January 14, 2022

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Health Lasts Longer

Doctor hails ‘lifestyle pillars’ as key to recovery from brain injury

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Dr. Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended on the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of an icy crash in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury.

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Heading back to Windsor, where he was a second-year student at the Windsor Schulich School of Medicine, following a visit with his family in Vaughn, Ont., Galati hit black ice and then a tree, taking the full impact of the crash on his side of the vehicle.

Cut out of the car, intubated at the scene and rushed to hospital in Woodstock, Galati was soon transferred to London where he spent three days in a coma in the intensive care unit.

He suffered severe traumatic brain injury with a bleed inside his brain, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a severed facial nerve and multiple skull fractures.

Nobody knew what the prognosis was

Upon awaking from the coma, he was unable to walk or talk.

“At first I had very, very little insights,” Galati said. “I didn’t realize the severity of my injury. Nobody had told me there was a bleed inside my brain.”

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Dr. Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended on the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of an icy crash in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury.
Dr. Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended on the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of an icy crash in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury. Photo by Denise Militzer /Windsor Star

He thought he had a concussion that would require a few weeks off before he went back to school.

“Meanwhile the doctors were telling my family that (I) might have to change (my) goals. Nobody knew what the prognosis was.”

When he finally realized how serious his situation was, depression and denial hit him.

“You start doubting yourself, questioning your own abilities,” Galati said. “I went from being a med student to people barely had the confidence to let me order a coffee for myself.”

But he fought back with dogged determination, plenty of family support and tireless research on brain injury recovery.

Galati read voraciously, especially about intensifying rehabilitation, and did double the amount of therapy that other patients received “in hopes of making a better recovery and quicker return to medicine.”

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Then he read about the potential of lifestyle changes on recovery.

“I came across five lifestyle pillars, which are absolutely vital to change the brain and for brain health,” Galati said, calling the concept novel and not one taught in medical school.

Dr. Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended on the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of an icy crash in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury.
Dr. Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended on the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of an icy crash in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury. Photo by Evan Dion [email protected] /Windsor Star

The concept involves neuroplasticity, which means the brain’s ability to change, restructure, re-route and neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells.

Gilati said five lifestyle pillars — intensive aerobic exercise, intensive cognitive exercise, brain healthy nutrition, mindfulness meditation and proper sleep and limiting harmful exposures — help change the brain.

And he says he’s proof the concept works.

He began running five kilometres every morning, stimulated his mind by reviewing medical school notes, practiced guitar for fine motor skills and took up golf for gross motor skills.

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“I was just really trying to cover all of my bases and trying to stimulate my brain in any possible way that I could.”

He implemented all the health lifestyle pillars into his daily routine and after eight months, returned back to medical school.

He graduated from residency in 2019 and now works as a family physician with fellowship training in environmental health, as well as working as a hospitalist at a rehab hospital in the greater Toronto area.

He also started the Brain Changes Initiative (brainchanges.org) as a vehicle to fund research around the lifestyle change for brain health and traumatic brain injury.

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Galati said the initiative has evolved into serving as an avenue for awareness, education and support for brain injured patients, their families and people who just want to live a healthy lifestyle, in addition to health care professionals who want to learn about the lifestyle approach to healing a brain and for brain health.

[email protected]

twitter.com/KotsisStar

Lifestyle Approaches For Better Brains and Bodies

A speaker series through the partnership of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Beyond Disability Network and Brain Injury Association of Windsor Essex County. Lectures begin at noon and are free.

Sept. 17          Physical Exercise: Kyle Whaley, PT Reg. (Ont.)

Sept. 24          Cognitive Exercise: Heather Condello, OT Reg. (Ont.)

Oct. 1              Nutrition: Dr. Mary Sco, MD, PhD

Oct. 8              Sleep: Dr. Celeste Thirlwell, MD, FRCPC

Oct. 15            Mindfulness: Dr. Diana Velikonja, C.Psych., MScCP

Oct. 22            Dr. Matthew Galati, MD (Galati will conclude the series by putting all the pillars together and using his story as an illustration of how to change your lifestyle and to heal a brain)

To register for the lectures visit https://app.simplyk.io/en/ticketing/4d720300-6537-498f-9246-f72e7219d127. For further information, contact [email protected] or 519-981-1329

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