SPEAK OUT! – Melinda Murphy
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)
Middletown, Ohio, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
February 9, 2011 I was 40 years old.
4. How did your TBI occur?
I fell down a flight of steps into a basement.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Immediately, although the TBI was not diagnosed for quite some time.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
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)?
I have had all of the above, and I am still in therapy. I have had some fantastic therapists over the years, and I just have to say that they are the key in so many ways. I don’t know where I would be without them.
How long were you in rehab?
They did in-home rehab and therapy with me for about 5 months, if memory serves me. I do not remember most of those first months, though, so I could be lying to ya :).
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI?
I have horrible balance. I live with headaches constantly. My vision and hearing have both been affected to the point that I can no longer go out in public on my own because of the amount of stuff coming in, so to speak. I miss my church and independence. I have short-term memory loss. I lost organizational skills and basic life functions, like just being able to make simple decisions. I lost a lot of other skills, like math and English. I have trouble speaking; I lose words before they hit my mouth. Many times my brain gets over-tired and just quits working at all. I can’t explain it. I can’t drive. I could go on, but…LOL.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Both – honestly! No one being truthful would tell you there is nothing that he or she wouldn’t give back. It’s hard, and it stinks a big chunk of the time. Learning to live again and differently is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and I didn’t live the easiest life, so…. Learning how strong I am, though, and learning to receive (which is not something I was used to and I think not many of us are used to) is a tremendous thing. Learning of people and the spirit and nature of them – that is a very rich gift I have been given through this. Learning to be okay with not being okay – that is again a huge thing that has bettered my life. So, I think that – as sad as it is at times and as hard as it is (and it is) – it is also a blessing.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
Almost everything – I miss being able to drive; I miss my independence; I miss hot meals because most days I cannot cook for fear I will forget to turn off the oven; I miss my job and clients; I miss my social life; I miss being able to keep my house clean (balance issues keep me from up and down and forward and back motions); I MISS MY CHURCH!
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I enjoy the quiet. Everything is quiet in my world now, out of necessity. It’s very nice. Quiet is better than you think it is – I had forgotten how nice. I think most of us have. I like things that I have learned from having a TBI and the people whom I have met because of it. I like the growth that I see in me because of my TBI.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Time, only time. People can tell you what they want, and they can try and say anything, but until your brain is ready, well hang it up. It’s been three and a half years, and I have just accepted it this year. When you are ready, it will happen. I will say this about acceptance. People say that once you accept it, you will be fine and everything will be easier. In the end, that is correct and true, but let me tell you, acceptance itself is hard. It is the toughest thing in the world to acknowledge that you – the person you are now – are broken and that that is okay. Getting there and getting through it takes time and patience from yourself and your caregiver.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. I touched on my home life earlier – it is difficult to live with a TBI. Memory, balance, and sensory issues affect me far more than people could know, and my home very often suffers. I often feel like I am a burden on my family and on those relationships. When you are dependent, the structure of the relationship is changed.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. All of my relationships changed – I am dependent now. That is a hard place to be. It stands in the way of traditional friendships. (At least, it feels that way on this end.) When you need, people tend to view you differently. We all have those friends, don’t we? I had them before my accident and still do, but those friends were different from all my other friends and from my social circle. I can’t complain now because I used to do it. I was no more aware of doing it then than are so many who are unaware of my situation now. I can say that I am blessed beyond measure to have a handful that do not fit into that mold and are there for me. God is good all the time because without them I would be in a home.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am. I live alone and do the very best I can. I had to move in with my family just after the accident because of seizures and not being able to even stand up or sit down on my own. I was 100%-dependent then, but I moved back on my own as soon as I was able.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would love to be fully functional. By that, I mean holding a job (any job) – just feeling productive and serving – and doing things more independently. (I have a servant’s heart and desire nothing more than to be helping others in any way the good Lord leads.)
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.
You’re okay just the way you are.
It took me forever and a day to accept that, and, frankly, I am still getting there. I know those words probably mean no more than anyone else’s, but I pray they touch someone. I always had a perfect picture of what healthy looked like in my mind, and I was working so hard to get there until one day, I realized that I was already there. I don’t need to walk up those steps upright like my neighbor. If I get up all the steps with my tail in the air and bear-crawling like a two-year-old, but I make it to the top, well by Jove, I can climb a flight of stairs – can’t I? It matters not the way you get there, only that you do. The fact that you do is what makes you as healthy and whole as that beefcake next to ya. Find a way.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My faith has held me so strong from day 1 of this. Without it, I’m not sure I would have survived. My God is greater than my broken brain and all the problems and mess that come with it – make no mistake.
Advice? I am finding that there are tools everywhere for me. Some work and some don’t, but never, ever stop looking. I still find therapies and little things that can greatly improve things in my world all the time. If there is even the slightest bit of hope that something can bring a touch of independence or relief, then you need to jump with both feet. Stop thinking, all you caregivers. Just try, try, try. You never know what will work. The more you get out there into the world of TBI, the more you find. Never stop looking; never stop trying.
Thank you, Melinda, 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 Melinda.)
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.