Survivors SPEAK OUT! Debra Cody
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Ailsa Craig, Ontario, Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I was 47 when I was diagnosed, but I was 42 when I had my first concussion.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I suffered four concussions over a five-year span.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
It was clear I had a problem about four months after my last concussion in 2010, but my mother and my husband say they noticed a difference in me about two years before that.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was assessed in the Emergency Room after the first, second, and fourth concussions. I was always told to go home and rest for a couple weeks for the concussion. I opted not to go to the hospital after the third one because I knew I would just be told to go home and rest. For the fourth one (after the car accident), I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, as the concussion (according to the doctor) was “the least of my worries.” I had other injuries that needed surgery, a tracheotomy, and a G-PEG (gastric tube that leads directly to the stomach for feeding).
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
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)?
Yes. I was in an outpatient treatment program.
How long were you in rehab?
I have been in the program for three years now.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have headaches. I tire easily. My personality was affected. I have issues with perception, hearing, anxiety, depression, confusion, and vertigo.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I like to say that “life is my oyster and my brain injury is the pearl.” My life started out as worse, but it has slowly gotten better. My life is quieter now. I am less socially active than I was before, but I am finding (TBI). I am careful about how I choose to spend my time, as I have so little “functioning” time to spend.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy having the awareness of how valuable time truly is.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Counseling and the love and support of my husband and children have helped me to accept my TBI.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My home is quieter, and we have gotten rid of a lot of things. I get over-stimulated easily, so we streamlined our home. My relationships have changed greatly. There are fewer people in my life – I found that family and friends stopped coming around and calling. Slowly, over that past eight months, I am seeing some of “The Lost” coming back. Over all, people found the changes in me hard to understand and accept.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I go out less, and I am careful about the events I attend. It takes a lot of planning and preparation for me to go somewhere. The spontaneity is gone from my life.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My husband is my main caregiver. I don’t go far without him. I truly do understand what it takes to be a caregiver. (It helps the understanding that I am the mother of four children.)
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My plans are to keep moving forward. I look back to where I was four years ago, and I know that I never want to go back there. The only way to prevent that is to keep “getting better.” As for ten years from now, I don’t know. I have become a “one-day-at-a-time” person. What I can say is that I hope to see that I have been able to reclaim some of my independence.
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.
My advice is to be gentle with yourself. I lost a lot of time trying to “force” myself to be who I once was.
Planning, preparation, and pacing are huge in my life now. On days when I think I am “Superman” and can “fly” by the seat of my pants, the “kryptonite” (my brain injury) “defeats” me every time! The three things above will make your life so much easier. Look for something good in every day. Remember to celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem to others. And, be gentle with yourself. It takes time to create something as amazing as you are going to be!
(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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