TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends



Bonni Villarreal (caregiver)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Bonni Villarreal – Caregiver

March 21, 2012, is a day that changed my life forever. It started off like any average day. I got up and went to work. Mike was asleep when I left. I called him around 8:30 that morning to let him know I wouldn’t be at my desk, in case he tried to call me. He sounded fine. Then, just by chance, I happened to be at my desk at 10 am when my phone rang. It was Mike … telling me he was having a stroke.

By the time I got to the house, the ambulance was there. Mike was awake and reaching for me. I didn’t think it was too serious because Mike was alert and talking. But, by the time we got to the hospital, that had changed. The doctor informed me that Mike had a huge blood clot near his cerebellum, and he had to be life-flighted to another hospital because he was too critical to stay at the one he was at.

I had to sign papers for life-saving brain surgery. Mike was in a coma for ten days. We didn’t know if he would wake up, and, if he did, what condition he would be in. When he “woke up,” Mike wasn’t anything like the man I married. He stayed in the hospital for another month, and then he was transferred to a nursing home.

Those days were some of the darkest in my life. They treated Mike as if he were a hopeless case. I wonder what would’ve happened to him if I hadn’t been around.

Mike Villarreal – TBI Survivor

He was tube-fed, couldn’t speak (he wrote instead), and couldn’t walk. He was totally helpless. Plus, he was battling infection after infection. I didn’t think things would ever return to normal.

Fast forward to January 2017 – almost five years post stroke. Mike passed his barium swallow test, and he is having his G-tube removed! He is walking almost unassisted! He is talking! I told Mike, “You are an inspiration. You give hope to people who have lost it, you have renewed hope for people who are about to give up, and you keep hope alive for people who are just starting this long journey.”

Mike wants everyone to know – DON’T EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP. No matter if it’s been five, ten, or fifteen years. Keep hope alive! Mike did, and look how far he has come!

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Comments on: "TBI Tales: Inspiration . . . . . . . . by Bonni Villarreal (caregiver)" (8)

  1. Very inspirational story Bonnie! You should be proud to stand by your man and help Mike in his journey. I realize it is not easy. I had a tbi in an auto accident and was in a coma for 50 days. At some point while in the coma, I also had a stroke.
    My injury occurred in Nov 1985, I was 18 at the time. Nothing has been easy. Stay positive, keep humor alive, it is the only way. Congratulate Mike on his successes.


    • are you better now?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I guess you are talking to me Ritesh, I am having chronic pains with my back now. This was separate from my tbi and stoke. I had 3 operations on my back last year,the last in December where they put in a spinal cord stimulator. It has stopped most of the leg pain, but the lower back pain is still terrible. I walk with a walker or a cane, depending on the back pain. It has mainly been with the walker.
        I take 4 seizure medications, but have been good for about 4 years now. I am on disability now, but worked various jobs as a computer drafter for 15 years after college. It was difficult with my memory problems going job to job, and having to learn new job responsibilities. I know not having pressures from the job has helped my seizures too.


      • Charlie, thanks for sharing your info. I am sure it will help others.

        Donna O’Donnell Figurski

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ina M Dutkiewicz said:

    Make sure Mike knows his story of resilience is very encouraging and I thank him for sharing it and making the effort to show a personal side to this horrible thing we survivors know as the aftermath following our life changing event. Whether we have become a TBI survivor due to a stroke, slip and fall, car accident or as a veteran of our US Armed Services, we all have struggles daily and need the encouragement to continue to put one foot in front of another. AND Bonnie, bless you for standing by your husband through thick and thin and helping him in his success story!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thomas courtney said:


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Best wishes!!! Thanks for sharing his story !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lee staniland said:

    ATTA BOY MIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!So proud of you. And of you too Bonni! Keep up the great work. You had the stroke for a reason. To help others. Lee

    Liked by 1 person

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