TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Pamela Sveum & Sherri Diehl Ward

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!


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.

Svenum, Pamela Caregiver to son, Robby 080315Pamela Sveum (mother and caregiver for her son, Robby)

Seventeen years ago, my son, Robby, (then age 15) suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accidental gunshot wound to the head with a .357. He was moving his boss’ gun from the seat Robby Sveum 1of the truck to the dashboard when the gun went off. He was given a 0% chance of survival. Medically speaking, Robby should not have survived. Medically speaking, everything pointed to zero at the very best. Robby’s survival and recovery are nothing less than a miracle! Robby Sveum 4The picture on left is Robby dancing at his best friend’s wedding a few years ago. He was the best man. The one on the right is Robby getting his dog, Holly, about five years ago. May 27, 2015, is the date on which I acknowledge feeling very blessed – very thankful for Robby’s presence in our lives and his continuing progress. I feel a bit of sadness for the things we lost along the way – there were casualties. My message: Keep the faith, never give up hope, and always be willing to continue to be surprised with what life has in store for you. With Robby, life is always full of surprises.

Sherri Diehl Ward (caregiver)

Ward, Sheri Diehl Caregiver 080315Our story in a nutshell: My husband, Bill, was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident on July 11, 2009. He was thrown from his bike and lay in a ravine in the woods – about twenty feet from the road. When Bill wrecked and was thrown, the bike stayed upright and continued down the road about 300 feet. The police got to the scene and saw the bike with minimal damage. They assumed that the rider dumped it and left. Bill lay in the woods until a police officer found him. The police were actually ready to leave the scene, when Officer Hurd from the Winslow Township Police Department saw something in the road and went to see if it was part of the accident scene. When he approached, he heard Bill’s moans coming from the woods. At that point, everyone sprung into action, so to speak, as Bill’s time was quickly running out. The helicopter was called in. En route to the hospital, Bill actually coded. He was gone for four minutes. Ward, Sheri Diehl CAregiver 080315 2When Bill arrived at the hospital, I was not far behind him, as I had been notified by my brother-in-law, a police officer from our town. (Once the police ran the plates on the bike and realized who the victim was, they contacted my brother-in-law first, as they knew him.) He picked me up, and we quickly made our way to the hospital, not knowing if Bill was dead or alive at that point.

When I first saw Bill, he was completely unrecognizable. He had broken every bone in his face, broken his jaw in three places, fractured his neck, broken eight ribs, and, worst of all (the reason I am writing this), received a traumatic brain injury. It was very touch and go for weeks. Bill spent three of them in a coma. He had to have complete facial reconstructive surgery, and he had his jaw wired for twelve weeks. Bill came home about a month and a half after the accident, complete with a peg tube (a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach) and a trach (tracheotomy – an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea to allow direct access to a breathing tube).

Ward, Sherri Diehl Husband with BI 080315Although Bill healed physically, I don’t think he will ever be fixable emotionally and mentally. We now struggle daily with bouts of amnesia, sporadic memory loss, cognitive impairment, confusion, disorientation, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, nightmares, flashbacks, and early signs of dementia, among many other things. Bill’s severe and drastic mood swings and rage are a part of daily living as well. We try to make the best of the situation at hand, and I am forever grateful to still have him here, but living with a TBI survivor is not a life I would have chosen – for obvious reasons. I can only hope that one day we will all have peace.

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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