SPEAK OUT! – Bart Boughner
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)
St. Williams, Ontario, Canada
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
4. How did your TBI occur?
I fell about 5 feet off a step ladder at work, striking my head on the concrete foundation. It happened ~45 minutes before the end of the day…the day before my daughter’s 8th birthday.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
The seriousness of my fall was realized about a half hour later. My leg couldn’t hold me, and I had blood coming from my ear and cuts on my wrist.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was in the local hospital for about five hours. They didn’t ship me earlier to a trauma center because they didn’t think I would make the trip. They took a wait-and-see approach, since the bleeds didn’t change too much. I was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for 1 week, and then I was in the Step Down Unit for another week. I was then moved back to my local hospital for 3 more weeks.
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)?
I had outpatient rehab for 1 year for physical, occupational, and speech therapies, then again 2 years after I was hospitalized.
How long were you in rehab?
Just over 1 year
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Well now, I have an issue with short-term memory; I severed my olfactory nerve, affecting my senses of smell and taste; I experience exhaustion; I have a problem with sleep; and I have no tolerance.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
For 11 1\2 years, my life was worse to the point that I gave up. I went into a hole and rarely went out. My marriage went down hill fast, since we couldn’t communicate. My marriage ended September 16, 2013. I lost so many friends and family, some from my own choice. I found it hard to trust.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
My energy and my love of life
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
Now I have my own independence. My kids chose to live with me. I’m letting go of the past and now living now.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
Overwhelming situations, severe headaches, lack of patience
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
The first neuro doctor told me straight out I would be different. Also my new independence is helping me accept my TBI.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My injury destroyed everything, but eventually my kids had the chance to know me for myself without people telling them things. It’s the best thing that happened.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes, I became reclusive and couldn’t tolerate too many people at once. Now I’m better.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am my own caregiver. Yes, I do understand about caregivers.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I’m building on my bucket list. I plan to continue enjoying life and laughing with my kids. Soon I will be 50. What I’ll be doing in 10 years is hard to say. I live life day-to-day.
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.
Speak for yourself, instead of letting others do it for you. Realize that the past is the past. Nothing can bring it back. Learn to laugh again and not to be so frustrated when you can’t accomplish things. Find support groups (e.g., Facebook) early.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Be strong. Keep your voice, and let it be known. Never dwell on things – they can put you in a deep, dark place with only a small window of light. Believe in yourself. If friends treat you differently, tell them. If they cannot adjust, then let them go on your terms. LIVE, LOVE, AND LAUGH!!!!!!!!
Thank you, Bart, 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 Bart.)
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.