TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Jenn Von Hatten

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718On Valentine’s Day 2011, I went to work only for a meeting. (I was a nurse at a long-term mental health facility.) Freezing rain struck during the meeting. The treacherous road condition was responsible for my car’s being T-boned at highway speed. That’s how I acquired my traumatic brain injury. The paramedics found me “clinically dead.” Obviously, I was alive. The pressure on my brain was monitored to see if I needed to have surgery. Also my liver was lacerated. Fortunately I did not need surgery for either. I was put into a medically induced coma because, in addition to my brain injury, I fractured a rib and three vertebrae. I was in a coma for over seven weeks. I managed to develop pneumonia and had to have a tracheotomy. I was discharged on July 14th. I Jenn Von Hatten Emma, & Hannasurvived to see my oldest children graduate from high school. Emma graduated in June 2013, and Liam, in 2014.

Spastic muscles affected my speeJenn Von Hatten & Liamch, so I went to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My balance was severely affected. I used to be in a wheelchair, due to the fractured vertebrae. I since “graduated” to a walker, then to a quad cane, and eventually to a mini quad cane. Now I’m a fall risk. My life has definitely changed. I am no longer able to work as a nurse. I cannot say if my life is better or worse. All I can say with certainty is that my life is different.  I enjoy my time with Hanna, my 7-year-old daughter and youngest child. (I have joint custody. I remind myself that not many relationships survive a TBI.) I now have a cat, Spunkster, which I got from the local SPCA. When Hanna’s not with me, I hang out with Spunkster. I miss most my being able to work as a nurse. But as much as I would like to a work as a nurse, I know I would not be safe – physically (because I am a fall risk) as well as mentally Jenn Von Hatten & Hanna(in terms of remembering if I gave a client his or her medication or treatments). I had graduated as a nurse only seven months before my TBI. I had wanted to be a nurse for over fifteen years. At least I can say I turned that dream into reality! I sometimes miss being able to drive. My driver’s license has not been revoked, but my rehabilitation doctor says I still cannot drive, as my reflexes are not up to snuff. My plan is to help others that are TBI survivors or caregivers. I can provide info and support.

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Outrageous: A Tackle Football League for Young Girls

by

David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4There is growing public concern, backed by scientific evidence, about the violence of football and the possibility of a life-altering brain injury, especially in children. Former professional players have spoken out about the risks inherent to the game of football. Evidence now exists that a concussion can be dangerous (1, 2), especially to the developing brain of a young player. Even the repetitive sub-concussive hits can be harmful. Legendary quarterback Joe Namath, who had a recent scare with his cognitive functioning, said that if he knew then what is known now, he wouldn’t have played. A talented rookie linebacker on the San Francisco 49ers has quit the game after one season, saying “…I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”

Utah organizers are excited to establish the first tackle football league for girls. A video of a nine-year-old girl, Sam Gordon – now twelve, playing tackle football in a boys’ league confirms that she is talented and shows what many of us have always believed – that girls can be as skilled as boys. The Utah Girls Tackle Football League has teams of fifth- and sixth-grade girls. To enhance its visibility, the league advertises Sam Gordon as a marquee player.

This is dangerous and a step in the wrong direction. At a time when some adults are calling for the abolishment of children’s football leagues, Utah has established a tackle football league for girls. It’s one thing when players are old enough to understand the risks and decide to play, but it’s another thing when children trust that their parents will protect them. I’m sure that every parent who allows a child to play football is well-meaning, but those parents are likely to be unaware of the risks. We have a lot of work to do to spread awareness about football’s risk of brain injury.

There is no doubt that the games in this new league will be exciting. But, how many girls will have their lives dramatically changed by a brain injury?

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road”

with

Juliet Madsen, TBI Survivor, US Troop, Quilter, Author

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Juliet Madsen UniformJuliet Madsen has served in the US Army since she was 17-years old. She was involved in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. While serving her country, Juliet suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury, at least one stroke, and numerous other medical issues, which changed her life #7 10610754_10203491518354714_4796635925244510505_nforever. On “Another Fork in the Road,” Juliet talked about how she copes with her new life and how she and her family make this new life work for them. I hope you won’t miss her show.

You can learn more about Juliet and read her book at Veterans Book Project. Scroll down the page to find Juliet’s book.

You can also see her collections of more than 50 quilts at Stroke of Luck Quilting.

Here are two of my favorites.

6Madsen092011

If you missed her interview on “Another Fork in the Road” on May 17th, you are in luck. You can listen to the archived show here.

Click the link below to listen to Juliet Madsen and me.

See you “On the Air!”

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio – Another Fork in the Road”

with Juliet Madsen – TBI Survivor, US Troop, Quilter, Author

 You Are Invited

Juliet Madsen – US Troop, TBI Survivor, Quilter, and Author

putthis_on_calendar_clip_art

Juliet Madsen has served in the US Army since she was 17-years old. She was involved in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. While serving her country, Juliet suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and at least one stroke, which changed her life forever.

Come One! Come ALL! 

What:        Interview with Juliet Madsen, US Troop, TBI Survivor, Wife, Mother, Quilter, and Author

Why:        Juliet will share her story of living with brain injury and how she is helping the brain-injured community.

#3 1454864_10200875275550279_968652467_n

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, May  17th, 2015

Time:         5:00p PT (6:00p MT, 7:00p CT, and 8:00p ET) 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 USA

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.)

(Photo compliments of Juliet Madsen.)

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Juliet Madsen

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

#4 Juliet Madsen 21. What is your name? (last name optional)

Juliet Madsen

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

Parker, Colorado, USA     juliet@strokeofluckquilting.com

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

I had three strokes (2004, 2009, and 2010), and I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was 33 in 2004.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injuries are complex: heat strokes complicated by a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2004. I was being moved to a secondary location because of a heat injury, when there was a series of explosions on the highway. So, I have the illustrious honor of having both a brain injury as a result of heat injury and then a traumatic brain injury. This creates a problem for the doctors because I do not fall into any one category. I have very complicated neurological issues.

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

My family and the people I was stationed with in Iraq realized there was a problem. I was not making much sense when I wrote patient notes and when I wrote letters home. Then my speech was becoming garbled. I exhibited a halting speech pattern, in which I had trouble “spitting out” words. I also had tremors, which made even the simplest tasks difficult. #3 1454864_10200875275550279_968652467_n Manual dexterity issues, massive migraines, and balance problems caused my unit to put me on night shift and to adjust how and where I was living in Iraq. Then I was being transferred north where I could work in a more controlled environment when we were involved in a series of vehicle explosions. After that event, I was sitting with a few of the guys at the chow hall, and I said that “I didn’t feel well.” I suffered a seizure in the chow hall, and that started my slow trip home.

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

I had emergency care to stabilize me in Iraq, then in a C-130 flying from Iraq to Kuwait, then again from Kuwait to Germany, and again to Walter Reed, and then to Ft. Bragg.  Although I know I had care to treat seizures and stroke, I only have very few bits and pieces of my memory from that time.

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

No, I was not.

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 have had rehab both as an inpatient and as an outpatient. I am in and out of occupational, speech, physical, and recreational therapies even today. I have gone in and out of these therapies, as my TBI symptoms change over the years. I have often described my TBI as causing “rolling blackouts.” The polytrauma team that treats me has been really good about getting me in to see the appropriate team.

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

That is such a loaded question…. Initially I had left-sided weakness from the stroke, difficulty talking, balance issues, drop foot, short-term memory loss, major time perception problems, migraines all the time, and ringing in my ears. I was sound-sensitive. I have constant neck and head pain. I have hearing and vision changes (which the doctors tell me are a direct result of the TBI). I absolutely have personality changes. I was someone who always got along with people, worked as a paramedic, and did research. Now I have no concentration, I am angry with everyone, I am short with people, I cry easily, and I feel very defeated. Even with all of the incredible accomplishments in my life, I am disappointed in the perceived failures in my day-to-day life. I have had times since my brain injury when it is like I forgot who I was or what I have always stood for, and I hurt the ones who have always cared for me. I have major learning disabilities. I can’t do anything with numbers or time, and learning new information is extremely difficult – this from someone who graduated from college with honors. Concentration and accomplishing simple tasks are often very difficult.

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

My life has changed 100%, but I can’t say that it is worse because I am still here. So, that is a good thing, but it is very different. I was a paramedic in the United States Army. I was always busy working, and now I am retired. I become tired and overwhelmed far too easily. I quilt for a living, and I make quilts for programs across the country. I am on the Board of Directors of a national non-profit organization that works with programs for the families of military and veteran personnel with TBI/PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The organization provides other programs through recreational and activity-based services. This is a very different place from being a paramedic and saving lives.

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

I admit that I miss who I was before I was hurt. I miss being able to go to the store alone. I miss being able to be trusted with my own finances or being able to read a recipe and understand it the first time I read it. I had a very definite plan for my life, and my injuries changed all of those plans. I miss feeling like I really contribute to my family and to the world around me.

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

I try to enjoy simple things: butterflies, the pure joy of my dogs lying with me, my kids telling me that they love me, etc. I like learning new recipes, listening to music, or holding hands with my husband in case I can’t tomorrow. Basically, I try to enjoy this moment because I know that tomorrow isn’t promised.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I would give anything to trust my memory and my body again. But, if I could have one wish, it would be to have my memory back. I have no memory of any of my kid’s proms, their birthdays, their graduations, etc. I wish I could just remember these events for their sakes.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

#8 Juliet & Peter MadsenMy family has helped me to accept my injuries because, although we joke around, they accept me for all that has happened. I was so angry and really emotionally crushed when I first came home. The only thing that I can always count on is my family, no matter what. The only other thing that has probably helped is time.

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

My husband, Peter, and I are so lucky to have each other. After twenty-three years together, I am thankful that this injury has not torn us apart, but it came very close. A TBI is exhausting for everyone involved, and I think that the first few years are spent in emergency mode – performing triage. Then as we started to get comfortable with how things were going, my brain “kicked us” – I suffered another stroke. We had a whole new series of issues and rules to learn. Peter and the kids have been incredible at supporting me. Although it has been a really rough road, we have been through it together. We are stronger because we are always together, and that part I am thankful for.

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

Yes, I have actually lost friendships because of my TBI. I describe myself as a “golden retriever.” (I am excited to see you, but if you leave the room and come back in, I don’t know how long you were gone, but I am still really excited to see you.) It is because of this lack of the concept of time that I have lost friends. Also I wasn’t good enough at keeping in contact. I had a friend call me and tell me that I wasn’t an attentive enough friend. So now, I tell every potential friend this cautionary story. But to be honest, I don’t really try to make friends any more. Most people don’t understand me – or our family. Because of that, we are very private people. We don’t do a whole lot with others. It’s just easier that way. We would prefer to have lots of friends, but it just isn’t that easy.

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

My husband, Peter, is my main caregiver. I am so very thankful to him, in love with him, indebted to him, sorry, and every other adjective I can think of. I have moments of clarity when I see how terribly hard all of this is. It kills me that I have become a burden, and yet I am still his wife. I’d also like to say that I have had to watch my kids become my caregivers. They have taken care of me on too many occasions to count. It is incredibly hard on the entire family. They all suffer from PTSD as we go through this process. They all deserve so much more credit than they get for surviving this experience.

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

I am ten years out from my injuries, but I am light years from my initial injuries. I hope to continue my physical improvements, and I would like to recover better in terms of my learning disabilities and mental health. I would like to go back to school and get a degree in Art Therapy to help other veterans and their families with TBI and PTSD. In ten years, I would really like to be working with military families through art in my own program. I would also like to have published my own quilting book.

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.

There are so many setbacks during the recovery process. I never seem to be where I am supposed to be. But, I never stop because there are no set rules and no one is saying where you have to be. So, just keep going – never give up.

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

I think the worst thing I do to myself is to constantly beat myself up about what I could have or should have done to either prevent this or to change it now. It kills me to know where my family is and how my family has been changed forever because of all of the things that happened since 2004. I would give anything to change it, but I can’t. On good days, I can accept it and move past it, but on bad days, I can’t. It hangs over me and suffocates me. It is my wish that others out there like me hold on and cherish the life you have because no one can live it like you can.

Thank you, Juliet, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and #6 Juliet Madsen Snowinspiration to my readers.

(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.

(Photos compliments of Juliet.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the lower right corner of your screen.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

 

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Tanner Thomas

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere. The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury. On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury. The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver. If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Tanner Thomas (survivor) contributed by Molly Strieter Thomas‎ (mom and caregiver)

Thomas, Tanner Survivor 051015 Mom Molly Streiter ThomasMy six-year-old son, Tanner, had emergency brain surgery to deal with a ruptured cerebral AVM (arteriovenous malformation) on March 8th, spent two weeks in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) for his coma, was in Pediatric Care another one and a half weeks, Thomas, Tanner Survivor 051015 Molley Strieter Thomas Mom 11138613_10206751047637517_944490406653736580_nand had another two and a half weeks of inpatient rehab. It was a delight to go home! We are continuing with outpatient therapy. The doctors are amazed with his rehab. They are calling him a miracle. He has come so far – nothing is slowing this kid down. He remains so positive. He never says “no” or “I can’t.” Tanner really is an inspiration! He is AWESOME! <3

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care! Feel free to “Like” my post

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Dale Christianson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere. The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury. On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury. The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver. If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Dale Christianson (survivor) Christianson, Dale 1 050815Thirty years ago, my family was hit by a carload of drunken teens. My life slowly fell apart after that. I nearly gave up. For a long time, I thought that the guy who hit my car was the lucky one. He died in the accident, along with my stepdaughter. The only compensation that I got was $7,000. I have had a hard time holding a job or maintaining a relationship since then. My most successful relationship just ended. My fiancée of five years just gave up on me. She said it was too hard to live with me. My sisters and other family members won’t talk to me. They treat me like I don’t exist, or they wish that I didn’t. I am at another breach in my relationships, and I don’t have a job. I have anxiety and panic attacks. I take Paxil, and it helps tremendously. I understand that I’m difficult, but I haven’t given up on myself.

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care! Feel free to “Like” my post.

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