Survivors SPEAK OUT! Katey Ratz
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA KateyKat626@yahoo.com
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had my first traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2002 at age 22 and my second TBI in 2007 at age 28 (if I remember correctly).
4. How did your brain injury occur?
My first TBI occurred because I was getting electroconvulsive shock therapy. During my fifth treatment, I had a fifteen-minute seizure. I lost a lot of short-term memory. I have great long-term memory. My second TBI occurred when I thought I had epilepsy. I went to a neurologist. They did an EEG (electroencephalogram). They discovered left temporal lobe epilepsy and an aneurysm.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
My fifteen-minute seizure happened January 21, 2002 – the day before my mom’s 50th birthday. As far as the second, I’m not sure.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I’m not sure about my treatment for the emergency during electroconvulsive therapy. With the aneurysm, they removed a portion of my brain on the left side. Because they had to go through my skull, I now have a dent on my head.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I don’t think so.
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 don’t think I officially did rehab. I am in a kind of rehab now. I go to the Milwaukee Center for Independence. It is for people with a brain injury. I go there three days a week. They have two groups a day and different groups every day.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have a LOT of short-term memory loss. Like, I would call my mom and have a good conversation, hang up, and call her right back – forgetting that I had just spoken to her. And, my personality has been affected. I’m short-tempered – both with myself and with others.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life is both better and worse. I definitely don’t have the life I wanted. I have to rely on other people, which I hate. But, I am so lucky to be alive. My life is better because I am able to ask for help. I know I need it. Also, I am determined. And, my creative gift is outstanding. It’s my greatest strength. My life is worse because I can’t get the education I wanted. I cannot be a nurse or an occupational therapist. I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse or a pediatric/adolescent occupational therapist specializing in psych.
I miss that I had so many friends. I was very outgoing. I still am somewhat outgoing – I will talk to strangers in coffee shops. But, now my friendship is way down. I get emails, but like I call once a week, if that.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
My creativity is strengthened. My poetry is awesome. I combine sonnets with acrostics, and away I go. Right now, I have over 1,250 fourteen-letter phrases for the acrostic part. I have them all in ABC order. I can go to a coffee shop for four hours and write several poems. It keeps me out of trouble. I listen to the church message and “take notes” by listening for a fourteen-letter phrase. Today it was “The Great Reward.”
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I miss the old Katey. I hate relying on others. I hate not being able to live on my own.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Knowing that I am not alone has helped me accept my brain injuries. There are different levels of TBI. I mean, looking at me, you wouldn’t think I have a TBI. There are probably many more out there like me. I just have to accept that and know I am not alone.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I live in an apartment where there are caretakers, although they aren’t doing that great of a job. The caretakers are supposed to cook and help me clean, but they aren’t. They give me my allowance – I get my laundry money and $10 twice a week. As for relationships, my family is great. I love them so much! As for friends, I have a few, but only a couple really understand.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
My social life has changed. I go out, but I can’t be the old Katey. I can’t go to new places because I am afraid of getting lost. I have gotten lost a few times and had to call people for support. I want to join a bible study group, but I haven’t because of my fear of getting lost!
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
Like I said before, I live in an apartment where there are caretakers. There are a couple of them who pass out meds. At times, it frustrates me. They lay my meds out on a table at like 4 pm for bedtime, but I will forget to take them at bedtime. They need to give better care.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would so love to be back in school. If I only had all my brain! I would love to have a job helping people. I would love to be happily married and have kids.
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 survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.
I had an aneurysm. Yes, part of my brain is missing. But, I am still here and deserve to be. I deserve the help I need. And, I will gladly give back any help I can!
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Thank you, Katey, 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 Katey.)
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