Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Murray
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Brain Injury Survivor
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
April 14, 2006 I was 28.
4. How did your TBI occur?
It was caused by a viral infection that resulted in encephalitis.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I started having a seizure-like symptom, which I had never had before. Thankfully, I was at home, and it happened in front of my family. They called 9-1-1.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I spent almost three months in the hospital.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes, I was. I had no control or understanding of what I was doing, so they put me into a drug-induced coma for a 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)?
Yes. I had inpatient rehab for two months. The therapists helped me relearn how to walk, eat, read, and get dressed. Then I did, and still do, a type of outpatient rehab by volunteering at my local Brain Injury Association.
How long were you in rehab?
Inpatient rehab was about two months. Outpatient rehab, including my volunteering, has been about six years.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
The way my brain had swollen from the viral infection caused the retina of my right eye to detach. This left me blind in one eye, and it has taken some time to get used to it. I also had a hard time getting used to my lack of memory, and I have had two seizures since the brain injury. I’ve found that I can get stressed and semi-lose myself VERY EASILY.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It is a little bit of both. If the injury hadn’t happened, I would’ve finished college and been working in the tourism industry. But I have found out who my true friends are. They are the ones who stayed friends no matter what. Also, I have found a new hobby since my volunteering. I have fallen for “embroidery on paper,” which I had never heard of until the arts program with my local Brain Injury Association.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I miss not having to live off my family. Before my injury, I worked and was in college. Yes, money was tight. But at least I could make it, whereas now I am not able to.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
The new friends I’ve made have been great. I also love losing myself to some of my favorite tunes while I’m on a walk or out on my bike. I’ve also found a new love, thanks to the arts program with The Brain Injury Association. We made Christmas cards one year by stitching Santa into the cards, and that started my love for embroidery on paper. I also find that it is a huge help for relieving stress and feeling a bit more self-confident.
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
I dislike my lack of memory. It can make everyday things – things that most people take for granted – a chore for me to remember how to do them or what to do. Also, I find that I can get disorientated and basically lost really easily.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
For me, volunteering at my local Brain Injury Association has been a HUGE help, along with having family and friends accept you.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My injury has added more stress to my family. I have to rely on them to pay all of my bills, as I have a zero income.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. Due to my having sight in only one eye, I stay away from a lot of crowds.
17. Who is your main caregiver?
My husband and my mother are my main caregivers.
Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
It’s someone who helps with everyday activities. Both my husband and my mother helped me relearn how to walk and to cut my food.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I am hoping to get back into a paid job, even part-time, to have some spending money and to rely a little less on my family.
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.
Personally, a major struggle for me was accepting the severity of my symptoms. It took a lot of pushing from my family and from friends to accept my limits. I urge you to focus on what you can do and on what you’ve achieved.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I believe accepting yourself and acceptance from the people around you are very important to aiding in your recovery from a brain injury. Volunteering somewhere that understands brain injury, like a local Brain Injury Association or an Assisted Living retirement residence, can be good for you. Showing your strong points by assisting someone or just being able to talk and discuss things with others can be a HUGE help.
Brain Injury Survivor
Thank you, Murray, 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 Murray.)