Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jonathan Swiatocha
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Keller, Texas, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
December 6, 2002
10 years old
4. How did your brain injury occur?
My family and I were hit by a drunk underage driver. The drunk driver was driving up to 80 mph. When the collision occurred, my brain hit the right side of my skull.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
When I was ten, the neurosurgeon and physicians told my parents that I had a high chance of recovering very quickly but the more severe effects of my traumatic brain injury (TBI) may appear in my twenties. In my early twenties, I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed, and I started to have vision problems. I’ve always known that I had problems from my TBI, but it wasn’t until my mom had me get evaluated by a psychologist that I was officially diagnosed with permanent brain damage. That’s when I knew for sure that something wasn’t right.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I had surgery, was given a shunt, and was on a ventilator.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes. I was in an induced coma for about three days.
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?
Yes. I was in inpatient care for eighteen days and in outpatient care for six months. I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have problems with cognitive functioning, perception, memory, depression, isolation, and vision. My personality has been affected. I have mood swings.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life is definitely not worse than before my TBI because I don’t remember what my life was like anyway. I am truly blessed for my life today, and I give thanks every single day for just being alive!
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I don’t miss anything from my pre-TBI life. I may not be the person I was before my TBI, but honestly, I have never missed the old me – not even for a second.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy being able to share my story with people an
d being an inspiration for the TBI community.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike the daily pain and suffering that resulted from my TBI.
14.Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
More than anything, my faith has helped me accept my TBI. I believe that everything happens for a reason, so, instead of dwelling on the past, I fight the good fight every day and keep moving forward.
15.Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. My family has been affected more than anyone because they see the two sides of me. My mom and younger siblings have been especially emotionally affected over the years because of the severe emotional and behavioral effects from my TBI.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I was not the most social person in the world before my TBI. Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I struggled to interact with and engage people my age. That forced me to isolate myself, which left me in a severely depressed state. Once I became a speaker and started to stand and talk in front of audiences, I started to slowly heal. I became more social and interactive with people, young and old. I still struggle at times with forming relationships and making new friends, but I have definitely come a long way from where I once was.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My main caregiver is my mother. Yes, I understand what it takes – you have to be both mentally and emotionally strong to be a caregiver.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My future plans include being an international speaker, writing a book, and becoming the first Olympic runner with a traumatic brain injury. In ten years, I hope to have a family and a successful career and to have moved one step closer to achieving all my goals.
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.
Even when all hope seems lost, you can always be raised up out of the ashes and into the light! I know it’s a fight every day, but the healing from TBI starts by staying faithful, staying humble, and living with a purpose.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My advice to all survivors is – never lose hope! I know what it is to be depressed. I know what PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is. Giving up or taking your own life is never the answer. I was very close to ending my own life a couple of years ago because I was tired of all of the pain and suffering. Please hear me – your life has meaning. You’re alive today for a reason! Keep fighting the good fight, and never give up!
Follow my journey to the Olympics.
Facebook: Run To Victory
(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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