Survivors SPEAK OUT! – Ruby Taylor
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)
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but I was born and raised in The Bronx, New York. Go GIANTS! (Yes, I am a football fan.)
3. When did you have your TBI?
I had my TBI in December 2012.
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was in car accident. (My car was totaled, and the airbags went off.)
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
When I returned to work, my supervisor was worried. She said I was not acting like myself, and she directed me to see my doctor. I went to my doctor, and I have not been able to return to work since.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have? (e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)
I went to the Emergency Room and was released the same day.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I did not have a coma, to my memory, but I do not remember the impact.
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 have Out-patient rehab, and I still see a neuropsychologist weekly.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
My personality changed. My voice changed. I have a very short fuse. I am unable to deal with excessive noise and bright lights. I become confused easily. I have balance problems, attention and impulsivity issues, fatigue, and an inability to tolerate crowds.
Also, my TBI made me curse – every other word was a curse word. There are other things that I can’t think of now. The funny thing is that my stuttering stopped.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I am no longer able to drive long distances. I can’t work as a school social worker.
My family life is suffering because my TBI overwhelms me. I can’t spend time with my family, like I once did. My life is not worse or better. It’s just different, and I am learning to live with the differences.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I miss jumping in my car and going to visit my family or taking a trip for the weekend. I also miss having my dog live with me. My fatigue and short fuse made it impossible for me to care for my dog, so my dog is now living with my parents in another state.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
It is giving me an opportunity to slow down, to think about me, and to consider how great and awesome God is.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
It stopped my career, and I can’t drive wherever I want to anymore.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Yes. Therapy, medicine, prayer, faith, and God through Christ Jesus
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. Sometimes my family becomes upset because I go off, but they are trying to understand and work with me. No matter how tired I am, my nieces and nephew still think I am the same Aunt Ruby, but it’s hard to see their disappointment when I can’t do what they want me to do.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Dating is on hold for now. I realized who my true friends really are, and those relationships became stronger. Other relationships ended.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My mother would make my meals, freeze them for me, and bring them to me. My parents also took my dog off my hands. My caregivers were myself, my neighbors, my friends, and God. It takes a huge dose of love, patience, and compassion to care for a TBI survivor.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I plan to continue healing and to make films. I created Compassion Pictures (http://CompassionPictures.net) to help change the way brain-injury survivors are viewed and treated, one film at a time. Ten years from now, I hope to be an award-winning filmmaker and a brain-injury advocate.
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.
Grieve the old Ruby, and stop fighting to get her to return. It was very stressful not being who I used to be prior to my TBI and who I strived to go back to. If I could do things differently, I would have grieved earlier and released myself from being someone I was no more, and I would embrace who I am.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Ask for help. Keep asking until you receive the help you need.
Don’t be afraid of “NO.” A “NO” means you are one step closer to a “YES.”
Life gets better. It takes a very long time, but it will get better. You will be able to smile, laugh, and enjoy the simple things in life. Just keep living.
Thank you, Ruby, 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 Ruby.)
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.