SPEAK OUT! – Catherine (Cat) Brubaker
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)
Tempe, Arizona, USA CatBrubaker@gmail.com
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
The first TBI was in 2010. I was 39. I had another TBI in 2011 at age 40.
4. How did your TBI occur?
1st TBI: assault 2nd TBI: car accident
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I couldn’t get up without assistance.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
1st TBI: After I went to see him, a doctor called 9-1-1. I was then treated in an Emergency Room. 2nd TBI: I was first treated in an Emergency Room. My treatment was then handled for a month by St. Joseph’s Neurological (Phoenix). That was followed by my living in a nursing home. I was then an outpatient.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
No – both times.
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., Inpatient or Outpatient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)?
Yes. I rehabbed as both an inpatient and an outpatient. I had all three therapies (occupational, physical, and speech). I highly recommend a recumbent tricycle.
How long were you in rehab?
I don’t remember.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Balance. Boundaries. Personality. Independence. Ability to function in everyday things
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It’s taken everything – career and relationships. Walking was learned twice…But given everything, now I can ride my trike and paint…freedom.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
Independence. Freedom. People saw me as capable. I felt I was dating material.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I got to ride my trike across the country.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
It’s frustrating beyond belief. It is like a cage I can’t get out of. I sometimes can’t find words. I don’t like the headaches. I need to plan ahead. My thinking is sometimes not clear or engaged.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
Triking with Dan Zimmerman. He deals with stroke every day.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. I lost a 14-year relationship. I get angry and act out. I also have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). It’s hard to maintain relationships – even new ones. I can’t say what I want to say. Miscommunication happens all the time.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I lost friends. I had been in a partnership. I stayed in my room for a year after I lost the partnership, my primary relationship.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I was in my mom’s care. One morning in November, I found her passed away. Now my caregiver is my brother. He and I live in my mom’s house.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
Ride my trike. Inspire others to get up off of the couch. I hope to stop people from being depressed and to find purpose.
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.
Let go of “mad.” Earlier. I wish I did. There is so much less to carry around, and it makes room for “happy.” It gives you real joy and purpose.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
If you can, adapt. You will overcome. Get a trike. You can balance three wheels, and it gives you freedom. I cherish mine.
(You’ll have to “peel it from my cold dead fingers.”) I have control, joy, and freedom. It allows me to explore the world and see new places.
If you want to learn more about Catherine’s adventures of Triking Across America go to Spokes Fighting Strokes Tour.
Thank you, Catherine, 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 Catherine.)
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.