The story of how a motor vehicle accident changed Dr. Sandra de Blois’s life, putting her on a path to mental health, trauma therapy, PTSD treatment, and Reconsolidation Therapy™
Have you ever found yourself wondering how a person got to where they are now? What path they followed? What road they took?
For Dr. Sandra de Blois it all starts with what street she crossed.
One morning in June of 1999, Dr. de Blois’ life took an unexpected turn.
“I was in a pedestrian crosswalk on my way to the University of Denver where I held a post-doctoral research position. I remember feeling particularly happy and hopeful about my future, then out of nowhere, I was hit by a commercial truck. I was sent flying across three lanes of traffic, my sandals stayed at the point of impact as my body landed in oncoming traffic.”
Fortunately, the light was red, and through the help of some good samaritans who re-directed traffic to protect her, she was saved from further injury. The paramedics arrived and whisked her to the hospital in a daze.
“I remember drifting in and out of consciousness and feeling incredible pain in my left thigh. I vaguely remember the frenzy in the emergency room and hearing things like ‘closed head injury’, ‘severe contusion’, and ‘compartment syndrome’. A doctor was flashing light in my eyes saying ‘you are very lucky. You could have easily died. You suffered a head trauma’. I recall the sudden onset of a horrific headache.”
Dr. de Blois was kept under observation and soon returned home, assuming the worse was over.
She reflects now, “I had no idea how much my life would change.”
In the following days, she started to notice she had trouble remembering things and paying attention. Planning became difficult, and everything seemed to either irritate her and or make her anxious. She was sleeping both too much and too little, and her left thigh was so swollen she couldn’t see her knee. As her concern increased and symptoms worsened, she couldn’t understand why she was sent home in this condition.
Not before long, Dr. de Blois found herself once again in the ambulance, on her way to the hospital to receive an MRI on her leg. The ride had her feeling like she was in a state of panic, almost as if she was reliving the whole event over again.
“The orthopedist had a worried look on his face as he mentioned compartment syndrome and told me he had to measure the pressure inside my thigh, saying that he may have to make a cut to relieve the pressure. Somehow, he judged he did not have to do that.”
Compartment syndrome is a result of pressure within a compartment of the body that restricts blood flow, which can potentially cause damage to the surrounding muscles and nerves.
“Back at home, I immediately researched compartment syndrome and I felt horrified that it can lead to amputation of the limb if not treated fast enough.”
Dr. de Blois was rightfully very worried. She wondered “what is fast enough for my case?” Was the doctor making a mistake by not relieving the pressure, should she get a second opinion? The trauma and the current course of treatment were leaving her feeling helpless.
“Thankfully, I did not develop compartment syndrome but had to go through many months of physiotherapy to be able to walk again.
My mental health took a turn for the worse. A psychologist diagnosed me with PTSD and depression, however, I was in denial and refused to take any medication.”
Although both PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, and post-accident depression are relatively common after experiencing a traumatic accident, that doesn’t make coping with the aftermath easy or simple. Many people report feeling a sense of denial, shame, or guilt from experiencing mental health issues, which makes receiving appropriate mental health and PTSD treatment all the more difficult.
In addition to her diagnosis of PTSD and depression, a neuropsychologist diagnosed her with post-concussion syndrome, a condition where concussion symptoms persist after the expected recovery period.
“I was deeply ashamed of the cognitive deficits I was experiencing. I had always been a very high-functioning person. The depression got worse and my self-esteem plummeted. I lost interest in the research I was involved in. This accident created an existential crisis.”
Having considered herself to have a very good life up until the accident, it was extremely difficult to accept the situation she was in. However, as most hardships do, Dr. de Blois’s story carries a silver lining.
“The suffering I was going through made me more aware of human suffering. I became more engaged in therapy and I realized how much my psychologist helped me cope with the PTSD symptoms. Many years passed and with therapy, my mental health was restored. I decided to pursue a career in mental health and to specialize in the treatment of trauma-related disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.”
Some believe that it is our greatest struggles in life that guide us in the direction of our life’s purpose or pursuits. Whether that’s true or not, for Dr. de Blois, this seems to be the case.
After two decades of education, research, training, and professional practice in psychology, counseling, and trauma therapy, Dr. de Blois became certified in Reconsolidation therapy ™, a revolutionary PTSD treatment that is based on the neuroscience of memories. It was developed by Dr. Alain Brunet, and in 2019 Dr. de Blois attended his training at the Douglas Research Center at McGill University and is now the first practitioner to use this PTSD treatment on the west coast of Canada.
Reconsolidation therapy™ directly targets traumatic memories. It includes 6 treatment sessions and leads to complete recovery from PTSD in 70% of cases. Furthermore, Reconsolidation therapy™ has a very low relapse rate. The treatment is a combination of talk therapy done under the influence of a blood pressure-lowering medication (a beta-adrenergic blocker). The medication blocks the reconsolidation, or re-storing, of the emotionally intense traumatic memory while keeping the memory itself intact. People continue to remember the traumatic event, however, they do so without re-experiencing it all over again.
The memory is gradually transformed from “traumatic” to “unpleasant”. Consequently, PTSD symptoms such as increased startle response, hypervigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, extreme anger, and so on are greatly reduced to the point where a person no longer meets the criteria for PTSD.
Reconsolidation therapy is effective regardless of how old the traumatic memory is and can easily be delivered over long distances through video-counseling, making it an excellent resource for PTSD treatment.
Now, Dr. de Blois’s clinical practice is centered around Reconsolidation therapy™ as she sees the staggering improvements in her patients. Having recovered from PTSD by means of more traditional methods and therapy, Dr. de Blois understands the difficulty and struggles associated with healing traumatic memories and wants those who are suffering to know that PTSD treatment is possible and accessible.
“If you or someone you know continue to experience post-traumatic symptoms related to a motor vehicle crash, please visit www.myrecontherapy.com and do not hesitate to contact me.”