Traumatic Brain Injury nowhere near to being diagnosed after a mysterious bicycle accident

"The cause of my muscle complaints turned out to be a neurological problem as well"

After a somewhat hesitant and bumpy start, Roel van der Heide came to enjoy cycling soon after his retirement. A few years later, the former bank manager went out cycling more than 200 days a year and about 130 kilometres a day. On a beautiful winter’s day in December 2016, Roel was standing at a crossroads next to a signpost pointing to Almere and Lelystad. The only problem was, he had no idea what he was doing there. His mind flooded with questions. "Why is my bike propped up against a fence over there? And why am I somewhere between Almere and Lelystad?" 


It did not occur to Roel that he had left on a cycling tour that day. But he did have a terrible headache and his clothes were slightly damaged. "I took the train home from Almere." When he got home, Roel noticed that he had a wound on his head. Meanwhile, his headache was getting worse. Because he could not fill the 30-minute gap in his memory, the exact cause of his head wound remained a mystery. And his headaches kept getting worse. “I tolerated less and less noise and I developed all kinds of strange symptoms. I had trouble swallowing, for instance, and so I couldn’t eat properly." 

New complaints

It eventually took him seven weeks to recover and Roel started cycling again at the end of January 2017. But he still suffered some strange complaints. About six months after his bicycle accident, Roel started developing new complaints. "This time my muscles were affected as were my cognitive abilities, for instance when driving. Whereas I normally only needed to check once to cross an intersection, I now had to check a few times so as to analyse all the various impressions and signals." From then on it became too dangerous for Roel to drive. Initially, Roel did not relate the new complaints to his bicycle accident. "I reasoned that I had fully recovered from that.” 

Complaints grew worse

A year after his accident, when his complaints continued to get worse, Roel decided to visit his GP. "I explicitly told him about my accident a year and a half previously, but my GP dismissed any connection between my accident and my complaints." It was Roel's physiotherapist who finally pointed out the possibility of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). "My physiotherapist, who treated me for my muscle complaints, told me that she had suffered TBI after she too had a bicycle accident. She referred me to the Functional Neurology Institute, where she had been cured of her complaints." In April and May 2019, Roel had seven treatment sessions in the practice in Lisse. 

A relief

“Their welcome was a huge relief. The professional specialist listened carefully to my complaints and asked very specific questions. He is very competent, professional, analytical and a pleasant person to boot." According to Roel, the institute’s approach contrasts sharply with what he encountered previously in the medical sector. “To think I had already been to a neurologist, but he only did a CT scan because he suspected I had a traumatic brain injury. Then I was sent from pillar to post, all the way through to a rheumatologist." The Functional Neurology Institute was very careful in making a diagnosis, says the 74-year-old Leiderdorp resident. “They consider things from a much wider perspective. The examination was very specific, but at the same time very extensive. For example, they discovered that my muscle complaints were also due to a neurological problem. As a result of the fall, I suffered a brain injury to the cerebellum and my balance organ had been jolted. The cerebellum and the balance organ are responsible for the tension of the muscles and the coordination of the muscle movements. Consequently, there were times I had to exert all my strength just to make a certain movement." 

Wide-ranging recovery

To his surprise, Roel's treatment covered many more complaints than he had thought possible. "I had assumed that some of my complaints were age-related. I'm already 74, after all. But believe it or not, my memory has improved too." As a result of the discussions with the professional specialist at the Functional Neurology Institute, Roel has become aware that medical care in the Netherlands has serious shortcomings when it comes to TBI. "In my case, it resulted in me not receiving adequately treatment and people in my social surroundings have not been able to grasp my complaints. I have lost friends because of that.” So Roel is disappointed that the Netherlands apparently is not completely up to speed on TBI. "And that's a shame, because I think everyone in the Netherlands should have access to the best possible care."   

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