TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for November, 2015

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . Jen Swartz

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Jen Swartz

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It 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.

Jen Swartz (survivor)

Jen Swartz Survivor

Jen Swartz

One incredible fact that I have learned after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that really simple things in life bring me happiness. I

Jen Swartz 2

Jen Swartz

don’t require spending tons of money on a house, on a car, or on an extraordinarily expensive vacation to find happiness. Being with my awesome friends or my family or enjoying the smaller things in life really brings so much joy to my heart. Because I survived something that could have easily taken my life, I know I still have purpose. As do all of you!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jennifer Stokley

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jennifer Stokley

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Jennifer Stokely Survivor 0526151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Jennifer Stokley

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

Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA

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

May 10, 2007, was the day of my traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was 42.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I fell out of a second story window of my home to the sidewalk below. I did what I now call my “Amazing, Exotic Jeni Bounce.” I was home alone. Please don’t ask me how the fall occurred. I have no clue, other than I know that back then I was a hard-core alcoholic. My TBI cured me of that completely! No withdrawal. I just never desired alcohol again. Odd, but wonderful!

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

My ex found me on the sidewalk. He thought I had fallen outside (no external injuries, strange). I used to have a seizure disorder back then, so my ex and some friends carried me inside, up the stairs, and put me on the bed. Then I started to have trouble breathing. My ex immediately called 9-1-1. The paramedics arrived, took me back downstairs, across the street at night, and worked on me under a streetlight in a public park. They understood something was terribly wrong then.

The thing I find funny about the whole thing, though, is that the emergency folks cut my clothes off right then and there – for the whole city block to see me naked – under lights! I showed my butt to the city! (LOL) Thank goodness I don’t live there anymore.

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

I had two cardiac arrests during the life-flight to the hospital. I had ruptured my bladder (which they had to stitch back together like a patchwork blanket). I punctured my lung, due to one of my five broken ribs. I had broken my pelvis in three places. I also had broken my neck.

The only things I remember for sure are a breathing tube down my throat, the surgery on my belly to put my bladder back together, and the two times they restarted my heart. The rest is unknown to me. I haven’t asked; they haven’t told. That is my past. I survived. I do not wish to relive the past while I’m so busy living my present and focusing on my future.

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

I was in a full coma for three weeks. My coma was a 3 on the Glasgow Scale. It’s the lowest score before death. (A score of 3 indicates a severe brain injury.) After all my surgeries and the use of all the professional skills to save my life, the surgeon actually came out to my Momma and said, “We’ve done all that we can. Now it’s in God’s hands.” It literally was. One day prior to their disconnecting my life-support, I took my first breath on my own! They were able to take me off of life-support, knowing I was going to survive. To what extent, they still had no clue, but at least I was no longer in a coma on life-support.

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)?

First, I went to inpatient therapy from the Intensive Care Unit for two and a half months. I was taken to a rehab room (by wheelchair with my “fun-catheter” along for the ride) to exercise a bit and then attempt to stand. (They said my standing would never really happen because of my broken neck, but I showed them. I stand just fine now, and when I leave the house, I walk with only a cane.) Later, when I was discharged, I was in outpatient therapy for … I don’t know how long. There, I did physical therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive therapy. (Speech therapy was a hoot. The therapist would hand me things to read out loud. The problem was I couldn’t see! I’m legally blind now. “Come on. Read the medical records already.” LOL Cognitive therapy was just as much fun – pegs in holes I was unable to see. LOL That didn’t last too long.)

How long were you in rehab?

Inpatient, two and a half months; outpatient, more than six months, I think

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

I have a severe anxiety disorder, cerebellar ataxia, aphasia (not much now, but it used to be severe), bladder/bowel control issues, and taste bud issues. I’m legally blind. Memory issues are HUGE. My ability to smell has been affected. I have issues with concentration and making decisions. My personality did a 180 on me, and for that, I am actually grateful. I was not a very nice person prior to my TBI.

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

My life is harder than it was prior, but it is also so much better than it’s ever been. I will gladly take the difficulties to have such a wonderful life. I had no difficulties prior, and I had such a horrible life. Go figure. I gladly take the trade I’ve been handed.

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

I miss the memories. I lost 42 years of my life. All my memories are gone – my childhood, my college, my graduation, everything – poof, gone in a second. When I woke from my coma, I was a stranger even to myself. I was literally reborn. I was no longer “Jennifer.” I was “Jeni,” a child. I didn’t know anyone or anything. I had to be taught how to eat, how to walk, how to talk – like an infant. I was told things about Jennifer, but they were all foreign to me – even to this day. (But I sure don’t miss memories of three ex-hubbies, so I guess it’s cool with me anyway! LOL)

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

I enjoy that I am building my life from scratch. I am building it in a way that brings me joy and peace. I have reconnected with my family, which never would have happened if not for my TBI. That I guess is the best part of this all! I have my Momma and my big sister in my life now, and they never were before. Now they love me, look out for me, and help me just because they want to. I love them with all my heart!

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?Stokley, Jennifer Survivor 112815

I dislike my loss of independence and being legally blind. I will never be able to drive again, and, with my anxiety disorder, I can’t go anywhere without my family’s support anyway. So I can’t just get up and go, even if I feel like it. I have accepted it. But it doesn’t mean I always have to like it.

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

Time and God have helped. Please let me explain a bit. It took me nearly five years to find my way through my “brain fog” to the light of awareness, where I could even look around and understand what the heck is even going on. When I mention “God,” please know I am not a believer of any formal religion of any kind. I sure wouldn’t understand any of it anyway. Sorry. I am fully a spiritual gal. I know God saved my life. I speak and pray directly to him privately. I believe in angels. I also feel that I am a part of all things of this earth, sky, and everything in-between. I do not, have never, and never will step inside any church. That is not something that my heart desires. My connection is full and complete. I need nothing more and nothing less.

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

I had a “love of my life” prior to my TBI. He tried – truly he did – post TBI. He stuck it out for three years, but I myself never emotionally reconnected with him. I do know he loved me. He used to come home from the hospital, walk half way up the stairs, and collapse in tears. He became my full-time caregiver and friend, but emotionally I was unable to love him back. So I personally set him free to find love again, and he has – with a baby on the way. YAY!

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

My social life changed big time, but it improved big time. My social life had been with drunk folks at the bar and such. I never drink at all post TBI. I never miss drinking for some strange reason. So that circle of folks is no longer in my life. At first, my social life consisted of “my dad,” a neighbor who just cared so much that he would spend about an hour every day with me. Sometimes he would take me places. He always made sure I was safe. My social life now consists of wonderful, caring neighbors who accept me knowing my limitations. They help when needed and spend time with me “just because.” My biggest social life consists of my family, who, for 30+ years, really weren’t much of a part of my life at all.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I am and have been my main caregiver for six years now. I had no one after my ex-boyfriend/caregiver left. I was completely alone. I do, however, understand in many ways what it takes. Many of my dear friends who I know so well on the Internet are caregivers of survivors. They fill me in totally and honestly. I also help them to maybe know what their loved one is thinking when a reaction occurs, things that may stimulate the survivor, things that the survivor may enjoy, etc.

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

My life will be pretty much what I do now – “pay my life forward” to other survivors and caregivers by helping them – sometimes with info or sometimes with laughter, music, inspiration, joy, etc. I am permanently and totally disabled, so I truly believe that “work” is out of my future. That’s okay with me, truly. I love what I do now, and, as my father used to always say, “If it works, don’t fix it.”

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.

Realize it is what it is!

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Please never rush it. You’ll get there when you’re ready to get there – not a second sooner. It may take years and years, but when YOU are ready, you’ll know it.

Tell folks to get over themselves and their ignorance if they ever say, “Just get over it.” It takes a lifetime!

If you’re unable to do something right now, always say, “I can’t do it AS OF YET!” It leaves room for possibility and hope for your future!

 

(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.)

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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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit NFL Quarterback With Concussion Stays In Game

NFL Quarterback With Concussion Stays In Game

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thThe National Football League (NFL) governs most of professional American football, and it is proud of its “concussion protocol” to protect its players. That system shamefully failed Sunday with 1:04 left in a 13-13 game between the St. Louis Rams and the Baltimore Ravens.

St. Louis quarterback, Case Keenum, had taken his team close to Baltimore territory and was trying to drive for a score. Then Keenum was

Case Keenum 1

Case Keenum Quarterback St. Louis Rams

sacked (tackled for a loss). His head hit the turf hard. Keenum couldn’t get up without assistance, and even when he did, he seemed to be staggering. He showed at least three of the signs of a possible concussion, as defined by the concussion protocol of the NFL. (A concussion was confirmed after the game. It wasn’t a surprise. Fans at the stadium and watching on TV could see Keenum was in trouble.)

Case Keenum 2

Keenum holding head after tackle

The NFL this year empowered the neurotrauma consultants, who are in the broadcast booths for all games, to stop games if necessary. Yet the St. Louis-Baltimore game continued, and Case Keenum remained in it. He fumbled after two plays. Baltimore recovered, which set up a field goal to win the game.

Case Keenum 3

Keenum struggling to return to game

This case seems to show more concern with winning than with Keenum’s health and safety. Both the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) are investigating. It’s not clear if anyone – the coach, the trainer,

Concussed Brain

Concussed Brain

or the neurotrauma consultant – was at fault. But whatever happened, the system totally failed. (Full story with video)

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury Sarah Robinson

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Sarah Robinson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It 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.

Sarah Robinson (survivor)

Robinson, Sarah Survivor

Sarah Robinson – I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when I was a teenager. It drastically changed my personality as well as my life. I experienced rejection from people in my family because of my condition, and it is devastating. I have an important message for people who have a survivor in their family. Please never give up on him or her. My mother selflessly gave me so much of her time in order to help me recover. Her belief in me saw me through my traumatic experience and into adulthood, where I recovered dramatically. I have a brain injury, but it is my little secret. People don’t know if I don’t want them to. I want to share my story because I am proud of how far I have come, and I also want to inspire others.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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.

 

Brain Injury Resources . . . . . . Will Smith’s Movie, Concussion, Based on True Story

Will Smith’s Movie, Concussion, Based on True Story 

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain th-2Concussion is scheduled to be in theaters in late December, but it is already making headlines (review and trailer). The National Football League (NFL) knows that its Achilles heel is the high risk of brain injury to its players, not only from documented concussions, which are likely to be far fewer in number than actual concussions, but also from the repeated sub-concussive hits, which many neurologists believe contribute to brain injury. Former players are concerned (video of the song Final Drive by former NFL star Kyle Turley), and current players are becoming concerned. Recently a promising rookie linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers quit after one season over the fear of brain injury.

concussion-movie-nfl-20150903

Concussion

Concussion is based on the true story of the discovery of the brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian pathologist who did the autopsy of Hall-of-Fame Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster. Dr. Omalu first saw CTE during his study of Webster’s brain. Webster was homeless, depressed, and suffering from dementia when he died at age 50. Dr. Omalu’s story, which is the basis of Concussion, is given in the PBS Frontline documentary League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. I urge everyone to watch the documentary before seeing Concussion. The 2-hour PBS documentary is available online at no cost. In Concussion, Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu.

Omalu & Smith

Dr. Bennet Omalu & Will Smith

This movie may change what you think about American football and the NFL. Knowing that brain disease is a major problem for the future of the game, the NFL tried to discredit Dr. Omalu and his provocative work. The NFL had previously established a questionable committee of doctors to study mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs), otherwise known as concussions. The NFL committee published papers claiming that MTBIs, even multiple MTBIs, were not a problem for players. (The conclusions are contradicted by current data. Also, some scientists question the validity of the published studies.)

NFL LogoDr. Omalu thought that the NFL would be very interested in his data. Instead, the NFL’s MTBI committee immediately attacked Dr. Omalu and his findings. At one point, the committee tried to get Dr. Omalu to retract the paper. Going against the multibillion dollar NFL has a steep price. Dr. Omalu has stated that he wishes he had never discovered CTE.

To date, CTE has been found in 88 of 92 autopsied NFL brains (1, 2). The currently accepted way that CTE is identified is by studying the brain postmortem. The major criticism of the postmortem analyses that were done is that the brains came from former players who already showed signs of brain disease. In other words, the claim is that the sample is biased. Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University’s CTE Center, studied most of the brains. She argues that the results would be extraordinary even in a biased sample.

AnnMcKeeMD1111

Dr. Ann McKee – neurolpathologist at Boston University

With a recent advance in technology, it seems that the bias criticism can soon be put to rest. Dr. Omalu is an author on a recent publication, in which neuroscientists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and from the University of Chicago showed that CTE can be accurately diagnosed in a living person by a special PET (positron emission tomography) scan. If such scans were taken of all the current players, we would know if CTE is rare among players, as the NFL would like players and fans to believe, or if it’s relatively common, as Dr. Ann McKee believes.

Until that happens, we are left to decide about the risk of brain disease in players of American football on the basis of what we know. Concussion tells the little-known story of Dr. Omalu and the discovery of CTE. With this movie, we will be more informed and better able to evaluate the risk.

Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist

As I say after each post:

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alisa Noah

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alisa Ann Noah

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Noah, Alisa Ann L7l38moCWms-awgtIo9_70iApASPda_FVoPydfH1Eav5cCUnvpSudWfhdApNDrmPOqCkIcYbJLDfkrIxawI0Iu_D3IeGgzKZ1Whh7Lc2pmxdyJbB19_Vw114VdME3ant9vsNlq-qX9SNXn7SApjHhzoVZqU1ToqtwiFTpWcqKJ9lbUSBAV0pVh-fvnXN3tkGrsqt1hPzAODSjNBFrDOOjJ-u_iGQ547W

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

Alisa aka “El Dorado”

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

North Carolina, USA

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

February 2012

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury came from a motor vehicle accident. I wasn’t at fault. My truck was rear-ended at 50+ mph. Because my truck had no headrests, my head hit the back glass.

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

Immediately

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

I was first treated in the Emergency Room. Scans and X-rays were taken. Later I had a neck brace, cervical epidurals, other cervical injections, and physical therapy.

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

No

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)?

I did physical therapy.

How long were you in rehab?

Three months of 3 days a week

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

I have vision loss; migraines; balance issues; sleep problems; mood problems; memory loss; anxiety; and pain, pain, pain. Unexpected loud noises send me into a panic.

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

My life got worse for about three years. I have recently started to make progress with happiness and finding new ways to keep busy.

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

I miss my career as a horse trainer, and I miss college.

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

Retirement (LOL)

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

I dislike the pain and my physical limitations.

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

Friends and new hobbies have helped me accept my brain injury.

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

Yes. People don’t understand my thought process or mood swings.

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

Yes. I fear driving. I don’t engage in social activities much anymore.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My mother and my roommate are my main caregivers.

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

Hmmm, I’m not sure. I take things one day at a time. 🙂

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.

Don’t let doctors just throw pills at you. After I had been told for almost three years that my condition is permanent, I recently learned that I can heal from it. Do your research. Some doctors are really no help.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

NEVER let your “disabilities” define who you are as a person! You are and always will be just as valuable and important as anyone else. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Stay strong!

(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.)

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! NewsBit . . . . . . U.S. Soccer Bans Heading for Players Age 10 and Under

U.S. Soccer Bans Heading for Players Age 10 and Under

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

newsboy-thConcussions from playing soccer rank second to football in boys’ sports, but they are first in girls’ sports and second among all sports. Of the more than 3 million youths playing soccer in the U.S., 50,000 concussions were reported among high-school soccer players in 2010, more than the number from wrestling, basketball, baseball, and softball combined.  Parents and players brought a lawsuit accusing U.S. Soccer and other U.S. youth soccer organizations of negligence. As a result, U.S. Soccer established new rules that prevent heading by players age 10 and under and prohibits heading by 11- to 13-year-olds in practice. There are also new guidelines for soccer-trophy-clipart-soccer-team-clipartsoccer-team-with-trophy-clip-art-soccer-team-with-trophy-image-efwxwwe3substitution. For example, a player who replaces another player who has to leave the game because of a suspected concussion does not count as a substation.

U.S. Soccer governs only a fraction of youth soccer teams in the U.S., so they are recommending strongly that other leagues follow suit.  Dr. Cantu, a neurologist and a concussion specialist at Boston University, said that children’s brains are crucially developing and that the ages of 10 to 14 are especially critical in brain development. He also maintains that children’s neck muscles are not strong enough to support the head, making the risk of injury even greater. Safer Soccer, an organization that seeks a ban on 131181714310586452912266140-vector-illustration-for-a-anatomy-brain-in-separate-color-mdheading for players 14 and under, applauds the new rules. (The advisory board of Safer Soccer includes Brandi Chastain, Cindy Parlow Cone, and Joy Fawcett – former players of the women’s U.S. national soccer team, which has won four Olympic gold medals since 1996.) (Full story with video)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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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