were incarcerated that are aging, many with some form of dementia or chronic illness and the need for 24 hour care.

In previous communities where I was the Executive Director and a referral was received that included in the information that the individual was previously incarcerated it would be an automatic decline due to Colorado regulations and the fear of other resident’s loved one’s objection. Many are released to the street or even revoke parole to continue to get needed care in the prison. This increases the probability of the return to prison, the homeless problem, and could be described as a continuation of suffering for those that are so sick and incarcerated.

I decided to build community that is strictly for those that are in need of care that have been paroled or released and in need of care. This is a complicated issue but the need expressed by Colorado Department of Corrections is large, not including the jail level etc. This is national problem.
This community will be part of the solution to address many outstanding issues that affect both the incarcerated aging population and those responsible for a safe discharge to the next level when on parole. In addition, we believe we can demonstrate how this can be accomplished in a way that contributes to the Colorado community economically, through job growth, solves logistic issues with the Department of Corrections, and contributes financially by saving the State of Colorado millions of dollars annually.

I saw your TED talk, initially sent to me from Apryl Alexander, Psy.D., Clinical Assistant Professor at DU and thought there may some way to incorporate the assessment and intervention of the common effect of TBI’s experienced by those we might serve.

Based on your experience I thought I would see if this was project that might be of interest to you at some level and how you think we might apply your methods if at all.

Kim’s response:

Thanks for getting in touch, what a pleasure to meet you here and I will thank Apryl for making the connection. I really appreciate the work you’re doing—you’re at the front lines of a burgeoning crisis…aging inmates. Many of them are at increased risk for dementing disease (injury, toxic exposures, lifestyle, etc.) and will be sent out when they get expensive for the system—boy does the world need you. I am also adding my good colleague here, Dr. Lotta Granholm, who heads up our Knoebel Insitute for Healthy Aging here at DU since there may be some interesting intersection here. I did also want to send you the info for the upcoming Aging events here—we’ll make sure to add you to the mailing list. Look forward to talking to you soon,

Kim

Request from a High School Student

Hi Dr. Gorgens,

I am an freshman in high school. I am part of a business class and one of the major assignments of the class is to research and come up with an idea that can better society. My group and I had an idea to create a mouthguard that can help detect severe brain injuries. We saw your TEDTalk about brain injuries in football. Some other students, that also go to Green Hope, and I were wondering if we could talk to you for a few minutes to discuss how the mouthguard can be improved to help schools and athletes in heavy contact sports, such as soccer or wrestling. We appreciate your help.

Kim’s response:

hi there—glad to hear there is a smart student heading into the the field—thanks for your interest and for reaching out. I am happy to touch base and wanted to send some articles on the subject for your review. The use of mouth guards for the PREVENTION of concussion has fallen out of favor since there hasn’t been any robust research to suggest it really works well but we do use mouthguard to MEASURE injuries (accelerometers are often in mouthguards in the NFL for example). You could check out that work. Here is a summary from one article and a few articles from colleagues. Hope they’re helpful—good luck on your project,

Dr. Kim Gorgens

Mouth-guards

Existing evidence on the relationship of mouth-guards to concussion prevention has been inconclusive. 26 66-71 Small sample sizes and a relative lack of studies highlight the need for quality research to characterize the effect (or lack thereof) of mouth-guards. Regardless of current evidence, mouth-guards have been touted as one potential concussion-prevention strategy for many years. 15 72 73 Investigators theorise that mouth-guards help dissipate the force absorbed by the mandible as the mandibular condyle approaches the glenoid fossa, and thick mouthguards can decrease the impact to the wearer’s head, reducing the potential for concussive injuries. 21 Labella et al 26 reported no difference in concussion incidence among basketball players with and without mouthguards. As mouthguards are best suited to protect from under-the-chin impacts to the mandible, their effect may be limited in basketball, as this type of hit is relatively uncommon in the sport.

Mouthguards generally come in three types: unmolded, traditional ‘boil-and-bite’ and custom-fitted. 15 Three of the included studies have examined the potential benefits of advanced and custom mouthguards over more common over-the-counter mouthguards. 15 21 27 Barbic et al 15 examined collegiate football and rugby players and found that those wearing a more advanced style of mouthguard (although not custom-fitted) were no less likely to sustain a concussion than those wearing a standard mouthguard of their choosing. Likewise, Wisniewski et al 27 found no significant reduction in concussion injuries to college football players when comparing players with custom mouthguards to those wearing standard equipment. Two other included studies evaluated the relationship of concussion incidence and mouthguard use in rugby players and reported no reduction in TBIs in the groups wearing mouthguards, 23 24 with one of the studies actually reporting increased incidence in mouthguard wearers. 24 This increased incidence of concussion was also reported in high school football athletes wearing custom or specialised mouthguards. 19 Conversely, it was found that custom-fitted mouthguards did significantly reduce concussion incidence in comparison to over-the-counter mouthguards in a cohort of high school football athletes, all of whom wore the same helmet. 21 Such is the trend for the current body of evidence on the potential advantages of custom mouthguards: some studies find that there is significant risk reduction, 21 74 while others conclude there is no difference between mouthguard types. 26 75

A number of confounding factors support the need for a more complete examination of the potential advantages of mouthguards. For example, in the study performed by Winters and DeMont, 21 the custom-fit mouthguards that were found to significantly reduce concussions were thicker than over-the-counter mouthguards, suggesting that mouthguard thickness (rather than type) may be a more important element for reducing TBIs. Likewise, some studies did not account for athletic exposures, 15 21 and the potential for under-reporting of injuries by team athletic trainers is a considerable limitation. 15 27 Furthermore, the use of mouthguards in combination with helmets in sports such as football, where helmet use is already the norm, begs the question as to whether mouthguards (and consequently, mouthguard type) are even relevant for concussion prevention strategies. 27 A need exists for closer and more rigorous examination of the mouthguard as a concussion prevention tool, with attention paid to mouthguard type and thickness and consideration given to the mechanism of injury in each sport studied.

A note from someone who has experienced a TBI

Hello Kim, I hope you are having an amazing day. I recently followed you and learned about what you are doing and I think you are on to something, people don’t look at this and I hope maybe I can help in some way!.

I grew up with a confused mind and when My dad passed away as a young child I became a drug addict. As life went on of me being a drug addict and negative person it ended up with me being in prison for burglary trying to support my drug habit. While in prison I found myself as just as bad a drug addict and criminal as before, I joined a gang and then from my drug addiction in prison this gang beat me out of the gang which ended in me being in a coma for more than a month from a tbi having to learn how to walk, talk, etc…. when I woke up my life was changed! From that moment until now I have never used a drug again. I have been out for close too two years and have never done so much as J-walk the tbi or god however you view it my life has been (fixed) and is so amazing.

From the tbi I became very interested in neurology and healing my brain without pharmaceuticals and it’s been hard to find anyone on the same page and more intelligent than me about the subject for me to learn from or move forward and I have found that in you! If I can help your study in any type of way please let me know and I just wanted to tell you my story and help affirm that what you are doing is right and you are an amazing person 😁 thank you and best wishes.

Kim’s response:

Thanks so much for reaching out and thanks for your thoughtful message. This program is serving people just like you and changing everyone’s opinion along the way—you are doing the same work and I thank you for that too. Wishing you all the best and success with your work too,

Kim

Personally Resonating Information

I just watched your TED talk on this. It has me really interested. I’m not sure if I myself qualify under what I understand from your discussion. I know I’ve asked myself many times why I did the activities that I did. But I did it none the less. Between the ages of 19-21 I went on a “criminal spree”, (for lack of better term), no prior history besides typical teenage stuff. I know my younger years I made really, REALLY dumb choices. I knew that they were the wrong choice but I made them anyway. Not talking about any specific choice but the lot as a whole. Anyway, sorry, I spent 8 out of my 11 years in prison altering my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Learning to open up to some people and learning to take advice and listen to suggestions. No easy feat. I really think that Arizona could use and benefit from your program if you still have it around. I don’t think I would be able to participate, even so, there are a lot of people here that might benefit from this. I extremely dislike seeing people go in and out of the system and some even opt to go to prison instead being on probation because it’s easier. One person I would like you to contact is from a place called Arizona Common Ground. He helps ex felons reintegrate. I think if the two of you joined forces you could be a power house to help people that really need it. Thank you so much for you time.

Kim’s response:

Thank you so much for getting in touch—I appreciate your story too, I will be in Arizona presenting our model at a probation conference in November and will be sure to look up Arizona Common Ground in the meantime (just sent a LinkedIn invitation). Thank you for the suggestion and for reaching out—I hate that the talk resonates for personal reasons but I am so glad you are gently with your self too. Wishing you all the best,

Kim Gorgens

Mailbag

Hi Kim, I just saw your great TED talk on TBI.
I’ll keep this short. I’m 71, was hit by a car (coma, concussion… at age 11), have been twice diagnosed in a gray area between Narcolepsy/ Idiopathic Hypersomnia, and recently learned my difficulties may be the TBI at 11.

Last month, I had another MRI after increasing cognitive difficulties and hope you can steer me to a medical professional / test program / or ? so my experience can benefit this gray area (yes, pun intended) of study.

I live between Western Colorado and Southern California; last neurologist I saw was about fifteen years ago in Denver.

Thank you – GREAT WORK!!!!!

Dr. Gorgens’ response:

Good morning—thank you so much for getting in touch and for your passion—you have been through the wringer. I want to be sure you know that Colorado really needs advocates like you—you might consider volunteering or joining the board of MindSource (Colorado Brain Injury program https://mindsourcecolorado.org/ and there are some good western slope resources through the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado (www.biacolorado.org) too. I am sure that California has some progressive resources too (they are here https://www.biacal.org/. And I will also say that one of my favorite colleagues has a private practice in Grand Junction if you’re nearby—I think she’s one of the best drterrychase.com/. And I am sure you have a great network of support for narcolepsy but that will be vital for you.

I hope to see you at a board meeting soon—wishing you all the best in the meantime too.

Making this nationwide?

Hello Professor Gorgens,

I’m 19 and I’m from Riverside California. I just finished watching your amazing TED talk “The surprising connection between brain injuries and crime”. I love what you’re fighting for. I couldn’t agree more with what you talked about. Our prison system indeed needs a lot of work. This issue is also near and dear to me because I have a family member who’s currently incarcerated. He has also had his fair share of head injuries. From car accidents, to brutal fights, to a gun shot wound. Who would have known that his head injuries could of played a big role. I did not known this. Thank you for educating me! How can I get what your doing in Colorado happen near me? And frankly this should be happening everywhere. I don’t believe in locking people up and not helping them become better members of society. The system is inhumane and unjust. How can I help? If you could write back to me it would mean the world to me, thank you.

Kim’s response:

good morning, thank you so much for getting in touch—you are just the kind of person we hope will spark change all over—I expect we’ll see your name on a ballot sometime soon. I am adding my good colleague and the brains of this operation, Judy Dettmer, here too. Judy knows the national landscape and is the leader in progressive programming at the legislative level—Judy, any chance you know what California has going on for brain injury screening in criminal justice? I also want to be sure you stay in the loop with the California Brain Injury Association (https://www.biacal.org/)—you might even consider a seat on their board to promote the kinds of programs you are passionate about. And subscribe to the the Marshall Project (https://www.themarshallproject.org), they are my favorite outlet to get a heads up about justice reform—my good friend Maurice Chammah is a crusader like you and California policy comes up all the time. And, totally selfish here, but think about grad school (forensic psychology, law, public policy?)—you’d be a great addition to any program (here is ours www.du.edu/gspp). Wishing you all the best—keep me posted on your victories,

Kim

A note from Connecticut

Hi Kim,

I am from Easton, CT and currently a 21 year old junior at the University of Delaware. I just recently watched your TED talk about TBI and crime. Unfortunately, my college career will be put on pause because last summer I was in a terrible car accident and one of my good friends was not wearing a seat belt was catastrophically injured. Before the accident in 2018, I have had 3 severe concussions which involved hospitalization and many types of therapy and medication after the fact, and even participating in 2/3 times weekly of neurofeedback. I have been through over 12 hours of intense testing only for it to be determined that in fact my brain function has been severely impaired since my head injuries and will most likely never return.
As a result of my mistakes, there is a chance that I will be going to jail for 2 years at York Women’s Correctional Facility in CT, and quite frankly I am terrified. I struggle a lot academically as I suffer from severe dyslexia, an extremely high level of ADHD, and read at a very slow rate compared to most people of my age.

After watching your TED talk I just have many more questions about what the chances are of me having another TBI while incarcerated/ and if there is any advice you can please offer me because I want to stay as healthy as possible. I have been working so hard and have been through so much since my last concussion, but I am now concerned about what to do if it happens again.I really feel I do not belong in prison but if I end up there I do not want to go back. I am truly very scared and would greatly appreciate any input you could give me.

Thank you so so much and I am sorry for any inconvenience.

Kim’s response:

Good morning—thank you so much for getting in touch—sounds like you’ve been through the wringer and things sound scary even from here. I want to first reassure you that your brain has another 10 years before it is even done maturing—you’ve got so much more brain development ahead of you and there’s no such thing as functioning ’never returning’ when you are 21. In a nutshell—good sleep and less stress and good nutrition are everything for brain function so think abut those things as a prescription and take them really seriously. And you’re right, after everything your brain has been through, try to avoid any injury (wear a seatbelt or helmet, etc.)—you do not want to risk injuring yourself again. And, as to your current legal situation, I would make sure your attorney knows to talk about your current deficits so she/he can recommend therapies in lieu of jail sentence if at all possible. Worst case scenario, do every class (reading, etc.) in jail and get back out as quickly as you can—structure the time there to continue to support your recovery. Speaking of which, make sure to get and stay connected with http://www.biact.org/ if you aren’t already (looks like there is a new group for young adults too). Wishing you all the best from Colorado—you’ve got this. Take care!

Kim

Fairfield County/Southport – Young Adults Group (ages 18-35) – Meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month from 7:00-8:30pm at Eye Care Associates, 2600 Post Road, Southport, CT. The contact for the group is Randy Schulman, who can be reached at drrandyschulman@gmail.com or 203-394-2722. Randy is a Behavioral Optometrist at Eye Care Associates. NEW GROUP for Young Adults Ages 18-35, starting in February 2019.

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