TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for August, 2017

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Paul McMahon

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Paul McMahon



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Paul McMahon 1 082817

Paul McMahon – Brain Injury Survivor from Down Under

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

Paul McMahon

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

Sydney, Australia

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

I was 28 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

At my birthday party, I fell 3 1/2 floors – off a building onto concrete.

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

The moment it occurred

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

I had surgeries for my physical condition. I have had no assistance with brain injury.

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

Yes. Three days, I believe

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 rehabilitation during my first three months at hospital and then a required three months following my exit. It was six months in total, but I now realise that it should have gone for longer. Part of that was my own fault – by passing the neurological test at the minimum six-month recovery point (Australia). I should have waited longer – to realise the challenges I could face. I needed more time to think of how my second stage of recovery would take place.

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

Paul McMahon 2 082817

Paul McMahon- Brain Injury Survivor from Down Under

I have problems with short-term memory and especially with attention to detail. Attention to detail in quick moments was a great challenge. I work in communications/policy, and so this is certainly a working issue that can’t be avoided. Also, my aura was different, and I could not connect with people as I once did. This emotional issue lasted about three years.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

It’s different. I have learnt so much. I have fewer friends, but I knew my intelligence was not taken by the accident. I started a Master’s degree and wrote my book. I am editing now.

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

I miss people’s lack of judgement about me. People assume they are helping by telling you what is wrong with you. That is 100%, and it is an instigator for suicide, as you feel no one understands, but tells you how to react. The loss of their lack of judgement is my deepest pain from the brain injury.

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

I have learned to be more compassionate. I have a deeper understanding of mental health and realise that I couldn’t understand depression or other illnesses in the same way previously.

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

I dislike the way people handle my judgement – when you assume you are right, but others judge a situation with no thought of your opinion. It hurts and is damaging psychologically and, at times, in your economic life at work.

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

Man Writing BookYes – writing. My book was my therapy. It is safe to say that, if I sell zero books and have zero readers, I will still be happy, as I believe writing helped me heal faster.

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

Yes. Many friends just ignore me or keep away to feel self-security. I guess the upcoming book tells the rest of the story.

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

Yes! I felt very anti-social. While I would attempt a little, I needed people to be more open and accepting of my changes. I felt this was a lonely journey, so I took that avenue – different from my old caring self.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I don’t have one.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I will finish the book, earn a Master’s Degree, and be as different as I always am. I’ll be economically safe and live the full experiences of this world.

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.

From the beginning, I felt my brain injury was temporary, so all I can say is to KEEP GOING and DON’T GIVE UP! I learnt that when the accident occurred. I would also say to FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS. Don’t do only what a therapist tells you – you know you better than any external you-decider.

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

Paul McMahon & Camel 082817

Paul McMahon – Brain Injury Survivor and Camel

Remember that your passion to follow your dreams may have been limited due to the accident. That does not mean STOP! It means you continue to train your brain in what you love and hold dear. Listen to you!


You can learn more about Paul McMahon on his Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/paulmcmahonauthor/).


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.)

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Ric Johnson

Meditation After a Brain Injury


Ric Johnson



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Boy Blogger thI didn’t meditate before my injury, and I don’t remember what caused me to start meditation. Whatever it was, I’m glad meditation and I became friends.

Many people tend to think that meditation is a “religious” practice. Meditation is actually a broad variety of practices, and the most commonly heard practice is called “mindfulness.” Do I have to get into a yoga pose? Do I have to start saying “Om”? No, I don’t. Nobody needs to.

For me, meditation is actually the practice of focusing on the moment. After my traumatic brain injury, staying focused was (and still is) the hardest part of daily life. Meditation helps me to continue moving forward. I don’t need to clear my mind or empty my thoughts when starting a session – that seems to happen by itself. The longer meditation becomes part of your life, the easier it becomes.

I try to meditate twice a day, especially during a “hard” day. Most of the time, though, I meditate only once – other things seem to get in the way. I try to carve out 30 minutes for each session, but 15-20 minutes is pretty much the normal length I’m able to use. Not sure if 30 minutes would give me better results. Results are really based on the ability to continue to meditate.

I use the breathing-meditation method. We all breathe, so no equipment is necessary. I can do it anywhere and anytime. I only need 15-30 minutes. After waking up, the first thing I do is look at my calendar to see what the day brings. After eating breakfast, I set the kitchen alarm for 30 minutes, sit down and relax in a comfy chair, close my eyes, and listen to my breathing. My breath is the object of my attention. I begin to feel and hear my breath flowing in and out of my body. I use my normal breathing pace. Breathe in – breathe out; breathe in – breathe out; and on and on until the alarm sounds. Like everybody else in the world, I can get distracted by anything. Or, my mind just wanders off (by itself). When that happens, my breathing can bring me back to meditation. Yes, I have start all over again. But that only takes a few seconds, and I’ll be back in the groove.

My second meditation of the day is between lunch and dinner. I actually do the same routine as before, but most times there’s no alarm involved, so I just do it as long as time permits. Those two sessions really help break the day into manageable pieces. I have even meditated in my doctor’s office while waiting to be called for my appointment. I have found that playing music or a white-noise CD just distracts me, so I need to be in a quiet room.

What does meditation give me? I think awareness is the gift meditation gives me. Awareness of the present moment and awareness of my body and mind. When I began meditation, I thought I had to count my breaths to succeed, but that’s not true. Meditation really takes being aware and focusing on your breathing – focusing on feeling the air going in and out of my nose, feeling my lungs expand and contract. My mind opens up to let those feelings become positive thoughts and to block negative thoughts.

If you would like to see if meditation is your cup of tea, find a good place and a good time to give meditation a chance. There are also many websites to get more information – just Google “breathing meditation.” It is not a miracle drug – it’s a place for your mind to open and relax. Meditation hasn’t cured my brain injury, but it does make most days good days.


Ric Johnson
13+ years TBI survivor
Facilitator for the Courage Kenny Brain Injury Support Group
Member of the Speaker Bureau for the Mn. Brain Injury Alliance


Thank you, Ric Johnson


Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ric Johnson.)

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . NFL Rookie Retires

NFL Rookie Retires
(This news underscores the previous NewsBit.)



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


johnson_combine Clemson Safety Jadar Johnson was undrafted in the 2017 draft. As a Free Agent, though, he was signed by the New York Giants of the NFL (National Football League). Many thought he was a diamond-in-the-rough. DiamondJadar himself was excited and said he would do “whatever” it takes to become part of the team that the Giants field on Sundays. But, before he played a single regular-season game, he abruptly retired. His agent’s statement said “… and he values his health. …” Some say that Jadar retired because he became aware of the research on NFL brains recently published in the CTEJournal of the American Medical Association. That article showed that 99% of autopsied NFL brains (110/111) had the devastating and contact-sport-specific brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).


(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! News Bit . . . . . Football, Brain Injury & Kids

Football, Brain Injury & Kids



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


newsboy-thIs American football a dying sport? With football’s prominence in American culture, it seems safe to assume no one would predict that its days are numbered. But, there is a growing undercurrent that may eventually lead to the demise of football as we know it. There is more and more evidence that the constant subconcussive hits experienced by football players lead to a high risk of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE can lead to early dementia, football12depression, suicidal thoughts, or problems with cognition, memory, or impulsive behavior.

Recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is more evidence of the enormous risk of developing CTE by playing American football. (CTE can at present only be confirmed upon studying brain tissue at autopsy, although research is being directed to finding a test that can detect CTE in the brains of living players.) A study of 202 brains of former football players was done by researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University. They found CTE in 87% of all the brains studied. Of the 110 brains of former professional players in the NFL (National Football League, the premier professional football league in the US), 109 (99%) showed CTE. Playing only college football did not significantly reduce the risk of having CTE, which was found in 91% of the brains of former college players. Playing less football did seem to lower the risk. Only 27% of the brains of former players who played through high school, but no further, showed evidence of CTE. Also, the severity of CTE was probably less with less playing time.

brain4The results have important implications for players. Many players feel they’ve been left ignorant of the risks of brain injury by the NFL, or worse, assured by the league that there is minimal risk. [Some players have quit or retired early (1, 2). Recently, a class-action lawsuit about concussions brought by former players against the NFL was settled for $1 billion.] The NFL has argued, and most players and fans who know about CTE believe, that the brains being studied are biased toward CTE because the autopsied brains in large part are from players already suspected of having a brain injury. Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University researcher who has examined many of the brains, has stated that the results are staggering even for a biased sample (go to 1:35:58 in the video). She has stated, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football; there is a problem.”

Evidence of any CTE in high school football players is particularly disturbing (go to 1:29:08 in the video). Parents have taken note. Even though the NFL is actively promoting football directly to children, enrollment in youth football leagues is significantly down. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE by studying the brain of Mike Webster, the football-teamfamous Pittsburgh Steeler Center, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Let Kids Play Football.” During my radio interview of George Visger, a former lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who had to quit the game because of a brain injury, he speculated that the preeminence of football in American society will disappear because the NFL’s talent pool will dry up. He speculates that the cost of liability insurance will be too high for youth football leagues to pay (go to 30 minutes into my interview of him).

There is no doubt that American football is exciting to watch, and there are many benefits to playing such a demanding team sport. But, difficult as it is to believe, it seems likely that the high risk of brain injury will eventually end the game.


(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.

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

If you like my blog, share it (intact) with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it (intact) with your enemies. I don’t care!

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