TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

  SPEAK OUT! – GeorgeAnna Bell


Donna O’Donnell Figurski

10570970_836853459658124_752128615_n1. What is your name? (last name optional)


2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

San Tan Valley, Arizona, USA

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

My first was at the age of 6 years old. I have had multiple concussions as a child. I had yet another head injury in 2001 and another concussion from another car accident on June 25, 2014. I am now 40 years old.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My first brain injury was from a bicycle accident – I lost control of my bike. I flipped over the handlebars and landed on the right side of my head, cracking my skull. The concussions were from falls; sports; an ATV (all terrain vehicle); motor vehicle accidents; rapes; abuse; falls; and being young, foolish, and idiotic.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My parents realized I was a different child the day they brought me home from the hospital.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I’ve been treated by the ICU (intensive care unit). I’ve had eye/vision therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. I attended specialized schools – junior high school and senior high school – that were for children with mental, emotional, physical, and developmental disabilities.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Yes     72 hours

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?

I did not go to a rehab center. I got everything from schools, specialized doctors, etc.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have a balance problem, dizziness, seizures, short- and long-term memory loss, mental illness (anxiety, depression, mood disorder, personality disorder), cognitive issues, social issues and social anxiety, headaches and migraines, numbness and tingling in my extremities, ringing in my ears (the ear, nose, and throat specialist calls it tinnitus), insomnia, vision and hearing issues (optic and audio nerve damage), and blurred vision (on and off). I am easily confused and distracted. (For example, I cannot multitask. I have to do one thing at a time. Otherwise, I get flustered and stressed out.) I am sensitive to lights, sounds, or distractions. I developed fibromyalgia, tremors, and speech issues, all of which the doctor thinks are the result of my head injury. I also have arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis). I have a developmental disability (due to the age at which I sustained my first head injury) and learning disabilities. I attended a special educational school from 7th grade until my senior year because I could not stay mainstream in a public school.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

I honestly do not know because I was so young when my first head injury occurred. However, over the years, I have sustained multiple head injuries. (For example, because of a short-term coma and concussions, I have increased mental, emotional, and physical issues.)

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?

I wouldn’t remember what it was like before because I was only 6 years old when I sustained my first head injury.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?

I am grateful for my Significant Other – the ONLY person I personally know who is supportive of me and tries to be understanding.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I dislike how people treat me. People act as if I am some kind of idiot because I am slower than others, and then they look at me as if I have serious issues. I hate being judged. I want people to treat me as I would treat them. I don’t want them to judge me and look at me and say, “Well, you look fine.”

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

People’s ignorant behaviors and idiosyncrasies

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

My parents did not want to deal with my issues. They did not allow me to speak of my issues to anyone because it embarrassed them that they had a child with a disability. They still do not like my talking about my disabilities and TBI. However, I tell them I am a full-grown adult now, and I say to them, “If you do not like it, do not listen.”

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I have issues keeping friends. People tend to easily get annoyed with me. I tend to get frustrated easily, too. As for relationship with guys, I was always told I am a very taxing person – annoying, weird, and psychotic. I have had nicknames given to me by guys over the years: pain-in-my-ass, crack baby, wacko, weirdo, dumbass, stupid, idiot, retarded, sensitive bitch, nagging bitch, crazy, worthless.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My main caregiver is my boyfriend. No, I do not understand what it takes to be a caregiver.

18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I would love to open a 501c3 animal shelter and help unwanted animals – mainly dogs. I would like to extend the knowledge I currently have on animal studies and have better knowledge and understanding of the animal behavior.

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.

Do not stop trying. Eventually it will work out.

20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

I encourage you to just try your best and keep trying. Do not give up. Once you give up, you lose everything, and it is not easy to get everything back again – even if you are able to get things back again.10695279_836854542991349_1216029697_n


Thank you, GeorgeAnna, 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.)

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.

(Photos compliments of GeorgeAnna.)

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