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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Brandy Hunter

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Brandy Hunter

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1 Brandy Hunter1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Brandy (Denise) Hunter

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country)

Blountsville, Alabama, USA (about an hour north of Birmingham and an hour south of Huntsville)

Email (optional)

BrandyDHunter@Gmail.com

3. On what date did you have your brain injury?

January 13, 2004

At what age?

I had just turned 24 years old. (My 24th birthday was November 20, 2003.)

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was driving to work to a local restaurant (Ruby Tuesday). The highway on which I was driving is a four-lane. I was in the left (“fast”) lane. (I was driving a four-door Plymouth Neon.) The driver of a full-size pickup truck moved in front of me. He then slammed on his brakes, stopping his truck abruptly in front of my car. I swerved into the right (slow) lane so I could avoid hitting his pickup truck. I assume that I panicked – I either did not see the 18-wheeler driving in the lane I was “escaping” into or I thought I would be able to “beat” the truck. The pickup-truck driver did not stop or even look behind at the devastation he had caused. Witnesses say that that he sped up and went through the next 4-way stop.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

The driver of the 18-wheeler truck ​climbed out of his rig ​to check on me. I was unresponsive, so he climbed into the car with me. (I “remember” seeing him cradling me – but I’m not sure that is possible because he THANKFULLY did not move me.) ​He began praying audibly. I recall this happening. I remember seeing it from above. I refer to it as an “out of body experience.” (DISCLAIMER: I believe in God, but I am not religious.)

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?4 Brandy Hunter

Paramedics and fire fighters were quickly on the scene. (The accident happened close to where a volunteer firefighter lived – thankfully.) I had a chest tube inserted for a collapsed lung. A “Life-Saver” helicopter transported me to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama (at the University of Alabama). The accident occurred around an hour (driving time) away from the hospital. When I was admitted into the hospital, it was determined that I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). (The first responders had thought I had a TBI, as we were told months later, because I had what is referred to as “doll’s eyes” at the scene.) In the Emergency Room and in the hospital, a breathing tube was inserted, and two tubes were inserted into my right frontal lobe to drain fluid. I had a C2 fracture of the spine. Therefore, I had a brace placed around my neck to keep me from breaking the vertebrae. I wore the neck-brace for about six months.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I was medically induced into a coma, and, of course, I fell into one soon after. I remained comatose for approximately five weeks. My score on the Glasgow Coma Scale was 7 or 8, if I am recalling correctly. I know it was a dangerous score.

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)? How long were you in rehab?

As a patient, I had occupational, physical, and speech rehab for about two months. After I was released from the hospital, the therapies then continued at an outpatient facility for around two years. I also had a couple of months of voluntary speech therapy about three ​years after my outpatient therapies ended.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

My memory was impaired for several years after the injury occurred. I would forget the things that happened two minutes prior. Then it was five minutes prior – then fifteen minutes – then hours – and then days. Slowly, I began to recall things more easily. I still get days mixed up. I might believe something occurred several weeks ago, when in reality it happened one or two days ago. I wasn’t able to remember much of the 3-6 years prior to the accident because my brain injury was so severe. It’s now hazy, but I can remember those incidents when my memory is triggered by a smell, a sound, or something else that is considered minor. (The brain is an amazingly complex, yet simple thing.)

Although it has been eleven years since I sustained brain damage, I still have trouble with my balance. I almost always have to hold onto a handrail when climbing and, especially, descending a set of stairs. My balance isn’t nearly as troublesome for me as it was, though. When I am shaky, when I run into things (due to a problem in spatial reasoning), when my speech is slurred, or when dysplasia occurs (saying one thing, but meaning another – usually substituting for the correct word another word that has absolutely nothing to do with what is being said), it is because I am tired. Mom says my brain is overworked and needs to rest. Dad compares my brain to a computer and says that it needs to “reboot.”

My perception is altered a bit (but not enough to hinder my ability to drive a vehicle legally).

My personality is sometimes dramatically changed. I express anger differently. I no longer find certain things humorous like I did before. However, when I do find something funny, it is difficult for me stop giggling. Before the TBI, I would cry “at the drop of a hat.” I rarely cry now. I believe it is because I unintentionally “taught” myself to hold back emotions like that because my speech is very difficult to understand if I am crying when I talk. My always-short patience seems to have been negatively affected. I would once say, “I don’t want (it) yesterday; I want (it) the day before yesterday!” Since the accident, I want (it) three days before yesterday!

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life has changed for the better in some ways. (Maybe the reason is also due to maturing.) I have done things I never would have done before. I moved to Long Island for three years. I’ve learned who my TRUE friends are. I’ve accepted and admitted (to myself and others) romantic feelings for “old” friends. I’ve given one man “a chance” that I never did before (and now we are planning to marry one another).

My life is also worse in some ways because I have a hard time controlling my emotions. (For example, I succumb to anger much more easily.) I hate that I am able to control my once-considered “soft heart” where other people are concerned. Also, I am now much more sensitive. I take things personally more often than I once did – I no longer let things “roll off of my back.”

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?5 Brandy Hunter

I miss my voice.

I miss being able to multitask.

I miss being able to work as a “deejay” and have a radio show (sort of the same as my previous answers).

I miss being able to accomplish more than one thing per day. It is tiring for me if I try to go to the store AND go see my grandparent. Add another task in there, and I am spent!

I miss the way I didn’t have such a “wild-eyed” look in photos.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy that I am more willing to accept that I am wrong. Honestly, I like the feeling I get when I admit that I’m wrong. I like that I’m more apt to say, “I’m sorry,” as opposed to allowing my pride to win.

I am grateful that I no longer take little things for granted.

I am grateful that I now enjoy the company of dogs. I was once a “cat person.” I still love cats, but I truly do not know how I would have gotten through the past several years (finishing my college degree, etc.) without the love of my “babies,” Coco and Whiskey. I am not as keen on having children as I once was. I used to say that I wanted a house FULL of kids. Now I am happy with my “chi-weenies” as my only children.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

As previously mentioned, I dislike how much my voice has changed. I do not like that, due to dexterity issues, my handwriting is sloppy. I don’t really enjoy having to wear glasses for more than reading. But, it is what it is. At least I’m here and able to complain (and understand why I am complaining).

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I now accept the differences in my life since the TBI. I have learned to accept the difficulties I have now (and will always experience). I finally (and regrettably) accepted that my life will never again become the life I had before the TBI. Knowing that other people (some of them, anyway) understand how my personality is NEVER going to be the same allowed me to learn to accept my new personality too. I was always a proud, strong girl and having my plans (or really “lack of plans” – remember, I expected things to just “fall into my lap”​) altered so severely fueled my desire to become a prouder, stronger WOMAN.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

My home life is different, since I no longer live with my parents (partly due to an angry outburst I had). My relationship with my mom has been forever changed. My inability to have a strong hold over my reactions/words when I’m angry enabled Mom to see a side of me that I always kept to myself. I regret the reasons things have changed, but I think the ways in which they did are for the better – in BOTH our lives. I am unable to “think before I speak.” Therefore, I often say words I do not mean to people I love, so that I can be “heard.”

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes, my social life was altered greatly. I was once a very popular person with multiple invites to different places, often happening at the same time. I would have to turn off the ringer on my phone in order to take a nap, or even to get a little sleep. People would show up at my house unannounced at any hour.

When I got out of the hospital, people only wanted to visit me out of curiosity. They were curious as to how a brain-injured person looked. I don’t have any scars from the accident. I look exactly the same – luckily. I only have scars from the people who worked so diligently to save my life. Those scars are minor, too. My visitors assumed that, because I was home and looked the same, I was completely “normal” again or that I was the same person they so fondly remembered.

3 Brandy Hunter17. Who is your main caregiver?

My mom was my primary caregiver, with help from my (step)dad when he wasn’t at work. I have lived with a roommate since September 2006, including my current boyfriend since August 2011. The two of us traveled to England, where we lived together for three months.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Yes. I understand that my parents had to halt their own lives so I could have a semi-“normal” one myself. I will never be able to aptly express my gratitude to either of them for their unwavering love.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I would like to begin writing on a regular basis.

I do not wish to work outside the home; I am no longer able to prioritize my time. [I have tried to disprove doctors and family and actually work with the public. At one job, I was a cashier at the busiest grocery store on Long Island. The store worked with me and allowed me to have four-hour shifts because my brain would tire out. I worked for almost one year before I was fired for my cash-register drawer coming up short a few times. I had a caseworker come in and fight for me to at least still have a job with the company. I tried working in the floral department (no cash was handled), but I had to quit after about one month. Also, while on Long Island, I worked at Macy’s. I ran a register for three days. I informed the woman who hired me that the job was far too “fast-paced” for me, and regrettably I would have to quit. (I sincerely thanked her for her giving me a chance. She understood because her husband was a TBI survivor.) She gave me a job as a “recovery specialist.” I moved items from the storage rooms to the sales floor. I would put products that were moved by customers back into the correct places. I did that for four hours a day. In both aforementioned jobs, I would work Mondays and Tuesdays for four hours a day. I would have Wednesdays off and then work four hours a day on the following Thursday and Friday. I moved back home to Alabama after I finished my degree online. (I began it while living in New York.) I got a job working as a “pizza maker” at Papa John’s. (I had that job years before the accident.) Apparently, I was not working quickly enough, so I was fired from that job. I had never been fired from a job until the grocery store in New York and later Papa John’s in Alabama. A few months later, I began to look after a 3-year-old boy while his parents worked. That little boy was rambunctious! But for some reason, I was very patient with him. For example, he would tell me he needed to go to the bathroom. So, I would get him situated and walk outside the room to give him privacy. He normally would go without a problem. One particular day, he refused to go after telling me that he needed to. I would not allow him to leave the bathroom until he used the toilet. He got so tired that I made him sit down until he decided to go. My tenacity proved to be a positive thing with this child. We also went through the same thing after he got up and I told him to wash his hands. It wasn’t nearly as difficult because he KNEW I was not giving up. I mostly despise how my brain gets focused on something, but with this child, my focus was a good thing. I also worked at Babies-R-Us for five months. Again, I worked in BOH (back of house). I would run a register occasionally. I quit that job after five months because my now-fiancé took me to Bristol, England, for three months. That was an opportunity that I could not pass up.] When we returned to the States after living in England, my boyfriend said I could be a housewife if I did not wish to work outside of our home. I once never would have imagined that sort of thing bringing me happiness. Now, I am so uberly happy and oh-so-lucky to have his love and understanding.

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.

Accept the challenges you now face daily. Don’t think you will become who you were pre TBI. (As one of my doctors in the hospital would constantly say, “THIS IS NOT TV.”) Difficult as it is, strive to acknowledge that you are no longer exactly like the person you were. You have differences. Learn how it is best for you to handle them and share what you’ve learned with those who are in your everyday life. Acceptance of the “new you” is crucial to being happy in your future. Also, allow the help that people offer. At the same time, do as much independently as you are able.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors?

Don’t dwell on the way life WAS; make the best of the life you still have. Create what is “normal” for you – a survivor. Never accept the “normal” for other survivors. Admit it when you realize that you are wrong. “I’m sorry” is a phrase that will help you with your relationships (be they familial, romantic, or even friendly).

Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?2 Brandy Hunter

Pre TBI, I took life for granted. Even though I was grateful for the life I was given/chosen, I did not actively pursue the things that I wanted. Rather, I expected everything to just “fall into my lap.” Post TBI, it’s taken me almost ten years to realize that there’s no shame in having to work harder at something that WAS simple pre TBI. [I have since attended a traditional university – thanks to my mom and dad, who drove me to classes taught at a university that is ​25 minutes from our home. I made As and Bs studying Broadcast Communication. (Before the injury severely affected my speech, I was an on-air personality for a large-market FM radio station. I was also a producer for a popular morning-show team. My on-air name for that show was “1/2 Pint.”) I finished my degree online through Ashford University, and I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies when I finished my education online at Ashford. (I lacked one semester and an internship in order to graduate from the original university.) I made the Dean’s List each semester I was enrolled at Ashford, and I graduated college with a 3.79 GPA.​]

Read Brandy’s Guest Blog post on my blog at, “I Am Blessed.”

Click here to learn more about Brandy Hunter.

Click here to read Brandy’s blog, Brandy’s Brain.

For the sweetest video about Brandy and her Mom, click here. Because She Loved Me . . .

(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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” “Depression and Suicidal Thoughts”

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

with

Panelists: Survivor, Melissa Cronin and Survivor Troop, Juliet Madsen

Topic: Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Depression is a state of mind that can cause mental mood disorders. It is devastating and can affect every aspect of daily living. It can affect people in so many different ways and it is pure agony resulting from desperation and the need to escape. Depression is not an unfamiliar state for those who live with brain injury.

Juliet Madsen and Melissa Cronin, both survivors of brain injury, join me to discuss depression and suicide – two common, yet serious, repercussions of brain injury.

Melissa Cronin Head Shot 2When a car went rogue careening through 2 1/2 blocks of the Santa Monica, California Farmer’s Market it left Melissa Cronin with not only broken bones and a ruptured spleen, but also with a Traumatic Brain Injury. Melissa is the author of “Invisible Bruise” and “Silencing the Boom.” Both stories are published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.

Juliet Madsen Uniform

Troop, Juliet Madsen, got her brain injury while serving her country in Iraq. Juliet is a member of the Board of Directors of R4 Alliance and is a master quilter. You can see some of her work at “Stroke of Luck Quilting.”

If you missed this show on “Another Fork in the Road” on October 4th, 2015, don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” Depression and Suicidal Thoughts with panelists, Survivor, Melissa Cronin and Survivor Troop, Juliet Madsen

Sources I used for this show:

  1. Everyday Health – 8 Unconventional Ways to Ease Depression

http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression-pictures/unconventional-ways-to-ease-depression.aspx

  1. Health – 7 Types of Therapy That Can Help Depression

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20310354,00.html

  1. Mayo Clinic – Psychotherapy

http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/psychotherapy/basics/definition/prc-20013335

  1. Mental Health Foundation – Depression

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/D/depression/

  1. The Guardian – Robin Williams, depression and the complex causes of suicide

http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/aug/18/robin-williams-depression-causes-suicide

  1. WebMD – Psychologist or Psychiatrist: Which Is Right for You?

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/psychologist-or-psychiatrist-which-for-you

  1. WebMD – Symptoms of Depression

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression

Hotlines:

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, don’t waste time on the web, call 9-1-1 immediately.

There are many depression and suicide hotlines. Here are some I located. I am NOT endorsing them, but if you have concerns about depression or suicide, I might want to look into them in advance of any crisis.

 

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) Suggested by the Mayo Clinic

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

  1. Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (212) 673-3000

http://samaritansnyc.org/24-hour-crisis-hotline/

  1. 24/7 Crisis Support 775-784-8090  

http://crisiscallcenter.org/crisisservices.html

  1. Most states have mental health hotlines. Here is a site that has links to most states.

Suicide Hotlines

http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

(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.

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Feel free to “Like” my post

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