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


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Dr Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor almost ended by the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of a freezing accident in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury.

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Returning to Windsor, where he was a second year student at Windsor Schulich School of Medicine, following a visit with his family to Vaughn, Ont., Galati struck black ice and then a tree, sustaining the full impact of the accident on his side of the vehicle.

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

He suffered a severe head trauma with bleeding inside his brain, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, a severed facial nerve and multiple skull fractures.

No one knew what the prognosis was

Upon awakening from the coma, he was unable to walk or speak.

“At first I had very, very few ideas,” said Galati. “I didn’t realize the severity of my injury. No one told me there was bleeding inside my brain.

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

He believed he suffered a concussion that would require a few weeks off before returning to school.

“Meanwhile, doctors were telling my family that maybe (I) should change (my) goals. No one knew what the prognosis was.

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

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

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

Galati read voraciously, especially on stepping up rehabilitation, and doubled the amount of therapy other patients received “in the hopes of better recovery and faster return to medicine.”

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

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

Dr Matthew Galati's dream of becoming a doctor nearly ended by the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of a freezing accident in 2013 that left him with a devastating brain injury.
Dr Matthew Galati’s dream of becoming a doctor almost ended by the side of a road in the remains of a crumpled car, the result of a freezing accident 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, reorient itself and neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells.

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

And he says he’s proof that the concept works.

He started running five kilometers each morning, stimulated his mind by reviewing his medical school grades, practiced guitar for fine motor skills, and took up golf for gross motor skills.

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

He incorporated all the pillars of a healthy lifestyle into his daily routine and, after eight months, returned to medical school.

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

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

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Galati said the initiative has evolved to serve as a vehicle for outreach, education and support for brain injury patients, their families and people who simply want to adopt a healthy lifestyle, in addition to professionals from health who are interested in learning more 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 series of conferences thanks to the partnership of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Beyond Disability Network and Brain Injury Association of Windsor Essex County. Classes start at noon and are free.

September 17 Exercise: Kyle Whaley, PT Reg. (Have.)

September 24 Cognitive exercise: Heather Condello, OT Reg. (Have.)

October 1st Nutrition: Dr Mary Sco, MD, PhD

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

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

22 october 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 heal a brain)

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

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