TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for April, 2015

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Richard Johnson

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating

 

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Richard Johnson (survivor) 

la5-seQbctqTwXPuELQm7w3ZPSPra73-BTYsV2TzFrmHjlfsj8CAdfvj1wnfejETg2tSTJ4rfqDvOL9oMI_160CYm__3H82mWGki2QEVhZYz8ZLYhqad7IsWyOqj_li8nObQrOkqqzVt95fKknyW4oNd7A0fSkhYMnExzhzeBcwPbATtvzU5LI-TdmefuMcdZc7l959--u6H5aNYtBUCZmiCBS0BWSmt

Hello, I’m a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor. In October 2003, I was cleaning the gutters on my house. The ladder slipped, and down I went, hitting my head on a concrete slab. I was admitted to HCMC (Hennepin County Medical Center), and I spent the first month there. I was placed into a medically induced coma and had a craniotomy, one session in the hyperbaric chamber, multiple MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and/or CAT (CT, computerized tomography) scans, and a tracheotomy. A feeding tube was inserted. And, I was given a protective helmet.

During the second month, I was sent to Bethesda Hospital to help me “wake up” from my coma. There I had cognitive and physical therapies.  For my third month, I was transferred to Regions Hospital. I continued with speech, physical, and occupational therapies on a daily basis (two sessions a day, 45 minutes each).  In January 2004, I was released from the hospital and was able to return home. In February 2004, I went back to HCMC, where they placed my bone back onto my skull (and I was able to throw away my helmet). During January through September, I had daily outpatient sessions for speech and occupational therapies. In October 2004, I was able to start working again full-time at my “pre-injury” job.

My main “post injury” side effects are aphasia and a short-term memory issue. To “heal” my ongoing aphasia, to help other survivors (and their families), and also to inform the general public about brain injuries, I am a co-facilitator for a brain injury support-group in the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center and a member of the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance Speaker Bureau. To help me recover from my short-term memory issue, I bought myself a mandolin.  I didn’t just buy it to play some tunes, but to remember the notes, chords, and lyrics for those songs hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and month-to-month. To me, playing my mandolin is self-help therapy and perhaps the best idea I’ve had after my injury.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

 

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK 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 neelyf@aol.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

Anonymous (caregiver)…I almost don’t want to post this because so many spouses of TBI survivors are hurting and are facing separation or divorce, but maybe someone needs to hear it. My guy is making travel and anniversary plans. He is remembering to say, “I love you” I_love_you_by_Pambaand “Thank you.” That is such a huge step! Emotions have been very hard for him. It is difficult for him to think of how others feel. I am so blessed that this progress means so much. It may seem small to those who think of TBI as ventilators and the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), but for those of us living the long-term path to building a new normal, this is huge. I am also learning to find my new normal. I am learning to become a better person. I am learning to take a deep breath before I react, to give him room to explain, and to invite him to communicate. I am learning to give him all the cues he needs not to go into an angry self-defense mode when I need to talk about something he doesn’t want to hear. I am learning to give him safe options out instead of making him feel backed into a corner. He is meeting me half way. He is trying to hold on to those cues and to “push pause” on his response. It has been a long road, but this week I see progress. I will give part of the credit to my own personal rehab program. As a military family, we owned a home at our last duty station. When he had to leave the Army due to his TBI, we were mid-remodel. He is alone at our old house, working on finishing the work THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelson the house. Well not completely alone – he is with the family mutt. I worked with the dog, and he is a real anchor for my hubby. The dog gets noodgey when hubby’s sugar is down, restless and pacing when it is up. (The dog woke up my hubby when his sugar dropped at night.) The dog responds to my guy’s moods and anger. My husband is able to talk about the dog being skittish.progress We can talk about emotional balance in that context. He can’t yet talk about himself, but the dog is becoming his personal barometer. I know that there will be rages and shoving again. I know that he may leave us in his pain. I know that there will be days when I wonder if I should have left. I know there will be days when I want to go. I know that he may make bad choices about money. I will maintain my own bank account and resources in case I need it. I will make sure my kids and I feel as safe as we can. I will make sure that I can care for my beloved and our kids. Today – I SEE PROGRESS! Talking about all of this helps me daily as I learn to make the best of this TBI life.

 

Jeremy Dorr (survivor)…Sometimes I go for a walk in my neighborhood. It doesn’t do anything, but I can clip-art-walking-199243walk and think about things and have “me” time. gg65255707My brain is always on and seems to be working at 500% (LOL). The walk helps my brain shut off so I can sleep. I hope this can help someone out. Even if the world walks away from you, you can build back better. Staying positive has helped me, even though at times it’s hard.Dave Villarreal Award 11156302_452286041605770_1808858156142049527_n

 

Dave Villarreal  (survivor)…I received an award for 100 hours of volunteer service to the Veteran’s Administration.

 

YOU Did It!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kristin Russo

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Kristin Russo

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Russo, Kristin December 2014 After

Kristin Russo – Post-TBI Dec. 2014

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

Kristin Russo

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

Annandale, Virginia, USA

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

July 22, 2013 – I was 28.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My TBI was caused by a collision with a tractor-trailer. Read about it. “Kristin Russo accident.”

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

It was realized about 2-3 days into my stay in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

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

I have no memory of the accident, the month in the hospital, and even the first 5-6 months at home under 24-hour care.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Yes. My coma was induced.

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 had occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapies for a month as an inpatient. I had therapy as an outpatient until May 2014 when all but physical therapy ended. I’m still in physical therapy for physical injuries.

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

I have moderate to severe diminished visual memory, mild to moderate decreased attention span, diminished executive function, and mildly diminished speech and language function. Those are the significant findings as per my neurological addendum. It was also noted that I am likely to have significant permanent neurocognitive dysfunction due to the TBI. This problem with the physical brain injury is further complicated due the fact that I have significant PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I have a college degree, yet I had to learn how to do things as simple as double-digit subtraction. My entire education has been wiped away. Since I graduated with honors, it was easy to get accepted to Liberty University. But, I can’t retain information anymore, so I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to try and learn everything all over again. My neurologist has diagnosed me with ADD (attention deficit disorder) due to the TBI. I’m not allowed to use anything hot without supervision, etc.

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

Some things are better because I now have an excuse for being directionally challenged or for when I mess up (haha). 😉 Things are worse because I am dependent and I HATE IT! (I am an independent girl.) I was such an intelligent woman. I was still paying off my degree when the accident happened. Not being able to use ANY of the knowledge really made me unhappy. Not being able to work has been horrible because that is all I have ever known. I have been working since the day I turned 14. (My first day of work was on my 14th birthday). I worked at the same place until I graduated high school and went to college. I hate that I can no longer drive. I miss being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. 😦 I live about eighty miles from where I grew up, so it’s not often that someone comes to visit me. The accident caused me to lose my family because my own father was stealing my pain pills for his sick addiction. I’ve lost some of my friends because I’m a totally different person personality-wise. I’m 100% honest, and I have dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. The girl in the accident died. She wasn’t the best wife. (I’d give more details, but those things are better kept between husband and wife. 😉 ) But, that’s why my accident happened, and I know it. God was showing me what was in front of me, and the same, for my husband. God was bringing us closer together, and that’s exactly what my accident did. So, that’s what I do like about the TBI. Another thing that I like about the TBI is that I don’t remember the accident or being in the hospital or even the 5-6 months after it. I also don’t remember my surgeries up to July. I remember the ones on Black Friday and December 1st. But, yeah, the girl I was before was a girl who drank a lot and went to clubs and acted like she was a single 21-year-old female. Since I’m not her anymore, I’ve lost a couple friends who were just like that girl. I don’t need those girls anyway!

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

I miss being able to drink alcohol sometimes – at least to drink socially. I miss being able to drive. I miss being able to do what I want when I want. I miss working. What I do now is to constantly go to appointments – it’s nuts! I am still in physical therapy – several months post accident. I just got yet another MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging). I had surgery number eight on January 27th. I began speech therapy in January since insurance started paying again. I miss sleeping like a normal person. I miss being skinny. (I was a size 2 when I was married on July 7th, 2011, and I’m not that size anymore.) I hate being on so many damn medications. I loathe people’s not understanding invisible disabilities. I also have CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that was caused by the accident. It’s a chronic pain disease that has no cure.

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

I enjoy the fact that the Trauma Survivors Network Next Steps program taught me to find the positive in everything, so I do. When my legs hurt, I remind myself that I shouldn’t have any, so I thank God for letting me keep my legs! When I have my chronic headaches, I thank God for not making the swelling be so bad that I need to have surgery!

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I don’t like that I sleep every other day sometimes. I dislike the chronic headaches and the fact that a headache is invisible. I don’t like having memory issues and being confused so often.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

God

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

My husband gets rather upset when I forget that I’m not supposed to use a curling iron, and I fail to remember to turn it off. I no longer speak to my parents – my father makes fun of my TBI and acts like I’m making it up. (A*^#@~! ! I guess that’s what drugs do to ya.)

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

I don’t really have a social life anymore. Things are so much louder now. People annoy me more. 😦 I have NO filter. I just want to be home with my husband or alone with my dogs. I haven’t watched TV since the accident.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My husband is my main caregiver.

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

I’ll be running a photography business. 🙂 And, I better be a mommy to more than just my fur babies!

Russo, Kristin Before Accident

Kristin Russo Pre-TBI

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 urge people to try to make a positive out of everything. Depression is so ugly. I wish that I never hit that stage. Having a positive attitude has helped me SOOO much.

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

I give back now by volunteering at the hospital where I did my outpatient therapy. I got one of my dogs certified as a therapy dog, and we visit patients. I also visit patients in the trauma unit. My visits help others, and they also help me!

 

Thank you, Kristin, 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 Kristin.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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Trike Treks

April 9, 2015 to June 6, 2015

040915 David 1st Ride Catrike 700

David

Cumulative mileage for David                          616.2 mi

Donna

Donna

Cumulative mileage for Donna                         79.9 mi

Combined miles for Donna and David           696.1 mi

Miles to reach 5390* miles                             4693.9 mi

*done by both Catherine Brubaker and Dan Zimmerman in their cross-country rides

Cat TrikeZimmerman, Dan

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Davien Lopez

Brain Injury is Not Discriminating

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Davien Lopez (survivor) contributed by Diana Lopez (mom and caregiver)

10501889_768245286553199_2546552260294944140_nI am the mother of a now six-year-old boy who has a TBI (traumatic brain injury). My son, Davien, was four and a half years old when people in a car were shooting at people in Davien Lopez with brotheranother car in front of our house. While Davien was napping in my arms, a stray bullet came through our bedroom window and the headboard and struck my son in his left frontal lobe. The bullet traveled diagonally across Davien’s face and lodged in the right side of his cheek. Davien suffers from bilateral frontal lobe brain damage. He had a fractured jaw, which is healed now. He is completely blind in his right eye. He has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a mood disorder, Davien Lopez 033015and an impulse disorder. A year and a half later, Davien runs around like nothing happened. He still has a ton of psychiatric issues, but that is nothing compared to what could have occurred. A smile emoticon here is a picture of Davien and Bruno (Davien’s service dog in training).

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Adam Pepiton

Brain Injury is Not Discriminatingbigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Adam Pepiton (survivor) contributed by Tara Pepiton (mom and caregiver)

Pepiton, Adam 2Adam Pepiton, a graduate of Cesar Chavez High School, was living a full life as a college student studying Criminal Justice, working for Kmart, and spending time with family and friends. On September 5th, 2010, Adam’s life changed forever.  As he left a friend’s house after a barbecue, he became the victim of a drive-by shooting. He was shot in the head. The bullet entered on the right side and lodged in the skull on the left side. This type of injury has less than a 1% survival rate, so Adam’s surviving was a true miracle. After five weeks in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and Acute Care, Adam spent eight weeks at an acute rehabilitation facility. On December 2nd, he was discharged. While Adam’s return home was a significant milestone in his recovery, we recognized that there was still a long road ahead. Adam was diagnosed as a quadriparetic due to the brain injury.  Pepiton, Adam 1This means Adam has feeling throughout his body, but he can’t control his legs, trunk, and most of his left arm.  Adam has a power-wheelchair that allows for mobility, but he still has the goal of walking again.  He is going back to college part-time, and he has participated in sports, such as archery and power-soccer. He volunteers two days a week for the Red Cross, Greater Phoenix Chapter, and does many activities with old and new friends.  Adam works daily on improvements to meet his ultimate goals of living an independent life and of speaking to youth on violence and the decisions they make. Through all of this, Adam has kept his unwavering faith in God and his quirky sense of humor. We thank amazing family, friends, doctors, and outstanding therapists for everything they have done to get him to where he is today and to where he still plans on going.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Faith Neaves

Brain Injury is Not Discriminatingbigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury – one view at a time.

Faith Neaves (survivor)

11104222_10153117046022976_1329541496_nAbout seven years ago, I suffered a traumatic brain injury from a domestic-violence incident. My ex-husband knocked me completely unconscious when I walked around a corner. I was eight months pregnant at the time. I remember opening my eyes and not being able to see. I was lying in a puddle of blood. I never got help. I was too afraid because he was in the military. As I went in and out of consciousness, I wrote my little girls goodbye letters and hoped for the best. After that night, things were never the same. I struggled with severe depression, anxiety, crying spells, memory loss, raging, etc. – you name it. My moods would switch quickly. On a daily basis, I would forget names of people I knew or directions to places I used to go to. For the past eight years, I have been wrongly diagnosed as bipolar. I struggle with suicide, and I almost succeeded, which ended up with my being hospitalized and having more meds. Finally, I was diagnosed with a very severe frontal lobe brain injury with no hope of recovering. The doctor told me that I have a “light switch,” where most people have “thermometers.” It affects my personality, emotions, speech, and sleep. My brain has trouble with cognitive abilities, problem-solving, and conversations. I interrupt people a lot due to my brain trying to get out a word. I struggle with fatigue. The worry, anxiety, and depression are a lot to deal with, but at least I know that it’s not my fault – that it’s not from my being bipolar. 11077229_10153117046027976_657824417_nI have been exhausted, and I have felt crazy and indecisive. I have to write everything down on sticky notes – I forget dates, my phone number, and my address. My in-laws and family have judged me as crazy, having red flags, etc. – you name it. I feel they have no empathy. I’m not a victim, but a SURVIVOR. I miss me. I am devastated at who I used to be and what I have lost. I thought this was temporary and due to stress. I’m only 35, and I’m scared for my future. I’m devastated to carry the ugly scar now on both the outside and the inside. I pray that I will find love and support somewhere.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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