TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Shane Coco & Gary Rankin

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.

Coco, Shane Survivor 080415Shane Coco (survivor)
It is a good day to be alive – a good day to be grateful. I think that somewhere, deep inside, my gratitude helps keep me alive. I’ve suffered and felt like dying. I looked at my situation and saw I have no friends. My gratitude may have kept me alive. I can drive; I have a job; I have a family who loves me; I have a dog; and I have fellow associates who told me today they love working with me. I can walk, talk, and drive!

I remember when I couldn’t talk right and when I couldn’t walk. I thought that if I could walk, everything else would be a breeze. Well, it wasn’t. I had other obstacles. Then driving was my next huge thing. I thought that, when I learned how to drive, all the ladies and friends would come to me. I would have it made, man. Well, I can drive, but I’m kind of still working on the “ladies and friends” thing. Then I needed a job. I’ve got a job now. How grateful was I then – and still am!
It certainly is a good day to be grateful. It’s a good day to be alive. This injury may have happened to me for me to see all that I have – not to moan and groan about what I wish I had.Shane Coco 2

A while ago, I took yoga, but I quit because I did something embarrassing during the session. (Use your imagination, and you probably got it right.) The instructor always used to say to the group, “Simply be.” This really helped me relax. But nowadays, I may be thinking differently. I want to move forward. I don’t want to stop or move backwards. Progress. I want to become. I want to transform. I like to say, “Simply become.” Get stronger. Get wiser. Don’t waste time. I don’t have to be perfect. I just can’t stay in the same spot for too long. I’ve got to keep on moving. It works for me. “Simply become.”

Gary Rankin (survivor)

10276317_10152345727842604_1934167730_nOn October 27, 2001, I took my friend’s motorcycle for a joyride. It was as if I were there speeding away, and then it was as if my eyes were closed all the way. So to speak, I never came back that day. I arose like a phoenix on the eighteenth day. Later I was told that I had been in a coma. I fractured my lower vertebrae and had a closed-head injury that led to a traumatic brain injury. I had to relearn to walk and to use the left side of my body. (I tied my right arm to my body to force me to use my left.) My autonomic system is broken and two years of memory of anything from before the accident has been deleted. I don’t remember 9/11 happening. I’m just going to say that it’s weird not remembering a major event in our history. I feel like an alien.Rankin, Gary Survivor 080415

Western medicine wrote me off. My walking again was not on the table. I kept telling the doctors they were wrong. My mom read me Emeral’s New New Orleans cookbook while I was in a coma. My dad looked down at me and said, “You beat this, and I’ll help you become anything you want.” OK, game on.

Rankin, Gary Survivor 11328938_10153306807537604_1330621617_n Rankin, Gary Survivor 11263812_10153306807512604_40752643_nI was enrolled into culinary school before I walked out of the hospital. I earned three culinary degrees from the Florida Culinary Institute. I have been traveling around the country as a chef, pastry-chef, and baker for the past nine years. I had my debut appearance on the Food Network. I crushed everything Western medicine put in front of me. I did it without their drugs and their help, and I did it on my time-line. I left the hospital eighteen days after I woke up. I have not seen a doctor since I left the hospital in 2001.

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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Comments on: "SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Shane Coco & Gary Rankin" (6)

  1. This is an amazing story. Thanks for keeping up this blog. It provides much needed encouragement for those of us who struggle with far less than what Shane went through. However, I recognize Shane’s victories do not minimize our struggles.


    • Sheri, there are so many amazing stories – as many as there are TBIs. Thanks for reading and for commenting. I am glad that you like the blog. It pleases me that my work may be helping some.

      Donna O’Donnell Figurski

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donna – Every brain is different so it shouldn’t surprise us that every individual has a different set of critical occurring criteria. Each time I strike my head [and trust me, it’s never because I want to] I lose another part of me. Reading your blog reminds me I’m not alone. Then, the caregiver part of me gains additional insight for how others care for their loved ones. It’s a terrific place for individuals to land and learn.


      • Sheri, I am so glad that you are finding the blog helpful in different aspects. I’m pleased that you landed here and I hope that tons of others will too.

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate your insight.

        Donna O’Donnell Figurski

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Matt blatnik said:

    I would like to get in touch with Shane coco. We were friends.


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