Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Kendra Brittain
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email? (optional)
Sapulpa, Oklahoma, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?
My TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor is my son. He was about 13 when his injury happened. He was playing football and got hit on both sides of his helmet. This caused a severe concussion. No one knew what was going on at that time. Of course, both the coach and we let him keep playing any sport out of not knowing what happened to him. As a result, his injury did not have time to heal.
4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?
I immediately took him to a seizure-doctor because I suspected his juvenile epilepsy had come back. But, it was very different. Nothing showed up on what was wrong with him until six months later. My son’s concussion was around 2008. I was 37 when his injury occurred. My son is now 18, and he is mostly unable to take care of himself.
5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?
My husband and I were taking care of our daughter in addition to our son.
6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?
No, I wasn’t working. I had been injured at work, which left me disabled. So, I wouldn’t have been able to work anyway. But, I was able to care for my son better.
7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?
My husband helped me a lot when he could. Other than that, I didn’t have any help.
My husband and I helped our son immediately by taking him to the doctor.
9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?
No, my son wasn’t in a coma, but he lost all memory of before the accident and the week of the injury. He can’t remember his childhood at all.
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 your survivor was getting therapy?
My son did have to do a lot of physical therapy for his back because he developed a syrinx due to the injury. (A syrinx results when cerebrospinal fluid, which normally flows around the spinal cord and brain and transports nutrients and waste products, collects in a small area of the spinal cord and forms a pseudocyst.)
11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?
My son needs constant reminders to do stuff because his memory isn’t very long. He requires reminders to take his medicine. Because his depression was so great, we had to give it to him.
12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?
My son’s brain injury has made life better because we are closer as a family, and it made us realize what is important in life.
13. What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?
My son loved sports, and we loved to watch him play. But, because of his memory, no one will give him a chance – not even to play basketball, which he is good at and enjoys. He really misses playing too, so he has had to find enjoyment someplace else.
14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy our family life and the closeness we have as a family. I would not change it for the world.
15. What do you like least about brain injury?
I dislike all the struggles my son has to go through and the limitations he has that no one can see by looking at him. I also dislike when he has a seizure and I can’t do anything about it.
16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?
I’ve been helped by my faith in God’s wisdom and knowing He can heal anyone.
17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
We are a closer family than ever before.
18. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
No, not really.
My son got his driver’s license. He’s graduating high school and then heading to college to learn about computers. He will have a job that he went to school for – doing what he wants to do.
20. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Don’t give up – even though your circumstances may look dim. There is hope in life and in God. There is a better plan for your life in the future. God will make something good out of something bad. Also, if you know your child or your survivor and you know that something is not right and you feel that what the doctors say doesn’t make sense, get a second opinion and pursue it. We did that, and my son is ten times better.
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