Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Doris
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)
Tampa, Florida, USA
3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?
October 31, 2006 Age 46
4. How did your TBI occur?
I was parking my vehicle in the post office parking lot, and I passed out.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Post office employees found me unconscious behind the steering wheel.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Craniotomy; clipping and coiling of a ruptured brain aneurysm
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes. 5 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 did not do rehab, but I saw a neuropsychologist after a few months of recovery.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your TBI (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I am afflicted with anxiety, a severely bad memory, dizziness, and headaches, but I mostly have psychological problems (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.).
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It’s worse. I lost my job as a veterinary manager; I lost my home; I lost my husband of 26 years (he wanted a divorce); and I lost many friends. My daughter has turned her back on me and does not associate with me – because, according to her, I am “weird” and “boring.”
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-TBI life?
I miss the ability to be productive and to socialize. I miss feeling healthy and strong.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-TBI life?
I enjoy my pets – it seems like they understand. I feel close to them. I’ve also learned to play the guitar and sing. It brings me great pleasure and a feeling of accomplishment, especially when I practice a new song and it sounds good. (At least my animals think so! LOL.)
13. What do you like least about your TBI?
I hate what my brain injury has done to my life.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?
My friend, a neuropsychologist, has helped a great deal. He talked to me twice a week for almost a year. I am also grateful to my two long-time girlfriends. They were there through it all and still love me today.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Basically I lost all the people I thought were closest to me.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I don’t really feel comfortable socializing. I feel like most people are fake.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I’m my own caregiver. Being a caregiver takes a lot of effort and discipline.
18. What are your future plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would like to be married again. I miss a man in my life. I’ve always enjoyed taking care of him, keeping a lovely home, cooking, and having a close relationship.
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 it would not have taken years for me to accept my TBI and my altered abilities. I wasted a lot of time being angry and depressed.
20. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My advice to other survivors follows. 1. Take it easy – one step at a time. 2. Don’t disconnect from the world – you are not alone. Find a support group. 3. Do something that you feel passionate about (e.g., helping others, animal activism, crafting, volunteering, performing or visual arts, etc.). 4. Find a fun activity that requires repetition (e.g., learning to play an instrument, knitting, gardening, etc.). This will help in the recovery process and will improve the brain. 5. Be kind to yourself, and be a little selfish. You have survived a major trauma. There is a reason you are still here on this earth. God bless you all!
Thank you, Doris, 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 Doris.)
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)