SPEAK OUT! – Deb Angus
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)
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.)