Awareness: TBI Survivor Advocate
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
It has been twenty years since my husband’s traumatic brain injury (TBI). Unawareness has been our enemy and hurt us tremendously. Awareness has found its place in our home just this past year, and it has brought along with it forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding.
Awareness has turned our life around. And, everyone who suffers from a TBI deserves to understand this life he or she lives. So obviously, awareness is important to me. It has become my passion. I ask you to help me prevent further damage by making the world aware. Your response could save a life – a marriage – a family.
My husband was hit in the head by a brake drum that had flown off an eighteen-wheeler. The brake drum was traveling at highway speed. It wasn’t actually a “car accident,” but it was an unnecessary and unfortunate accident. (It’s for a reason such as this that you can receive a ticket for “failure to maintain your vehicle.”) My husband’s car veered to the left. The barrier between the highway lanes slowed him to a stop, as he was combative and lost all control of his being. An ambulance just happened to be driving by soon after, and the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) team just happened to look down into my husband’s vehicle. They saw him and took immediate action.
I am thankful for this EMS team because they helped save my husband’s life. They responded quickly and effectively, and my husband was rushed to the nearest trauma center. The team there responded quickly, and the surgeon was able to do what was necessary to prevent further damage. This man and the trauma center team saved my husband’s life. I am forever grateful to them. They did their jobs, and they did them well. Had the EMS team not responded in the manner they did, it would’ve made the trauma center’s job more difficult.
My husband survived an incident he should not have. He improved much sooner than expected. He recovered miraculously and was discharged earlier than expected. I am thankful to everyone. They did their jobs well. HOWEVER, there was still a job that was necessary. There was still work to do. There was still much-needed therapy. There was still much-needed counseling. A life was saved, but it was forever changed, and no one was there to help make sense of it. No one was there to guide my husband and me to the next step. No one was there to warn of the subtle changes that have huge impacts. No one was there to enlighten and give insight as to what to expect next. EMS did a great job and sent us on to the next step – the trauma center. The trauma center did a great job and sent my husband on into surgery. The surgeon did a great job.
But, the only place left to pass my husband on to was home. “No more treatment necessary” written on discharge papers means “There is no more left for us to do on our end,” but, to the sufferer of a TBI, it reads as, “You’re fine. You will heal right up!” My husband and I go home. We expect things to be different. We adjust. We assume time is all that’s needed. Time marches on, and things don’t improve, or we begin to notice this and that here and there. By the time we recognize things aren’t healing cognitively as well as they are physically, we go to a doctor confused and try to communicate our concerns. My husband is brushed off because he “looks fine.”
Trauma centers need to have a “TBI Survivor Advocate” to hold the survivor’s hand into the next step of the TBI journey – not to hand out written material that will be lost in all of the other paperwork given at discharge. TBI Survivor Advocates would sit down with survivors and their families and/or friends and help them understand that, while EMS and the hospital saved the survivors’ lives, there are others who will help survivors LIVE their lives. TBI Survivor Advocates could direct and guide survivors to find therapists and counseling that will help transition and adjustment to their “new normal.” A disservice was done to my husband – to his future, to the company he worked for, to our relationship, and to our family. We were denied effective help and expected to carry on, due to my husband’s “miraculous” physical healing. Because of that, the cognitive damage that affected his being never got the attention or therapy it desperately needed.
Awareness of the reality of TBI as often being an invisible disability is vital in the health of the world we all live in. TBI is a thief in the night and has no prejudice. It can happen to anyone of any status. Please help me make others aware. We can be that hand that guides others to their next steps in their journeys. The world we live in is full of those who have influence. A difference CAN be made in the way a brain-injured individual adjusts to his or her new life. All it takes is ONE person to make a difference. The more we help one another, the better our world becomes.
Thank you, Miki Mashburn-Bailey.
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of Miki Mashburn Bailey)
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