Survivors SPEAK OUT! Ina M. Dutkiewicz
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Ina M. Dutkiewicz, pronounced “Ena”
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Milford, Michigan, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had my brain injury on February 3, 2010. I was 43 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
While driving to work, I slid through a stop sign because of black ice. I was hit by a pickup truck.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I was immediately put into a coma.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit for three weeks. A feeding tube was in my belly, and an incision was made in my forehead (to relieve the pressure on my brain from bleeding, I think).
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes. I was in a coma for a total of four and a half weeks. My coma was not medically induced.
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 started inpatient rehab for six weeks at a head injury place where I had to live (Origami in Mason, Michigan). Then I was able to transition to outpatient rehab. I still have to return daily for therapies and doctor appointments. I have done physical therapy, occupational, speech, and language therapies, driving therapy, and vocational therapy
How long were you in rehab?
I did rehab for a total of five years. I still do counseling every other week.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have gait issues, memory problems, and word-finding difficulty. My personality changed. (I’m more docile – easy going – now.) My pelvis was broken on both sides from my seat belt, which means I have daily pelvis/hip pain. I have also had a headache every day since my car accident. Some days, they’re only pressure; others, pounding.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life has changed 100%. My husband divorced me a year after my car accident, so now I live with my mom. I do not work. I am on disability, which is barely enough to live on.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss my friends.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I like that I am more laid back and not as serious.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike that I feel lost some days. I’m not working, and I don’t have anything worthy to put my hand to. My kids are now grown and living on their own. They have their own families. Also, my ex-husband has moved on to a girlfriend. It’s like I was left behind. 😦
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
My Christian faith has been a HUGE help to me.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I have no friends from my past (pre-TBI) life. It is sad.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
My life has totally changed. I now spend my days with my mom – going to things she enjoys at the Senior Center. I am not really with people my age. While I enjoy the time with her, I long for age-appropriate friends.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My mom is my main caregiver. Yes, I realize how my TBI has changed her life. I know that she has had to give up things to support me.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I really would like to get a part-time job in the future. My experience is with office work. I was an Executive Assistant before my car accident, helping with payroll and AP/AR (accounts payable/accounts receivable) on top of taking care of all correspondence that left the car dealership I worked at.
I19. 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.
My helpful hint is that it is okay to be different. In a lot of cases, brain injury truly is an invisible disability. In outward appearance, we look “normal” (whatever that is). That means that we can easily blend in, but oftentimes it is hard to keep up. We need to find our own group of people to hang out with who understand where we are coming from and what we deal with on a daily basis. A support-group is a good place to start.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Don’t give up on yourself. Others can turn away and leave you, but your strength comes from you – no one can ever take that away from you. AND, you can rely on yourself to struggle through your low days and celebrate your victories!
(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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