TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for June, 2017

Brain Injury Resources . . . . . “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook”

After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook


Barbara Stahura, C.J.F. and Susan B. Schuster, M.A., CCC-SLP

presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

After Brain Injury Telling Your StoryThis workbook by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster guides survivors of brain injury and blast injury through the powerful healing experience of telling their own stories with simple journaling techniques.

By writing short journal entries, survivors explore the challenges, losses, changes, emotions, adjustments, stresses, and milestones as they rebuild their lives.

Journaling after brain injury helps written and verbal communication skills and provides cognitive retraining for following instruction. It helps promote self awareness as well as recognition of strengths and difficulties after brain injury.

Susan B. Schuster

Susan B. Schuster, M.A., CCC-SLP Author of “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story – A Journaling Workbook”

It is a tool for planning for the future and discussions with family members. Journaling can be done individually, in a group or with assistance from caregivers or family.

Barbara Stahura, C.J.F. Author of “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story – A Journaling Workbook”











To locate additional books pertaining to brain injury, please check out Lash & Associates Publishing/Training Inc.


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TBI Tales: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Messy Kitchen & Fruit Salad


A Messy Kitchen
Michael Puffer (caregiver for his wife, Maria)
presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Puffer. Michael & Mari a

Maria Puffer – Brain Injury Survivor Michael Puffer – Caregiver for Maria

I came home after a long day and found what looked like a mess in the kitchen. I sat down and put my face in my hands and cried. I couldn’t believe what I came home to. I wasn’t angry, but I couldn’t stop the tears.

Twenty-three months ago, the state of the kitchen would not have been a remarkable finding. Tonight, it was truly unbelievable, and I was blown away!Messy Kitchen

Just under two years ago, I thought I had lost the most important person in my life. My loving wife, Maria Puffer, was in a horrific car accident. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord contusion, and she was in a coma at North Memorial Hospital near Minneapolis.

Ever since that day, Maria has fought to show us she is still with us and she is ever-determined to recover and get her life back. Week by week, day by day, hour by hour – she never quits, complains, or feels sorry for herself. Maria practices walking with a walker an hour a day, sometimes nearly falling asleep because she always wants to push herself. She thanks me every night for taking care of her. She shows all of us what true grit and love is.

Fruit_salad_clipartMaria asked me a few days ago where the Kitchen Aid mixer was. I told her it was in the pantry. The next day – there it was on the counter. Maria asked daughter Samantha to pick up the ingredients to make fruit salad. I told her we would make fruit salad over the weekend, but there never was time to do it.

Maria didn’t wait. She made the fruit salad by herself.

My tears were tears of joy and wonder. When she came into the kitchen, I reached out, gave her a huge hug, and said, “You are awesome!” (Maria is absolutely the strongest person I’ll ever know. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in her life!)Man & Woman Hugging

We had dinner together and enjoyed the very best fruit salad in the world for desert.

I will try forever to be the best husband that I can be. I know I have the best wife, and she deserves the best from me.







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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Donna O'Donnell Figurski

Donna O’Donnell Figurski – author, caregiver, teacher, actor



Donna O’Donnell Figurski (caregiver) … I’m excited that BrainLine, a major brain-injury organization, accepted my article! It was the first time I published with them. The article, titled “Life Goes On: Finding a Purpose After Brain Injury,” was published on their site Monday.350x350_The_Best_Traumatic_Brain_Injury_Blogs_of_2016_BrainLine




Jennifer Lynn (survivor) … I am legally blind in my right eye due to a relapse post-TBI (traumatic brain injury). Nevertheless, I successfully drove to and from a concert about twenty-five miles away. Originally, a friend was going to drive us, but she found she couldn’t go. I really wanted to see Mandisa for her “Overcomer” song. Mandisa

(It could be the theme song for survivors.) I was able to convince my mom to come with me. race-car-driver-clipart-driving-clip-art1Originally, she was going to drive us back when it became dark. However, when we left the venue, I said I could drive – and I did! All the huzzahs!



YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

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Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Shauna Farmer

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Shauna Farmer



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Shauna Farmer – Brain Injury Survivor

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Shauna Farmer

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country)

I currently live in Thermopolis, Wyoming, USA, with my family. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon.

Email (optional)


3. On what date did you have your brain injury?

August 8, 2015

At what age? 37 years old

4. How did your brain injury occur?

While not wearing a helmet, I rolled an ATV. My head hit a tree or a pile of rocks. I continued to roll, crushing more bones. Then I stopped unconscious.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I didn’t return to camp, and, after twenty minutes, my sister came looking for me.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Then I was life-flighted to a larger hospital. I spent three weeks in the ICU (intensive care unit). I had surgery to reinflate my lung, and I had a drain tube put in. Then I was sent back to the ICU.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Shauna Farmer – Brain Injury Survivor

For roughly two weeks, I was in and out. They needed me to be awake, but when I woke up, I was lashing out at the nurses, doctors, and my family. I pulled out my tubes and detached monitors. I climbed onto a wheelchair with my head bandaged. I tried to persuade the other patients to get out of there.

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 an inpatient rehab facility for two weeks. I had speech, occupational, and physical therapies and some cognitive therapy. Now I do most things at home, and I go to the gym three days a week.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have a diffuse axonal injury (DAI, shaken-baby syndrome). I have chronic back pain from the crushed vertebrae. I suffer from fatigue, dizziness, and vertigo. My personality has been affected. I sometimes misconstrue what others say. Also, my temper is not what it was, nor is my patience.

10. How has your life changed?

I live with family now, which I don’t like. I love my family, but I don’t love when others have to do things for me that I can no longer do. For example, I depend on others to drive me to the store, as I’m not allowed to drive yet. I have to limit my exercise routine because of injury – no running, no jogging, no skydiving, no heavy lifting. My balance is off due to BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo; one of the most common causes of vertigo; will cause brief episodes of mild to intense dizziness), so I have to be careful with quick movements, stairs, heights, and foreign places.

Is it better? Is it worse?

No answer

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss living close to the beach in my own home and being so damn independent.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy the sunny weather.

Shauna Farmer – Brain Injury Survivor

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike not being able to go hiking in the forest or to go on the beach.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I became editor of three Facebook online support-groups for TBI (traumatic brain injury). That helps me a lot. I feel I can give something of value to others living the same journey I am. I’m also in the works to create my own Facebook support-group, specifically for DAI (diffuse axonal injury), the injury I have. DAI is the most common and also the most devastating brain injury out there.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes! I lost my home, my job, and my independence. I live with family now. I do have my own room with space, but I’m not used to cooking for others or depending on others to provide for me when I did everything before. I feel like my family tiptoes around me and treats me like a fragile bird. I’m not! I can still do most things. Let me prove myself. If I don’t succeed, then maybe you can help me the next time.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I have no friends here. The few I have are 1400 miles away, and they haven’t seen me since before the accident. I don’t know how they will feel or react when they see I’m still pretty much the same person, just a little slower when running.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

My sister was my caregiver, but after a week, she knew I could take care of myself, and I do.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Yes, I know it’s hard, especially if the survivor is family.

18. What are your plans?

I plan to move back to Oregon and return to school.

What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I aspire to become a paralegal, or maybe I’ll become something with occupational therapy and assist those with brain injury.

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: (1) Water is so important, and being tired is your new normal. (2) Find something positive that you like to do, and stick with it so you can move forward.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

positive-thinking-clipart-positive-thinking-world-Ng196D-clipartIt will take time to accept the new you. Find something you like, and keep doing it. Or, try something you’ve never done before, like work out regularly. I was not a fan of the gym, but I made myself go three days a week. After a month, it became routine, and now I look forward to it. My personal trainer pushes me, and I find myself looking for ways to improve to show her the next time. I have more energy, and I am happy when I accomplish things I couldn’t do six weeks ago. That’s a great feeling! Even if it takes me longer to do it, the satisfaction is still there.


If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI SPEAK OUT! Survivors Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

Taylor, Shelley survivorValentine’s Day 2010 would turn into a complete game-changer – a day we will never forget. It’s a day I’ve documented so, if the day comes when my memory is gone, I can always reflect back on God’s goodness and mercy. Following is my account of the night we were poisoned. God provided the most beautiful second chance.

We were experiencing a “Texas Winter” and had received about six inches of snow. We had been without power for three days. On day 3, we ran a generator in the driveway, near our garage. The garage door and windows were open. The Fire Chief later told us that, since it was so cold and there was no wind, the carbon monoxide gas probably just settled. Instead of blowing away, it just crept back into the house via the eaves.

Trammell, Taylor Survivor 050617

Taylor Trammell – Brain Injury Survivor

Taylor (my daughter; 13 at the time) and I had gone to bed. She told us that someone had called her name and she was trying to get up to see who it was. She got up, fell face-first into the wall, collapsed and crawled out of her bedroom, shimmied up the wall, and collapsed again. The thud of Taylor falling on the concrete floor is what woke me up. Charlie (her dad and my ex-husband) heard this as well from the living room. We went to the hallway and found Taylor passed out and lying on her face. We couldn’t get her to respond! Charlie sent me for the flashlight that was by my bed. On my way, I felt like I was not right either. I got the flashlight and ran back to the hall so I could get to Charlie to let him know I wasn’t OK. I knew that if I collapsed in the bedroom, he wouldn’t know to come for me.

Everything was spinning out of control, and I was experiencing the worst feelings I had ever had! When I turned the corner to the hallway, I collapsed face-first (without using my hands or arms to brace myself). I fell onto the metal flashlight and severely cut my forehead. I told Charlie I felt blood running down my face. He looked at me with the flashlight and said he had to get me to the hospital! My head began to pulse blood. Taylor, I, and the walls were covered in blood. Meanwhile, Taylor was in and out of consciousness. I was having convulsions and banging my face into the concrete floor. Charlie then called 9-1-1.

First to respond were the police. Charlie told them we had no power, so they used their flashlights. They immediately saw my blood and the bloody handprints in our hallway, and Charlie had my blood on him as well. Immediately they accused Charlie of a crime. Shortly thereafter, the fire department arrived, and luckily Charlie knew one of the firefighters who quickly came to Charlie’s defense. Charlie told the Fire Chief of the generator, and immediately the Chief went to the truck to get the carbon monoxide detector. Even at the entrance to our driveway, the readings on the detector began to rise quickly. The readings went higher as he got closer to the house. Upon reaching the door, he called for his crew to exit the house and got Charlie, Taylor, and our dogs out as well. Paramedics were left inside with me to get me stable enough for transport to the hospital. Eventually I left by ambulance, and Charlie and Taylor left in Charlie’s truck.ambulance6

At Mansfield Methodist Hospital, Taylor’s and my blood gases were checked. They were found to be “through the roof.” We were then transported to Dallas Methodist to use their hyperbaric chamber. First, my head injury was closed up with fifteen stitches, and I had to have a CT (computerized tomography) scan to make sure I was transportable. Off we went in the ambulance. Upon arriving at Dallas Methodist, a doctor explained the procedures for going into the hyperbaric chamber. (I was trying to comprehend all of this while the carbon monoxide was still doing damage to my brain!) We found out that the family that had just been in the chamber before us had all died, except the father – not comforting!

When we came home, my sister Kimberley moved in for approximately a month. Physically, my head was healing, but, mentally, I was left with a traumatic brain injury. I literally started over with kindergarten flashcards (I would look at an apple and say “library”), and my friends and family completed most of my sentences. My neurologist was a great comfort to me as I struggled with memory and cognitive skills.

My neurologist also told me that people don’t survive what we went through. He said they really don’t know how to treat me. He said carbon monoxide goes into your brain and destroys whatever it attaches to, and we have no control over what functions are affected.CO-Danger

Taylor and I struggle daily, but some recovery continues every day for both of us. Taylor is young, and healing has come differently for her. Memory and migraines are big battles she continues to face.

I’ve come a long way, but I continue to deal with balance, breathing, vision, and memory. It seems I have fallen more times than I’ve stood. By far, my greatest challenge is breathing. Every day, at some point I struggle to breathe. Coughing has become my norm.

Memory LossMy memory is horrible at times, and I’ve lost so many precious memories. Taylor and I have a routine when it comes to trying to remember things. We just look at each other and ask, “Did we have fun?” The one who remembers says to the other, “Yes, we had fun!” That’s all that matters.

What a Valentine’s Day! Taylor saved us by miraculously waking. We endured my bloody head injury which required fifteen stitches, a concussion, a CT scan, blood gas analyses, ambulance rides, and approximately three-hour “dives” in a hyperbaric chamber. (And, we’re both very claustrophobic!) Nothing says “I love you” like a brain injury.

To be alive is amazing, in whatever capacity! God is good – no, great!


Thank you, Shelley Taylor and Taylor Trammell, for sharing your story.

Surviving Brain Injury - Stories of Strength & InspirationNOTE 1:

Taylor Trammell and her mother, Shelley Taylor, are contributing authors in “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer. Shelley and Taylor’s story is titled, “Our Story of Poisoning — and of Grace.” It can be found in Chapter 75 on page 299.


My story, “Nightmare in the Disability Lane,” can be found in Chapter 29 on page 114 of the same book, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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