TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for December, 2014

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

 

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Here are this week’s Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Sidney Chronister (survivor)…Even though yesterday was such a bad day for me, the one thing I did right was to apologize to my roommate after I BLEW UP on her.

Puzzle for Dawn 10891459_975488075813071_3671585877660728118_n

Dawn Marie Forrest (survivor)…Yesterday was a pretty bad day for me, but I am so glad I could concentrate to finally finish the puzzle I got for Christmas. I also read one whole chapter of my book. That’s the most I’ve read in one sitting since my TBI – 14 months ago.

Katey Ratz (survivor)…I got a lot of exercise (much more than usual, since I am always lazy). I walked 2 miles!!! Woohoo!!

Katey Ratz (survivor)…I’m having another positive day with poetry. I LOVE to write!!!

Libby Cloos Wright (survivor)…An Itty-Bitty Giant Step: Yesterday I was able to clean, clean, clean! My partner was helping out family, and my son was in his room. I was able to clean both bathrooms; I did laundry and put away clothes, ran the dishwasher, and vacuumed; and I steam-mopped the kitchen!!! To all my fellow TBI family – have a wonderful day!!!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Pboto compliments of Dawn Marie Forrest)

 

 

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Ken Collins . . . . . . 38 Tips for Living With a Brain Injury

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger: Ken Collins

(Host on the Brain Injury Radio Network)

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38 Tips for Living With a Brain Injury

 

Boy Blogger thOn December 31st, I will have lived with a traumatic brain injury for 38 years. I have used several strategies for co-existing with and minimizing the effects of my TBI. I know now that the brain-injury recovery process is ongoing and that there are four major areas to work on during recovery: (1) Getting Organized, (2) Being Responsible, (3) Following Through, and (4) Moving On. I learned a lot over the years, and I want to share my experiences. I have listed 38 tips (one for each year) that could be helpful to you.

 

1. Regain trust in yourself and in others.

2. Try not to be critical of mistakes you make. In the early years of your recovery, there will be too many of them to count. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

3. Find purpose and meaning in your life again. This will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Having a sense of purpose and meaning will give you something to live for and will help you feel worthwhile, help motivate you, and improve your recovery process. You will start feeling better about yourself.

4. Keep stress and anxiety to a minimum every day. Reducing stress and anxiety will increase your self-esteem and make life easier. Stress and anxiety trigger the fight-or-flight response in the mid-brain. You don’t have any control over this response because it is part of the Emotional Nervous System. When the fight-or-flight response is activated, it increases confusion and makes it harder to process information.

5. Regain your self-confidence and self-respect.

6.Be proactive.

7. Stay focused, calm, and relaxed as much as possible. This will make it easier to think, and you become less dependent on others to remind you. Becoming more responsible for yourself will build good habits on your part and will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run.

8. Get a large calendar. Put it up on your wall and use it. Make sure it’s in a location where you will always see it. An iPad (or clone), a smart phone, or a note pad with a calendar and alarm does the same thing. A calendar will also relieve stress and anxiety by helping you stay on task and not forget.

9. Get a key-holder and put it by your door to put your keys on when you come home. Do this every night so you won’t have to look for your keys in the morning. Starting your day off on the right foot will make your day easier and help to relieve stress and anxiety.

10. Make a “To Do” list to help you stay organized. iPads, iPhones or other smart phones, and note pads work wonders with this. The list will help you and make you feel good about yourself.

11. Making a list before you go shopping will save you money by cutting down on impulse-buying. It will also help you become more responsible and less dependent on others. Being less dependent on others improves your self-esteem.

12. Get lots of rest, and slow down. Many times we try to do too many things at once, and nothing gets done. Sleeping on an issue or concern can be the best way to help you figure it out. Getting enough rest will give you valuable energy to think better and solve difficult situations. Sufficient rest will also relieve stress and anxiety.

13. Set up a routine and stick to it. A routine will make it easier for you to follow through with what you have planned for the day. By doing the same thing every day, you will start building trust in your capabilities again.

14. Eat healthy foods, and get lots of exercise. Doing these things will help you get the blood with its oxygen circulating to your brain.

15. Get a dog and take it for walks. In my case, I have nine dogs, and they take me for a walk every morning and night! They also give me the unconditional love and companionship I need to feel good about myself and be happy.

16. Find ways to relax that aren’t counterproductive to your well-being. Abusing alcohol and drugs to “relax” is counterproductive. Long walks, yoga, and Tai Chi are much better for you and will make processing and problem-solving much easier. Stress and anxiety will be reduced.

17. Be patient.

18. Pay attention and become an active listener. Actively “hearing” what people have to say is more important than passively “listening” to what they say. Watch their body language. When I get distracted, sometimes it is harder to understand what a person is saying. Stay relaxed and focus. Take deep breaths – nothing works better than getting oxygen-filled blood to your brain.

19. Be around positive people and people who care about you. Nothing is more depressing than listening to someone who’s always complaining about his or her life or about what is going wrong in the world. Become active. Don’t just sit around hoping things will get better. Quit talking about a problem, and do something about it instead.

20. Don’t take criticism personally. When people don’t understand things, they criticize them. Constructive criticism can make you a better person in the long run.

21. Keep an open mind. Remember that your family and friends want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how. Many people don’t understand what you are going through, so don’t hold them responsible for this.

22. Stay calm; stay relaxed; take deep breaths; and move on!

23. Be careful of those you hang out with because they will set the stage for how you act. Friends who judge others and criticize you aren’t “friends.”

24. Grudges will only hold you back. They will be like anchors and keep you from being able to move on.

25. Lighten up on yourself, your family, and friends who want to help you.

26. Worry less and smile more.

27. Be content with what you have. Others have it much worse than you.

28. Find ways to stay active and be less isolated. Get out of your head and into the outside world.

29. Don’t give up – embrace adversity. Have adversity give you the resolve it will take to get better and improve your life. This will be up to you and no one else. People will be there to help you, but all of the work will be up to you. Use it or lose it!

30. Take ownership of your recovery. Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.

31. Life is hard for most people. Life after a brain injury will definitely be hard, but not impossible. It will get easier over time – be patient! Make the best of every day and move on.

32. Thinking too much about a problem or issue can cause depression. This will trigger the fight-or-flight response, and you will be like a dog chasing its tail.

33. Be good to yourself.

34. Don’t take life too seriously.

Ken Collins for Blog

Ken Collins – TBI Survivor Host of Brain Injury Radio Network

35. Don’t let the little things get you down. When you think about them too long, they seem bigger than they really are.

36. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. This will only increase your stress and anxiety and trigger the fight-or-flight response.

37. Be happy with yourself and don’t try to live up to others’ expectations.

38. Most importantly – don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Be strong. Find hope – because with hope, anything is possible!

Stop by the Brain Injury Radio Network to hear Ken. His show airs every 1st Thursday of each month from 5:00p to 6:30p Pacific Time.

Thank you, Ken Collins.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . William

SPEAK OUT! – William

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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1. What is your name? (last name optional)

William

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

Eastern Tennessee, USA

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

Age 43

4. How did your ABI occur?

I was subjected to 334 ppm (parts per million) of carbon monoxide for six days.

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

At 6:00 am on the seventh day, I was found unconscious outside my apartment door.

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

A hyperbaric chamber was used on three occasions while I was in a coma.

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

I was in a coma 32 days.

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 had physical and speech therapies for two years – first, inpatient; then outpatient.

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

Pre-injury, I was a retired Marine Colonel on discharge leave. After my injury, I developed a pronounced hyperkinetic motion disorder, with severe spasticity, a short-term memory disorder, and slow-awakening problems. I cannot walk, type, write, or do anything requiring either fine-motor control or large muscle use.

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

I went from an active Marine to an inactive thinker. From one perspective, my life got significantly worse – about the worst it could. In another perspective, it became rather better. I have a better logical process; I am more understanding of others; and I have the dubious privilege to be unable to use any pharmaceutical drug. To combat this odd aspect of my disability, I studied to be an herbalist, and I live quite well. I cannot have many food chemicals, so I eat better too.

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

I miss being a Marine Corps Colonel.

What do you enjoy most in your post-ABI life?

12. I enjoy knowing how to help people who cannot yet cope with their disability. I help anyone who asks.

13. What do you like least about your ABI?

My brain injury turned me into a burden on everyone in my circle. I can do very little. Whenever I try to use my muscles, hyperkinesia starts up, followed by severe spasticity. It makes doing most things impossible.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your ABI?

I eventually realized that this was what I had left in my life. I could either mope about lost opportunity, or I could grasp any opportunity that came my way. I chose the latter – I cannot change anything, so I willingly accept it.

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

My life has been affected in every conceivable way. Everything is different. Relationships are far harder – people do not wish to know the twitching cripple in the fancy wheelchair. Physical relationships are completely different – I cannot be an active partner, so I must be passive. It takes a special person to be able to cope with that.

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

Able-bodied people do not like to see severely disabled people. It embarrasses them. This makes socializing rather difficult. People will say “Call me” and give me the wrong number. Or, they will shudder at the thought of seeing me again. In stores, I am apparently invisible.

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

Caregivers come and go. Some are good; some are perverts; some are thieves. They are necessary, so I lose things, get humiliated, or get assaulted. I have a friend who takes time to look after me once or twice a month. My friend works away and is home infrequently.

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

It would be nice to still be breathing. I have lived as I do now for twenty years. I hope to live for longer.

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 ABI survivors with your specific kind of ABI.

Accept it as it develops. It takes time to reach the level you will live at. Accept that, and it will be easier.

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

It is easy to be angry at the condition you find yourself in. You were not supposed to get disabled in any way, and you probably think that it is horrifically unfair. That is completely true in every case, but it does not help you go on with living. To do that, you have to look at what you have been given, what you still have, and what you can do. Take that inventory slowly and carefully because it is important. When you know what you have to work with and what you can do, don’t try getting anything else. Just accept what you have and adapt to live at that level. When you have done that and you can live calmly at that level, you could try to do more, but not until you are calm with your disability. So many people spend all of their time trying to fight the un-fightable. They are constantly miserable because it does not seem fair. I know it isn’t. I lost nearly everything three months after I retired from the Marines. All my dreams, hopes, and expectations died along with some of my brain. I really do not need to make worse what I have left by being miserable about it. That is foolish. I have to go on living. I had, and still have, no alternative, so I must make the very best of what I have. You will enjoy a better standard of living if you do the same.

 

Thank you, William, 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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

 

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

 

Here are this week’s Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Jodi Jizmejian (survivor)…This morning, I used my right hand without thinking about using it. I’m right-handed naturally, but this act was not planned. It seemed like “natural.” Mind you, I’m still experiencing numbness and heaviness in my right hand/arm, but I realized that I automatically started using my right hand to do something that I’ve been using my left hand to do. Oh, the silly, little things that excite me.

Carmen Gaarder Kumm (survivor)…Be proud of me. I didn’t call anyone, nor did I check the Internet until afterwards. I was making a salad, and I didn’t have sour cream. So, I substituted cottage cheese for it!!! Then I checked the Internet. Yep, I did it exactly right! Yay, me!

Sandra Williams (survivor)…I just finished my second round of speech therapy. Now I have coping strategies to help me keep my job. This confidence has allowed me to control flashbacks as I work. I can’t control the fatigue, but I do feel I have a much better shot at working from home. I will never be hired to work outside the home, so it is so important for me to keep this job. I feel like I have some hope.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio Another Fork in the Road: Catherine and Dan’s Reflections – Triking Across America

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio Interview with

Catherine (Cat) Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman

Another Fork in the Road:

Catherine and Dan’s Reflections – Triking Across America

images-1IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of technical difficulties, the show cuts out at the 6:37-minute marking and returns at the 10:30-minute marking. When the air is dead, drag the cursor to 10:30 and happy listening.

It was a pleasure to spend the evening with Catherine (Cat) Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman on my show, “Another Fork in the Road.” They are my heroes! It was such fun to dig into the depths of their feelings to learn what it meant to them toCat & Dan at the FInish Line 112914 travel across America for 5 months on recumbent trikes -a total of 5,300 miles.

If you missed the show, don’t fret. You can always listen to the archived show.

You can get to the interview by clicking the link at the bottom of this page. (Wait a few seconds for the audio to start.) Because of technical difficulties, the show cuts out at the 6:37-minute marking and returns at the 10:30-minute marking. When the air is dead, drag the cursor to 10:30 and start listening.

Cat Brubaker Crossing America – diagonally

Dan Pedaling to Maragaritaville

Dan Zimmerman Pedaling to Margaritaville

 

I hope you’ll tune in to my show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs the 1st and 3rd Sunday evenings of every month. The show starts at 5:00p Pacific Time and runs for 90 minutes. On the fifth Sunday in a month, Julie Kintz, Host of “Quantum Leap,” and I team up to cohost a show called “Another Quantum Leap in the Road.”

REMEMBER: Read above for directions for the technical difficulties.

See you “On the Air!”

Another Fork in the Road: Catherine and Dan’s Reflections – Triking Across America

Click here for a list of all “Another Fork in the Road” shows on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

“Another Fork in the Road” . . . Brain Injury Radio Network Catherine (Cat) Brubaker’s and Dan Zimmerman’s Reflections – Triking Across America

YOU ARE INVITED!

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It took Catherine (Cat) Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman 5 months and 5,300 miles to cross the USA (diagonally) on recumbent trikes. Blowouts, tumbles, and close encounters with bears and wild turkeys still left plenty of time to meet folks at the heart of our country. It also left time to get lost in one’s own mind. Cat and Dan rode to raise awareness for TBI and for Stroke, but I wonder what awareness they discovered within themselves along their journey. And, I mean to find out. 🙂

 

                Come One! Come ALL!

What:        Interview with Catherine (Cat) Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman.

Why:        Cat and Dan will look inward and share their innermost thoughts.

Dan Zimmerman & Cat Brubaker

Dan Zimmerman & Cat Brubaker

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, December 21, 2014

Time:         5:00p PT (6:00p MT, 7:00p CT, and 8:00p ET) 90 minute show

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

Call In:    424-243-9540

Call In:     855-473-3711 toll free in USA

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside US

or SKYPE

If you miss the show, but would like to still hear the interview, you can access the archive on On Demand listening. The archived show will be available after the show both on the Brain Injury Radio Network site and on my blog in “On the Air.”

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . Ken Collins

SPEAK OUT! – Ken Collins

Brain Injury Radio Network Host

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Collins, Ken 2

Ken Collins – TBI Survivor Host on the Brain Injury Radio Network

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Ken Collins

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

Gamerco, New Mexico, USA     on3.go@live.com

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

December 31, 1976     Age 26

4. How did your TBI occur?

I ran into a parked car while driving a snowmobile.

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

I realized the seriousness of my injury after I “woke” several weeks later. I was standing in front a mirror and picking at the wires in my mouth.

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

I was taken to the Emergency Room, and I had surgery. I broke my jaw below my chin on the left side and rammed my right jawbone into my right ear canal.

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

I have a month missing.  My hospital records say that I was “in and out” and that I was in a Posey jacket and wrist restraints all the time I was in the hospital.  I didn’t have any insurance, and there was no insurance on the snowmobile I was on or the car I ran into.  I was in the hospital a week, and then I was released to go home with my parents because I kept getting out of the restraints and wandering the halls.  On the last day I was in the hospital, they found me untied three times.  One of those times, I was urinating on a plant in the lobby.  I remember Christmas Eve, and then I don’t remember anything until I woke up in front of the mirror in late January.

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 didn’t have any rehab because there wasn’t any rehab in 1976.  My rehab came from playing baseball and community organizing.

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

My short-term memory problem has gotten much better over time. I have issues with balance and impulsivity.

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

My brain injury has given me insights that have allowed me to become a better person.

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

Nothing

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

I have a better understanding of people and life in general.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

Nothing

14.Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

Time

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

I’ve been married three times. The relationships were hurt by my impulsivity and money-management issues.

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

Not really

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

My family provided me with the love and support I needed after my brain injury.  They also gave me a place to live for a couple years until I was able to live on my own.

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

I plan to be retired.

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.

Talk with other brain-injury survivors. I wish there would have been some people with brain injuries to talk to after my brain injury. I wish also that the Internet and smart phones would have existed.

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

Collins, Ken

Ken Collins – TBI Survivor Host on the Brain Injury Radio Network

Find purpose and meaning in your life again because this will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Having a sense of purpose and meaning will give you something to live for. This will also help you feel worthwhile, help motivate you, and improve your recovery process. Take ownership of your recovery, and get rid of the word “can’t” in your vocabulary.

 

To learn more about Ken, stop by the Brain Injury Radio Network to hear some of Ken’s archived shows.

Thank you, Ken, 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 Ken.)

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

 

 

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

 

Here are this week’s Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Alicia Gilman (survivor)…Five years out from my stroke, I’m again trying occupational therapy for my hand. The neurologist actually discouraged me from trying and said not to expect any improvement, but I’m trying anyway. I picked up 25 foam balls and put them into a crate with e-stim (electrical muscle stimulation) assistance, but still it’s more than I’ve done in 5 years. Yay, me! I like my neurologist a lot. I’m sure he meant well when he told me that, but I’ve decided that no one will put limits on me – not even an awesome doctor with lots more education than I’ll ever have. I would rather hope for the best, expect the best, and receive what the good Lord decides He wants for me, than not to try and fall victim to apathy – just because my doctor said it’s not worth the effort. It is ALWAYS worth the effort! Thank you for doing what you’re doing here. It is great encouragement.

Debbie Madison (survivor)…I allowed myself a break during the craziness! Took a nap when I became overwhelmed. I think my Itty-Bitty Giant Step is to remember to listen to my body and give it a break. If I don’t, the results can be catastrophic!

Lessia G. Malloy  (survivor)…My new doctor actually added some fish oil to my diet. I do feel better.

Tracy McDonald (caregiver)…I told you all several months ago that my 27-year-old son, Charles, decided to get off the Duragesic pain patches. Well, before he discontinued the patches, he weighed 118 lbs. on his 6 ft. 1 in. frame – very underweight. He just weighed himself before showering and hollered, “Mom! My weight is now 135!” The worry of his low weight had been a great concern of his doctors. To know that Charles made the choice to stop taking that patch and now endures more pain – I am very proud of him. He wears long thermal underwear under his jeans to help with pain. He meditates. He is able to walk for hours out in the woods with his dog Cali. His agitation is less now too! I just wanted to share with my friends here. It has been 5 years since his accident. A big accomplishment – always believe!!

Lc Sossaman  (survivor)…Today I had two things to do – one was for my husband. I didn’t write them down and didn’t take a note, but I remembered them, so it was a good day. I got goat food, but that was an easy one to remember. I could remember goats – it was easy – they are my pets. My husband asked me to get a certain bucket and remember to get the lid. I did. Woo, hoo! I know it sounds so small, but not writing it down and actually doing it was good for me. Just a piddly thing, I know.

Kimberly June West (survivor)…I have been working on the “ab and butt” challenge. One of the exercises is lunges. Two years ago, I could not have done one lunge without losing balance and falling. I did 15!!! Yay, me!!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . Deb Angus

SPEAK OUT! – Deb Angus

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Deb Angus & her book

Deb Angus with Regaining Consciousness

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Deb Angus

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

Alberta, Canada

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

July 2001   Age 44

4. How did your TBI occur?

We were rear-ended at a red light by a distracted driver.

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

It was realized I had a brain injury about one week afterwards.

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

None

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

No

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?

My rehab was all outpatient: physical therapy, January-March 2002; vestibular therapy, March-April 2002; occupational therapy, April-May 2003; and speech therapy, May-June 2003.

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

I have light-sensitivity (pain from bright sunlight, photo flash, strobe lights, etc.), double vision, depth-perception problems, tinnitus, pain from loud noises, speaking problems (word-finding, stuttering, and stammering), memory problems, concentration and attention problems, a balance problem and dizziness, left-side weakness, sleeping problems, and spatial-coordination problems. I had constant debilitating head pain for the first three weeks and shooting head-pains from August 2001 until about 2010, which have dissipated quite a lot over the years. They still occur once in a while, but they’re much milder than earlier in my recovery. In 2005, I developed an extreme sensitivity to perfumes and colognes. It started as the result of olfactory and trigeminal nerve damage.

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

My life is worse. I cannot do many activities anymore (e.g., riding a bicycle or ice-skating). Parties, large crowds, and loud noises are difficult or impossible. Light-sensitivity is still an ongoing issue. It affects my driving, watching certain movies and TV programs, and attending certain events.

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

I miss the spontaneity – just going out and doing whatever whenever.

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

I have more compassion and understanding. I’m more aware of concussions and their impact on brain health.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I realize our fragility in life.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I have been helped by time, a lot of inner work on acceptance, and learning about TBI.

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

Many people have given up on me; good friends have stood by me; many more new friends have entered my life. Only I and my husband are here – I have no contact with my family back east. It wasn’t until halfway through my rehab that I realized what a brain injury was and how much it had affected me. I was then able to recognize the symptoms in my husband when he was rear-ended at red light by a drunk driver in ’92. He was never diagnosed. He hasn’t worked outside the home in 22 years. His injury is more depressive than mine, and he dislikes being around people now.

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

I don’t go out as much as I used to. A small circle of friends, who understand what I’ve gone through and what I still contend with, invite me out for lunches, etc. No more drinking; no more music events; no large-crowd events, like the Calgary Stampede or fireworks.

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

My caregiver is just me, my husband, and patience.

Book Cover-FINAL-6x9-web3

Regaining Consciousness: My Encounter with Mild Brain Injury — The Silent Epidemic

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

I still continue to work full-time. It took 10 years of writing and research, but I finally published my book on mild brain injury in 2014. I am now out delivering talks on concussions and brain injuries to raise awareness. I’m hoping to be able to retire in next 3-5 years and to concentrate more on promoting my book and delivering talks. I’m hoping that this work will help change the paradigms in the medical, legal, and insurance industries for recognition of these injuries, the recovery process involved, and the fact that many survivors need support for employment, housing, and medical issues that may crop up due to TBI – especially as we age.

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 wish I would have known how easily concussions occurred and that repeated concussions lead to permanent brain injury. And to deal more effectively with stress, which can wear the body and spirit down to dust. I am currently dealing with kidney failure due to a rare autoimmune response to a virus. My general practitioner is convinced that this occurred because of the stress I’ve endured working through brain injury, having a job that was uncertain from year to year, and having to move six times in four years, due to problem tenants, a rodent problem, and a job transition in 2012.

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

Deb Angus winter

Deb Angus

Be patient with yourself. Be gentle and nurturing with lots of self-care. Keep strong, be determined to improve, and be willing to explore all kinds of healing modalities. Keep trying to find the right doctors and the right therapists who will listen to you and help you.

 

Thank you, Deb, 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 Deb.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . Anthony Vigil Jr.

SPEAK OUT! – Anthony Vigil Jr.

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

About a week after waking from the coma.  I had dropped down to 76 lbs!  Both legs were amputated, btw.-11. What is your name? (last name optional)

Anthony Vigil, Jr.

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

Guam

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

July 2011    I was 31 years old.

4. How did your TBI occur?

I was in a traumatic car accident while on my way to train for my 2nd half-marathon.  I was an avid long-distance runner, had completed my first in 1:39, and was training to come in under 1:30 for my 2nd.  The accident also resulted in the loss of both legs above the knees.

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

I realized I had a problem when I started studying for the LSAT (law school admission test) during the summer of 2013.

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

I was in bad shape – both lungs were collapsed, and my kidneys, liver, and gallbladder failed.  There was much more that I don’t remember.  I was lucky that my accident was less than a mile from the US Naval Hospital, where many doctors there were previously stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had experience with the kind of trauma I suffered.  I was eventually transported to St. Luke’s Hospital in the Philippines, where they had a brain drug that is not approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), but is used in Europe and Asia.

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

I was in a medically induced coma for one month.

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 was in physical rehab, both as an inpatient and an outpatient, for about two months. Then I decided to complete it at home. It took two years to fully recover physically. I’m still working on the cognitive aspect.

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

The doctors told my parents that I would have the mind of a child, but luckily that didn’t happen.  When I was being tested in the Philippines, I couldn’t even draw a clock, my speech was slurred, and I didn’t know what year it was or how old I was.  I did know who all my family was, though.  I still have trouble reading dense passages and have to reread them just to comprehend.  Because my short-term memory was affected, I have trouble keeping track of concepts in dense passages.

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

For the better – my relationship with my parents is so much better.

For worse – it has quashed (or at least delayed) my aspirations for a professional degree (law or MBA).

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

I greatly miss my processing speed.  I used to be very quick to pick up new concepts, and many people thought I was smart. (I guess they still do.)

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

I enjoy relationships with people.  I’ve realized that relationships are more important than money.  I also try to enjoy life in every little thing I do.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I dislike knowing that I’m not as capable as before, but I’ve finally arrived at peace with that.Vigil Jr., Anthony Relay Race Pre TBI

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by reading other people’s stories and by learning how people were able to succeed despite the TBI.

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

For the first two years, I hated being stuck at home with my parents again, after I had been living on my own since 19.  I’ve finally come to enjoy and appreciate my parents.

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

I didn’t have much of a social life before the accident, so not much has changed.

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

During the first year of my recovery, my mom was my caregiver.  Yes, I understand that it takes a lot of love, even though you may not understand why things happened that way and even if the other person fights you the whole time.  =)

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

I was approved for a business loan a week before my accident, so I hope to resume that plan and maybe get a professional degree.  That’s a big maybe.

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.

Try working or really exerting your mind.  You won’t really know your capabilities until you try.

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

Research, research, research.  Reach out to other survivors, for no one else knows what you are experiencing.  I tried explaining it to my coworkers and parents, and it was impossible for them to understand!Vigil, Jr., Anthony

 

Thank you, Anthony, 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 Anthony.)

 

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