Survivors SPEAK OUT! Shauna Farmer
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
It 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.
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