TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for October, 2015

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury Melanie Goodman

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Melanie Goodman

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

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.

Melanie Goodman (survivor)

I had an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), a birth defect. No one knows he or she has one until it ruptures. Mine was about having weak veins where an artery was supposed to be. The weak veins were under constant high pressure. AVMThe AVM finally exploded at home one night. My love and best friend rushed me to the hospital, where they life-flighted me to Missoula, Montana. They said to let her die because she’s just going to be a vegetable for the rest of her life. My boyfriend fought them to get me to the best hospital on the West Coast, which was all the way in Seattle, Washington. Harborview Medical Center saved my life.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger … Randy Terry “How To Make Your Life Better”

How To Make Your Life Better

by

Randy Terry

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thSo many times I hear, “I want my life back!” I’ve said it myself and made myself miserable. Now six years post stroke, I see that I will never get my old life back. It’s impossible. But the trials of my stroke and my recovery have changed my life forever – and for the good.

I am a survivor, and the things I have learned about life will Randy Terry 2 102615not allow me to return to the old life. Sure, some of the things I loved to do are no longer possible, but I have adapted to change. It wasn’t easy, but I really had no choice.

For the first few years, I played the “pity game.” I was mad at the world. I lamented, “Why me?” One day, I found that I was tired of this game. I thought that there has to be a better life after stroke. I put the wheelchair in a corner and picked up my walker. I started the hard work. Soon I was on the cane doing the same thing. It is by no means easy. Not only was I walking, but I also felt proud. That’s why you hear me say, “Stand tall and proud!”

Do not waste your time in that “pity place.” It’s very lonely there, Randy Terryand there is nothing to gain but misery. The ability to change your life is not a secret hidden from you. Instead, it’s about working to get what you want out of life.

I’m not smarter than you. You just have to get that brain thinking right, and get up and get it done. It takes time to heal, but time is on your side. You have plenty of it. Don’t think it’s all got to come at once. Work slowly and steadily. It will come.

Thank you, Randy Terry.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Randy Terry.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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On the Air! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Show That Wasn’t … That Was … and Will Be!

On The Air

The Show That Wasn’t!

The Show That Was!

The Show That Will Be!

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road”

NFL Player, Kyle Turley, Brain Injury & Football

(The show that didn’t happen.)

Every once in a while, BlogTalkRadio throws a wrench into the “best laid plans.” They did it last night.Wrench

WriterI’d spent all week preparing my interview with football player and musician, Kyle Turley. Emails flew back and forth through cyberspace finessing each last detail. I arrived in the studio fourteen minutes before the show, as I always do, and I waited for Kyle. My guests always arrive early too, but when Kyle didn’t arrive at the designated time, I knew something was wrong. I texted him. He said that he had already called in to the studio twice and was put on hold both times. He said he wasn’t able to access a line to the studio.

The show-countdown began, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – You are ON THE AIR.” On-the-air-neon-sign-light-display-radio-stations-J013-imgMy pre-recorded musical show-identification played. I love it. It always relaxes me before a show, but its magic didn’t work last night as I crossed my fingers and hoped that Kyle would be able to get into the show in time. Its magic didn’t work as my mind raced to find a creative way to get him in. I had my doubts about my success because there were other things in the studio that weren’t operating properly either. The countdown clock was dark, and the chat room refused to open, yet I was still on the air. I had to talk, so I began my show introduction, which I had planned to cut short because my interview with Kyle was jam-packed and I didn’t want to lose a single second.

While I am usually pretty good at multitasking, it’s just darn hard to talk on the radio with poise while attempting to text and solve problems over the phone. The brain just doesn’t want to work that way. At least mine was balking at those tasks. Surprisingly, I figured out an innovative way to get Kyle into the studio, though unfortunately his voice sounded distant and not really suitable for the radio connections. And, we had already lost twenty minutes of show-time. So it was big-decision time, and Kyle made the decision for me. He said, “Let’s reschedule, so we can do this right.” And I agreed. I promised to contact him and set up a new date, though it will mean juggling some already-scheduled shows.

(The show that unexpectedly happened.)

With that decision made, I realized I had another big one to make. What was I going to talk about on the radio for the remaining “unprepared” hour? I couldn’t use my planned program with Kyle. That was impossible. So, with some more quick thinking, I decided to talk about this blog. I would explain the function and the categories of my blog. SurvivingTraumaticBrainInjury.com is a service blog. I write it to impart information to the brain-injured community. I discussed each category on the blog, explained its purpose, and told people how they can best get the most out of the information on the blog. I also provided anecdotal comments about each category on the blog and how each category evolved.

I was surprised to find that the hour flew by. Soon I was looking at almost 7:00 pm Pacific time, and it was time to wrap up the show. And it’s also time to wrap up this explanation of “the show that ALMOST wasn’t.”

Sorry

I offer my sincere apologies to Kyle Turley for the glitch in our program last night and my sincere appreciation for his understanding and for his graciousness in agreeing to reschedule the show at a date in the near future. He is a pretty remarkable and talented man.

(The show that would have been and will be someday soon.)

Kyle-TurleyKyle Turley, former football player for the New Orleans Saints, the Saint Louis Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs, will join me to discuss life after football while living with brain injury. As an offensive tackle, Kyle has had more than his share of concussions – leading to seizures and various brain-injury complications, which have adversely affected his life. Kyle is picking up the pieces and assembling his life-puzzle by speaking out about brain injury. He does this through his music, (video 1, video 2) The Kyle Turley Band, and his recent documentary, “The United States of Football.”12821083-standard

See you “On the Air!”

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

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Another Fork in the Road . . . . . . NFL Player, Kyle Turley, Brain Injury, Football, and Music

YOU ARE INVITED!

NFL Player, Kyle Turley, Brain Injury, Football, and Music

with host Donna O’Donnell Figurski

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artKyle Turley, former football player for the New Orleans Saints, the Saint Louis Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs, will join me to discuss life after football while living with brain injury. As an offensive tackle, Kyle has had more than his share of concussions – leading to seizures and various Kyle-Turleybrain-injury complications, which have adversely affected his life. Kyle is picking up the pieces and assembling his life-puzzle by speaking out about brain injury. He does this through his music, The Kyle Turley Band, and his recent documentary, “The United States of Football.”12821083-standard

You can hear one of Kyle’s songs here. “Fortune and Pain.” It’s powerful!

Come One! Come ALL! 

What:        NFL Player, Kyle Turley, Brain Injury, Football, and Music

Why:        Kyle Turley SPEAKS OUT! about how brain injury affects his life.

Where:     Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, October 18th, 2015

Time:         5:30p PT (6:30p MT, 7:30p CT, and 8:30p ET) 80 minute show

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

Call In:    424-243-9540

Call In:     855-473-3711 toll free in USA

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside USA

or SKYPE

If you miss the show, but would like to still hear the interview, you can access the archive on On Demand listening. The archived show will be available after the show both on the Brain Injury Radio Network site and on my blog in “On the Air” Show Menu.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

Dee Farrell 2 011415Dee Farrell (survivor)For the first time in a very long time, I am very proud of myself. I am two years post car accident, and I never thought it would be possible for me to ever get back on a horse after my injuries. Well, with a lot of hard work and encouragement from my family and caregivers, I recently achieved my dream of riding again. I still can’t believe it myself! I’m sure you know the roller coaster that comes with a traumatic brain injury, and there have been times I was close to just throwing the towel in because it was all too hard. For me, this is the moment when all my hard work paid off. A big “Thank You!” goes to Oliver for being a true gentleman the whole time.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributor!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

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Another Fork in the Road: Depression, Suicidal Thoughts, & Brain Injury

Fork in the Road copy

“Another Fork in the Road”

This category is an extension of my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs at 5:30 pm (Pacific Time) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month on the Brain Injury Radio Network. (See the “On The Air Show Menu” category for a list – with links – of all my shows, which are archived and thus always available.)

On the 1st Sunday of each month, I host a panel of brain injury survivors, caregivers, and/or professionals in the field. On these shows, my panelists and I examine topics pertaining to brain injury.

On the 3rd Sunday of each month, I host guests – brain-injury survivors, caregivers, or professionals in the field.

Since I spend countless hours in preparation for each show, I decided to share the knowledge that I gather with my readers.

Another Fork in the Road

Depression, Suicidal Thoughts, & Brain Injury

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

canstock16714646Depression is a state of mind that can cause long-term mental mood disorders. Everyone experiences sadness and unhappiness at times. That’s normal. Those feelings happen when something sad enters people’s lives or they experience grave disappointments. Normal life-events, like a pet dying, being passed over for a promotion, going through a divorce, or experiencing money problems, can trigger feelings of sadness. Usually with time, those feelings pass, and people move on.

But when there are unrelenting feelings of despair, usually coupled to at least one of the many telltale signs and symptoms of depression, then drastic measures need to be taken. Depression is devastating and can affect every aspect of daily living. Depression is pure agony resulting from desperation and the need to escape. It is constant; there is no relief. Unlike sadness or unhappiness, depression settles in to stay. It can last weeks, months, or even years. If not treated, depression can be deadly. But if a person seeks treatment, there are ways to diminish, and possibly even cure, depression.

I have never been diagnosed with clinical depression. Technically, I have never been depressed. But I have occasionally complained that I am “depressed” – using that word. I think everybody does. It’s a term we throw around too easily. When I’m feeling blue or down, I might say, “I’m depressed.” But I’m only experiencing a feeling of unrest or unhappiness for a short time. I have learned that there are ways for me to alleviate these uncomfortable and unwanted feelings with a few easy activities. I find if I remove myself from the environment that I am in, I can change my emotions. For example, if I am home when these feelings overwhelm me, I often will go to the store or run errands. Sometimes I will turn on uplifting music or talk to a friend. Exercise can usually jar me out of my doldrums. While I can change my mood when I’m sad, a truly depressed person can do so only with great difficulty.

Depressed GirlSome signs and symptoms of depression are very intense feelings of unhappiness, anxiety, worthlessness, helplessness, lack of self-esteem, and/or lack of self-confidence. Depression can seriously impact sleep and eating habits. It can lead to a significant loss of energy, focus, or attention. A prolonged feeling of panic is also a sign of depression. A lack of interest in taking care of health needs may be indicative of depression. A person may start to withdraw from his or her family or friends or from the things he or she once enjoyed – essentially quitting the world. Defying fate (for example, doing things that are risky or death-defying, such as swimming too far out into the ocean or walking too close to the edge of a cliff) is a relatively obvious symptom, but what about overeating,Depressed Man overuse of alcohol, or drug use? If a person is talking about suicide or is making statements, such as “Everyone would be better off, if I weren’t here,” “I can’t take this anymore,” or even more blatantly, “I wish I were dead,” that person may be sending up a red flag. It may be the person’s way of begging for help.

Depression is not discriminating. It can happen to anyone. Actress Winona Ryder, Princess Diana, former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and four-time Super Bowl winner, Terry Bradshaw, and Barbara Bush, wife of a former United States President all suffered from depression. And the list goes on and on. Sometimes, people hide their depression, as with actor and comedian Robin Williams. I think we were all broadsided when Robin committed suicide in August 2014. Though Robin’s close friends saw signs of his depression, the rest of the world saw only a very accomplished actor who always had a smile on his face. His great acting skills spilled over into his personal life, and his greatest role was “the great deceiver.” I can’t imagine the pain his smile must have been covering up. Robin sought help and willingly admitted himself to treatment centers, but unfortunately that was not his salvation.th

Former San Diego Chargers linebacker and Hall of Fame member, Junior Seau, was deeply affected by depression after years of collisions with other players. Years of playing football ultimately damaged Seau’s brain and led to his suicide in 2012. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was the unequivocal diagnosis by the National Visger, GeorgeInstitutes of Health (NIH) from the study of Seau’s brain. Former San Francisco 49er, George Visger, lives daily with the complications of brain injury. (You can hear George’s story on my August 16, 2015 show. You can also read more about George on this blog.) Another former football player, Kyle Turley, who played for the New Orleans Saints, the St. Louis Rams, and the Kansas City Chiefs is Kyle Turleysuffering the ravages of brain injury and depression. (Kyle will be a guest on my show on October 18, 2015. He will discuss his life with brain injury and how he is redefining his new world.)

Depression is not an unfamiliar state for those who live with brain injury. And it’s not surprising. Brain injury turns lives completely upside down. Usually it’s difficult, sometimes impossible, for survivors to realize the extent of the damage done to their brains. Many times they are not the same person they were before the injury, and they have to face their limitations – cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and/or physical. Thinking back on a pre-brain-injury life and being aware of what was stripped away can easily lead someone to depression – and even to suicidal thoughts.

One way to help deal with depression after brain injury is to accept the “new” person who a brain-injured person has become. I have noticed in the Survivor SPEAK OUT! interviews on this blog that many survivors have stated that, once they accept their “new” persona, they have found more happiness. That isn’t to say that everything is okay. That isn’t to say that the brain-injured persons have given up. It’s just that the survivors have become more accepting of the persons they have become, and they will take those new persons to the limit.

With her permission, I want to share the story of a friend of mine who used an additional method to help with her depression. Cat Brubaker was enjoying life as a young woman. She had completed college, and she was working in a position that she enjoyed. Then she became the victim of two brain injuries. These injuries left Cat feeling helpless and hopeless. With Cat confined to her home, the walls closed in on her, and she felt desperate. Cat’s loss of independence, the decline of her longtime relationships, and finally the death of her mother were too much, and she fell deeply into depression. She eventually entertained thoughts of suicide. But Cat found a way out of her trapped box when she discovered the joys of her recumbent cat-triketrike and met a new friend, Dan Zimmerman, a stroke survivor and also a recumbent trike rider. Cat and Dan set off last summer to cross the USA on their trikes. They rode their trikes from Anacortes, Washington, diagonally across the country to Key West, Florida – a trip that took them five months and was 5,400 miles. I’m not saying that everyone needs to get a trike and travel across the country, but I am pointing out that perhaps finding a new purpose in life can help shove depression into the background. The recumbent trike was the answer for Cat. Zimmerman, Dan Survivor 071015Riding her recumbent trike is something that Cat thoroughly enjoys and relies on for her mental health. Cat has made many new friends by riding her trike. She has even created a foundation, called “Hope for Trauma,” to help other brain-injury survivors. Cat’s story shows that, though people may feel the total helplessness and hopelessness that accompanies depression, it is sometimes possible to find a way to redirect their lives to find happiness.

There are other methods that may help alleviate the feelings of depression. Art Therapy also helps some folks connect with their inner selves. It usually also requires complete concentration, which can take the focus off the unwanted depressive feelings. Animal Therapy guarantees that one is never alone. Pets usually provide unconditional love, which a person suffering from depression could certainly use.

Technically depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is not easy to turn off. So what can be done about depression? Two different types of health-care workers can help immensely: psychologists and psychiatrists.

PsychologistBoth psychologists and psychiatrists use psychotherapy, often referred to as “talk therapy” or “counseling.” Psychotherapy helps patients with mental health issues sort through their feelings, moods, and emotions. Through talk, a mental-health-care provider can guide or retrain a person’s mind to approach existing problems differently. The brain can actually change physically by talking about a problem. Psychotherapy can be effective with many different types of mental-health challenges, including anxiety, personality or mood disorders, problems with eating or sleeping, and various addictions. It can also address coping with life-altering situations, such as the ones that many brain-injury survivors live with daily. Realizing that they are not the persons they were before their brain injury is a major problem for many survivors. Not being able to return to the former life-style and having to redefine oneself can be devastating to a person who survives a brain injury. Often a brain-injured person wonders why he or she was saved. These kinds of thoughts can easily lead to depression.

Psychotherapy does not use medication. Both a psychologist (usually a Ph.D.) and a psychiatrist (an M.D.) use psychotherapy. A psychiatrist has been trained in the biology of the body and in neurochemistry, while psychologists focus more on the behavioral aspects of the person. Some patients may need stronger medical Doctor Womanassistance. Because a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, he or she can prescribe medication. Medications are getting better. The best ones are more targeted and thus have fewer side effects.

Research is very active and is greatly advancing our knowledge of depression. A recent NewsBit on this blog (“Depression Reversed in Mice”) reported that basic research has resulted in the curing of depression in mice. Memories are tagged with positive or negative feelings. Scientists have been able to activate specific neurons to induce a memory with its associated positive feeling to overcome depression. It will probably be a couple of decades before this kind of therapy will be ready for humans.

If you want to learn more about depression, the Internet is a marvelous tool for gathering information. There are countless sites, many very reputable, that examine this topic. Simply Google “brain injury” and “depression.” I can guarantee you will learn more than you could imagine.

Of course, if you or someone you know needs immediate help, don’t waste time on the web. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

There are also many depression and suicide hotlines. Here I name a few in the US that I found on the web. I really do not know anything about them, so I cannot endorse them. But I suggest that, if you have concerns about depression or suicide, you look into them in advance of any crisis.

Hotline-ICON-XS_optiHotlines

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-8255
(suggested by the Mayo Clinic)

The Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline
212-673-3000

Crisis Call Center
775-784-8090

Most states in the US have mental health hotlines. Here is a site that has links to most state hotlines.

Suicide Hotlines

Depression is a common affliction of brain-injured survivors. It needs to be recognized as a serious and devastating illness, not as something one can “work through” himself or herself. The good news is that help is available. If you are suffering from depression or if you know someone showing signs of depression, I urge you to use it.

Listen to the October 4th show on depression.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger … David Lloyd “What I Gained From My Brain Injury”

What I Gained From My Brain Injury

by

David Lloyd

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI used to be an intolerant perfectionist before my accident. I did not even realize the extent to which I looked down on others, how prideful I was, and how I put others down without any thought, until an event out of my control took away my ability to meet my own standards.

I had fooled myself into believing I was better than I was. Now I see others with a much humbler and more forgiving attitude. I am much more compassionate and a lot less full of myself.

My change in attitude probably saved my relationships with my David Lloydchildren, whom I had been pushing away by demanding unrealistic standards from them with what were my goals and not theirs. Now I am much more impressed with their strengths and more understanding, and even accepting, of those areas that seemed important to me, but never motivated them. There is a sense that my disability has removed blinders that kept me from seeing the value of letting my children have interests that are different than my own.

Those are good qualities that I intend to hold onto, regardless of how much I recover eventually.

Thank you, David Lloyd.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David Lloyd)

A11998344_873343152701235_1064470731_ns I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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