Survivors SPEAK OUT! Pam Richardson
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Louisville, Kentucky, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
My brain injury happened in 2004. I was 46.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I had a colloid cyst removed. It’s a benign brain tumor located in the third ventricle of the brain. Not much is known about a colloid cyst. It is thought to be something one is born with, but symptoms occur later in life.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I had headaches and dizzy spells for years. I went to all the appropriate doctors. I was diagnosed with sinus headaches and Meniere’s disease (an inner ear disorder causing dizziness).
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was passing out and falling down. A CT scan (computerized tomography, also known as a CAT scan – computerized axial tomography) showed that the tumor was cutting off my CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) in my brain. I was urgently scheduled for removal of the tumor the next day. I had a ten-hour surgery with a craniotomy (surgical opening of the skull) for the complete removal of the tumor.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was not in a coma. However, I had no memory.
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 no rehab. After a year, I realized there had to be help for people like me, and I started getting on the computer. However, my short-term memory was terrible. I found the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky, and they changed my life! But I don’t remember. :(
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have short-term memory loss, although my memory is (thankfully) getting better all the time. I made terrible decisions. I divorced my husband and don’t remember it. When people say, “Live in the moment” – that is what I did. It is a HORRIBLE PLACE TO LIVE! I have no concept of the past to be able to reference, and I have no ability to think of the consequences of my decisions for the future. I bought cars for both of my sons. I bought clothes I would never wear. I couldn’t remember what kind of food I liked to eat … and lots more I can’t think of right now. Oh, I tried to go back to work, but I couldn’t remember what I used to do.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life is completely turned around. I was married to a physician. We would travel. We had a good time. We had a great life. I screwed everything up. I divorced him – don’t know why. I came to a realization a few years ago that I had to accept the NEW ME because that is the life I have now. No looking back. Accept where I am now. Live forward from today.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss being married. But it’s OK, and I’m still young. :)
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I like that I have the ability to relate to others about traumatic brain injury (TBI). I love to help others. I am much more “healed” than I was when I started on this journey. Of course, each year I thought I was feeling much better. What I have learned is that it is a life-long journey.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike my short-term memory issues.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
God – and my family and friends
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes, as mentioned above. Also, you really learn who your true friends are. People just don’t understand TBI.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
My social life has changed completely. When you don’t “remember” to call your friends back time after time, there is a time when they don’t call you back.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
At first, my main caregiver was my husband. But after I left, it was my sister. She still is there whenever I need her.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I don’t really know what the future holds for me. I now have grandchildren who are the love of my life. I take one day at a time.
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 survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.
I wish I would have known more about what would really happen AFTER my surgery. I was told I might have a few memory problems – but nothing like what I have experienced. Of course, I had no time to prepare, nor would I have remembered it. Nevertheless, my family would have been more educated and informed. Physicians need to be educated about brain injury!
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
YOU WILL MAKE IT! Think positive! Have a good support system! Go to support-groups. Get online to support-groups. There are resources in your state and in your community. Never, ever give up. YOU ARE WORTH IT!
(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)
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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