SPEAK OUT! – Anthony Vigil Jr.
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Anthony Vigil, Jr.
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
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?
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!
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.)