TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Shane Coco & Gary Rankin

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It 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.

Coco, Shane Survivor 080415Shane Coco (survivor)
It is a good day to be alive – a good day to be grateful. I think that somewhere, deep inside, my gratitude helps keep me alive. I’ve suffered and felt like dying. I looked at my situation and saw I have no friends. My gratitude may have kept me alive. I can drive; I have a job; I have a family who loves me; I have a dog; and I have fellow associates who told me today they love working with me. I can walk, talk, and drive!

I remember when I couldn’t talk right and when I couldn’t walk. I thought that if I could walk, everything else would be a breeze. Well, it wasn’t. I had other obstacles. Then driving was my next huge thing. I thought that, when I learned how to drive, all the ladies and friends would come to me. I would have it made, man. Well, I can drive, but I’m kind of still working on the “ladies and friends” thing. Then I needed a job. I’ve got a job now. How grateful was I then – and still am!
It certainly is a good day to be grateful. It’s a good day to be alive. This injury may have happened to me for me to see all that I have – not to moan and groan about what I wish I had.Shane Coco 2

A while ago, I took yoga, but I quit because I did something embarrassing during the session. (Use your imagination, and you probably got it right.) The instructor always used to say to the group, “Simply be.” This really helped me relax. But nowadays, I may be thinking differently. I want to move forward. I don’t want to stop or move backwards. Progress. I want to become. I want to transform. I like to say, “Simply become.” Get stronger. Get wiser. Don’t waste time. I don’t have to be perfect. I just can’t stay in the same spot for too long. I’ve got to keep on moving. It works for me. “Simply become.”

Gary Rankin (survivor)

10276317_10152345727842604_1934167730_nOn October 27, 2001, I took my friend’s motorcycle for a joyride. It was as if I were there speeding away, and then it was as if my eyes were closed all the way. So to speak, I never came back that day. I arose like a phoenix on the eighteenth day. Later I was told that I had been in a coma. I fractured my lower vertebrae and had a closed-head injury that led to a traumatic brain injury. I had to relearn to walk and to use the left side of my body. (I tied my right arm to my body to force me to use my left.) My autonomic system is broken and two years of memory of anything from before the accident has been deleted. I don’t remember 9/11 happening. I’m just going to say that it’s weird not remembering a major event in our history. I feel like an alien.Rankin, Gary Survivor 080415

Western medicine wrote me off. My walking again was not on the table. I kept telling the doctors they were wrong. My mom read me Emeral’s New New Orleans cookbook while I was in a coma. My dad looked down at me and said, “You beat this, and I’ll help you become anything you want.” OK, game on.

Rankin, Gary Survivor 11328938_10153306807537604_1330621617_n Rankin, Gary Survivor 11263812_10153306807512604_40752643_nI was enrolled into culinary school before I walked out of the hospital. I earned three culinary degrees from the Florida Culinary Institute. I have been traveling around the country as a chef, pastry-chef, and baker for the past nine years. I had my debut appearance on the Food Network. I crushed everything Western medicine put in front of me. I did it without their drugs and their help, and I did it on my time-line. I left the hospital eighteen days after I woke up. I have not seen a doctor since I left the hospital in 2001.

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

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Pamela Sveum & Sherri Diehl Ward

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It 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.

Svenum, Pamela Caregiver to son, Robby 080315Pamela Sveum (mother and caregiver for her son, Robby)

Seventeen years ago, my son, Robby, (then age 15) suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accidental gunshot wound to the head with a .357. He was moving his boss’ gun from the seat Robby Sveum 1of the truck to the dashboard when the gun went off. He was given a 0% chance of survival. Medically speaking, Robby should not have survived. Medically speaking, everything pointed to zero at the very best. Robby’s survival and recovery are nothing less than a miracle! Robby Sveum 4The picture on left is Robby dancing at his best friend’s wedding a few years ago. He was the best man. The one on the right is Robby getting his dog, Holly, about five years ago. May 27, 2015, is the date on which I acknowledge feeling very blessed – very thankful for Robby’s presence in our lives and his continuing progress. I feel a bit of sadness for the things we lost along the way – there were casualties. My message: Keep the faith, never give up hope, and always be willing to continue to be surprised with what life has in store for you. With Robby, life is always full of surprises.

Sherri Diehl Ward (caregiver)

Ward, Sheri Diehl Caregiver 080315Our story in a nutshell: My husband, Bill, was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident on July 11, 2009. He was thrown from his bike and lay in a ravine in the woods – about twenty feet from the road. When Bill wrecked and was thrown, the bike stayed upright and continued down the road about 300 feet. The police got to the scene and saw the bike with minimal damage. They assumed that the rider dumped it and left. Bill lay in the woods until a police officer found him. The police were actually ready to leave the scene, when Officer Hurd from the Winslow Township Police Department saw something in the road and went to see if it was part of the accident scene. When he approached, he heard Bill’s moans coming from the woods. At that point, everyone sprung into action, so to speak, as Bill’s time was quickly running out. The helicopter was called in. En route to the hospital, Bill actually coded. He was gone for four minutes. Ward, Sheri Diehl CAregiver 080315 2When Bill arrived at the hospital, I was not far behind him, as I had been notified by my brother-in-law, a police officer from our town. (Once the police ran the plates on the bike and realized who the victim was, they contacted my brother-in-law first, as they knew him.) He picked me up, and we quickly made our way to the hospital, not knowing if Bill was dead or alive at that point.

When I first saw Bill, he was completely unrecognizable. He had broken every bone in his face, broken his jaw in three places, fractured his neck, broken eight ribs, and, worst of all (the reason I am writing this), received a traumatic brain injury. It was very touch and go for weeks. Bill spent three of them in a coma. He had to have complete facial reconstructive surgery, and he had his jaw wired for twelve weeks. Bill came home about a month and a half after the accident, complete with a peg tube (a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach) and a trach (tracheotomy – an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea to allow direct access to a breathing tube).

Ward, Sherri Diehl Husband with BI 080315Although Bill healed physically, I don’t think he will ever be fixable emotionally and mentally. We now struggle daily with bouts of amnesia, sporadic memory loss, cognitive impairment, confusion, disorientation, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, nightmares, flashbacks, and early signs of dementia, among many other things. Bill’s severe and drastic mood swings and rage are a part of daily living as well. We try to make the best of the situation at hand, and I am forever grateful to still have him here, but living with a TBI survivor is not a life I would have chosen – for obvious reasons. I can only hope that one day we will all have peace.

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 Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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Gel Helps Stem Cells Heal the Brain

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Newsboy thIn previous posts, I have highlighted new research that shows the amazing potential of stem cells to repair organs, including the brain. Exciting new research at the University of Toronto is bringing stem cell therapy closer to reality. Dr. Molly Shoichet and her colleagues showed that a gel, which they originally designed to support stem cells and help them grow, also enhances the ability of stem cells to heal an organ after transplantation. The gel then dissolves and is absorbed by the body. The experiment was conducted in mice (which is a good first model for humans). Specifically Dr. Shoichet’s team transplanted stem cell-gel complexes into the brains of mice with stroke. Within weeks, the treated mice began to improve their motor skills. (Full story)

[This post also directs the reader to several NewsBits.]

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As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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

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“Surprise!”

by

Miki Mashburn-Bailey

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

072715 Mashburn-Bailey Miki CaregiverA couple of years after my husband’s accident, I bought flowers for myself and gave them to him to “surprise” me with. I told him that I was going to walk out of the room and come back in and that he needed to say, “Surprise!” and hand them to me.

My husband thought I was weird. Pre TBI, I really couldn’t have cared less about the flowers, but my husband lost his knack for surprising me every once in a while with kisses and hugs, knick-knacks and treats, or flowers. I needed him to see that it was important to me.

I went out of the room and came back in. My husband yelled so loud that it scared my son in the other room. He was very sarcastic, and he gave me the flowers without a smile. But, I smiled and told him, “Thank you!” I said that I loved the flowers.8iAEyGerT

I placed the flowers on the table. Every time I knew that my husband would notice, I would deliberately stop, smell them, and smile. He would always say, “You really like those flowers.” I would correct him and say, “I just like that they’re from you.” My husband became convinced that he bought those flowers for me.

Thus began my husband’s new “routine.” He has done things like this ever since. He likes the idea that he can make me smile. He used to all the time before his TBI, but he doesn’t have it in him post TBI. The thought that my husband can do it had to be placed back into his mind.

(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 neelyf@aol.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK 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 neelyf@aol.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

Gina Morin (caregiver for her ex-husband)

11698961_10200691336041375_5502012322701595071_oMy ex-husband’s accident was August 8, 2014. I am celebrating his first time to go out to eat at a restaurant. My prayer was answered that he could put the silverware to his mouth. Even picking up his food with his fork was amazing! He has come so far. 11141217_10200691335281356_1974107260734323069_nThe goal now is for us to get comfortable when transferring him from car to wheelchair and vice versa, so that his time in the nursing home is limited. It’s a taste of freedom for him. At some point, I want to bring him to my house for a weekend visit. But, he is two hours away, and he gets carsick. I’m going to talk to the doctor about that. For now, it has to be short rides in the car.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

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.

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Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Hayley Nichols

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Hayley Nichols Survivor 0727151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Hayley Nichols

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

I live in Valparaiso, Indiana, USA. My accident occurred in Lafayette, Indiana.

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

I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on November 16, 2014. I am 23 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Some background: I went home to Lafayette, Indiana, for my brother’s birthday dinner with my family on November 16. My brother does motocross as a hobby, and I had never been on a dirt bike before. So, that day I went for my first ride. We made it down the road, and then we wrecked. An eyewitness of our accident said that we were not speeding at all, but the bike started to teeter back and forth. My brother was able to dodge a mailbox. The bike then hit a drainpipe head in a ditch. The eyewitness said that the force propelled my brother and me ten to fifteen feet into the air. We were so high that we were in the tree branches before we landed on the ground.

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

As a result of our possible head traumas, my brother and I were rushed to two different hospitals. My mom told me that it was horrible to have us separated but that one hospital wouldn’t be able to handle us if we both needed emergency surgery for head trauma.

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

I did not have any emergency surgery the day of the accident. I did have surgery to repair my nose. I hit my face so hard that my nose was completely flattened.

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

I was not in a coma, but my mom told me I could only respond by moaning whenever a doctor or nurse performed a sternum rub. My mom told me that, after a few days went by, I was able to wiggle my toes and fingers. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for almost a week.

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 did rehab as an inpatient for about four weeks. I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies Monday through Friday. Once released from rehab, I had to continue therapy as an outpatient.

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

When we had our accident, I landed on the left side of my body, so my left knee is always painful. I am able to walk on my own, and I am even driving. But, I only drive down the road – I haven’t been on the interstate yet. When I was first released from rehab, I had trouble with depth perception. I still have trouble with balance. One of the biggest problems that have resulted from my TBI would be dealing with personality changes. (I become upset easily. I could be crying my eyes out over something someone said to me, then five minutes later, be completely happy.)

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

My life has changed tremendously. A good thing that has resulted from the accident is that my family is much closer. The worst thing that has happened to me is that my entire memory of my life has been erased. I am now able to remember things if someone triggers the memory by a song or by giving pieces of the event. It is honestly scary not to recognize people whom I have known my whole life and who have known me. It is frustrating not to recognize people from school. I hate not remembering things that have occurred in my own life. The only way for me to learn about my life is through pictures. Sometimes, I feel like a stranger in my own life.

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

I miss being able to run outside. I love to do activities outside – like playing kickball with my family or walking my dog. I also used to be a cheerleader and a ballroom dancer. I don’t see myself being able to do those things anytime soon.

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

I appreciate life. I do not allow little things to bother me or make me upset. I pay attention to the tone I use when I say things and to the words I choose. I have had people in a joking manner say, “Your accident was months ago. Isn’t that memory-excuse getting old?” They say it in a joking way, and, in the context of the situation, it was not a direct attack. But, it was hurtful. My TBI is a silent disorder, just like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), Alzheimer’s, depression, and so many others. I never want to offend anyone, so I have learned to be compassionate of anyone with any disorder.

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

Memory loss is the worst outcome of my TBI. Some days, I look through pictures and feel like I’m looking at a stranger – and the girl in the picture is me. It’s an odd feeling to have everyone around you know more about you than you do.

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

Honestly, what works for me is to have a positive attitude and to be able to rise above the negative things people say. I am also helped by reading blogs online to learn how other TBI survivors live everyday life. My family has been my motivation to keep going.

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

I live with my boyfriend, Travis, now that my family has allowed me to return to Valparaiso. He is my primary caregiver. He does everything for me. He is my whole world. He drives me to my doctors’ appointments, to therapy, and to school, and he even helps me with my homework. I would not be able to go back to school or even try to get back to a normal life without him. My mother and I are very close, and my accident brought us even closer. She helps me calm down when I get upset and frustrated. She is a great listener, even when I call to tell her the same story for the third time in the same day. My mother is a hospice nurse. Her background and experience working with patients who need her to do everything have helped her to help me. My mother has a positive attitude, even when I say I can’t do something. She says, “Not yet, but you can do….” She will then list all the things that I have learned to do again.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?Screenshot_2015-04-29-22-30-34-1-1

My friends are wonderful. But, I would love for them not to be so protective of me nor to change plans because they think that I can’t do something. I want to try and be normal like them. If I can’t do it, I just think, “I know they mean well. I think they need more time to get used to it all.”

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

My main caregiver is my boyfriend. I live with him, so he helps me get to school and to doctors’ appointments. Travis is my everything. He has made possible going back to living my old life. My mom is also my caregiver. She helps me with all of my doctors’ appointments and life-decisions. She and Travis work as a team to help me.

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

My future plans began with graduating in May from Purdue North Central with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Ten years from now, I plan to attend veterinary school.

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.

Don’t become overwhelmed with your current state. Don’t be afraid of the future. No doctor has all the answers, so don’t become discouraged if he or she can’t understand your TBI. No TBI is the same. Have faith.

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

Talk to those around you. Education about TBI to those who don’t understand will help spread the knowledge. Also, not being afraid to explain your TBI will help those around you understand and help you.

(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 Hayley Nichols.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 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.


On the Air

“Another Fork in the Road” Menu of Radio Shows

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1

Finding the show you are looking for is easy. Just scroll through the list of shows below. There are interviews with brain injury survivors and caregivers. There are shows with therapists and authors. Discussions of pertinent topics relating to brain injury are also included. I hope you find something that interests you.

If there is a topic that you would like me to address on my show, please send me an email at neelyf@aol.com. In the subject area, please write “On the Air” Topic.

                                                  See you “On the Air”

August 2, 2015

Panel: Melissa Cronin and Juliet Madsen – Topic: Learning Accommodations After Brain Injury

July 19, 2015

Guest: Tatiana Puckett, young mother of three boys and caregiver for her husband, Joshua

July 5, 2015

Panel: Catherine Brubaker, Julie Kintz, and Juliet Madsen – Topic: All Disabilities Are Not Visible

June 21, 2015

Guest: Daniel Mollino, survivor and cross-country bicyclist

June 7, 2015

Guest: Lisa Dryer, survivor of brain injury, multiple sclerosis, lupus, epilepsy, and Sjögren’s syndrome

May 17, 2015

Guest: Juliet Madsen, survivor, troop, quilter, author

May 3, 2015

Guest: Lisabeth Mackall, caregiver, therapist, author

April 19, 2015

Guest: Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, caregiver and military spouse

April 11, 2015

Interview of Donna O’Donnell Figurski by Shannon Marie of the Brain Injury Radio Network

March 15, 2015

Guests: Joshua Puckett, survivor, and his wife, Tatiana

March 1, 2015

Guest: Deb Angus, survivor and author

February 15, 2015

Guests: Jamie and Crystal Fairles, survivors

February 1, 2015

Guests: Bob Calvert (radio host for US troops), Jeannette Davidson-Mayer (spouse of a brain-injured troop), and Juliet Madsen (brain-injured troop)

January 18, 2015 

Guest: Rosemary Rawlins, caregiver for her husband and author

January 4, 2015

Guest: Allan Bateman – Preventive and Rehabilitative Therapist

December 21, 2014

Guests: Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, TBI survivor, and Dan Zimmerman, stroke survivor Reflections on Triking Across America

December 7, 2014

Guest: Christian Jungersen, author of You Disappear

November 30, 2014

Co-host: Julie Kintz – Holiday Stressors

November 16, 2014

Guest: Melissa Cronin, survivor – author of Invisible Bruise in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries

November 2, 2014

Guest: Dr. David Figurski, survivor – Segment 4 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

October 5, 2014

Guest: Catherine (Cat) Brubaker, survivor – Triking Across America – diagonally

September 21, 2014

Segment 3 and Epilogue of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

September 7, 2014

Segment 2 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

August 31, 2014

Co-host: Julie Kintz – Life Changes After TBI

August 4, 2014

Segment 1 of Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story

July 9, 2014

Interview of Donna O’Donnell Figurski by Kim Jefferson Justus of the Brain Injury Radio Network

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 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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