SPEAK OUT! – Charline
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)
Abilene, Texas, USA
3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you?
He (Rick) is my husband.
How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI?
What caused your survivor’s TBI?
The TBI was caused by an aneurysm that started to hemorrhage. Two days after the surgery to repair the aneurysm, he had a major stroke.
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?
5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?
6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI?
If so, were you able to continue working?
No. My husband and I were snowbirds at the time of the TBI. We worked on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota during the summer and at an antique store in Texas during the winter. Rick is a Minnesota native, and I am a Texan. He was flown to Minneapolis, so I was not able to continue my summer job. We came back to Texas in June 2014.
7. Did you have any help?
If so, what kind and for how long?
My two daughters and their families live here and are able to come and relieve me for a few hours a week.
8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in hospital, when the survivor returned home, etc.)?
9. Was your survivor in a coma?
Yes. Rick was in a medically induced coma.
If so, what did you do at that time?
I spent every day in the Intensive Care Unit talking and reading to Rick. He had family that came daily to visit as well.
10. Did your survivor have rehab?
If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?
Rick was in a nursing home between the hospital and rehab. He had to relearn everything. He had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy when he was moved to the rehab facility.
How long was the rehab?
Where were you when this was happening?
I attended most of every therapy session and doctor visits. Rick responded better to me than to anyone else.
11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?
His memory was severely damaged. He can never be left alone. He is also incontinent. (I have him on a bathroom schedule. If I ask him if he needs to go, he always says no; but if I tell him it’s time to go, he does.) His appetite is great.
12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?
I can’t say that my life is better or worse. I can say that it’s different.
13. What do you miss the most from pre-TBI life?
I miss the freedom to be able to just “go.” My husband and I were very active. We hiked, canoed, fished, shopped, and worked. I miss my jobs and the people I worked with.
14. What do you enjoy most in post-TBI life?
I enjoy the brief moments of lucidity.
15. What do you like least about TBI?
The lack of “me time.” I hit the floor running every day – taking care of his needs and taking care of all the household duties.
16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s TBI?
I am still learning how to accept my new life.
17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. I sometimes feel like a prisoner. I can’t just go shopping for groceries anymore. If I take him with me, he gets distracted and puts everything in the basket or tries to eat it before buying. I usually have to get one of my kids to come and sit with him so I can do any errands.
18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I don’t have a social life anymore.
19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I hope and pray that in ten years we will be a little more active.
20. What advice would you offer other TBI survivor caregivers? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My advice is to stay strong. Take time to care for yourself.
Thank you, Charline, 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 Charline.)
Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.