TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for February, 2015

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Lee Staniland

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  . . . . . Lee Staniland


Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Lee Staniland -  TBI Survivor

Lee Staniland –
TBI Survivor

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

Lee (Liana) Staniland

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

Oxnard, California, USA     leechar101@gmail.com

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

Age 25

4. How did your TBI occur?

A horse took me under a tree.

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

My husband came home and found me unconscious under the tree in our pasture.

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

My husband took me to the Emergency Room. They sent me to another hospital.

7. Were you in a coma?


If so, how long?

I was in a coma six weeks.

8. Did you do rehab?

Yes. I did rehab for a while.

What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)?

I did rehab both as an inpatient and an outpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

I had rehab for a month. Then I got impatient with the drive to get there, so I quit and did my own rehab.

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

I have issues with balance and memory.

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

I think my life mostly changed for the better. I’m a better and nicer person.

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


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

I got back most of my old self, so I can do most everything.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

The fatigue

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I was blessed that my mind just let me accept the new me.

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

I don’t let people push me around. I divorced my husband whom I was married to when the accident happened, and I married a more accepting man.

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

I am a morning person, so when it starts getting dark, I fade.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

I am my own caregiver.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?


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

I’m 62 now, and I am just going to take life easy.

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.


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

I’m adding my story to this so that you can understand better. Over 20 years ago, six other couples started the Brain Injury Support Group. It is now a non-profit organization called The Brain Injury Center of Ventura County. I was even the president for a while. I drew our logo, and I have taken many photos for them. My message is to get involved. Thanks!

You can learn more about Lee in her Guest Blog article called, “What I Remember” on my blog, Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury.


Thank you, Lee, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some

Lee Staniland  TBI Survivor

Lee Staniland
TBI Survivor

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 Lee.)


Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Kristina Hopkins

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Kristina Hopkins


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Kristina Hopkins - Caregiver Tom Hopkins- TBI Survivor

Kristina Hopkins – Caregiver
Tom Hopkins- TBI Survivor

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

Kristina Hopkins

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

Blum, Texas, USA

3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI? What caused your survivor’s TBI?

The survivor, Tom, is my husband. He was 25 years old when he got a moderate to severe TBI.

Tom was on his last of four deployments to Iraq. His camp came under attack, and the building he was working in shook because it was hit. He got hit in the head, we believe, and they found him on the floor. He has damage to the occipital and frontal lobes of his brain. His autonomic and limbic systems were also damaged. Those are the systems that make the body feel and move. Tom does not feel over 60% of his body, and he is losing the use of his legs.

4. On what date did you begin care for your TBI survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

I began taking care of Tom in early 2008. I am the main and only caregiver. I believe I was 31.

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

I was caring for two daughters, one with Asperger’s Syndrome.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI? If so, were you able to continue working?

I was working, but that changed.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

I didn’t have any help. Tom does have a TBI service-dog. The dog, Duke, let’s him know every morning whether he will be walking or rolling in his wheelchair.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in hospital, when the survivor returned home, etc.)?

Tom started receiving partial help in 2008, and then he received full-time medical help in 2009.

9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do at that time?


10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when this was happening?

Tom received physical therapy, memory therapy, and occupational therapy. All therapies were outpatient, except for the physical therapy. For that therapy, the therapists came into our home. Since moving to Texas two and a half years ago, I have taken over all of Tom’s therapy.

11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?

I assist Tom on all his ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). Tom cannot cook, so I do that. I handle the finances, with Tom’s help. I am the main driver. I am his therapist, whether it is physical or occupational therapy. I handle all appointments, i.e., I’m Tom’s “personal assistant.” (LOL)

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life has changed. I cannot say if it’s for the better or for the worse. We have learned to overcome Tom’s injuries and to adapt to them. It’s a lonely life at times, but I would not change my life. I am truly honored to be married to my husband.

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

I miss making plans a month or more into the future. We can’t do that now.

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

EVERY day is different. It can be exciting. Case in point – our Thanksgiving this year.

15. What do you like least about TBI?

I don’t like that people look at Tom as if nothing is wrong. They need to walk a day in his shoes or mine. Then they can decide.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s TBI?

I had to accept Tom’s TBI right away. There was no time not to.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. We don’t go “out” as much. We cannot make plans for the distant future. We just take one day at a time.

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

What’s a “social life”? (LOL) We do get out now and then, but not often.

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

I cannot answer this question about my plans for ten years from now. I have no clue. We don’t plan that far in advance. In ten years, hopefully our daughters will be in college or in the military or just getting out. As for the two of us, my hope is to be where we are at now – taking it one day at a time.

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

Good question. I guess to answer that question would depend upon whom I am talking with. Not every caregiver is at the same stage. So my advice varies. I guess all I can say now is this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.


Kristina Hopkins - Caregiver

Kristina Hopkins – Caregiver

Thank you, Kristina, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Photo compliments of Kristina.)

Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.

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.

DeWayne Banner  (survivor)…I fixed the lights on my Jeep. I am proud of myself. I loved working on cars when I was younger, but I have not been able to do much since my accident. I think I’ll try some more.

Driving a carGlenda Gale Coker (survivor)…I survived a TBI when I was six years old. Post TBI, I had regular classes in school, got a college degree, got married, and learned to drive. And, I’ve had the same job for two years.

Jenni Flores (survivor)…I like “Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.” Last week, I continued using my manual wheelchair, even after I got out of the hospital; I took all my pills on time; and twice I made my own arrangements (and trusted people) to go and see my husband.

award_certificate_w_stampShell Lawson  (survivor)…I thought I’d share this – not to boast, but to encourage. I have a severe TBI and I just made the Honor Society. I did it all on my own, with a couple of exceptions: during my first semester, I had friends help me with a couple of essays via the ‘net, and I get extra time on my tests. I believe you can do anything you put your mind to. 🙂

Michael Montepara (survivor)…A pleasant “Good morning,” Donna. I had a semi-good week this week. I have been cleared from mental health, and I met with my lawyer about my SSI (Supplemental Security Income) hearing next week. Maybe 2015 will finally turn that corner, and things will iron out…MAYBE.Susan Cursive

Susan Shacka  (survivor)…I made it through three weeks of bible. (For me, it’s hard to read and concentrate.) Also, I wrote my name in cursive at occupational therapy.

Daniel Wondercheck (survivor)…I received my TBI on July 23, 1991. I live in Kansas. I have a personal assistant for 26.5 hours per week. I use a wheelchair (full-time) as a result of the TBI. In October 1993, the Social Security Administration eBay Power Seller TRSdeclared me totally and permanently disabled. In August 2003, I started selling collectibles on eBay for something to do. Selling collectibles on eBay morphed into a full-time business. I am now an eBay Power Seller with 100% positive feedback.


YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio Another Fork in the Road . . . . . . Bob Calvert, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, and Juliet Madsen

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio

Another Fork in the Road

Helping Veterans & Troops Return From War


Bob Calvert, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, and Juliet Madsen

images-1Meet my guests.

Bob Calvert, host of “Talking With Heroes” on Blogtalk Radio, will be my guest this evening. Bob has made numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he talks with and brings hope to the troops serving in our military. As some of you know, TBI (traumatic brain injury) is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Bob Calvert - Host of

Bob Calvert –
Host of “Talking with Heroes”

It is estimated that there are more than 11,000 troops who are affected with brain injury because of explosions from IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and many more troops experience concussions from the blasts. Often troops exhibit no obvious effects of brain injury until much later. So what happens to those troops while in the field? How can a commanding officer identify a troop who has a concussion? What happens to troops when they come home with these injuries? Those are a bunch of questions that I have. Bob and I will talk about how his show helps troops in the field and at home. We’ll also discuss the kinds of problems troops face when they return. Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, caregiver of her husband, a returned troop, and retired troop and brain injury survivor, Juliet Madsen will be joining Bob and me.

Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

Jeannette Davidson-Mayer Caregiver

Wife, mother, and caregiver, Jeannette Davidson-Mayer’s life took a new turn when her husband, DeWayne had his 5th accident in the service of the US Military. When in 2006, DeWayne was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, spinal injuries, as well as other medical problems, Jeannette stood up to help him. She became his advocate. Jeannette believes that both love and humor are vital to strengthening family relationships. I agree with her.

Juliet Madsen copy

Juliet Madsen TBI Survivor & USA Veteran

Juliet Madsen was a member of the United States Army for more than 17 years before she was retired from the Army due to medical conditions. Juliet is not only actively involved in her own recovery, but she is an advocate for other veterans. Juliet strongly believes in helping brain-injured troops and their families have a better quality of life and she tries to make a difference in the lives of those who were injured in the line of duty while serving our country.

Jeannette and Juliet both hold positions on the Board of Directors for R4Alliance. R4Alliance is an organization whose goal is to support military families through therapeutic and recreational activities. I love that concept. As a teacher of young children I believe that learning through play is key to success. So why wouldn’t fun through therapeutic and recreational activities also be a good way to approach healing with brain injury survivors? Sounds good to me.

Thank you, Bob, Jeannette, and Juliet, for sharing such wonderful information about what you each do to help veterans, troops, and their families cope with returning home from the wars with me and my listeners on “Another Fork in the Road” on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

Click the link below to listen to Bob, Jeannette, Juliet, and me.

See you “On the Air!”

Helping Veterans & Troops Return From War

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

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