SPEAK OUT! – David Villarreal
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)
Temple, Texas, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
1st and 2nd – 2012 (age 50), 3rd – 2013 (age 51), and 4th – 2014 (age 52)
4. How did your TBI occur?
I’m not sure…I really don’t remember.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
It was realized when I hit the floor and did the best I could do to call for help.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
A coworker called 9-1-1. I was rushed to the Emergency Room and given some kind of med that broke up the clot (note: possibly tissue plasminogen activator, tPA) and saved my life.
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. I had physical therapy and occupational therapy for 6 months.
It wasn’t until my 3rd stroke that I finally got help. It was from the Central Texas VA (Veteran’s Administration) in Temple, Texas. They have made everything possible for me. I credit all my progress to them.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Wow…I have problems with my speech, vision, balance, strength, and control of my bodily functions. I could not eat or drink. I still do not have use of my right side. I am right-handed, so that is a problem. I have to learn to do everything again with my left hand.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Oh my goodness! My life has changed so much. I was a studio musician before all of this happened. I’ve heard many of the CDs that I am on. I went from playing several instruments to not being able to play any. That led to some very, very deep depression.
11.What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
My musician life
That I now race a handcycle
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
That I get tired too fast
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
I got up one day and remembered I was a Marine. I decided to do what Marines do best, and that is save others. So now, I ride this handcycle with the one hand that works to let other stroke survivors know we can still have a good, normal life.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Well, after my first stroke, my wife of 10 months filed for divorce three days after I had it. I met my current wife a year later – after my 3rd stroke. She was my therapist. We got married about a month ago.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
For the longest time, I would not leave my home. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. Now I go out more often, but I’m not really at ease with it.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I have been taking care of myself from the start. Now I am having a very hard time allowing my wife to do anything for me. She wants to help me so badly, but I have a hard time letting go.
18. What are your future plans?
I really don’t know.
What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I hope to be helping stroke survivors.
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.
Ok, it happened (the stroke). Get over it…Cry…Get mad…OK, now that is out of the way…Get to work, and work harder than you have ever worked. It will be worth it if you can do it. Life is so good when you get through it all.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
DON’T GIVE UP. YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO. Don’t let anyone tell you different. I have been told I am supposed to be dead…I am supposed to be paralyzed from my neck down. BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM NOT!!!!!!!!
Thank you, David, 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 David.)
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.