Board Games Are Helping My Wife Recover From Her Traumatic Brain Injury

By: Jeffrey Spenner

For some people, board games are only bits of cardboard, wood or plastic. They’re just spaceship models or dungeon maps or dense rulebooks, a bit of fun after a strenuous week at the office. I know they’re more because they helped give me back my wife. After she was critically injured in a car crash, I watched her slowly, and in fits and starts, reclaim her speech, her movement, and her brain functionality with a broad diet of tabletop games.


Massive internal trauma. She has a lacerated spleen, collapsed right lung, broken clavicle. Her lower jaw is broken into three pieces. The right cheekbone is separated from the rest of her skull. . . multiple broken bones in her chest and back. . . I struggled to process and mentally catalog the laundry list of issues the medical resident was matter-of-factly relaying to me. “But we’re not really immediately concerned with any of that at the moment,” he continued. I blinked, surprised. He told me that I needed to sign a piece of paper allowing him to cut into my wife’s head. The most important and threatening thing to her, he told me, is that she has suffered what’s called a diffuse axonal injury. It’s a traumatic brain injury, it’s severe and they needed to relieve pressure now to make sure the brain damage she’d already suffered didn’t worsen.

All of this happened after I received a phone call on July 14, 2016 that changed my life. I arrived home after work to start dinner, but before I could start, my phone rang urgently. It was University of Missouri Healthcare. “There’s been a car accident,” the operator told me, “You need to get here immediately.” They could tell me no more over the phone, so, for the next two hours, I sat quietly in a friend’s truck hurtling down the highway while my world silently crashed around me.

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