Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Joshua Puckett
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)
Los Angeles, California, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
April 1, 2013 I was 31 years old.
4. How did your TBI occur?
At 2:00 am, I went outside to have a cigarette to calm a Tourette’s attack. Apparently I offended a random drunk person because he then beat what should have been the last drop of life out of me.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
My wife got up wondering where I was. I was face down in the grass with the sprinklers on.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was in an induced coma for a few days; I had my periorbita (the area around the eye socket) replaced; and I spent a lot of time at Rancho Los Amigos, a rehab center here.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a medically induced coma for three days.
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 therapy and speech therapy.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
My balance is bad – I use a cane now for that. I can’t seem to eat no matter how hungry I am. I can exhibit confusion or anger. I have the memory of a fish!
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I changed every aspect of my life. Only very recently have I started seeing the gifts that came with my TBI. I have become so much more understanding to the struggles of all people. At the same time, I also feel more isolated and alone than ever.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I miss everything and, simultaneously, nothing. I was and am now an even more complex person. But, eating without my TBI would be like getting a tooth pulled.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I love that my TBI gave me the clarity to know what is actually important in life.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
Food is still the biggest culprit.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
I did a lot of talking in the mirror. Also I became an alcoholic. Once I stopped that stupid show, things really started to open up for me.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
At first, it was very tough. Two of my sons are severely autistic, and I was their full-time caregiver and nurse. Raising them was no longer in my hands. But recently, I have gotten insight about them that I wouldn’t have had before, and we are closer than ever. My marriage is trying. We are getting to a place where we are ready to part ways. Too much is different now – as much as we do not want it to be.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I was as social a butterfly as you could be. Now people and crowds terrify me. I was a night owl, which sucks now because I am afraid of the night too. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) simply sucks.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am able to care for myself, but I require some help – specifically with memory, eating, emotional swings, and childcare.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
Honestly? I would like to change the world, helping everyone who wants or needs it.
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.
Best hint? Be honest with yourself. Other people are important, but the one you have to spend your life talking to all the time is you. I also choose not to judge myself anymore.
I judged and hated myself for so long because of my TBI. But at the same time, I wanted to be there and to understand myself. Other people can’t. And that is good. I don’t want others to feel like this. But I can be honest with myself.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
TBI sucks. But let’s be honest, was your brain a well oiled machine before? This is a hurdle, but it can also be an opportunity to become the strongest, the happiest, and the most potential-fulfilling self you can – in ways that you can only do now with this wisdom, albeit possibly with a cane and some other assistance. :)
To learn more about Joshua Puckett, a very talented musician and artist, check out his You Tube videos. Here are some to get you started.
Thank you, Joshua, 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 Joshua.)