TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

About Me and My Blog!

SPEAK OUT! for Brain Injury 

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Writer, Blogger, Radio Host, Speaker

1 Donna Featured PhotoWRITER

My completed memoir, “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story,” starts the minute my husband, David, had his brain injury. He was exercising. He did one more chin-up than his normal twelve. That dreaded thirteenth changed our lives forever. The story carries the reader through three unwanted brain surgeries – none of which David was expected to survive and which reduced him to an infantile state. “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story” portrays David’s first eighteen months of struggles through recovery, therapy, and rehabilitation, while heralding his strength and persistence. I have included an epilogue to bring the reader up to date on David’s recovery and David added his flair to the story and his personal touch by writing the afterword. “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story,” documents my dedication to helping David recover and details how we picked up the pieces and glued our lives back together. The story will make you laugh. No – brain injury is not funny, but life without humor during recovery from brain injury would be unbearable. It will also make you cry. No doubt! But, mostly it will offer hope to brain-injured survivors, their caregivers, and their family and friends. “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story” is my completed memoir currently searching for an agent

I have four stories published for children in three books with Scholastic in their Education Department. Also, three biographies about notable Native Americans are scheduled for publication in two anthologies in early 2016.

BLOGGER2 Donna Collage

My blog, Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury, was the brainchild born from my realizing how many people are living with brain injury. At least 5.3 million people, just in the United States alone, are affected by brain injury. That is an astounding number! After being a part of this huge community for almost ten years, I knew I had to raise my voice, and I realized I could use my writing skills to reach a large audience.  Social media was not yet a part of folks’ lives when David had his brain injury, so we invented our own wheel. But now, with so many social media sites where brain-injury survivors, their caregivers, and their family and friends can search for information, I felt it was senseless for them to invent their own wheels. I wanted to help. The blog began with the Survivors SPEAK OUT! interviews, which gave survivors a voice, using my blog as their stage. That venue became hugely successful, and soon the Caregivers SPEAK OUT! interviews evolved. Soon after, many more categories followed as I saw a demand for them. The categories are listed below with a brief description.


Brain Injury Resources

The Brain Injury Resources category houses various informational topics, including books, movies, documentaries, facts, and research about brain injury.

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Interviews

Read interviews from caregivers of brain-injured survivors. If you are a caregiver, this is where you can tell your side of the story. Look for the Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Questionnaire below.

 Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Questionnaire

This is the Caregiver Questionnaire. It’s easy – just fill out the 20-question template. (All the directions are on the page.)4 Donna Collage

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Meet brain-injured survivors and their caregivers on “Faces of Brain Injury.” Their candid and heart-wrenching stories will help readers understand the serious implications and complications of living with brain injury.

 If you’d like to share your story on “Faces of Brain Injury,” please send it to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d be happy to consider it. (Please put “Faces of Brain Injury” in the subject line.)

 SPEAK OUT! Guest Bloggers

Everyone has a story. In this section, Guest Bloggers can SPEAK OUT! about topics relevant to brain injury and special to them.

 If you have a Guest Blog you’d like to share, please contact me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d be happy to consider it. (Please put Guest Blogger in the subject line.)

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

When you are living with a brain injury, no accomplishment is too small. ibGs provides a platform for brain-injury survivors and their caregivers to shout out their BIGGEST (or smallest) recent accomplishment. Share yours now!

Send it to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d be happy to consider it. (Please put Itty-Bitty GIANT Step in the subject line.)

My Book: “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story”

You can read about my book under “Writer” above.


NewsBits is the place to go to find out the latest in the news about brain injury. 5 Donna Collage(Well, it was the “latest” when I published it. I’m sure it’s still interesting, though.)

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 

My radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” airs the first and third Sundays of each month at 5:30pm Pacific Time. The show features brain-injury survivors and/or their caregivers. It also delves into the problems and issues that survivors and caregivers live with each day. Professionals, including therapists, are also interviewed on the show. If you can’t tune in to the live show, don’t fret. You can listen to the show anytime. It’s archived. Just find the show you want to hear and click the link. (“On The Air Show Menu” in the sidebar of my blog has a list of all my shows and provides their links.)

On the Air! Show Menu

This is the place to go if you are looking for a great show about brain injury. All of my shows are listed here with a link that will carry you directly to the station to listen. So, sit back, relax, and learn.6 Donna Collage

So, Whaddya Think?

Is there something you are passionate about in this brain-injury world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So, Whaddya Think?

Send your opinion piece to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d be happy to consider it. (Please put So, Whaddya Think? in the subject line.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Interviews

Read interviews from brain-injured survivors from all walks of life. Brain injury is NOT discriminating. If you are a brain-injured survivor, this is where you can tell your side of the story. I’d be happy to consider it. Look for the Questionnaire Template below.

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Questionnaire

This is the Survivor Questionnaire. It’s easy! Just fill out the 20-question template. (All the directions are on the page.)

TBI Tales7 Donna Collage

The stories that are shared here by a variety of survivors and caregivers will make you laugh and cry – sometimes at the same time. They may delight you or they may shock you, but I can guarantee that the stories will offer you courage and hope.

If you have a TBI Tale you’d like to share, please contact me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d be happy to consider it. (Please put TBI Tale in the subject line.)

and Explore More …
You’re just going to have to click to find out. Go ahead! You know you want to.


Becoming a radio host had never entered my mind and may be just about the biggest surprise in my life. When I was approached to join the Brain Injury Radio Network on blogtalk radio, I was hesitant. Probably more like…are you kidding me? It took some convincing and a lot of soul-searching before I said, “Yes.”

I wondered what skills I had for this job, and I began to think – always dangerous. I had been a teacher for more than three decades, entertaining my audience of more than four hundred six- to eight-year-olds – teasing them into learning to “read, ‘rite, and do ‘rithmetic.” Believe me, teachers nearly stand on their heads to keep their little “twerpsters” entertained – a must, if you are going to keep their attention.8 Donna Collage

I am also in the theater and periodically climb onto the stage to cavort with other actors in front of hundreds of play-goers, so I thought maybe this radio-host thing might work. After all, if I can speak in front of hundreds of people who are directly in front of me, speaking to thousands of invisible listeners should be a cinch. So, yes, I decided to join the network.

Well, it’s not a cinch, and I still get the butterflies before each show, but as soon as my intro music plays, I am in the zone. My 80-minute show flies by, and when I invite my audience to tune in again in two weeks and the mics shut down, I savor the satisfaction of a job well done.

Since I’ve lived in the brain-injury world for more than ten years as the caregiver for my husband, David, I’ve learned a lot and was eager to share my knowledge with others. I’ve been with the network for more than a year now, and I have hosted more than twenty-seven shows.

You can listen to my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. My show airs the first and third Sundays of each month at 5:30pm Pacific Time. On my 80-minute show, I interview guests in the brain-injury world, including survivors and/or their caregivers, delving into their lives to better understand how they cope with daily living after brain injury. I invite folks from the medical professions, such as therapists, who are willing to offer suggestions and hope to survivors. I talk with folks in brain-injury communities, such as troops from the combat zones of recent wars and athletes from the battlegrounds of the playing fields. I address many topics pertinent to brain injury with my panel of brain-injury survivors and caregivers.

Tune in! Click on Brain Injury Radio and look for “Upcoming Broadcasts.” (My show will be advertised about two days before the first or third Sunday of each month.)

You can listen to the shows anytime. They’re archived. Just click on On the Air! Show Menu on my blog. See you “On the Air!”

SPEAKER9 Donna Collage

If you’ve read the section above about my being a radio host, you will already understand why I have chosen to become a spokesperson for brain injury. Though brain injury has been around for forever, it seems that it is finally coming to the forefront as our troops arrive home with traumatic brain injury – what the world is calling the “signature” wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Recently too, there is a lot of attention to the head traumas that many football players have received, resulting in serious repercussions for them, such as memory loss, unrestrained anger, and even early dementia. Sadly, many players have completely lost hope and have resorted to suicide. Of course, with the baby boomers reaching their “golden” years (and some not so golden), they are finding that many of them and their loved ones are requiring caregivers in their lives simply to manage day-to-day living. And that’s where I come in. With my knowledge and experience of being a caregiver for my husband, David, for more than ten years, I have learned a fair bit and would like to share my knowledge to help others.

Need a speaker? My 90-minute PowerPoint Presentation, “What Caregivers Need to Know,” is for anyone with a brain injury, anyone who is caring for a brain-injured person, or anyone with any interest in learning more about brain injury. For details or to schedule me for your event, please contact me at neelyf@aol.com.

Below is my brochure.

Click on photos to enlarge.

10 Brochure 111 Brochure 2

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