SPEAK OUT! – Lauren
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 address? (optional)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
September 2012. I was 35
4. How did your TBI occur?
Playing roller derby
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
It was very sudden, I felt something wasn’t right in my head, then my vision went and I collapsed.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have? (e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)
Ambulance to Accident and Emergency.
A CT scan, then a craniotomy
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
4 days. It was medically induced because I kept wanting to wake up!
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient and/or Out-patient; Occupational, Physical, Speech, and/or Other)? How long were you in rehab?
No rehab to speak of, Out-patient appointments with Neuro every few months. I’m now discharged.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)
Initially I had palsy of the left eye. Most of my problems have been psychological. I also had fatigue for a long time. (It’s still here but not as strong.)
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
How do you put this into words? My life has changed in many ways, I was very independent. Now I rely on my partner a lot, mainly due to anxiety and depression.
There are things that are better – the ability to let small things slide is easy. I have an appreciation of life. I know what I DONT want anymore. My BS detector is much improved.
The bad – feeling scared for no reason. Crying a lot
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
The slower pace; the ability to filter stressful people
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
Anxiety anxiety anxiety
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Time, patience, writing, lots of reading and meeting other survivors
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
It has made us a lot closer. It’s not an easy ride. It can get rough, but we’ve learnt to communicate in a much more meaningful and honest way.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes, I’ve become more isolated. My social circle reduced a lot post-injury. That hurt at first, but I’ve accepted it now. More contact with others would be nice though.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My partner, he’s great. He’s put up with so much. I have an idea of what he’s been through, but I’ll never truly understand how it feels. It is difficult and tiring.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing 10 years from now?
I hope to study again. I want to complete a Psychology or counselling course so I can help others. I want to be out in the world again, and most of all I hope to have my joy back.
19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors?
It’s hard but it will pass
What you feel is normal
Be kind to yourself, and you will also need plenty of patience!
20. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Good luck to all TBI/ABI survivors. Remember you are never alone.
Thank you, Lauren, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.
If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
(Photos compliments of Lauren.)