TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

tbi-touched-life-th-5As a writer for children, I never intended to write a book for adult readers – other than those adults who read picture books to their children as the stars fill the night sky. But, circumstances changed in an instant when my husband, David, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2005. I didn’t know what a “TBI” was. I had never heard or seen those letters together before. But, they would soon become a permanent thought in my head.

As David stumbled into our bedroom, his hand covering his right eye, I knew something was drastically wrong. As his pain intensified and the paramedics transported him to the emergency room, I didn’t know how seriously our lives were about to change. The man, my lover, and my best friend, disappeared.

After three brain surgeries, a new man emerged. He looked different. He sounded different. He was severely disabled. He couldn’t speak beyond guttural sounds. He couldn’t walk, dress, brush his teeth, feed himself, or take care of personal hygiene without assistance. At first it seemed that he didn’t even know me, which nearly broke my heart.


David trying out his new running outfit just three weeks before his TBI. December 2004

David’s TBI has caused us to travel many long and bumpy roads. We still do nine years post-TBI, but it is a journey we take together. I met David when I was 16 years old. I knew in an instant that he would be my life-partner – for better or for worse. We’ve had the better. We’ve had the worse. We are striving for the better once again.

Though I lost the “boy/man” I fell in love with, I have fallen in love all over again with this new version of David. Though he may look and act differently, he is still the most caring, gentle, intelligent man I know. His physical disabilities did not deter him from returning to his

Donna & David 15 months AT (After Trauma) April 2006

Donna & David 15 months AT (After Trauma)
April 2006

laboratory at Columbia University a year later to oversee his and his students’ research, to write scientific papers, to become the editor of a book of research articles from scientists from around the world, and to be awarded a grant for his research.

Our journey is not over.

I’ve written David’s story, “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story,” to share our journey with you, my readers. It is a story of tears and angst, of stress and confusion. The story will make you cry. It will make you laugh. It will make you wonder in disbelief just how this man is able to accomplish so much with so little. The story chronicles David’s strength and persistence, his tenacity to build a new life, and to get better against all odds. David’s story is a story of hope and inspiration.

It is also my story. As David’s wife and best friend and as his primary caregiver, I stand on the front line advocating for him every step of the way and cheerlead his every accomplishment. It’s a story that will take you with us on our journey of TBI.

I wrote the book between my caregiving duties of David, my teaching first and third graders, and when I was not sleeping. It is currently being sent to literary agents, and I hope that it will be published soon, so you can read the inside story of how David fought and is conquering Traumatic Brain Injury one unbalanced step at a time.anim0014-1_e0-1

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of ME.)

Comments on: "Traumatic Brain Injury – TBI – PRISONERS WITHOUT BARS" (10)

  1. I just found and read this introduction to your blog.

    The love expressed brought tears to my eyes…..not that that is hard to do……they say I have inappropriate crying. ?.lol I feel my tears ARE appropriate!

    My TBI was 10 years ago, I believe, I was a newly we 50 year old then, financially successful and quite happy.

    Learning to deal with the new me was difficult at best for me and unbearable for my wife……it took 5 years before I even began to understand TBI and years to learn coping skills needed to manage all thatgoeswith TBI…….these years were also very difficult on my family and friends……sometimes I think jt is harder for loved ones than the survivor.

    My wife became so frustrated that she became mentally abusive towards me, I even moved out twice………

    Once I began to understand my new life, how to manage my life, I began to improve to where I could get through the days with some quality and even enjoyment I began to thrive as the new me. My wife who had simply turned to prayer began to feel kindness and understand towards me and things really beganto improve for us……..I feel loved again, she like yourself has fallen in love with a new man.

    I thank you for sharing your story and look forward to reading more.

    I too have a blog


    it is a great story of recovery and I hope it can be educational and encouraging to others who have had their lives touched by TBI.


  2. Papa,

    First, thanks for reading my blog and posting your comment. Your story made my eyes well up too. And yes, they were appropriate tears. TBI offers so many challenges and for many they may be too hard to handle. I can understand that. I am just grateful that my husband and I can work around his TBI. I am so happy that it seems you and your wife have come to terms with yours. Do I miss the man my husband used to be? Yes – a resounding YES! But, if he were to somehow magically reappear, I know I would miss this new version of him. So I’m going to just settle in and make the most out of our new life together.

    Stay tuned. I will be adding to this blog as soon as I can. I will definitely check out your blog.

    All best,


  3. Beautiful. I love how you live those marriage vows….and look ahead to the “better once again.” As the mom of someone whose brain changed due to schizophrenia, I feel your commitment and love – and your pain that becomes determination. I join all who are rooting for you !
    Randye Kaye
    Author, “Ben Behind His Voices”


    • Randye,

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. I am honored that you read my blog and that you took the time to reply. I read your book, “Ben Behind His Voices,” about two weeks ago and felt your pain and confusion and your frustration as you worked your way through “the system.” I admire your strength and your commitment to your son as you forced each door open while others were slammed shut. You are a very strong woman, and “Ben” is lucky to have you as his mother. I know that your story is not over and that there will still be many hard times ahead, and I wish you all the best. I hope that someday soon you will be able to read my story about my husband, “Prisoner without Bars: Conquering Traumatic Brain Injury.” It is searching for a publishing home now.

      All best,

      Donna O’Donnell Figurski


  4. Anon but U can email me said:

    I think that you should know that I was recently sent a link for an article in huff post where the person uses your exactly phrases and provides no credit to you. They also do other things that are ripping you off like starting a faces of TBI thing and more.

    you wrote donnaodonnellfigurski said: July 16, 2015 at 8:46 pm
    You are so right. Each brain injury and caregiving experience is like a fingerprint or a snowflake. None exactly alike! It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and a good head on your shoulders – TBIs and all.
    Donna O’Donnell Figurski

    They wrote in bold in the article

    A TBI is much like a fingerprint or snowflake, no two are alike.

    I think you should be aware that someone is stealing your words, your ideas and pretty much everything you are doing and have been doing only they are always a few months behind you. Yes- they phrase some of it just a little bit differently- but some like the Faces of TBI thing is a direct rip off. If you have a lawyer or could get one, I think you should know that they are being paid to steal your stuff and claim it as their own.

    Email me if you want more information please.


    • Hi Anon,

      Thank you for the heads-up. I did find my statement in an article on HP. I was not able to find “Faces of Brain Injury.” I truly hope that this was a “flattering” coincidence. I spend countless “unpaid” hours every day to write this blog for the benefit of all my readers. If you can send me information on “Faces of Brain Injury” that would be helpful, though I think that many may have used that title before and after me since it seems generic.
      My contact info is donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com

      I really appreciate your concern and your reading and commenting on my blog. I will be aware.

      Donna O’Donnell Figurski


  5. i wake up everyday and try not to think of killing myself after 9 years this fatigue is not going away and im tired of being hungry and poor and treated as if i am lazy and living wrong and not heard and family members who sabbotage my ssi case have accused me of fraud well nobody helps i stopped reaching out in march and unjoined the support groups because telling me to take notes to help remember does not do it. so what ever .


  6. Donna, I have been scouring the internet for any and all advice on how to live as a spouse of someone with TBI. My journey as this spouse has just begun. It began October 15, 2017. It hasn’t been a long journey, but it’s seemed I have been in this role for so long, my old life seems so far behind me. I am touched to read your story as that spouse for your husband. I feel as if I have become sleepless. I can relate to you being in between teaching first and third graders, I am a third grade teacher now. Was first grade before this year. My husband had a hemorrhagic stroke. Was given 3% chance survival. He is awake and talking, very confused, but responsive. He took 16 steps holding onto parallel bars yesterday with the help of the PTs in the gym at his hospital. I felt so much for him as he looked into the mirror that stood before him as he took those 16 steps… I can’t imagine. I am so blessed to have health. I love your attitude, and the word “cheerleader” you used to describe your new role as a TBI survivor’s wife. Many blessings to you on this journey!


    • Dear Karen,

      I am so sorry that you are able to join our exclusive “club” of spouses of brain injury survivors. It’s a hard journey.
      It seems we have so much in common with our husbands and our careers.
      David and I are closing in on 13 years post trauma. It’s not been easy, but I am so happy to still have my husband.

      I would be more than happy to help you in any way that I can.

      My personal email is neelyf@aol.com.

      There is a lot of good information on my blog too, just poke around.

      I hope to hear from you.

      Donna O’Donnell Figurski


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