Survivors SPEAK OUT! Barb George
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)Barb George
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Hoquiam, Washington, USA
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
2004, and again in 2005 Age 45
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was head-butted by my daughter’s horse. The second accident – we think I fainted. I was again in the hospital.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
We don’t know how long I was “out,” as I was alone at the fence line. But, my husband realized there was a real problem when I did not recall all the work we had done on the property (fences built, pond in, etc.). He put me to bed, but I remained out of it, so he called an ambulance.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I had no surgery, but I was in the hospital for four days.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
8. Did you do rehab?
I had nearly no professional rehab. We lived in a very rural location, and I was unable to get to things. (My husband was working out of country for much of the first three years.) So, I was on my own.
I did create some of my own rehab. With reading, I got help from computer-friends, who were willing to put things into LARGE, ALL CAP type. My farm chores helped with many balance and stability issues.
What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? I did have a small time of physical therapy. That helped with balance.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
a.) My vision was reduced from perfect to nearly nothing. I could not read anything with lower case letters or anything with under a 16-20 pt font.
b.) My stability and balance were horrible. I used shovels to maintain my balance in the fields, and I used the walls and furniture in the house.
c.) Head-pain was tremendous.
d.) I experienced various moods.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I had just launched my company in a new location, but I had to close my business. My relationships suffered. It was rough.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
Stamina. I live an “every other day” sort of life. I do not sleep well, so that is difficult.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I have had four more grandkids since my accident. (I had 2.) I have gained two sons-in law. I am grateful to be alive.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I miss not having the ability to plan for anything. Life is a crap-shoot. I never know what will be possible.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Organization. Honesty with self and others. Creating a support-group around myself. (I facilitate the only support-group on the Washington coastline from Canada to Oregon.) Learning!
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
My brain injury has strained many family dynamics. It is hard. My husband is not very available emotionally – that is just the way he is. One child sees me as a “whiner.” The other sees me as open and honest. Two kids have been pretty distant.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I was never a party person, but I did like to go out in the evening hours. Now I cannot. Well, rarely. I cannot cope with loud restaurants or movies.
17. Who is your main caregiver?
I am very self-reliant. My husband would say he is my caregiver since he is the only other person here. He does the paperwork (for which I am grateful). Other than that, I am on my own.
Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
Yes. I would give anything to share more of the responsibilities.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I would love to develop my skills enough to peer-mentor and advocate at a higher level. I would love to have an actual paying job at some point. I would like to continue to be self-sufficient as much as possible and to do some traveling. I plan to continue to be an involved grandmother and friend.
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.
The truth – that I really didn’t need to jump back in to life so quickly.
I wish they would have sat my husband down and explained to him that this was a BIG deal. He didn’t get it.
The word “aphasia” was huge for me! No one could explain to me why my words were so garbled. When I learned that word, it was like “Well, it has a name, so it must be a thing.”
Communicating with other survivors helped me. I had a couple of HEROES in my corner. They gave me bits of wisdom and friendship that carry me through today – twelve years later. I am grateful to them.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Give yourself TIME. I see people every single day making comments such as “I am six months out. When will I be 100%?” or “When will my spouse be normal again – it has been four months?” Obviously, their doctors have neglected to tell them that TIME is a gift. That makes me angry. Yes, everyone is different, but no one, after an intense hit, is perfect in a couple of months (IMHO). By pushing (or being pushed by others), there are higher chances that other injuries will occur, and healing goes back to zero or further!
Find unique ways to simplify your life. And change it up. We gave up our mountain-dream-home-in-the-country for a smaller space in a small town. But, it is close to everything. I have less than half the home to care for. If I am unable to drive, I can catch a bus. I can walk to many things. People thought we were crazy – but being rural is a lot of work. Life was never perfect before the accident. It isn’t perfect now. But, life is worthwhile.
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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