TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

On the Air – Brain Injury Radio

Julie Kintz sits in for Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Mark Ittleman, MS CCC-SLP, speech & language pathologist

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Due to a prior engagement, I was unable to host my show, Another Fork in the Road on the Brain Injury Radio Network on October 19, 2014. Fortunately for me and all my listeners, Julie Kintz of Quantum Leap stepped into her host shoes and interviewed a very interesting guest. Mark Ittleman, a speech and language pathologist, spoke of the many difficulties brain-injured survivors encounter after their injury. I will be back on November 2nd with Dr. David Figurski, (my spouse) who will give his perspective of his life as he conquers traumatic brain injury.

Mark explained his philosophy of therapy (it should be doable, interesting, and enjoyable), his methods (analysis, repetition, and modeling), and his strong desire to involve the caregiver (by his or her presence in the sessions, by learning from him, and by his writing simple-to-understand books – he’s working on one now). Mark cautioned survivors to get more than one prognosis because a prognosis is only a doctor’s opinion and because survivors are often more capable than people realize. Mark understands the power of the ability to communicate and suggested that survivors – even years after their trauma – can benefit from having a speech therapist.

If you missed the show, don’t fret. You can always listen to the archived show. I’ve included the link below.

Please SHARE!

I hope you’ll tune in to my show, Another Fork in the Road, which airs the 1st and 3rd Sunday evenings of every month. The show starts at 5:00p Pacific Time and runs for 90 minutes. On the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 5:00p Pacific Time, Julie Kintz hosts Quantum Leap. When there is a fifth Sunday in a month, Julie and I will team up to cohost a show called Another Quantum Leap in the Road.

See you “On the Air!”

(Click the link below to listen to the show.)

Julie Kintz interviews Mark Ittleman M.S. CCC/SLP. Mark will address speech difficulties after brain injury in both children and adults.  

YOU ARE INVITED!

 

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artJulie Kintz of “Quantum Leap” will be substituting for Donna O’Donnell Figurski of “Another Fork in the Road” on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

Julie’s guest will be Senior Speech Language Pathologist-Author Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP. Mark Ittleman will discuss speaking difficulties and tell how loved ones can help improve the speech of their survivor at home in a fun and easy way.

Come One! Come ALL!

(NOTE: New Day, Sunday – Same Time)

What:        Host, Julie Kintz of “Quantum Leap” substitutes for “Another Fork in the Road” host, Donna O’Donnell Figurski.

Why:         Hear Mark A. Ittleman, M.S., CCC/SLP discuss speaking difficulties.

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Time:         5:00p PDT (6:00p MDT, 7:00p CDT, and 8:00p EDT) 90 minute show

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network.

Call In:    424-243-9540

Call In:     855-473-3711 toll free in USA

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside US

or SKYPE

If you miss the show, but would like to still hear the interview, you can access the archive on On Demand listening. The archived show will be available after the show both on the Brain Injury Radio Network site and on my blog in “On the Air.”

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

 

Here are this week’s Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

David Figurski…I assembled Donna’s new office chair. It came as 12 pieces with 13 screws. The Allen screws made it possible to use my non-ataxic left hand. Because the instructions were written with two good hands in mind, I sometimes had to devise my own way of assembling the parts. It took me twice as long, but I felt good about doing it.

Jodi Mannon…I was hit and thrown down stairs in January by my ex-roommate. I don’t remember a lot in the past 8 1/2 months. Yesterday I became friends with a lot of people who also have a TBI. I spoke with one on Facebook Messenger for a couple of hours. We chatted for a moment today, and he is going to call me tonight. I was shocked! He made me truly happy for once because we were able to talk the way we did and share our lives. I haven’t done that with anyone because I’ve never even thought about it before. I just had a lot of issues in dealing with getting better. It’s the greatest feeling to have people who have been through the same thing understand me!! Not that my parents and friends haven’t been nice, but they just don’t understand the things I go through. My new friends do. I feel so blessed to have them in my life, and I look forward to keeping these new friendships for the rest of my life!!!

Carmen Gaarder Kumm…I passed the test that allows me to keep my job!!! I needed a 70, and I got 73.7 – not much, but I PASSED! Better yet, I found my car after going out a different door than the one I went in. (Also, I was parked on the street in a college city that I’ve only been to once before.) I walked around for a half an hour looking for it – but I was still within 2 hours! LOL!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

SPEAK OUT! – David Villarreal

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

David Villarreal

David Villarreal

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

David Villarreal

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Temple, Texas, USA

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

1st and 2nd – 2012 (age 50), 3rd – 2013 (age 51), and 4th – 2014 (age 52)

4. How did your TBI occur?

I’m not sure…I really don’t remember.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

It was realized when I hit the floor and did the best I could do to call for help.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

A coworker called 9-1-1. I was rushed to the Emergency Room and given some kind of med that broke up the clot (note: possibly tissue plasminogen activator, tPA) and saved my life.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

Yes. I had physical therapy and occupational therapy for 6 months.

It wasn’t until my 3rd stroke that I finally got help. It was from the Central Texas VA (Veteran’s Administration) in Temple, Texas. They have made everything possible for me. I credit all my progress to them.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

Wow…I have problems with my speech, vision, balance, strength, and control of my bodily functions. I could not eat or drink. I still do not have use of my right side. I am right-handed, so that is a problem. I have to learn to do everything again with my left hand.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Oh my goodness! My life has changed so much. I was a studio musician before all of this happened. I’ve heard many of the CDs that I am on. I went from playing several instruments to not being able to play any. That led to some very, very deep depression.

11.What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?

My musician life

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?Villarreal, David Handcycle

That I now race a handcycle

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

That I get tired too fast

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I got up one day and remembered I was a Marine. I decided to do what Marines do best, and that is save others. So now, I ride this handcycle with the one hand that works to let other stroke survivors know we can still have a good, normal life.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Well, after my first stroke, my wife of 10 months filed for divorce three days after I had it. I met my current wife a year later – after my 3rd stroke. She was my therapist. We got married about a month ago.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

For the longest time, I would not leave my home. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. Now I go out more often, but I’m not really at ease with it.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I have been taking care of myself from the start. Now I am having a very hard time allowing my wife to do anything for me. She wants to help me so badly, but I have a hard time letting go.

18. What are your future plans?

I really don’t know.

    What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to be helping stroke survivors.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

Ok, it happened (the stroke). Get over it…Cry…Get mad…OK, now that is out of the way…Get to work, and work harder than you have ever worked. It will be worth it if you can do it. Life is so good when you get through it all.

20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

DON’T GIVE UP. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO. Don’t let anyone tell you different. I have been told I am supposed to be dead…I am supposed to be paralyzed from my neck down. BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM NOT!!!!!!!!

David Villarreal - 1st of 4 strokes (Not expected to survive) He DID!

David Villarreal – 1st of 4 strokes (Not expected to survive.) He DID!

 

Thank you, David, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

(Photos compliments of David.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

SPEAK OUT! – Melissa Cronin

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Melissa Cronin Head Shot 2

Melissa Cronin

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Melissa Cronin

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

South Burlington, Vermont, USA

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

Age 36

4. How did your TBI occur?

In 2003, when visiting the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, an elderly driver confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the market. I was thrown forward, and my head hit the pavement. The force of the impact resulted in a ruptured spleen and multiple fractures, including my pelvis.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

Fourteen months after the accident, when I returned to part-time work as a public health nurse, I experienced increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and multitasking. My boss threatened to fire me, so I resigned and attempted part-time work in a pediatrician’s office (bad idea for someone with a TBI), but I struggled to keep up in a fast-paced environment. In May 2006, I finally saw a neuropsychiatrist for testing, and the results proved to be consistent with a TBI.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I did not have emergency treatment for a TBI. The CT (computerized tomography, also known as “CAT”) scans showed no bleeding (typical for a “mild” TBI). I did have emergency surgery, though, to remove my ruptured spleen.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I had physical and occupational therapy at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to help regain muscle mass and strength after being hospitalized for nearly one month. I would be in a wheelchair for four months while my fractures healed, so rehab taught me ways to navigate through my day.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

Fatigue, difficulty multitasking and concentrating, occasional irritability, depression; and difficulty processing verbal, auditory, and visual information

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life is both better and worse. It’s better because my TBI, and other injuries, opened up a path for me to writing. And my husband, whom I met only three weeks prior to the accident, has been my strongest support. It’s worse because I eventually had to give up my 20-year nursing career.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?

Running and skiing, and the babies I cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit where I worked before my injury

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?

Writing, playing the Irish fiddle, going for walks, and, of course, my husband’s unwavering support

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I’m much slower at getting things done. I often sleep in until 9:30 or 10:00 am, and I feel as if I’ve wasted much of the day. Also, I often fail to understand concepts others seem to grasp so easily.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by the neuropsychiatrist who diagnosed me with a TBI and by the cognitive therapist who treated me. Also, my therapist – he continually reminds me that my brain has been rewired.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Definitely my home life has been affected. I rely on my husband to do much of the “heavy” lifting, like cooking, grocery shopping, and driving, because I am easily distracted.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Absolutely. I do not socialize as much as I did before my injury because it doesn’t take much for me to become fatigued.

9781611592399_p0_v3_s260x420

“Invisible Bruise” Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. June 2014

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I am my own main caregiver, though my husband does much of the cooking. I do not know what it takes to be a caregiver, though my father is living with Alzheimer’s, and I help out as much as I can.

18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

Writing and traveling

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

I wish I understood much earlier the truth about TBIs before I re-entered the workplace and had to face the threat of being fired. For example, I wish someone had warned me that I might have actually suffered a TBI, and that the initial presentation of milder injuries does not mean the consequences are mild.

20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Persevere. Try not to compare yourself to non-brain injured individuals – you’ll only get frustrated. Pay attention to what your body and brain are telling you, and give yourself permission to take naps. Exercise your brain, in moderation, by doing crossword puzzles or learning a new skill. Whatever you accomplish, even if it’s getting out of bed by 7:00 am, is an accomplishment.

Melissa is the author of “Invisible Bruise,” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Melissa playing fiddle

Melissa Cronin with her fiddle

To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website/blog at Melissa Cronin.

 

Thank you, Melissa, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

(Photos compliments of Melissa.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

Amazing Potential of Stem Cells to Repair the Brain

Brain th-2My NewsBits are often about advances in stem cell research (1, 2, 3, 4). There is good reason – the recent advances in our understanding of stem cells make them a key component in efforts to heal the brain. This video shows the potential of stem cell-based therapy.

Siddharthan Chandran

Dr. Siddharthan Chandran on TED Talk

For years, medical students have been taught incorrectly that the brain cannot repair itself. Recent exciting research on stem cells has definitely put that “dogma” to rest. In fact, the rapid pace of discoveries about the brain indicates that the future may be closer than you think. The brain actually does repair itself, just not enough. The repair the brain does do uses a natural reservoir of stem cells (pluripotent cells that have the potential to become any cell). Recent research has shown that we will be able add more stem cells to boost the natural repair of the brain and restore lost functions, even functions usually considered to be lost forever. In the video, Dr. Siddharthan Chandran hypothesizes that the added stem cells help repair the brain, not by acting themselves to do the repairs, but by activating more of the brain’s own stem cells.

 

As I say after each post:

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

On the Air – Brain Injury Radio

Interview with Catherine (Cat) Brubaker

Triking Across America – diagonally

 

images-1In my interview of Catherine (“Cat”) Brubaker, Cat tells the story of her life before her brain injury, her two TBIs, and her recent 5200-mile trip across the US (diagonally) on a recumbent trike.

Cat came from a humble and religious family. As a child, she loved sports and the outdoors. Her parents sacrificed so that she could go to college, where she earned a B.S. degree in Psychology. That education has been immensely valuable to Cat, especially now that she has a brain injury. It was “probably the best education I have ever received from any institution.” Cat then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in 2007, with a perfect 4.0 average (all As). Her father passed away two years earlier, and Cat knew he would’ve been proud.

From Anacortes, Washington to Key West, Florida (5,200 miles)

In her mid-30s, Cat had made a great life for herself. She had a good job with lots of responsibility; she had a long-term relationship; and she was enjoying the independence of her life. Then she acquired her first TBI from an assault. She had to learn everything again. Cat had many deficits from her brain injury, including problems with balance. She suffered from Post-Concussive Syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When Cat left the hospital a year later, she became involved in a head-on collision and received another TBI. For a second time, she had to relearn everything from scratch. Her long-term relationship ended, and she desperately missed her independence and freedom.  When her mother died unexpectedly, Cat hit bottom.

Meet Cat’s Grizzly Bear

Then Cat discovered the recumbent trike and regained some of her independence. She later met Dan Zimmerman, a stroke survivor, while he was riding his recumbent trike. They stopped and talked, and he told her of his plan to ride across the country. Cat decided immediately that she wanted to do it too. After much preparation, the trip is happening. Cat has been greatly moved by the outpouring of love and generosity. She wishes that everyone could experience so much love at least once. Cat discusses some details of her trip so far, including one time in Montana when she was alone and encountered a grizzly bear. Cat’s discussion will mesmerize you.

Ride, Cat, RIDE!

 

If you missed the show, don’t fret. You can always listen to the archived show. I’ve included the link below.

Please SHARE!

I hope you’ll tune in to my show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs the 1st and 3rd Sunday evenings of every month. The show starts at 5:00p Pacific Time and runs for 90 minutes. On the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 5:00p Pacific Time, Julie Kintz hosts “Quantum Leap.” When there is a fifth Sunday in a month, Julie and I will team up to cohost a show called “Another Quantum Leap in the Road.”

See you “On the Air!”

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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