SPEAK OUT! – Pauline Southern
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 (optional)
South Carolina, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
6/22/2012 52 years old
4. How did your TBI occur?
Another 18-wheeler hit the 18-wheeler my husband was driving. I was asleep in the sleeper in the back and got tossed around like a rag doll.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I’m not sure who first realized it. Just to name a few issues – I had a problem remembering old friends, finding words, and doing math. I had a shortened attention span and a panic attack every time I got into a car. I was distracted all the time and slept a lot. There is much more. I just can’t remember them all.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have? (e.g., surgery,
I was taken by ambulance to an emergency room in a little town in Iowa. I don’t have much of a memory of what went on, other than that I was treated for nausea and for pain for rib injuries. I don’t remember anything else.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
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?
Yes. I did Out-patient physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I spoke with a psychologist. Now I am doing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) therapy. I’ve also had vision therapy for double vision and blurry vision. It’s been a year and counting.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)
I can’t control angry outbursts. I have no patience, have panic attacks in the car, cannot tolerate people who don’t understand what I’m going through. I have balance and vision problems. I cannot multitask. I have memory loss (short-term and some long-term). I can’t read more than one chapter in a book, and then I don’t remember what I read. I used to be able to cook for hundreds of people, and now I have trouble cooking for two.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I’m not able to do things I used to do – bookkeeping, quilting, reading. I can’t drive a car for more than one hour. I need a GPS to find my way to my destination and back home.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
Happiness, laughing, and my friends
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
Nothing yet. I’m still trying to find something I like.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
The way that it has changed my personality. I used to be fun-loving, happy, and
smiling. Now I’m sad and angry all the time.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Not yet. I’m still trying to accept it.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. It has brought me closer to my husband. He is my caregiver, and my love for him has grown tremendously. But on the other hand, it has put a distance between me and the rest of the family. They don’t understand me. They get angry with me, and I get very angry with them for not wanting to understand me.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. Because of the accident, we have lost our home and had to move to a new state. I have no friends – no one who I can hang out with and do things with. I don’t like to go out in public. I feel very alone. I cannot follow conversations, and I don’t like crowds, loud noises, or lights.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My husband. He does a great job. I don’t think I understand how he does it. He is a very strong person and helps me with my memory. He goes to doctor appointments because I don’t remember what was said during those discussions. I have no idea what it takes to be a caregiver to someone like me. I used to be a caregiver for my elderly in-laws, so I know what it takes to be a caregiver – but not for someone as bad as me.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
To learn more about the loss of the old me and to accept the new me. To have a life again.
19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors?
Sit back. Buckle your seatbelt. It’s a long, bumpy road ahead. It will have highs and lows and good and bad days. Just hang in there. Don’t give up. There’s a reason we were given these injuries. Find your purpose in life.
20. Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I wish there was more interest and more programs that teach non-TBI survivors what it’s like to be in our heads. I guess I’m trying to say I would like the rest of the world to understand we are still people. We just do things differently.
Thank you, Pauline, 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 the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.