TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

                                        Survivors SPEAK OUT! – Danielle (Houston) Karst


                                     Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Danielle after her Traumatic Brain Injury

Danielle after her Traumatic Brain Injury



1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Danielle (Houston) Karst

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Burke, VA, USA         daniellekarst920@gmail.com

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

September 1997          16 years old

4. How did your TBI occur?

I was in a car accident.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

Upon impact (I was unconscious and taken to the hospital.)

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery,

tracheotomy, G-peg)?

G-tube (gastrostomy tube – a feeding tube that is inserted through the abdomen into the stomach)

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Yes, 2 ½ months

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 had In-patient therapy (physical, speech, and occupational) for 5 months at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia; In-patient therapy, but sleeping at home, by Mount Vernon Hospital in Northern Virginia; and Out-patient physical therapy at Mount Vernon Hospital.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

Balance, a little perception, a little vision, handwriting, slow speech and typing, easily fatigued, seizures (though controlled by medication and calming techniques), anxiety

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

It drastically changed. I have a fabulous life now – a husband, a dog, a townhouse, and a wonderful part-time job.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?

I miss my athleticism and the freedom to have an independent social life. (I don’t drive, so I can’t really jump up and meet people anywhere.)

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?

Happiness, my life, my work at a nursing home (helping with activities on the Special Care Unit)

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I try not to think about what could have been.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I have a supportive family and friends. I am helped by thinking, “Yeah, this sucks, but what can I do with it to move past it and improve my quality of life?”

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes, my old friends couldn’t see me getting better and didn’t want to wait around for me.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes. Pre accident, I was very social. Post accident, I hung out with my parents on weekends.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My parents were my main caregivers for 10 years – until my marriage. Now my husband is my main caregiver, with my parents consulting or giving their opinions when asked.

18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to continue the work I am doing – helping in the nursing home and interacting with the residents, providing joy, and helping all those in need of care. Meanwhile, I will continue to advocate for people with TBIs, while writing my story and helpful ways to handle TBI.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

Yeah, this sucks. Try to accept what happened. Move forward and better your life. LISTEN, and don’t shut out others’ advice.

20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Never give up or get discouraged. God does have a purpose for doing this. Turn your crappy situation into a positive one. Listen to your parents and elders – they are only trying to help.

Danielle before TBI – on the Cheering Squad


Thank you, Danielle, 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.)

(Photos compliments of Danielle.)

You can read more about Danielle on her blog at Inside Danielle’s Mind.

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.

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