TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

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.

Aaron Avila (survivor)

Avila, Aaron SurvivorFive years ago, at age 47, I had a major stroke. I had been the type of guy who could do about anything he set his mind to. Cutting down an 80-foot tree…no problem! Designing a rain harvesting system…no problem! Building a 100,000-gallon water storage tank…no problem! Running and owning my own companies (National Storage Tank and Rain Harvesting Solutions, Inc.) for over twelve years…done! Then the course of my life changed forever. I was doing the day-to-day grind. I truly believe that there was only one thing that could stop me dead in my tracks – my stroke and near-death experience. This event in my life forced me to fully re-evaluate all the things that I, like most everyone, took for granted – life itself, walking, talking, feeling one with my body, family, friends, etc.

I truly believe that the stroke has given me a SECOND CHANCE. I would come to believe Avila, Aaron 2wholeheartedly that this was a type of gift. Yes, this stroke is the hardest thing I would ever face. But, I was alive! I was given a gift that the majority of people on this planet don’t have – the chance to live two lives in this one. I was given a second chance to learn not to take it all for granted. In the beginning, part of me was angry and suicidal. I felt ripped off, but what I have learned since my stroke makes it all worth it. I should have a big sign on my forehead – “Under Major Reconstruction.” I would have to say, and I know with all my heart, that if it were not for my incredible family and friends anthis_body_is_under_going_major_re_construction_tshirt-p235029087676528180yenb_400d their support, I’d be in a much different place. Tears of thankfulness run down my face. Go stroke survivors!

WE’RE NOT VICTIMS; WE’RE SURVIVORS!

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!

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On the Air: Brain Injury Radio
“Another Fork in the Road”
with Lisabeth Mackall, Caregiver, Therapist, Author

presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1When Lisabeth Mackall opened her front door at 2:30am on January 2, 2012, it changed her life forever. She learned that her husband, Police Officer Frank Mackall, had been in a serious motor vehicle accident while on duty, and had been airlifted to a hospital. When Lisabeth opened her front door, she unknowingly entered the world of brain injury. She had to follow “Another Fork in the Road.” Lisabeth will share how she and her family picked up the remnants, pieced them together with patience, persistence, and love, and forged a new life.

Lisabeth’s book, “27 Miles: A Tank’s Journey Home

Lisabeth’s Blog

If you missed Lisabeth’s interview on “Another Fork in the Road” on May 3, 2015, you are in luck. You can listen to the archived show here.

Click the link below to listen to Lisabeth Mackall and me.

See you “On the Air!”

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

with Lisabeth Mackall, Caregiver, Therapist, Author

You Are Invited

Lisabeth Mackall: Caregiver, Therapist, Author

putthis_on_calendar_clip_art

When Lisabeth Mackall opened her front door at 2:30am on January 2, 2012, it changed her life forever. She learned that her husband, Police Officer Frank Mackall, had been in a serious motor vehicle accident while on duty, and had been airlifted to a hospital. When Lisabeth opened her front door, she unknowingly entered the world of brain injury. She had to follow “Another Fork in the Road.” Lisabeth will share how she and her family picked up the remnants, pieced them together with patience, persistence, and love, and forged a new life.

Come One! Come ALL! 

What:        Interview with Lisabeth Mackall, caregiver to spouse, Frank Mackall

Why:        Lisabeth will take us on a harrowing journey of how her husband got a brain injury and how her family is coping with this new “normal.”Mackall, Lisabeth with Book

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, May  3rd, 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 Lisabeth Mackall.)

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.

Richard Johnson (survivor) 

la5-seQbctqTwXPuELQm7w3ZPSPra73-BTYsV2TzFrmHjlfsj8CAdfvj1wnfejETg2tSTJ4rfqDvOL9oMI_160CYm__3H82mWGki2QEVhZYz8ZLYhqad7IsWyOqj_li8nObQrOkqqzVt95fKknyW4oNd7A0fSkhYMnExzhzeBcwPbATtvzU5LI-TdmefuMcdZc7l959--u6H5aNYtBUCZmiCBS0BWSmt

Hello, I’m a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor. In October 2003, I was cleaning the gutters on my house. The ladder slipped, and down I went, hitting my head on a concrete slab. I was admitted to HCMC (Hennepin County Medical Center), and I spent the first month there. I was placed into a medically induced coma and had a craniotomy, one session in the hyperbaric chamber, multiple MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and/or CAT (CT, computerized tomography) scans, and a tracheotomy. A feeding tube was inserted. And, I was given a protective helmet.

During the second month, I was sent to Bethesda Hospital to help me “wake up” from my coma. There I had cognitive and physical therapies.  For my third month, I was transferred to Regions Hospital. I continued with speech, physical, and occupational therapies on a daily basis (two sessions a day, 45 minutes each).  In January 2004, I was released from the hospital and was able to return home. In February 2004, I went back to HCMC, where they placed my bone back onto my skull (and I was able to throw away my helmet). During January through September, I had daily outpatient sessions for speech and occupational therapies. In October 2004, I was able to start working again full-time at my “pre-injury” job.

My main “post injury” side effects are aphasia and a short-term memory issue. To “heal” my ongoing aphasia, to help other survivors (and their families), and also to inform the general public about brain injuries, I am a co-facilitator for a brain injury support-group in the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center and a member of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Speaker Bureau. To help me recover from my short-term memory issue, I bought myself a mandolin.  I didn’t just buy it to play some tunes, but to remember the notes, chords, and lyrics for those songs hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and month-to-month. To me, playing my mandolin is self-help therapy and perhaps the best idea I’ve had after my injury.

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! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

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

Anonymous (caregiver)…I almost don’t want to post this because so many spouses of TBI survivors are hurting and are facing separation or divorce, but maybe someone needs to hear it. My guy is making travel and anniversary plans. He is remembering to say, “I love you” I_love_you_by_Pambaand “Thank you.” That is such a huge step! Emotions have been very hard for him. It is difficult for him to think of how others feel. I am so blessed that this progress means so much. It may seem small to those who think of TBI as ventilators and the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), but for those of us living the long-term path to building a new normal, this is huge. I am also learning to find my new normal. I am learning to become a better person. I am learning to take a deep breath before I react, to give him room to explain, and to invite him to communicate. I am learning to give him all the cues he needs not to go into an angry self-defense mode when I need to talk about something he doesn’t want to hear. I am learning to give him safe options out instead of making him feel backed into a corner. He is meeting me half way. He is trying to hold on to those cues and to “push pause” on his response. It has been a long road, but this week I see progress. I will give part of the credit to my own personal rehab program. As a military family, we owned a home at our last duty station. When he had to leave the Army due to his TBI, we were mid-remodel. He is alone at our old house, working on finishing the work THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelson the house. Well not completely alone – he is with the family mutt. I worked with the dog, and he is a real anchor for my hubby. The dog gets noodgey when hubby’s sugar is down, restless and pacing when it is up. (The dog woke up my hubby when his sugar dropped at night.) The dog responds to my guy’s moods and anger. My husband is able to talk about the dog being skittish.progress We can talk about emotional balance in that context. He can’t yet talk about himself, but the dog is becoming his personal barometer. I know that there will be rages and shoving again. I know that he may leave us in his pain. I know that there will be days when I wonder if I should have left. I know there will be days when I want to go. I know that he may make bad choices about money. I will maintain my own bank account and resources in case I need it. I will make sure my kids and I feel as safe as we can. I will make sure that I can care for my beloved and our kids. Today – I SEE PROGRESS! Talking about all of this helps me daily as I learn to make the best of this TBI life.

 

Jeremy Dorr (survivor)…Sometimes I go for a walk in my neighborhood. It doesn’t do anything, but I can clip-art-walking-199243walk and think about things and have “me” time. gg65255707My brain is always on and seems to be working at 500% (LOL). The walk helps my brain shut off so I can sleep. I hope this can help someone out. Even if the world walks away from you, you can build back better. Staying positive has helped me, even though at times it’s hard.Dave Villarreal Award 11156302_452286041605770_1808858156142049527_n

 

Dave Villarreal  (survivor)…I received an award for 100 hours of volunteer service to the Veteran’s Administration.

 

YOU Did It!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Kristin Russo

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Russo, Kristin December 2014 After

Kristin Russo – Post-TBI Dec. 2014

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

Kristin Russo

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

Annandale, Virginia, USA

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

July 22, 2013 – I was 28.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My TBI was caused by a collision with a tractor-trailer. Read about it. “Kristin Russo accident.”

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

It was realized about 2-3 days into my stay in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

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

I have no memory of the accident, the month in the hospital, and even the first 5-6 months at home under 24-hour care.

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

Yes. My coma was induced.

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 occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapies for a month as an inpatient. I had therapy as an outpatient until May 2014 when all but physical therapy ended. I’m still in physical therapy for physical injuries.

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

I have moderate to severe diminished visual memory, mild to moderate decreased attention span, diminished executive function, and mildly diminished speech and language function. Those are the significant findings as per my neurological addendum. It was also noted that I am likely to have significant permanent neurocognitive dysfunction due to the TBI. This problem with the physical brain injury is further complicated due the fact that I have significant PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I have a college degree, yet I had to learn how to do things as simple as double-digit subtraction. My entire education has been wiped away. Since I graduated with honors, it was easy to get accepted to Liberty University. But, I can’t retain information anymore, so I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to try and learn everything all over again. My neurologist has diagnosed me with ADD (attention deficit disorder) due to the TBI. I’m not allowed to use anything hot without supervision, etc.

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

Some things are better because I now have an excuse for being directionally challenged or for when I mess up (haha). ;-) Things are worse because I am dependent and I HATE IT! (I am an independent girl.) I was such an intelligent woman. I was still paying off my degree when the accident happened. Not being able to use ANY of the knowledge really made me unhappy. Not being able to work has been horrible because that is all I have ever known. I have been working since the day I turned 14. (My first day of work was on my 14th birthday). I worked at the same place until I graduated high school and went to college. I hate that I can no longer drive. I miss being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. :( I live about eighty miles from where I grew up, so it’s not often that someone comes to visit me. The accident caused me to lose my family because my own father was stealing my pain pills for his sick addiction. I’ve lost some of my friends because I’m a totally different person personality-wise. I’m 100% honest, and I have dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. The girl in the accident died. She wasn’t the best wife. (I’d give more details, but those things are better kept between husband and wife. ;-) ) But, that’s why my accident happened, and I know it. God was showing me what was in front of me, and the same, for my husband. God was bringing us closer together, and that’s exactly what my accident did. So, that’s what I do like about the TBI. Another thing that I like about the TBI is that I don’t remember the accident or being in the hospital or even the 5-6 months after it. I also don’t remember my surgeries up to July. I remember the ones on Black Friday and December 1st. But, yeah, the girl I was before was a girl who drank a lot and went to clubs and acted like she was a single 21-year-old female. Since I’m not her anymore, I’ve lost a couple friends who were just like that girl. I don’t need those girls anyway!

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

I miss being able to drink alcohol sometimes – at least to drink socially. I miss being able to drive. I miss being able to do what I want when I want. I miss working. What I do now is to constantly go to appointments – it’s nuts! I am still in physical therapy – several months post accident. I just got yet another MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging). I had surgery number eight on January 27th. I began speech therapy in January since insurance started paying again. I miss sleeping like a normal person. I miss being skinny. (I was a size 2 when I was married on July 7th, 2011, and I’m not that size anymore.) I hate being on so many damn medications. I loathe people’s not understanding invisible disabilities. I also have CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that was caused by the accident. It’s a chronic pain disease that has no cure.

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

I enjoy the fact that the Trauma Survivors Network Next Steps program taught me to find the positive in everything, so I do. When my legs hurt, I remind myself that I shouldn’t have any, so I thank God for letting me keep my legs! When I have my chronic headaches, I thank God for not making the swelling be so bad that I need to have surgery!

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I don’t like that I sleep every other day sometimes. I dislike the chronic headaches and the fact that a headache is invisible. I don’t like having memory issues and being confused so often.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

God

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

My husband gets rather upset when I forget that I’m not supposed to use a curling iron, and I fail to remember to turn it off. I no longer speak to my parents – my father makes fun of my TBI and acts like I’m making it up. (A*^#@~! ! I guess that’s what drugs do to ya.)

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

I don’t really have a social life anymore. Things are so much louder now. People annoy me more. :( I have NO filter. I just want to be home with my husband or alone with my dogs. I haven’t watched TV since the accident.

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

My husband is my main caregiver.

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

I’ll be running a photography business. :) And, I better be a mommy to more than just my fur babies!

Russo, Kristin Before Accident

Kristin Russo Pre-TBI

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 urge people to try to make a positive out of everything. Depression is so ugly. I wish that I never hit that stage. Having a positive attitude has helped me SOOO much.

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

I give back now by volunteering at the hospital where I did my outpatient therapy. I got one of my dogs certified as a therapy dog, and we visit patients. I also visit patients in the trauma unit. My visits help others, and they also help me!

 

Thank you, Kristin, 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.)

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 Kristin.)

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.

 

Week of April 26, 2015

040915 David 1st Ride Catrike 700

David
4/27/15            2 hrs 5 min      13.6 mi
4/28/15            2 hrs 7 min      17.1 mi
4/29/15            2 hrs                19.5 mi
4/30/15            2 hrs 30 min    21.2 mi
5/2/15              2 hrs 25 min    21.2 mi

week’s total                                               92.6 mi
previous cumulative mileage                   110.9 mi
new cumulative mileage for David           203.5 mi

Donna

Donna

4/27/15              50 min                5.2 mi
4/28/15              47 min                5.2 mi
4/30/15              50 min                5.3 mi
5/2/15                43 min                5.0 mi

week’s total                                                  20.7 mi
previous cumulative mileage                        25.0 mi
new cumulative mileage for Donna              45.7 mi

combined miles for Donna and David        248.2 mi
miles to reach 5390* miles                        5141.8 mi

*done by both Catherine Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman
in their cross-country rides

Tag Cloud

Hope for Trauma

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Lisabeth Mackall

Finding our way back

My Broken Brain

Putting the pieces back together again after encephalitis

The Visger Group

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

melissacronin.com

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Inside Danielle's mind

Striving for serenity...

In An Instant Your Life Can Change Forever

Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts Blog

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