Survivors SPEAK OUT! – Anonymous
(survivor requested anonymity for personal reasons)
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I was 28 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
My ex-boyfriend pushed me over a balcony, and I hit my head on concrete.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
People called 9-1-1, so it was within a few minutes.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I had two craniotomies (removal of part of the skull to expose the brain). A pic line (also “picc line,” peripherally inserted central catheter) was added in my arm. I had a G-PEG (gastric tube inserted by percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy; the tube leads directly to the stomach and allows direct feeding).
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for four days. The coma was medically 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)?
I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies.
How long were you in rehab?
I did six weeks of inpatient therapy, followed by ten months of outpatient therapy.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I’m half deaf. I have problems with muscle weakness, memory loss, double vision, balance, discoordination, and loss of the brain’s executive function.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life is better now. I’m more loving to my family and my son. It seemed impossible at the time – I thought I’d be crippled.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I was in college to be an RN. At the time, I already had a good job helping people with their everyday needs.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I have a new appreciation for life. I know that life can end at any time, so I cherish each day. I don’t drink anymore. Therefore, I can now provide my son with whatever he needs.
I dislike forgetting words and names. I have a hard time with what I want to say to people. Often, I have short-term and long-term memory loss. Those things can be the hardest.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
My son and my family have helped me to accept my new changes by being caring and patient.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My brain injury has affected my home life by my having to find new ways to get around things. I have also learned that, while a relationship would be nice, I don’t have to be in one.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
My social life is now limited to walking in my small town and the occasional visit to the grocery store or department store to get only what I need
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My mom is my main caregiver. She handles all of my finances, plus she’s been an Occupational Therapist for over twenty years.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would like to continue talking to people about the effects of alcohol, the effects of abuse, and how we can change all of that.
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 wish I would’ve known what real abuse is – not only the physical aspects, but emotional and psychological abuses as well. Had I been aware of those, I would not have been injured in a way that completely altered my life.
Plus, let it be noted that no two traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are ever the same.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I am a TBI survivor. We are all TBI survivors in our own ways. We don’t need to be in abusive relationships; we deserve all of the care in the world. My advice – don’t become a statistic of horrible abuse that could harm you. Everyone has the capacity to be stronger. I realize that now, and I hope that everyone does.
(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.
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