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Sensi Magazine

Remembering Us

Aug 19, 2019 09:10PM ● By Leland Rucker
It was just another night at home: January 9, 2016, to be exact. Scott Takeda and Lori Allred were in their living room watching freaks and geeks on Netflix when Scott, inspired by the film’s ’80s soundtrack, got up to dance in front of the TV.

“The music was just really good, and I started dancing,” he says. “And my feet slipped out, and I fell.” Scott wasn’t too concerned; he went to bed about a half hour later. The next morning, he awoke feeling groggy and out of sorts. “I didn’t think I had hit my head,” he says. “There was no immediate reaction. It’s like I was a little sore.” Beyond the fatigue, he didn’t think that much about it.

You may know the couple. Scott and Lori both work in the film industry. Their company, BS Film works, makes and produces videos for corporate and local clients. Scott, who began as a television news reporter (including some time in Denver), also has appeared as an actor in television (The Resident, Mr. Mercedes) and films, including Gone Girl and the recent HBO movie, The Tale.

After Scott’s fall, Lori began to notice subtle but real changes in his behavior. Usually a workaholic, he was spending more time snoozing, and was slurring his words and repeating himself. “For him to be sleeping all the time I mean he wasn’t a napper or anything,” Lori says. “So for him not to be working was a huge red flag to begin with. And he would forget what he was doing kind of in the middle of what he was doing, like leaving food on the counter.”

They finally decided to have a doctor check him out, and that’s when they found that Scott, then 49, had suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Mind Matters

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is one of the most misunderstood medical conditions of our time. It is caused by a jolt to the head that disturbs the brain’s normal function. Not every blow to the head causes TBI, and there are degrees of injury. Most, called concussions, are mild. Effects can subside after awhile or last the rest of your life.

Falls account for almost half of TBI injuries, affecting both younger and older people, but they also can come from being struck by an object or in a motor vehicle incident. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury death for people 65 or older.

The most surprising thing about TBI is that it is a major cause of death and disability, according to statistics from the National Center for Disease Control, contributing to almost 30 percent of all injury deaths. It’s a serious problem. But as Scott and Lori learned shortly after Scott’s diagnoses, there is a stigma about even discussing the topic of brain injury. “No one talks about traumatic brain injuries,” says Scott.

It’s Personal

Scott and Lori’s life changed dramatically after the diagnosis. Equal partners in life and work, they had those titles suddenly changed to patient and caregiver, which originally left Lori scrambling to keep up with the changes.

Takeda developed what he calls the Shiny Object Syndrome. “I would just start doing something, then see something else, get distracted, and just go around and around. And I would find myself, by about three o’clock in the afternoon, finally getting back to the start of the trail.”

Some of the personality changes were subtle enough that only Lori could notice, and they tried to keep it that way. “It isn’t that he wasn’t nice before,” she says. “But he seemed to slow his roll.”

Or as Scott puts it, “I don’t have the energy to be as driven. I still think I’m well on the driven side of the whole spectrum, but not where I was.”

Personality changes are common with head injuries. “You will hear a lot, especially when you hear the football player stories, that their personalities change,” Lori says. “And usually that’s a very negative comment, but that doesn’t mean it always is. And you know, we got lucky.” Besides slowing down, Scott found it easier to memorize parts.

Lori says one of the main frustrations was not being able to share their knowledge. Beyond their families, agents, and managers, they felt they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, talk with anyone. “I would get frustrated,” she admits. “There was no one to bounce things off of.”

There was a definite downturn in their income during the first year, and they discovered ways to cover Scott’s disability at work. Since Scott had the lead in some client relationships, they would let him be the figurehead, and then Lori would take over from there. “Income needs to come in whether your brain hurts or not,” she explains.

Lori started looking into the medicinal potential of CBD, a chemical compound derived from certain cannabis plants that’s known for its medicinal potential. They became especially interested in CBD after watching the specials from CNN’s chief medical correspondent and well known neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta on cannabis’ medical potential, thinking that cannabis may help ease Scott’s symptoms.

This is an area where cannabis might be helpful. Dr. Helena Yardley, a neuroscientist, cannabis researcher, and founder of Colorado-based 6 Degrees Wellness, says there are a lot of data on the protective effects of CBD on the brain. “There’s not a lot of human data because it’s unethical to smack someone over the head to see how they fare,” she says. “But neuroprotection is one of the indications where there are the most data. There’s something there.”

Scott was skeptical. He had never been curious about or used cannabis plus, he’s allergic to smoke. Lori found Dr. Alan Shackelford, the first medical person with whom Scott felt comfortable. The first time they met, Shackelford told Scott that he thought cannabis could really help him, and he prescribed a specific strain. When Scott told Shackelford about his allergy, Scott shares, “He went, ‘Oh, I don’t want you to smoke it,’ and prescribed me a tincture.” (A cannabis tincture is an alcohol-based extract used as a form of medicine, taken typically as drops under the tongue.)

Even though he felt relief from his traumatic brain injury soon after starting the tincture, it still took Scott awhile to actually use his medical marijuana card. “I didn’t do anything for a full month,” he says. “It’s like I still couldn’t get like myself to do it.” But once he did, Lori began noticing a lessening of his symptoms. Since then, Scott has gone back to work. He says he has good and bad days, and that the couple has learned to work around his disability.

Worth Remembering

Since part of their goal as filmmakers has been to show real things that happen in people’s lives, they decided to make Remembering Us, a dramatic film not a documentary based around their experience to raise awareness about the difficulties in dealing with traumatic brain injuries and, to a lesser degree, to let people know about the possibilities of cannabis as medicine.

Neither believe cannabis is a cure or magic potion, but both think it needs to be there as a tool for those who want it. “We’re not here to promote cannabis, but it’s an option if you’re struggling and not getting relief.”

They have finished a 30-minute version of Remembering Us that portrays a man who slips on ice, and the effects the injury has on him and his relationships with his wife, family, friends, and colleagues. It’s a gripping, emotional ride, one that many of the couple’s friends didn’t know was about them until they read the script or saw the film.

They are entering the half-hour version in film festivals around the country in hopes that someone will see the possibilities and turn it into a full-length picture. “Like a lot of storytellers, we turn our pain into art,” Scott says. “There’s a shame and stigma that sits around brain injuries and cannabis and forces people into the shadows. We kind of touch on the fact that people fear what they can’t see.”

Scott and Lori want Remembering Us (trailer available on Vimeo) to help everyone better understand traumatic brain injury as well as reinforce the fact that cannabis is being used by Americans of all backgrounds and persuasions, not just the stereotypical stoners you see in many films and television series. “We started saying that this is our chance to start the conversation,” Scott says. “It’s being used by regular family people. That is the reality.”