TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Read All About It!

Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski – author

Donna & David with ARC of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

 

My memoir, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, is not only a story of David’s and my struggles after his traumatic brain injury, but it is also a love story. Though my memoir addresses a dire topic, it is peppered with comedic situations. They say laughter is the best medicine, and again, they are right.

Prisoners without Bars is a heart-wrenching memoir that will make you laugh, cry, and G-A-S-P. I promise!

 

Boy Laughing

 

Girl Crying girl-crying-clipart-34

Girl Gasping 2

It’s not a beach read, but it reads like one. It’s fast! It’s easy! It’s fascineasy. I mean fascinating.

What Readers are Saying!

Jackie said – “A beautiful and touching story.”

Anonymous Amazon Customer said – “I loved this book. almost couldn’t put it down.

jlgwriter said – “I found the story powerful and compelling.

Todd & Kim said – “This is such an inspirational story of survival! The book is a very easy read and informative as well as inspiring!!”

Judy said – “Donna O’Donnell Figurski tells her story of grace, love, frustration, anger, disappointment, strength, joy, and above all hope.”

Marge said – “I read it in one fell swoop… I guess the word that would describe your book, your life, and who you are is SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOIUS.”

Anonymous said – “This book pulled me in immediately and didn’t let me go until the end! ”

Helen said – “Could not put this book down. Written for easy reading. It was like having a conversation with a friend.” “I finished it in one day with some teary moments along with some chuckles. A must read!!”

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Stay Safe and Healthy!

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT: Author, Abby Maslin

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski – author

Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

 

Caregiver, Abby Maslin – author of “Love You Hard”

 

 

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

Abby Maslin

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

Washington, DC, USA

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

My husband, TC, is the TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor. He was 29 at the time of the assault that caused his injury.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

I became my husband’s full-time caregiver on August 18, 2012. I had just celebrated my 30th birthday.

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

I had a 21-month-old son, named Jack, whom I was also caring for at the time.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?

I was employed as a fourth-grade teacher. TC’s injury occurred the weekend before school started. I was not able to return to work for a year.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

We had family members who lived nearby and who offered intermittent help. My parents were both ill, however, and unable to help in any large capacity.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?

Immediately. It began as I was tasked with advocating for TC’s medical care.

9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?

Yes. TC was in a deep coma for about four days, but he took more than two weeks to fully come out of it.

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Yes. TC received all the therapies: speech, occupational, and physical. He received occupational and physical therapies for about one year. He received speech for more than two years.

Love You Hard by Abby Maslin

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

TC had severe aphasia (struggles with both expressive and receptive language). He had physical weakness on one side of his body and needed to relearn how to walk. He continues to have limited use of his right hand.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

It’s really impossible to compare. My life since becoming a caregiver is far more complex and difficult. It’s required a lot of emotional growth and healing to let go of the life I had and the relationship I once shared with my spouse. This new life, however, is far richer in purpose and gratitude than it was before. I have a clearer sense of who I am, what I’m capable of, and how I want to spend my time on earth.

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

I miss the sense of safety I once felt. I miss the easy conversation my husband and I once shared. (His aphasia makes communication much more effortful.)

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

I enjoy the sense of gratitude I live with daily. I can identify and reflect on my blessings with clarity. It’s a wonderful thing to appreciate life as it’s happening.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

The unpredictability. As a caregiver, I find that it’s difficult to align one’s expectations to the recovery of a loved one, as everything is always in flux and changing.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?

What’s helped me is the recognition that suffering is universal. My family and I were never exempt from life’s challenges and normalizing that experience of hardship has helped me make peace with its existence.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Absolutely. While my husband’s personality is mostly unchanged, there are subtle changes that have required us to relearn each other as people. It has shifted the dynamics of responsibility and roles in the household.

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

Yes, at first. But, we were fortunate to have many friends who stuck out the recovery process with us and with whom we still socialize. We are not as social as before, but we also have two young children these days.

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

Praying for continued good health. TC has wonderful healthy habits, but we can’t control the aging process. If all goes well, in ten years, we’ll still be working and living at home with a 14-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son at college!

Caregiver, Abby Maslin – author of “Love You Hard”

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

Be forgiving of yourself and your own process of grief. It cannot be rushed. The hand you’ve been dealt is a terribly unfair one, and it is OK to acknowledge the gravity of that fact. Life with brain injury requires persistence, patience, and a lot of hope, but life can be as beautiful and as rich as before.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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Kid Books – Just for Fun
reviewed by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

written by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

My rating 5 of 5 stars

 

I loved this book. Flashing lights, ringing bells, and playful shouts are common occurrences in most elementary classrooms, but they can often be a challenge for children with issues of sensory overload. Find out how Clover Kitty solves her problem and how her new friend, Oliver, helps.

Donna O’Donnell Figurski
author – “Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale”

View all my reviews

Kid Books – Just for Fun

reviewed by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski


 

“While We Can’t Hug”

written by Eoin McLaughlin
illustrated by Polly Dunbar

My rating 5 of 5 stars

 

While We Can’t Hug” is a sweet book that children will want to hear again and again. Parents, will enjoy reading it over and over, too. I know I would. We all like to hug our family and friends, but what can you do when you can’t hug? Ask Tortoise and Hedgehog.

Donna O’Donnell Figurski
author – Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

Kid Books – Just for Fun
reviewed by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Little PeaLittle Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Little Pea” is a simple story with a powerful punch. Kids will love the twist and will want to hear this book again and again.

Donna O’Donnell Figurski
author – Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

View all my reviews

COVID-19: Love in the Time of a Pandemic

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

Donna and I recently celebrated 51 years of marriage.  We chose the beautiful desert scenery around the White Tank Mountains near our home in Arizona.  We returned to the place that Donna proposed to me last year as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

This year, our anniversary celebration was very different.  We are in the middle of a global pandemic of a new coronavirus.  To slow the spread of this highly contagious virus, most people wear masks, practice social-distancing, and self-quarantine.  (For us, except for monthly food pick-up runs, we have been home over 160 days.)

Desert near the White Tank Mountains

The effect of the pandemic has been horrific and devastating for society, most notably for health-care personnel, blue-collar workers, teachers and school administrators, and middle- and lower-class families, who are struggling with paying bills, having enough food, and eviction.

Donna & David Figurski Wedding Anniversary #51

Globally, there have been over 22.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and over 795,000 people have died. The U.S. has over 5.5 million cases and over 175,000 deaths. Scientists and physicians around the world are racing to understand the virus and its disease.  A viable vaccine is months away.

David & Donna Figurski – so happy together

Everyone is trying to cope as best as he or she can. On a personal level, Donna and I are fortunate to deeply love one another and to have each other in the midst of such chaos.

Love is worth celebrating wherever and whenever you can.

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Nolan McDonnell

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury – Nolan McDonnell

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

Nolan McDonnell

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

San Jose, California, USA     Nolan@CoachNolan.com

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

My traumatic brain injury occurred on April 23, 2017, at the age of 31.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was the victim of a robbery. I was held at gunpoint and then shot in the head. My brain injury is bilateral, as the bullet went through both sides of my brain.

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

I was found in my car, which was riddled with bullet holes. I had an entrance wound in my skull from the bullet.

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

I had seven blood transfusions, a craniotomy, and maybe some other things.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?physical-activity-clipart-10

Yes – fifteen 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 have or had speech, occupational, physical, stretch, recreational, massage, and craniosacral therapies and acupuncture. It has been two and a half years now, and I put in eight hours a day, five days a week.

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

I was a paraplegic – I could not move from the neck down. I worked hard to overcome this, however. I still suffer from extreme spasticity, muscle imbalance, and minimal range of motion on the left side of my body, as well as in my legs.

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

My life is better after my traumatic brain injury. Before the injury, I did not know how short, valuable, and fragile life is.

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

I miss skateboarding, making new friends at school, the freedom to get up and do anything I wanted at any given time, athletics, not having a caregiver, living alone, and having guests come over.

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

I like my perspective on and my valuing of both life and people. Life is so valuable to me now – more meaningful and beautiful.

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

I love everything about my brain injury. Life is more important to me now.

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

No

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

Yes. We had to make everything wheelchair-accessible, and someone always needs to be with me. Also, with my injury, I can’t get up and go make myself a sandwich or go to the store and get something that I want. Somebody needs to do those things for me. I am a lot more limited in that aspect, but it’s not a big deal if I plan ahead.

The biggest aspect about this question is addressing the invisible injury. People look at me and see that I’m strong, and they expect that, at any moment, I can just get up and start walking, hiking, or going on dates.

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

Not really for me. I have always been a very social person, and my wheelchair is a great conversation starter! People come up all the time and ask me what happened. I am always making new friends.

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

My mother

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

(not answered)

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.

This is a tough question because no two injuries are the same, but I will share my input and what worked for me to get my legs strong again.

Learning how to use my legs has been especially difficult. My parents bought an assist-bar at Home Depot and mounted it to the wall, a little below chest height. I can use my wheelchair to wheel up to the bar and practice standing up, do squats, stand up, and let go and learn how to balance.

Another great thing that I would love to share is to go to your local community college and check out adaptive PE (physical education) classes. The community colleges by my house have adaptive PE – they have standing frames and parallel bars, and all of the equipment and workout-machines are wheelchair-accessible. Adaptive PE programs usually have water classes as well.

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

Nolan McDonnell – Survivor of Brain Injury

I would suggest that other brain injury survivors take initiative and demonstrate that they want to help themselves because that will encourage support from other people. Also, always continue doing exercises and stretching. Try to increase your range of motion, and workout constantly. Fitness creates a mind-body connection and promotes new neurological pathways. Additionally, if you take care of yourself physically, you tend to eat better – and proper nutrition is very important for a healthy brain.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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

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Will an Early Vaccine for COVID-19 Be Safe?

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

 

David Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

There is intense pressure from this Administration for any good news that might bolster its re-election chances. The government’s own FDA (Food and Drug Administration) might shorten the three required clinical trials that are key to proving the safety and efficacy of any vaccine before it’s approved for use by the public.

There is good reason to be concerned that government officials from this Administration might approve short-cuts to well-established scientific requirements because they want to speed things up. Both the FDA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), two government agencies I have always trusted, have already bowed to political pressure from this Administration. The FDA approved hydroxychloroquine use for COVID-19 and later rescinded its approval when the drug was found to be ineffective against COVID-19 and to cause some dangerous side-effects in some people. The CDC, after feeling pressure from the Administration, revamped its back-to-school guidelines.

twiv-300x225

Dr. Vincent Racaniello – Columbia University virologist

Drs. Vincent Racaniello (virologist, Columbia U., host of the TWiV <This Week in Virology> podcasts), Brianne Barker (immunologist, Drew U.), and Rich Condit (retired virologist, Professor Emeritus, U. of Florida) discuss this issue in the TWiV podcast #631 of June 25, 2020. I urge you to listen to minutes 4:00-9:00. These three scientists talk about the importance of impartial and uncorrupted science in driving vaccine development and approval.

Also, an article about this issue can be found in the July 29, 2020, issue of HuffPost.

VaccineA legitimate way for the large Phase III clinical trial to end early is when the benefit is obvious. For example, if a vaccine candidate were given to 20,000 people and a placebo were given to another 20,000 people, the efficacy of the vaccine would be obvious (and statistically sound) if several hundred people in the placebo group became sick, while no person in the vaccine group became sick. Such an obvious result is exceedingly rare, and so, since it normally takes about eight months to do a Phase III clinical trial, if all goes well, we probably won’t have a confidence-inspiring vaccine until 2021.

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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

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Dr. Anthony Fauci – an interview by Drs. Vincent Racaniello and Rich Condit, virologists

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

If you believe in science and facts, this 36-minute podcast will be a treat and essential listening. It was recorded on July 16, 2020, and posted on July 17. (Note: The link is for the page that has all the TWiV podcasts. Make sure you are listening to #641.)

Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a virologist, was my colleague in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University. He does a podcast on viruses called TWiV (This Week in Virology).

Dr. Vincent Racaniello – Columbia University virologist

Vincent, Rich Condit (a retired virologist from the University of Florida), and Dr. Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) discuss COVID-19 and the pandemic. Among the topics discussed are the paths of infection, symptoms, testing, re-opening schools, fatality rate, immunity, and vaccines.

 

 

Normally, the TWiV scientists make their discussion understandable to non-scientists. But, these three scientists were working against a time-constraint, and they sometimes used terms that some of you may not be familiar with. To help you, I’ve made a glossary. The order of the terms in the list is based on the time in the podcast when the term is first used (noted in parentheses).

Dr. Anthony Fauci 071920

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Dr. Fauci was also interviewed for 64 minutes in 2013 by Vincent and Rich (TWiV #219).

 

Glossary provided by Dr. Figurski for easier listening.

glossary

PCR-able (2:52) – based on the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which is a very sensitive test for the RNA chromosome (or a chromosomal RNA fragment) of the virus

fomite (3:11) – an infectious object or material

viral load (4:05) – the number of viruses

cycle threshold (4:27) – the PCR test is based on a number of amplification cycles to see a signal; the number of amplification cycles needed is related to the number viruses present; the higher the number of cycles needed, the lower the number of viruses present

nucleotides (5:05) – the building blocks for the viral RNA; the RNA chromosome of COVID-19 is made up of about 30,000 nucleotides

BSL-3 lab (5:12) – a bio-safety level 3 lab has containment and safety precautions that allow scientists to work with microbes thought to be dangerous

antigen (11:47) – a substance that stimulates the production of antibodies to itself; infection with COVID-19 leads to the body’s production of anti-COVID-19 antibodies; in the COVID-19 test discussed here, viral antigens (probably viral proteins) are used to bind to anti-COVID-19 antibodies to detect them; the presence of anti-COVID-19 antibodies is an indication that a person is now infected with COVID-19 or was infected in the past

systemic infection (13:21) – infection of other organs – not just infection of the lungs

systemic sequelae (13:23) – symptoms of infection in other organs

viremia (13:32) – the presence of virus in the blood; because the blood goes to all organs, a viremia allows the virus to reach other organs and can lead to a systemic infection

endothelium (14:22) – the layer of cells that lines organs and vessels

SARS (15:18) – the first SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic of 2003 – also caused by a coronavirus

MERS (15:21) – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – another earlier and limited pandemic caused by a coronavirus

sero-prevalence (16:04) – the fraction of people in a population who are positive for antibodies to COVID-19; antibody positivity is an indication that a person is now infected with COVID-19 or was infected in the past

herd immunity (16:28) – immunity of the population by infection or by a vaccine; when people are infected (and recover if they have symptoms), they become immune; if enough people are immune, “herd immunity” has been achieved without a vaccine; the virus has few people to infect productively, and its spread slows to almost nothing; estimates are that 70-80% of the population must become immune to protect the population

Moderna vaccine (20:55) – the company Moderna teamed up with Dr. Fauci’s group and seems to be having some good success so far in phase I and phase II clinical trials (of three phases, see below); instead of the standard method of using a viral protein or several viral proteins to stimulate the production of neutralizing antibodies (see below), the Moderna vaccine uses a brand new technology based on the mRNA (see below) for the viral protein, a method that has never before been used to produce a vaccine

clinical trials – clinical development of a vaccine is a three-phase process. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. (From the CDC)

mRNA (20:57) – messenger RNA; in cells, the genetic code for the production of proteins resides in the chromosomes, which are made of the nucleic acid DNA; that code is read and translated into the proteins (the machines of the cell) by the cell’s protein factories – the ribosomes; because the ribosomes need to get the code from the DNA, the messenger RNA (mRNA) comes into play; (RNA is a nucleic acid very closely related to DNA); a protein-machine copies the DNA’s code into mRNA, which then brings the code to the protein factory, where it is read and the protein is made

neutralizing antibody (21:09) – an antibody that blocks infection by the virus; for COVID-19, an antibody that inactivates the spike protein of the virus (see below) is a neutralizing antibody

convalescent serum (21:17) – serum from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19; the serum contains the antibodies

spike protein (21:51) – a protein of COVID-19; important because it’s needed for the virus to bind tightly to the ACE2 (22:19) (angiotensin converting enzyme 2) protein that’s on the surface of lung cells; the binding is needed for the virus to gain entry to the cell and start the infection; a target for some vaccines; antibodies that inactivate the spike protein are called “neutralizing antibodies”

hemagglutinin, neuraminidase (22:39) – surface proteins of influenza virus needed for infection and for the release of progeny virus, respectively; antibodies to these proteins (usually to hemagglutinin) are the basis of the vaccine for influenza virus

monoclonal antibody (27:29) – the body’s collection of antibodies is produced by a population of B cells; each B cell produces one specific antibody; if a B cell can be cloned and cultured away from the population of B cells, then that culture will produce only that one specific antibody (for example, an anti-spike protein antibody), also called a “monoclonal antibody”

pathogen (28:17) – infectious agent (virus, bacterium, or parasite) that causes disease

NIAID (31:40) – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the NIAID is headed by Dr. Fauci

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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Coming SOON!

Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale – released soon as an audio book.

Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, a memoir by Donna O’Donnell Figurski, is a heart-wrenching love story that will make readers laugh, cry, and G-A-S-P!

When my husband and best friend, David, had a traumatic brain injury in January 2005, it sent us down the rabbit hole. David’s neurosurgeon gave David a 1/600% chance of survival. David had two more brain surgeries after his first and again, he defied all odds. He lived!

Listen to the excerpt to see how it all started.
You can easily find my book on any of the following places.

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

Goodreads

Just click the links.  You can actually review it and rate it on Goodreads. Did you know that reviews and ratings are the life blood of books? Reviews and ratings help to keep books alive and they may even get to the bestseller list. So, PLEASE write a review and rate Prisoners. It can be short.

Learn more about me at donnafigurski.com

Please leave a comment/question. I will respond.

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