Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jenn Von Hatten
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Jenn Von Hatten
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Trenton, Nova Scotia, Canada email@example.com
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
My brain injury happened on Valentine’s Day 2011. I was 35 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
My brain injury resulted from a motor vehicle accident caused by freezing rain.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
The paramedics found me clinically dead at the scene. The doctors wanted to airlift me to the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, which is the biggest hospital in Nova Scotia. But the freezing rain affected the rotors on the helicopter, so I had to be taken by road ambulance.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
The pressure in my brain needed to be monitored to see if I needed surgery. I also lacerated my liver. Fortunately, I did not need surgery for either. I also fractured a rib and three vertebrae.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for seven weeks. First, I was in a coma from the accident. Then I was in a medically induced coma because of my fractured rib and vertebrae. I managed to develop pneumonia, and I had a tracheotomy.
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?
I was transferred to the Rehab Centre in Halifax around Easter 2011, and I was discharged in July 2011. Besides being a patient at the Rehab Centre, I’ve had to go to physiotherapy and occupational therapy. My spastic muscles affected my speech, so I also went to speech therapy.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
My balance has been severely affected. I used to be in a wheelchair, due to fractured vertebrae. I’ve since “graduated” to a walker, a quad cane, and a mini-quad cane. I’m a Fall Risk, and I get the Disability Pension.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I have joint custody of my seven-year-old daughter, Hanna. I am no longer able to work as a nurse. My life has definitely changed, but I can’t say if it is better or worse. All I can say with certainty is that my life is DIFFERENT.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss being able to work as a nurse the most. As much as I would like to a work as a nurse, I know I would NOT be safe – mentally, in terms of remembering if I gave a client medication or treatments, or physically.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy my time with Hanna. It is her time, as I don’t work anymore. I now have a cat, Spunkster, which I got from the local SPCA. When Hanna’s not with me, I hang out with Spunkster.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I had graduated as a nurse only seven months before my traumatic brain injury (TBI). I had wanted to be a nurse for over fifteen years. At least I can say I turned that dream into reality! I sometimes miss being able to drive. My rehabilitation doctor says I still cannot drive, as my reflexes are not up to snuff. However, I can say that my driver’s license has NOT been revoked!
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Becoming a nurse was my dream. I finally realized that, just because I am no longer able to work as a nurse, I STILL AM A NURSE! Being a nurse is STILL a part of me.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My youngest daughter’s father threw me out, as he said he was not happy. I remind myself that not many relationships survive a TBI.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I don’t really have a social life, except maybe for going grocery shopping. I go by cab, so I interact with the cab divers, who are husband and wife. They own the cab company, and they are now good friends of mine. I prefer to interact with people in small groups.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am my own caregiver now. Yes, I do understand what it takes to be a caregiver, as I used to be one. When I was in school to become a nurse, I worked as a CCA (Certified Care Assistant). A CCA can also be called PCA (Personal Care Assistant) or PCW (Personal Care Worker).
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My plan is to be helping others who are TBI survivors or caregivers. I can provide info and support.
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.
Understand that a person does not need to be working (and therefore getting paid) to be fulfilling whatever he or she was meant to be. Find other ways – perhaps volunteering.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Figure out what you like doing and makes you happy. If you can’t remember, that’s OK – find out. (It’s what I wish I knew back in the beginning when I was first dealing with this.) Find out what you like and makes you happy RIGHT NOW! Everybody, brain injury or not, is constantly evolving.
(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
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