Survivors SPEAK OUT! Bonnie Nish
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)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had two: one in 2012 at age 55 and another in 2013 at age 56.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
For the first one – a child I worked with in a school was using a zip line, and, as he was coming off, he began to lose his balance. I put my head on his back to steady him, and his head came whipping back – the back of his head caught me just above the temple. For the second one, a basketball bounced off the rim and hit me in the same place that the first one did.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
At first, I just went to a walk-in clinic, and they told me I should be better by Monday. (It was Friday.) About two weeks later, I couldn’t get two words out without stuttering, so I went to the Emergency Room. They did a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan and sent me to see a neurologist. That neurologist thought I didn’t have post-concussion syndrome, even though I was stuttering and couldn’t move my right finger from my nose to his finger. The Workmen’s Compensation neuropsychologist disagreed with this and thought I did have it.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
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 had outpatient therapy as designated by the Workmen’s Compensation Board.
How long were you in rehab?
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I experience nausea, dizziness, light-sensitivity, loss of appetite, an inability to retain what I read, an inability to write, stuttering, a loss of words, impulsivity, anxiety, and an inability to follow multiple conversations at once. I have a problem with my balance. I lost twenty-five pounds. I have an over-stimulated sense of smell, an inability to play piano and remember what I knew, a loss of executive decision-making skills, a constant buzzing in my head, and concentration problems.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It’s mixed. I still have buzzing in my head all of the time, and it gets louder if I do too much. And, I still have some memory problems. But, I also appreciate my ability to think like never before. I have published two books since my concussions.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss not hearing buzzing and not feeling anxious.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy knowing when I can do things that I couldn’t do while I was in the middle of it all.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike not being able to write or read. That is the scariest thing for me.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. My children became my caregivers. That was hard for them, especially for my youngest daughter. It took some time for us to get past my being dependent on her.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I don’t go out as much as I used to. I still find it hard to be in large groups and crowds.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My youngest daughter was my main caregiver. Yes, I understand how hard and how demanding it was for her. And how scary.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I have returned to my academic work. I intend to finish my PhD and teach and write. I would like to get a few more books out. (I am currently working on two.) Also, I hope to live somewhere else in the world for a while.
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.
My advice is to let people around you know that one thing that might happen to you is that you might become very impulsive. It is best if you can get some help with this. Leave your cards at home and only take a certain amount of cash with you. Mention to your friends and family that if they see you buying something you would never normally buy, they might want to question this. I didn’t figure this out until I was in the concussion clinic and heard a few of the guys talking about how impulsive they were. For this reason, they kept only $20 in their pockets. This was after I bought a stationary bike when I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed it. I also bought five dresses and have worn only two.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
This is a hard and difficult journey. You may feel as though you are a different person. You are in some ways. It takes time to grow into this new way of being. Have patience with yourself – the way you would for a dear friend.
To learn more about Bonnie Nish, please visit her website.
To order Bonnie’s book, click here. “Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline”
(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
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