SPEAK OUT! – Kelly Reader
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)
Railton, Tasmania firstname.lastname@example.org
3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI? What caused your survivor’s TBI?
My TBI survivor is my husband, Eric. He was 29 when he has his accident seven months ago on Boxing Day 2013. He was sitting on the back of a trailer, tavelling along a gravel road, when they hit a bump. He fell off – hitting his head.
4. On what date did you begin care for your TBI survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?
I began my caring role when Eric was released from the hospital on the 6th of February 2014. I was 33, and I was his main caregiver throughout his recovery.
5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?
No. I used to be a full-time caregiver for my mum, but she passed away last May.
6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI? If so, were you able to continue working?
I was studying to become a vet nurse when Eric had his accident. Because of the stress, I could not concentrate on my studies and had to ask for a deferment.
7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?
Eric has had an Occupational Therapist since he came home, and she has been amazing. She helped us with whatever we needed, and she is still continuing today.
8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in hospital, when survivor returned home, etc.)?
As soon as Eric was hurt, he was flown to a hospital four hours away from our hometown. My sister Sally and I spent six weeks at Eric’s bedside every day, until he was released from the hospital. Being away from home for so long was hard.
9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do at that time?
Eric was in an induced coma for two days, before they allowed him to wake up. They told me that he might not pull through, so this time was very hard. I stayed by his side hoping he would make it.
10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient and/or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, and/or Other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when this was happening?
Eric spent four weeks in a rehab unit at the hospital, where he did physiotherapy and brain activities. When he came home, he went to physiotherapy twice a week. He is now going once a fortnight.
11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?
When Eric first came home, he required 24-hour supervision because he was not safe to be left alone. He has memory problems, so forgetting to take tablets or turn the stove off was a real problem. He suffered tremors in his hand and legs. Also his balance when walking was not safe.
12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?
I was a caregiver for my mum since I was 16 years old, so my whole life has revolved around caring for someone I love. If I had to do it all over again, I would. To see how much progress Eric has made since his accident has been so rewarding. To know that I helped him get there makes every heartbreaking moment worth it.
13. What do you miss the most from pre-TBI life?
Eric has always been the strong one in our marriage. When he had his accident, the roles were reversed, and I had to take over doing a lot of the bill management, etc. He was always my protector when things went wrong. After his accident, I didn’t have that anymore. Things are better now. He is becoming that same person again.
14. What do you enjoy most in post-TBI life?
Eric has become sensitive since his accident – something he never showed before. He always had a wall up and wouldn’t let anyone inside. Now, if he watches a sad movie, he will cry. I love this new sensitive side of him, as I feel I can talk to him more. He will let me be a part of his life he never shared before.
15. What do you like least about TBI?
The mood swings are not so bad these days, but in the beginning, they were a nightmare. His moods would change so dramatically it put a real strain on our marriage.
16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s TBI?
When I feel down, I tell myself that he was one of the lucky ones to survive and that I’m lucky to still have him in my life.
17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
It put a strain on our marriage because I had to be his caregiver – something he never wanted to happen. I had to be by his side 24/7 for the first four months after he was released from the hospital. That was really hard for him, as he was so used to going to work and having his freedom. Some days he would lash out at me for something that he was in the wrong for, but because of his memory problems, he didn’t remember what he had done.
18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Our social life has changed for the better, as we spend more time with family and friends now because we realise that life is too short to waste.
19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would like to have a family – something that we were working on before his accident. I feel it would make our lives complete.
20. What advice would you offer other TBI survivor caregivers? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Just be there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on. Don’t take anything they say to you in the heat of the moment to heart, as it’s not what they feel about you. It’s just the frustration coming out.
Thank you, Kelly, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.
If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
(Photo compliments of Kelly.)
Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.