TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

SPEAK OUT! – Jayson Phillips

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Phillips, Jayson Survivor 082414

Jayson Phillips

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

Jayson Phillips

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

Houston, Texas, USA

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

2009   I was 17.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My head was run over by a car.

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

Immediately

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

A bone flap was removed, and I had brain surgery.

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

Yes. About a month

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)?

Yes. I had physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

How long were you in rehab?

I was in and out of therapy, but altogether I had therapy over a year.

Phillips, Jayson Survivor Hospital 082414

Jayson Phillips – Miraclekid – lucky to be alive

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

Left-side weakness, irritation, depression, left neglect

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

I have a new perspective on life, and I don’t take anything for granted anymore.

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

Skateboarding

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

My new attitude and the support of friends

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

My physical limitations

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by personal-development videos, music, poetry, and writing.

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

Yes. It has strengthened my relationship with my mom and dad.

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

No

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

My mother and grandmother are my main caregivers. Yes, I understand what they do.

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

I hope to have a large business. I also hope to contribute my time towards helping TBI survivors and people in general better their lives. In ten years, I expect to be retired, to be living on my own, and to be going to different places to speak about TBI awareness.

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.

No matter what challenges or adversities you may come across, keep a useful and positive attitude. Always find the positives in any situation.

Jayson Phillips

Jayson Phillips

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

Attitude is everything. It can be the difference between a healthy, speedy recovery and a stressful, slow recovery.

 

Thank you, Jayson, 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 Jayson.)

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.

TBI Tales: One Usable Hand

Living With One Usable Hand

by

Dorothy Mah Poh Choo

(presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski)

 

As a hemiplegic, I have one usable hand. It’s definitely very challenging. To carry on with life, I had to find new ways of doing things. I lost my job when I could not return to work full-time. Though I live with my children, I am home alone during the day when they go to work.

I learnt that the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Creative thinking can find new solutions to old ways. Besides finding new ways, I also use many aids, the most useful of which is a portable trolley. With it, I can carry things around. I found a one-touch can opener, which does the job with just one press of a button.th-1

The fingers of my remaining hand can do much more than before. I can hang socks on a peg carousel with one hand. Using a peg system I invented, I hang towels and small items on an airer. (It was most frustrating trying to hang undies before that.) I still do most indoor house chores. Washing dishes is very noisy, but I do my best.

My best achievement is putting the bread clip back onto the bread bag, after an occupational therapist I asked in rehab told me it couldn’t be done with one hand. It is important to acknowledge all achievements, no matter how small.

Cutting Board with NailsI cut meat and vegetables using a special cutting board with nails in one corner to hold the item. I butter bread using a special board with raised sides that hold the bread in place. I open jars by pressing down on an anti-slip mat, which stops the jar from moving. There are mats everywhere. There is one where I eat so the plate doesn’t move around. I cook using a heavier pan so it doesn’t turn round and round from stir-frying. I use the gas burner closest to the wall so that the pan doesn’t fall off the stove onto me.

Doing things with one hand is a matter of breaking the activity down into individual steps. For example, to put a cup into the cupboard, I open the cupboard door, get the cup, then put it into the cupboard. Before I had only one good hand, I would just take the cup, open the door with one hand, and put the cup in with the other hand.207041972

Of course, some results won’t be as good as they would be using two hands. I have accepted that and learnt to laugh at myself. Folding clothes takes double the time now and results in a messy pile. Wrapping presents is a sloppy task. After I lost my left arm, I wrapped presents for the last time at the end of that year. I handed the “wrapped” presents to my friends saying, “Sorry – not my best effort. It’s a one-handed job”. LOL! Life is better when you are laughing.

Doing things with only one hand takes a lot of patience and determination. I keep trying until I do it. I’m also very safety conscious. If I can work out in my mind to do something safely, I will do it. Waiting for someone else to do something can be quite frustrating. (I don’t like sitting on leather chairs – it’s cold. I had an old doona on the electric recliner I sleep in. It kept slipping off, and it annoyed me terribly. I had the brilliant idea to sew one end so it would slip over the chair like a cover. I asked my daughter to do it, but she was very busy, and the days stretched on. I got up one morning, helpplanned everything in my head, took some measurements, threaded the needle using a needle-threader, and off I went. The work took four hours, but I did it. My daughter didn’t notice it for weeks, until I pointed out that she didn’t need to do it for me anymore. She was impressed.)

Most things are possible if you put your mind to it. If something is truly hard, ask for help. It is not worth it to get hurt.

I have learnt that success is just one more try after failure. Life is worth living. Don’t give up.

 

Thank you, Dorothy, for sharing your story in TBI Tales. I hope that your experience will offer inspiration to my readers.

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

 

If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

 

As I say after each post:

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On the Air – Brain Injury Radio

Julie Kintz sits in for Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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

 images-1

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.

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