SPEAK OUT! – Joey Buchanan
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Flovilla, Georgia, USA Dekalbfd19@yahoo.com
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
Date of accident – July 18, 2012 Age at the time – 46
4. How did your TBI occur?
We were overhauling at a house fire (which means searching for hidden fire). I was standing against a wall, when a full sheet of sheetrock (4 ft. x 8 ft.) fell from a vaulted ceiling, striking me on top of the head.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Immediately. I was told that I fell into the wall, then onto the floor. I was asked twice if I was okay. I don’t remember any of that. It broke and cut my nose, and I could feel the blood running down my face.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Nothing major – just a routine X-ray and a cat (CT) scan
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?
Yes – cognitive therapy, emotional therapy, physical therapy, and vestibular therapy. I am waiting on a driving exam and endocrinology testing. I am currently in therapy.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have difficulties with balance, decision-making, and reading and comprehension. I’m more emotional (crying and anxiety). I have headaches, dizziness, and tinnitus. My sorting skills and my ability to multitask (very important for a firefighter) have been affected. I experience depression, fatigue, and pains in my neck, hands, and feet. My motivation is a problem.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
The mental and physical issues have been difficult. I went from working two fire-department jobs, homeschooling our daughter, and building a pool house to spending most of my time in bed, due to fatigue, depression, pain, and lack of motivation. My wife and daughter both say that I am much more easy-going. I tell them, “Well, yes. I am not working 120-plus hours per week.” (LOL)
My other family at the fire department
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
To be able (when I am able) to be home with my daughter, and the chance of starting a new chapter of my life
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
The fatigue, the lack of motivation, and the pain
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
My faith in God and the support of family and friends
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
It has been a mixed bag in my home life. Although I am home, the majority of my time is spent in bed.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. We don’t go to concerts, and we don’t go out to eat. I try to avoid crowds. This is all due to overstimulation and anxiety.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My wife is my main caregiver. In some respects, I became her caregiver when she became ill in 2005.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I hope to recover as much as possible and to start a group that goes out and assists other first responders when they are injured and have to be home. In 10 years, I would like to be able to travel.
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.
I want people to know that this injury will take much longer to recover from than they could ever imagine.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Try to keep emotions and stimulation to a minimum in the beginning – it will help in the long run. Find a support group – they have valuable knowledge. Doctors are not always as educated on TBI as they need to be. The sooner you can accept the “new normal,” the easier it will be. Don’t ever give up or stop trying. Find an advocate who will help you in your journey.
Thank you, Joey, 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 Joey.)
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.