TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Caregivers  SPEAK OUT!  Lori Strauss Heckman

(caregiver for her son, Bartholomew Wayne Nathaniel),

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

lori-strauss-heckman-caregiver-012017Three years ago, our lives were turned upside down when my then 21-year-old son had his accident. It has been a long road with many hurdles to overcome, but I am so proud of him. He is my hero and my greatest blessing. And, proof to never give up. We were told that he would probably not make it that night. We were also informed that, if he did, he would not have any quality of life. But, he proved everyone wrong! Many prayers were prayed and many tears were shed, and my son is still with us – and doing very well. The first and second photos are of my son after the accident; the third is him wearing a helmet in recovery; and the fourth photo is of him with his car. (Yes, my son is driving, and his seizures are under control.)

Meet Bartholomew Wayne Nathaniel

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(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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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 is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

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David Figurski, PhD – Brain Injury Survivor

David Figurski (survivor) … Because my speech has been affected by partly paralyzed vocal chords and tongue, I was worried that my comments at my father’s funeral Mass would not be understood. On top of that, I was beginning to lose my voice from speaking with so many people the day before at the funeral parlor. But, with Donna’s support as she balanced me, I walked to the podium, and I gave my comments. For ten minutes, I gave them – careful to speak slowly and enunciate every sound.

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David Figurski at Podium

Several people came up to me afterward and said that they had no problem understanding me. It’s something I had wanted to do to honor my 95-year-old father. I was happy and proud that I did.

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Hank Figurski 1921 – 2017

 

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

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.

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Twelve Years, But Who’s Counting?

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1242232191169820850212_white,_green_rounded_rectangle.svg.med.pngTwelve years! Twelve years ago today, I came as close as a breath to losing my husband and best friend, David. While exercising (a thing he did every day to stay in shape), David did thirteen chin-ups, one more than he had done every other day. That was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” or in David’s case, the “chin-up that caused his subarachnoid hemorrhage.” That day, as I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital, I never realized what lay ahead for us. I never dreamed that this blip would be life-altering. I thought we’d be home by the end of the day, carrying on with life as usual. I was wrong!

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David H. Figurski, Ph.D. – Brain Injury Survivor

David remained in the hospital in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the step-down unit at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now New York Presbyterian Hospital) for three weeks. While he was there, he was treated to two more brain surgeries – one for an aneurysm and the other for an arterial venous malformation (AVM). He then became a guest at a local rehab hospital for another two months, until insurance wrongly said he was fine to go home.th-1

I am grateful that David is still with me. He wasn’t expected to be. Each surgeon gave me little hope that he would survive any of his surgeries. I’m glad that David proved them all wrong. I’m glad that we have had twelve more years together, and I hope to spend many more with this man whom I have loved since I was sixteen years old.

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Hopefully, in the sometime future, you will be able to read David’s whole story in my book-in-manuscript, titled “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.”

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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To Life – La Chaim!

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

And to death … well, my father-in-law, Hank (Henry) Figurski, did it with grace and dignity.

On January 5th, we said our final farewell to Hank. It was bittersweet. He lived a very long, fulfilled life. He lived surrounded by the love of his family – his sons, his grandchildren and great grandchildren and his brothers and their families. He lived with the dream of someday being reunited with the love of his life, Lydia, in what he believed was the afterlife. We will miss the man that we loved, but his memory will live on in our hearts and our minds.

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Fork in the Road copy“Another Fork in the Road”

This category is an extension of my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs at 5:30 pm (Pacific Time) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month on the Brain Injury Radio Network. (See the “On The Air Show Menu” category for a list – with links – of all my shows, which are archived and thus always available.)

On the 1st Sunday of each month, I host a panel of brain injury survivors, caregivers, and/or professionals in the field. On these shows, my panelists and I examine topics pertaining to brain injury.

On the 3rd Sunday of each month, I host guests – brain-injury survivors, caregivers, or professionals in the field.

Since I spend countless hours in preparation for each show, I decided to share the knowledge that I gather with my readers.

TO Support-group … or NOT TO Support-group

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

There are support-groups for almost everything. Probably the most well-known group is “AA” (Alcoholics Anonymous). There are groups for eating disorders, domestic abuse, mental health, physical health problems, such as cancer and diabetes, groups to enhance relationships, and many others. If there is donate-to-us-www-frankiejohn-com-uexc3u-cliparta problem, there is probably a group for folks to join. Groups for supporting brain-injury survivors and their caregivers, family members, and friends are cropping up everywhere. This is relatively new, since little was known about the seriousness of brain injury until rather recently. When the troops began to come home from the Iraq war with serious brain injuries, people started to notice. Then when the deaths and illnesses of so many former NFL players came to light – starting with Dr. Omalu’s finding of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster during an autopsy in 2002 – more people took notice.

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Bennet Omalu, M.D, M.B.A., MPH, CPE, DABP-AP, CP, FP, N

Two things you might consider when searching for a support-group are location (Is it within reach? Will you easily be able to get there?) and size (Is it large enough or small enough for you? Too large – you may get lost and not have any of your needs met. Too small – there may not be enough information to share, but it may be easier to connect with folks of the same interest). You will need to comfort-fit your support-group to your needs. If you are unable to join an in-person support-group, don’t fret. There are many support-groups on social media.

My husband’s brain injury happened in January of 2005. As his caregiver, I went it alone … for years and years. I wasn’t aware of the multitude of people who had a brain injury. I was ignorant that there were millions of caregivers like me, and I certainly never realized that there were support-groups for caregivers. It wasn’t until three years ago that I stumbled onto the support-groups on Facebook. I joined many of them, and I have made many good friends there – both virtual (some from across the world) and the ones nearer, some of whom I met in person to share a coffee or a lunch together.

support-group-clip-art-412049There are virtual groups for caregivers. (One is just for spouses or partners of survivors.) There are groups for both survivors and caregivers together. There are groups for traumatic brain injury survivors; for acquired brain injury survivors; or for survivors with ataxia, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. Some of the benefits of support-groups are that folks are more apt to understand what you are going through. Because they share similar issues, they are able to offer emotional support, suggest advice, or provide tips that worked for them. There is a veritable smorgasbord of ideas out there in cyberworld. If you are looking for an online group to hold your hand, hear you vent, or answer your questions, I promise you will find it.

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David H. Figurski, Ph.D. – Brain Injury Survivor

Support-groups are usually, but not always, beneficial. When my husband, David, had his brain injury in 2005, I had little knowledge of support-groups. We went to a local group a few times, but David didn’t find it helpful. In fact, for him, so early in his journey, it was not at all beneficial. He found it difficult to identify with the other survivors of brain injury. Though David was in poor shape physically and was unable to do much for himself, he still felt that his mental health condition was better than that of the others in the group. Being in the group brought David down and left him with little hope. He asked that we not go back, and I agreed. But, unlike this example, many people rely on support-groups.

Because our earth supports more than twenty-four different time zones, there is always someone available to talk with 24/7. That is one of the major advantages of belonging to support-groups on social media, and I am so grateful that I stumbled onto them. I finally knew that I and David weren’t alone. Just in the United States, there are more than five million people living with brain injury. Can you imagine the number if you counted up all of the survivors of brain injury around the world? Astronomical!

giphyIf you are not yet convinced that support-groups can be helpful for you, here are a few more reasons. They empower you. They put you in the driver’s seat to take control of what is happening in your life by helping you to find answers. You immediately become a member of a like-minded group of people who accept you, understand you, and is not judgmental. So, if you feel a support-group would be beneficial to you, by all means find one. They can be wonderful!

So, how do you find a support-group to comfort-fit your needs? If you choose to be a part of an in-person support-group, ask your primary-care provider, your neurologist, a social worker, or your church minister to recommend any groups near you. You may also contact become_a_facebook_fanthe Brain Injury Association of America (BIAUSA.org) and locate your local chapter for your state to find a support-group near you. But, if you prefer the comfort of your home (as I do) and you have nimble fingers, open up your computer and find a Facebook group. There are more than thirty to join. I know … because I am a member of at least thirty. I only wish that I had known about the social media support-groups when David had his brain injury over eleven years ago. With a support-group, you are never alone.

Click here to listen to my show

Another Fork in the Road – New Year Expectaions with Craig Sicillia & Me

(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.

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Smiling is Contagious – Smile, Harry, Smile!

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

harry-jordan-in-gym

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – in Gym

Recently I published Harry Jordan‘s “Itty-Bitty GIANT Step” and a great photo of a smiling Harry on my blog. Afterwards, we exchanged messages by Private Message on Facebook. I told him that I loved his smile. However, he told me that he rarely smiles and that his mother would be shocked to see this smiling photo of him.

Well, that was enough incentive for me to challenge Harry. I told him I would publish his smiling photos on my blog if he would send me five more. He did – including one of him AND his mom.

smile

 

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Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & his Mom

 

 

You can read our chat below.

Donna: I just love your smile.

Harry: I really don’t smile. My mom will be shocked.

Donna: Why will she be shocked?

Harry: ‘Cause I don’t smile.

Donna: Well, you SHOULD every minute. You smile with your eyes.

Harry: I don’t look at my pics – always mean – no real reason to smile.

Donna: Well, look at this pic, and maybe you can see a reason to smile.

Harry: I will try.

Donna: It made me smile, and it’s contagious. See how many people you can affect. Start with your mom.

Harry: If it can help ANYONE, I will smile.

harry-jordan-smiling

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – Smile, Harry, Smile

Donna: Well, it helped ME!!!!! Pick your mom up and hug her and give her a BIG smile. Then let me know what she said.

Harry: And for that I will smile.

Donna: See … it’s working! Send me five NEW photos of you smiling, and I will publish them. Challenge is on.

Harry: Ha! Ha! Ha! Dang, now THAT is a challenge.

Did you know that smiling really is contagious? How many times have you walked down the street or through a store and someone, a stranger, smiled at you. What did you do? Chances are you smiled right back. It’s almost an automatic reaction. Did you know that smiling is healthy for you? It is! It releases neurotransmitters, like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones are produced in the brain and can help to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Whoever thought that a smile could be your best medicine? Well, it’s certainly worth a try.

harry-jordan-and-friend

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Friend

So, as we so often hear, “Turn that frown upside down!” and see how much better you feel. Harry did! Just look at all the photos of his wonderful smile. He makes me smile, and I hope he does you, too.

harry-jordan-original-smile

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

(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

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the top right sidebar. (It’s nice to know there are readers out there.)

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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Bonnie Nish

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

Bonnie Nish

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

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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

I had two: one in 2012 at age 55 and another in 2013 at age 56.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

For the first one – a child I worked with in a school was using a zip line, and, as he was coming off, he began to lose his balance. I put my head on his back to steady him, and his head came whipping back – the back of his head caught me just above the temple. For the second one, a basketball bounced off the rim and hit me in the same place that the first one did.boy-on-zipline

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

Immediately

basketball-clip-art-free-download6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

At first, I just went to a walk-in clinic, and they told me I should be better by Monday. (It was Friday.) About two weeks later, I couldn’t get two words out without stuttering, so I went to the Emergency Room. They did a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan and sent me to see a neurologist. That neurologist thought I didn’t have post-concussion syndrome, even though I was stuttering and couldn’t move my right finger from my nose to his finger. The Workmen’s Compensation neuropsychologist disagreed with this and thought I did have it.

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

No

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)?

I had outpatient therapy as designated by the Workmen’s Compensation Board.

How long were you in rehab?

Four months

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

I experience nausea, dizziness, light-sensitivity, loss of appetite, an inability to retain what I read, an inability to write, stuttering, a loss of words, impulsivity, anxiety, and an inability to follow multiple conversations at once. I have a problem with my balance. I lost twenty-five pounds. I have an over-stimulated sense of smell, an inability to play piano and remember what I knew, a loss of executive decision-making skills, a constant buzzing in my head, and concentration problems.

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

It’s mixed. I still have buzzing in my head all of the time, and it gets louder if I do too much. And, I still have some memory problems. But, I also appreciate my ability to think like never before. I have published two books since my concussions.

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Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

I miss not hearing buzzing and not feeling anxious.

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

I enjoy knowing when I can do things that I couldn’t do while I was in the middle of it all.

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

I dislike not being able to write or read. That is the scariest thing for me.

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

Yes. Time.

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

Yes. My children became my caregivers. That was hard for them, especially for my youngest daughter. It took some time for us to get past my being dependent on her.

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

Yes. I don’t go out as much as I used to. I still find it hard to be in large groups and crowds.

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

My youngest daughter was my main caregiver. Yes, I understand how hard and how demanding it was for her. And how scary.

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

I have returned to my academic work. I intend to finish my PhD and teach and write. I would like to get a few more books out. (I am currently working on two.) Also, I hope to live somewhere else in the world for a while.

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.

My advice is to let people around you know that one thing that might happen to you is that you might become very impulsive. It is best if you can get some help with this. Leave your cards at home and only take a certain amount of cash with you. Mention to your friends and family that if they see you buying something you would never normally buy, they might want to question this. I didn’t figure this out until I was in the concussion clinic and heard a few of the guys talking about how impulsive they were. For this reason, they kept only $20 in their pockets. This was after I bought a stationary bike when I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed it. I also bought five dresses and have worn only two.

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Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

This is a hard and difficult journey. You may feel as though you are a different person. You are in some ways. It takes time to grow into this new way of being. Have patience with yourself – the way you would for a dear friend.

 

 

 

To learn more about Bonnie Nish, please visit her website.

To order Bonnie’s book, click here.
 “Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline” 


 

(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(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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No memory of the day that changed my life

My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

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