SPEAK OUT! – Len
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? Email? (optional)
Georgetown, Ontario, Canada email@example.com
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
April 16, 2005 38 years old
4. How did your TBI occur?
As VP of sales for a large Fortune 500 company, I was on a sales conference trip to Costa Rica. On the 2nd day, there was an organized team-building event – an ATV ride up the mountains. During the event, I hit the back of another rider and flew off into a cliff. I fell into an 8-foot-deep hole, and the ATV came and landed on me. Luckily for me, I did have a helmet on. I had no memory of the accident or anytime after for approximately 5 weeks.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
When I came back to Canada, all the focus was on my back injury. (I shattered 5 vertebrae.) The doctors just kept telling me I was depressed, etc. … and I kept telling them I didn’t feel sad. They kept giving me meds, which I thought was the reason I was feeling so different. I went back to my job, but they kept reducing and changing my responsibilities. I suddenly felt so unbelievably lost in a world in which I was once very confident and successful.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Spinal fusion x 5
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
4 1/2 weeks – I think it was mostly induced because I kept trying to move and they were afraid I would do more damage to my spine.
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)? How long were you in rehab?
I was an Out-patient. Once I was finally diagnosed with MTBI, the nurse came to my house for over a year. However, I was still trying to work and in denial. Over time I was no longer able to work, and Out-patient services started coming again for about another year. I also saw a neuropsychologist, who I am presently seeing on a bi-weekly basis.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)
Everything! At least that’s how it feels – my short-term memory; I have a hard time communicating what I’m thinking; I misunderstand what people are saying to me; I get stuck on things; I really struggle making decisions; I lose my temper because I misunderstand what is happening (usually when things are happening fast or loud). Sometimes I seem to mix things up in my head, and then people have a hard time convincing me I’m wrong because I feel so strongly that I am right and that they are just trying to take advantage of me.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life is completely different. I am not the person I was. Now after 9 years I have a hard time explaining how I am different because the old me seems like a dream.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I was a proud professional who my kids could look up to and people would listen to. I enjoyed my career and loved helping people become successful.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I have yet to discover anything I enjoy.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
Lack of security and not being able to give the people around me a better life
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Yes. I was really struggling after I was told I had a TBI, so I googled and came across some videos, such as “You Look Great” by John Byler. Watching these helped me relate how I was feeling and helped me communicate this to my family. I then started the TBI4life twitter account mostly because it gave me somewhat of a purpose.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
It has been very hard on my marriage. Luckily for me, it all happened around the same time…. I mean my wife was in the process of leaving right around the time I started to accept my TBI. It was that acceptance that I believe saved our marriage. By accepting, it enabled me to explain to her why I did the things I did – that I knew I was wrong but here’s what was going on in my head, etc. My wife is now my biggest supporter, and I love her with all my heart.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I no longer have a social life – big change considering we used to hold parties at our house all the time and would be constantly out at events, etc.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My wife is my main caregiver. It takes patience … lots of patience!
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My plans are unknown. I just want to feel as if I have some sort of purpose – a life.
19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors?
The sooner you accept and understand this is a life-long journey, the sooner you can start to rebuild. NEVER underestimate the impact a TBI will have on your life.
20. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I hope this helps others in some way, and a big THANK YOU for having the interest in our stories.
Thank you, Len, 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 this project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.