SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Beth Kidd Koziol
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
My brain injury happened in 2005 from being a passenger on the back of a motorcycle. I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI)/closed-head brain bleed, a fractured clavicle, five fractured ribs, a lung contusion, many fractures in my left hand, including a fractured scaphoid bone. (I was told that, if the blood supply could not get to it, I would lose the use of my hand. Thank God, it healed!) I also had a badly fractured pelvis and several torn ligaments in my left shoulder. I was airlifted to a trauma unit, where I stayed for three days. I was then transferred to a rehab hospital for about two months. There I got extensive occupational, physical, and speech therapies. I had a neuropsychologist, a neurologist, an orthopedic specialist, and a pain-control specialist. After I left the rehab hospital (in a wheelchair), I visited three times a week for an additional three to six months. I had to learn how to eat, swallow, talk, and walk. I had taste and smell issues with food, plus I couldn’t swallow normal foods. I got dizzy when I moved my head. It was determined that I had shattered microscopic bones in my left ear (the side of all my injuries). After about three weeks of physical therapy, I had a treatment that corrected that problem and reset those little microscopic bones.
I left the rehab hospital in a wheelchair. It took me another three to four months before I could walk with a walker and then with a cane. Now I use nothing. After six to nine months of continued outpatient sessions of physical therapy and occupational therapy, I was called “Wonder Woman” and “Miracle Child” because no one knew how determined I was in my recovery. I was my own caregiver because I was 3,000 miles away from family. Rather than alarm them, I did not tell them of my accident until I was well enough to travel back to the East Coast and tell them in person, so they could see that I was OK on the outside. My family still doesn’t understand the damage and changes on the inside that I endure daily. I have short-term memory problems, I can no longer multitask, and I have to talk in detail as if I were writing a book or describing a picture. I’m told I talk too much; that hurts. If I am doing anything, including talking, and I am interrupted, I cannot remember what it was that I was going to say or do. This is commonly the new normal for many brain injury survivors.
The best thing I can suggest is to find materials – books to read to get informed or educated and websites that help you understand what a TBI-person goes through. It helps the survivor when you understand and are patient with him or her. After ten years for me, I still find areas in which I am still healing.
My motto is “Never Give Up!” [smile emoticon]
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