SPEAK OUT! – Drew Carter
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)
Asheville, North Carolina, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
My TBI happened 13 years ago. I was 20 or about 21.
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was in the second semester of my first year at Western Carolina University. I was attending a party and fell off a retaining wall. I hit my head on the concrete.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and a learning disability before my accident. After my TBI, they got much worse. My accident put me in a coma for five weeks. I slowly woke up from the coma, and my injuries were obvious.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)?
I had a tracheotomy and a belly tube for food. When I came out of my coma at Mission Hospital, they sent me to Shepherd Center in Atlanta and then to Thomas Rehabilitation Center.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for five weeks at Mission Hospital in Asheville.
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 don’t do rehab anymore. I do exercise regularly, and I practice speaking.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
At first, I had a lot of problems. I had to learn to swallow. My physical ability came back first, and then my mental ability returned. I’m about at a level people might say is normal. I believe that, as TBI survivors, we can continue to grow and pass what we think our limits are. It’s the TRUTH.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
For me, I would say my life is far better. Going through the ordeal made me a stronger person. After the accident, I was forced to grow up faster.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I miss my young, carefree life, but with more responsibility comes more freedom.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I like the idea that I might be able to help and support other survivors.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
They call me bipolar now.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
I was helped by my faith as a Christian.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I became closer with my mother.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I lost lots of friends because my personality changed, and I had to relearn almost all my life-skills.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My main caregiver is my mother. I know that being a caregiver can be hard for a parent or loved one. I have seen lots of caregivers who believe that a survivor will not or cannot progress anymore. Sometimes the TBI recovery seems impossible to caregivers because they are watching the situation from the outside. This can affect the TBI survivor. I imagine it can be very hard for the caregiver. My recovery has caused a lot of stress for my mother.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would like to be a successful artist. I hope to produce my own ceramics and clothing. I also want to help other TBI survivors.
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.
Always set your goals beyond what you think is possible. Don’t just accept other people’s opinion of how much you can recover.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Stay strong and embrace your life.
Thank you, Drew, 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.
(Photos compliments of Drew.)