TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Electrical Stimulation of the Brain Improves Memory

Newsboy th

 

Neuroscientists at Northwestern University have found that electrical stimulation of the brain results in long-term improvement of memory. The researchers applied magnetic pulses to generate an electrical current (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS) at specific areas of the skull to stimulate specific neurons near the surface of the brain. They were surprised to find that, while memory circuits are complex and involve some neurons deep in the brain, stimulating the accessible neurons near the surface of the brain stimulates the entire circuit. TMS does not require surgery, and, unlike a therapeutic drug, which would affect all parts of the brain, TMS can be used to target specific areas of the brain. The neuroscientists believe that electrical current induces better communication between neurons and stimulates the neuroplasticity of the brain, but the molecular mechanism is unknown. (Full story, Video)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Come one! Come ALL!putthis_on_calendar_clip_art

(NOTE: New Day, Sunday – Same Time)

What:        “Another Fork in the Road” . . . Brain Injury Radio Network: “Prisoner Without Bars” Journey Continues (part 3)

Why:         Donna continues her story of David’s Traumatic Brain Injury and their life together after TBI.

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, September 21st, 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.)

Pedaling Into the Future – Triking Across America (diagonally)

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, a 43-year-old perky, young woman, is on the ride of her life. She is getting a second – no – third chance at life.

Catherine’s life changed in an instant in 2010, when she was assaulted. The assault resulted in a traumatic brain injury and the implantation of a heart pacemaker. A year after her first TBI, Catherine was in a head-on collision, which caused her to have a second TBI. The result of both injuries took away Catherine’s freedom. She lost her independence in the world.Cat Brubaker wheelchair pose

In an article, Catherine said, “ … I lost everything – my ability to work, drive, talk and function independently.” But what Catherine did not lose was her drive – her ambition to take back the reins of her life. But, it wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen all at once.

Catherine not only lost her independence, she also lost her partner of 14 years when they parted ways. This, along with the increasingly difficult life she now faced as the result of her disabilities, sent Catherine into a deep slump. When her mother passed, Cat almost went over the edge. She found it difficult to understand why she was here on this earth. She contemplated ending her life. To Cat, it seemed that everything had been stripped away.

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker - Triking Across America (diagonally)

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker – Triking Across America (diagonally)

It was around that time that Cat bought a recumbent trike and found that the trike allowed her the freedom to get out of her house. Because Cat has issues with balance as the result of her brain injury, it was difficult for her to walk unassisted. Also, she was not able to drive a car because of the many issues related to her TBI. Her recumbent trike gave her the independence that she so missed and so greatly desired. It made her world bigger. Cat rode her trike in the parks near her home. There she met Dan Zimmerman, a stroke survivor, on his recumbent trike – the very same model that Cat was riding (Catrike 700). (Cat said she was attracted to that trike not only for its performance, but also because of its name.) Dan and Cat began to ride together, and Dan shared his plan of pedaling his recumbent trike across America to raise awareness for stroke survivors. He also hoped to spread the word of the benefits of cycling. Cat thought this a great idea, and soon she was in training to accompany Dan.

Initially Cat rode her trike to escape the four walls that seemed to hold her prisoner, but she soon realized that she was riding for others too – for those who can’t ride and those who may follow her lead and discover the joys and freedom of the recumbent trike. But most of all, Cat rides to offer hope to her fellow traumatic brain injury survivors.

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

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

On June 29th, the pair – with their riding team of Bill and Dana Brown (owners of Sign Me Up Tours,) and David Babcock (photo-journalist, driver, and all-around “chief cook and bottle washer”) – set off from the northwestern corner of the United States at Anacortes, Washington, on their way to Key West on the tip of Florida at the southeastern part of the USA. Cat and Dan will ride a total of 5,200 miles on their ocean-to-ocean trip. They plan to finish in late November.

Check back often to see photo updates of Cat’s (and Dan’s) progress.

(Photos compliments of Cat Brubaker.)

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.

Tim Short…After four years, I started back in physical therapy to work on my balance. My condition was from a 42-foot fall from a roof on October 24, 2009. The fall led to a two-month coma, a shattered left wrist, a broken pelvis, and vision problems. I had two eye operations on my optical nerves to change a 45-degree world to one that was almost normal. After 4 ½ years, I was able to drive again. Now I volunteer at Mercy Hospital and get to help the TBI/MS/stroke people at the start of their journey. And the best part of my own long journey is now knowing Jesus is my personal savior. When I came off that roof, I knew him by words only. Now he lives in me. Though I often fail daily…I strive to do things that are pleasing to him.

DemItra Manna Dema…I can lose my temper without going into a full-blown seizure within two days or feeling a very serious migraine coming on. I still do have migraines, but they’re not as severe.

Cheri Hicks…My Itty-Bitty Giant Step is that every time I go to therapy night, I take the stairs up instead of taking the elevator. (I take the elevator to go down when I leave.) I figured it’s good practice and a good feeling of accomplishment.

Carmen Gaarder Kumm…I am visiting my parents, who live 10 hours from my house, for the second time this month. So far, I haven’t had any meltdowns. That’s my Itty-Bitty Giant Step.

Melinda Murphy…Okay, so for the very first time, I did all my own coupons and my grocery list without my wonderful mentor. I still managed to save 45%. I’m no Mandy yet, but I’m getting there. Love that my therapist is working with me to help me learn grocery shopping and meal planning and just being a huge blessing in this area. I love learning how to accomplish things on my own again and how to do them right. I love taking that load off of those who have become my caregivers as much as possible. (Love you, Manders!) And I love saving money. Win, win, win!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

SPEAK OUT! – Kyle Reynolds

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Reynolds, Kyle car1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Kyle Reynolds

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

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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

I suffered a stroke on January 21, 2003. I was 17 years old.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My stroke occurred during a varsity basketball game. (You can watch my stroke occur on my blog, FightStroke.com.)

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

They realized it almost immediately – while I was on the court. A teammate’s parent recognized the early signs of stroke by the facial droop cue.

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

I was rushed to the Emergency Room, and tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) was introduced directly into an artery, a cutting-edge procedure.

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

I was never in a coma, but I remained in the hospital for many weeks.

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 began inpatient rehab within 48 hours of my stroke. My rehab consisted of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Because of my age and being an athlete in top physical condition, I was fortunate to be able to bounce back relatively quickly. Physically, I progressed pretty well. My first steps were within a few days, but I have always struggled with occupational therapy, particularly with the use of my left hand, wrist, and fingers. Also, because of my age, I had to make a trade-off between focusing on my physical rehabilitation and focusing on my cognitive rehabilitation. After I lost all hope of still receiving a Division I college basketball scholarship, I neglected most parts of my physical rehabilitation and became depressed. Many of my friends and teammates went on to play Division I college basketball, and some went to the NBA (National Basketball Association), including my high school teammate and friend, Kris Humphries.

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

Many things changed as a result of the stroke. First, my left side was completely paralyzed. Therefore, I had to learn to do everything all over again. This included learning how to smile again so that my lips appeared symmetrical, learning how to walk again, learning how to enunciate certain vowels and consonants, and learning how to put on my clothes and tie my shoes. Unlike the case for many stroke survivors, these tasks were relatively easy compared to other domains. One of the largest initial challenges that many brain injury patients complain about is the factor of fatigue. I was constantly tired. I could have maybe an hour of stimulation – tops – before needing a nap. Eventually I learned to push the limits of my fatigue. But the next challenges were impulsivity and trouble with attention. Needless to say, I struggled cognitively. I had problems with memory, planning, executive functioning, and left-sided neglect. For these reasons, I could not drive at that time.

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

I think most people who have had a near-death experience try to find a reason for it. In my case, I have become a much happier person. Before, I was very narcissistic and self-centered. I was only concerned with my own goals. Having that taken away forces one to reevaluate Life from a different perspective. This calamity has forced me to look outside myself and hopefully be an inspiration to other people.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?Reynolds, Kyle Magazine Cover

What I missed the most about my life prior to my TBI was the ability to play basketball. I was just about to receive a Division I scholarship. Had the TBI not occurred, I would be playing professional basketball in Europe. Since my stroke in 2003, nothing has been able to replace the pleasure I once received from playing basketball.

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

The greatest satisfaction I have received since my stroke was the day I graduated from college. I guess you could say I take pleasure in proving people wrong. The doctors said I would never be able to function at that high of a level. Socially, I was impulsive and had a hard time processing social cues, but eventually I adapted.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

There isn’t one thing that I like least about having a TBI. It all sucks – from the cognitive problems to the physical and emotional ones. There’s no way around it – having a TBI sucks, but we all try to make the best of it.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

The biggest factor that has helped my personal situation with my TBI was the fact that I was young (17) when it happened. I don’t believe I will ever accept the TBI because they never knew why my carotid artery tore. I was healthy and didn’t deserve it. However, time heals all wounds. I was lucky to have some very amazing people in my life. They helped me get through some tough times.

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

Socially, I was impulsive and had a hard time processing social cues, but eventually I adapted. At the time of my injury, I was 17, and all my friends were planning for college. My neurologists said that college wasn’t a feasible goal for someone with such significant brain damage. Thus, I became depressed and socially withdrawn.

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

See question 15 for response.

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

I never had one. I had to learn to figure things out on my own.

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

I want to inspire others who have had a stroke or TBI to push the limits of their recovery. I want to raise awareness for stroke and TBI so more dollars will be allocated towards studies that facilitate recovery.

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 would say don’t trust the doctors. You ultimately decide your own fate.

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

The advice I would give to my fellow TBI survivors would be to try to find a balance between continuing your rehabilitation to improve the quality of your life and finding acceptance with your limitations. It is a fine line to walk, and your feelings may change daily.

 

Reynolds, KyleThank you, Kyle, 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 Kyle.)

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! – Charline

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Charline

Charline & Rick April 2012

 

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

Charline

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

Abilene, Texas, USA

3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you?

He (Rick) is my husband.

How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI?

52

What caused your survivor’s TBI?

The TBI was caused by an aneurysm that started to hemorrhage. Two days after the surgery to repair the aneurysm, he had a major stroke.

4. On what date did you begin care for your TBI survivor?

September 2013

Were you the main caregiver?

No

Are you now?

Yes

How old were you when you began care?

49

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

No

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI?

Yes

If so, were you able to continue working?

No. My husband and I were snowbirds at the time of the TBI. We worked on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota during the summer and at an antique store in Texas during the winter. Rick is a Minnesota native, and I am a Texan. He was flown to Minneapolis, so I was not able to continue my summer job. We came back to Texas in June 2014.

7. Did you have any help?

Yes

If so, what kind and for how long?

My two daughters and their families live here and are able to come and relieve me for a few hours a week.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in hospital, when the survivor returned home, etc.)?

Immediately

9. Was your survivor in a coma?

Yes. Rick was in a medically induced coma.

If so, what did you do at that time?

I spent every day in the Intensive Care Unit talking and reading to Rick. He had family that came daily to visit as well.

10. Did your survivor have rehab?

Yes

If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?

Rick was in a nursing home between the hospital and rehab. He had to relearn everything. He had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy when he was moved to the rehab facility.

How long was the rehab?

3 months

Where were you when this was happening?

I attended most of every therapy session and doctor visits. Rick responded better to me than to anyone else.

11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?

His memory was severely damaged. He can never be left alone. He is also incontinent. (I have him on a bathroom schedule. If I ask him if he needs to go, he always says no; but if I tell him it’s time to go, he does.) His appetite is great.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

I can’t say that my life is better or worse. I can say that it’s different.

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

I miss the freedom to be able to just “go.” My husband and I were very active. We hiked, canoed, fished, shopped, and worked. I miss my jobs and the people I worked with.

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

I enjoy the brief moments of lucidity.

15. What do you like least about TBI?

The lack of “me time.” I hit the floor running every day – taking care of his needs and taking care of all the household duties.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s TBI?

I am still learning how to accept my new life.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. I sometimes feel like a prisoner. I can’t just go shopping for groceries anymore. If I take him with me, he gets distracted and puts everything in the basket or tries to eat it before buying. I usually have to get one of my kids to come and sit with him so I can do any errands.

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

Yes. I don’t have a social life anymore.

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

I hope and pray that in ten years we will be a little more active.

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

Charline image

Charline & Rick July 2014

My advice is to stay strong. Take time to care for yourself.

 

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

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

(Photo compliments of Charline.)

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

SPEAK OUT! – Joey Buchanan

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Buchanan, Joey Injuries1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Joey Buchanan

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

Flovilla, Georgia, USA     Dekalbfd19@yahoo.com

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

Date of accident – July 18, 2012     Age at the time – 46

4. How did your TBI occur?

We were overhauling at a house fire (which means searching for hidden fire). I was standing against a wall, when a full sheet of sheetrock (4 ft. x 8 ft.) fell from a vaulted ceiling, striking me on top of the head.

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

Immediately. I was told that I fell into the wall, then onto the floor. I was asked twice if I was okay.  I don’t remember any of that.  It broke and cut my nose, and I could feel the blood running down my face.

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

Nothing major – just a routine X-ray and a cat (CT) scan

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 – cognitive therapy, emotional therapy, physical therapy, and vestibular therapy.  I am waiting on a driving exam and endocrinology testing.  I am currently in therapy.

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

I have difficulties with balance, decision-making, and reading and comprehension. I’m more emotional (crying and anxiety). I have headaches, dizziness, and tinnitus. My sorting skills and my ability to multitask (very important for a firefighter) have been affected. I experience depression, fatigue, and pains in my neck, hands, and feet. My motivation is a problem.

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

The mental and physical issues have been difficult. I went from working two fire-department jobs, homeschooling our daughter, and building a pool house to spending most of my time in bed, due to fatigue, depression, pain, and lack of motivation. My wife and daughter both say that I am much more easy-going. I tell them, “Well, yes. I am not working 120-plus hours per week.” (LOL)

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?Buchana, Joey & Fire Truck

My other family at the fire department

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

To be able (when I am able) to be home with my daughter, and the chance of starting a new chapter of my life

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

The fatigue, the lack of motivation, and the pain

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

My faith in God and the support of family and friends

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

It has been a mixed bag in my home life. Although I am home, the majority of my time is spent in bed.

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

Yes. We don’t go to concerts, and we don’t go out to eat. I try to avoid crowds. This is all due to overstimulation and anxiety.

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

My wife is my main caregiver. In some respects, I became her caregiver when she became ill in 2005.

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

I hope to recover as much as possible and to start a group that goes out and assists other first responders when they are injured and have to be home. In 10 years, I would like to be able to travel.

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 want people to know that this injury will take much longer to recover from than they could ever imagine.

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

Try to keep emotions and stimulation to a minimum in the beginning – it will help in the long run. Find a support group – they have valuable knowledge.  Doctors are not always as educated on TBI as they need to be. The sooner you can accept the “new normal,” the easier it will be. Don’t ever give up or stop trying. Find an advocate who will help you in your journey.Buchanan, Joey

 

Thank you, Joey, 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 Joey.)

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.

 

 

 

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