TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

(Reposted from my other blog – Donna O’Donnell Figurski’s Blog May 14, 2010)

A Fork in the Road to Recovery

I woke up a few weeks ago with an astounding revelation. (Aren’t they all?) But, this one really was. Though trying to sell my brilliant idea to my husband, David, would take some fancy footwork.

As our family and friends know, David is still on the long road to recovery after suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) more than five years ago at 7:06 AM on January 13th, 2005. His TBI left his body compromised. His recovery is a balancing act – literally.

Though David’s balance has improved somewhat through the years, it is still seriously impaired. Each step David takes is deliberate, well-planned, and thought out. He is consciously adjusting his balance at every footfall. His brain constantly generates new neurons and reconnects the old in an attempt to reestablish alternate pathways to help him relearn what he already learned easily and quite well when he was a mere fourteen-month-old toddler. It’s amazing how those little tykes can balance atop their plump, squatty legs. Even more amazing that they can move them from place to place – but they do. And if they can do it … well so can David – right?

David works hard every minute of every day to relearn to walk. It’s not as easy as the two-year-olds make it look. So I had an idea to make the process easier – at  least, I hope it will.

The germ of my idea was unwittingly sown in October 2009 when I first began my salsa lessons. I admit, it was a slow-growing seed, since it took six months for it to finally hit me over the head.

On a recent morning as I pondered my first days of salsa, I recounted how difficult it was for me to make my feet and my body go where my instructor guided. He made it look easy, and I wanted my mind to comply, but my feet simply would not cooperate. I tried and tried, but the only thing I was successful at was tripping and stumbling over my own feet – not to mention my dance partner’s feet. I felt like a total  klutz. I was convinced I would never be able to do the steps. I would never learn salsa – let alone become proficient at it.  As the weeks went by and my instructor introduced the right and left turn, the hammerlock, and the cross-body lead, my mind went into swirl. No, I would never learn – I was sure of it. But, as more weeks passed, I did learn. It took time and it took practice, and after six months I can do each of those steps and I’m not too bad at it. I have even moved on to the advanced class.

What I understood on that morning of my revelation was that as I concentrated so intensely on learning each step, nothing else occupied my mind. I was entirely focused. During my lessons, it seemed that my brain rewired to accommodate the strange and foreign steps I was being asked to do. Realizing this, set the light bulb flashing. I reasoned that if my mind could overcome my dance challenge, why couldn’t David’s overcome his walking challenge?

That’s when I had my astounding revelation. It made sense to me. I had to choose the perfect time to present my idea to David, though I knew no time would be good. I knew that as soon as I uttered the words, I want you to take dance lessons. David’s immediately answer would be, “NO!”

So, I started my conversation like this … David, I have a really, really good idea. (I thought two reallys might be more convincing.) I need you to listen to my whole idea before you say anything. I don’t want you to make up your mind before I finish.” He looked skeptical. Well anyone would with that opening, but he nodded and I went on. “David, I want you to take dance lessons.” His immediate reply was “NO!” No surprise there.

I presented my ideas. He listened. One by one I ticked off all of the reasons that I thought dance lessons would be beneficial to him. He listened. I explained how I thought that the process of intense concentration might help him to overcome his balance issues as it had helped me to conquer my dance steps. He listened. I threw in the neurons and the brain-rewiring ideas. He listened. Then I told him I wanted to speak with my instructor to arrange for private dance lessons. I held my breath as I waited for his reply. He said, “Okay!”

It took a few weeks to set the lessons up, but last Monday night David had his first dance lesson with Oscar. I took the lesson with David. As we clung to each other, (He was holding on to me for dear life.) we waltzed around the room 1, 2, 3.- 1, 2, 3. Okay … so we didn’t really waltz around the room. We stayed in about a three-foot square. But at least it is a start!

When the lesson was over, I figured David would bolt. So I was really surprised when he asked to schedule the next lesson. He actually liked it. Yeah!


If you have a story to tell, please contact me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of ME.)


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Comments on: "TBI Tales: …………………………………. A Fork in the Road to Recovery" (3)

  1. Donna, I think this has happened, but a different approach would be “I want US to take dance lessons. I want US to learn to move together. I want US to be able to have greater control.” I enjoyed the visuals of the “TBI sway.” Sometimes, that contact is enough.


  2. Marty, I hear you. Thanks for your suggestion. Your suggestion probably would have been a better way to approach my novel idea. It might have worked more easily. I’ll keep that method in mind for future brain storms. Fortunately, David did agree and we took about a year and a half worth of dance lessons with a marvelous teacher. BUT that is another post coming soon.

    Donna O’Donnell Figurski


  3. […] 
TBI Tales: A Fork in the Road to Recovery […]


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