SPEAK OUT! – Rick Von Linsowe
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Rick Von Linsowe
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
I live in Goldsboro, North Carolina, USA. I had my TBI in Tucson, Arizona, USA.
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
My TBI happened on August 26, 1998. I was 22 years old.
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was addicted to alcohol and drugs and fell down a hill outside my apartment complex. While in a blackout from alcohol and drugs, I flopped off a retaining wall and smashed my head on the pavement below.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I believe a man found me on his way to work in the early morning hours. I was unconscious and needed immediate surgery.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)?
I had a right frontal craniotomy to relieve a massive hematoma that was crushing my brain. My chances of surviving where very slim, and the doctor told my dad after the surgery that he didn’t believe I would make it through the night.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma from August 26 until late September, so it was approximately 4 weeks. I have heard other accounts from family members, but 4 weeks is my most accurate estimation.
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 had speech, occupational, and physical therapies for 1 year as an In-patient. Then I continued with physical therapy only for 2 years after the other therapies ended.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI? (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)
I had a long list of problems, including anger issues, balancing, and right-side paralysis. I still work out and exercise on a daily basis to combat the physical problems. My anger has subsided by finding the positive in every day.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Since having my TBI in 1998, my life has drastically improved. I am married with a 6- year-old daughter. I went to
college and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Psychology. I am a Life Coach with my own business that helps individuals move past the obstacles that are holding them back. I am directly contracted with a brain injury rehabilitation center. I help motivate the residents to complete therapy and have lots of fun while doing it! My website is Rejuvenate Life Coaching.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
Sometimes I think about the friends who I used to have and my popular social life, but most of my old friends are dead from drug- and alcohol-related injuries. I have to remember that life is about quality and not quantity. Today I want quality friends who will be there for me when I need them the most.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
My life is not weighed down by the past, hurts, habits, or hang-ups! I am a new person who has created an awesome new life – drug- and alcohol-free!
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
Some people judge me before they actually get to meet me. I have a wobbly walk, and I can’t swing my right arm as well as my left, so many people ask me if I had a stroke or they want to know what is wrong with me. Sometimes it frustrates me, but I don’t let it get me down. I know what other people say about me is not a reflection of who I am, but rather, it is a mirror of how they feel about themselves.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
I learned that only I am in control of my feelings and that nobody else can control how I feel. I learned to smile a lot and laugh often. Having a TBI is not the easiest thing in the world, and I have learned through my work in the field of mental health that many people are worse off than I am. That’s why I spend so much time giving back to the communities that I live in and helping the people around me. I started a new website for recovering addicts to tell their stories of triumph over addiction. The website is Clean and Sober Voice.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. I carried anger around like an old friend. It was there to protect me when I felt attacked. My relationship with my wife was very difficult because I did not know how to treat a woman, and I had anger issues on top of it! I can’t believe she has stayed for 15 years! We still get up each day and give it another shot. She is a truly an inspiration to me.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
My social life went from a big network of party friends, who only wanted to see the fun side of me, to a small network of good people, who stand by me and my family.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am 100% independent, but my wife has been my main caregiver since the beginning. She used to work in the nursing home where I was placed to live out the rest of my days. She has stayed with me on this amazing journey for 15 years.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My future plans are to grow my business of Life Coaching and Recovery Coaching and to help individuals overcome the obstacles holding them back. I am the administrator to many groups on Facebook to help give back to those who need support, so nobody ever has to go through what I did to become clean and sober. The addiction support group, Clean and Sober Voice, is designed to support recovering addicts and helps them tell their stories to the world. Telling your story is healing power! I also have a unique Brain Injury and Addiction Support Group that caters to the support of individuals recovering from brain injury and have addiction-related issues. You’re always welcome to join either or both sites.
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.
My helpful hint is to remember how your anger can affect your whole family. You are in control of your emotions! Make the best out of each day. Start out by taking baby steps. Work into being able to gain stamina, and take bigger steps to accomplish your goals!
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I would offer to other survivors my advice to keep moving forward and don’t look back! Find something positive in every day. Do not try to find the “old” person you once were. The “old” you is gone, and you should work on creating the “new” and awesome you! Remember, you are the only one who controls your feelings. When you are in complete control, nobody else can tell you how to feel!
Thank you, Rick, 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 Rick.)
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.