Survivors SPEAK OUT! Geo Gosling
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
St. Helena, California, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
In 1995 at the age of 25
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was riding my bicycle 40-45 mph down a steep hill. (That’s pretty fast on a bicycle.) It was dusk, and I didn’t have a bike-light. A car going in the opposite direction was at the bottom of the hill, didn’t see me, and turned left onto a street. I hit her. In auto accidents, this would be referred to as a “T-bone.” So, while on my bicycle, I “T-boned” a car at about 40 mph.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Pretty soon thereafter
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was transported by ambulance to Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa. (It should be noted that my crash occurred only a few hundred feet from the St. Helena Hospital and Health Center, but the ambulance was routed to Napa – about 25 min. south of where I was – because “The Queen” is much better prepared for head trauma.) I had a tracheotomy, and my right shoulder was pretty smashed. I fractured two neck vertebrae, so I had a broken neck. Some ribs were broken also. That all pales in comparison to the TBI (traumatic brain injury), however.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was technically never in a coma, but I was unconscious for either six or eight days – I don’t remember which. (Funny story – I think: I was technically never in a coma because I would respond to outside stimuli. The doctor demonstrated this by talking loud at me or yelling or saying bad things or something, and I would just lie there in bed give him the finger. I just lay there and flipped him off. I later found out the doctors thought this to be rather amusing.)
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)?
I had both inpatient and outpatient therapy. Both in- and outpatient therapy consisted of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and “thought” therapy. (I had to see a psychologist because I was rather … ah … depressed. I called it “thought therapy.”) I was in rehab for years. In fact, I still go to massage therapy because my muscles don’t seem to relax too well anymore. Speech therapy helped, but not much because, as a result of my TBI, I have dysarthria, which is basically paralyzed facial muscles. As a result, I have trouble speaking clearly, and I sound a wee-bit tipsy most of the time.
How long were you in rehab?
Years. I still go to massage therapy twice a month.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Let’s see … where to begin? I’m in constant pain. The part of my brain that is responsible for, or connected to, the gums on the left side of my mouth is injured or damaged or whatever. Anyhow, my brain thinks my gums on the left side of my mouth are telling it that they hurt because something is wrong. Well, something is wrong, but not with my gums. It’s my brain that is confused. My brain “thinks” my gums hurt. So, I just think my gums hurt, but they don’t. (Don’t think about that too long, or you will need to see a shrink.) I don’t like people anymore. I’m pissed off all the time. I haven’t had a date in 20+ years. That could also be why I’m pissed off and don’t like people. I can go from being “happy as a clam” to extremely furious in about ten nanoseconds. (I was never like that before.) My balance is terrible – I fall over very easily. (I couldn’t run to save my life – assuming I wanted to save it. I can’t even walk fast.) I have arthritis in my neck – hurts like hell. My lower back hurts often.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Is this a trick question?
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss a career I enjoyed, laughing, hope, feeling good, living, friends.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
Is this another trick question?
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
Let’s see … where to begin? I dislike my speech. I hate the constant pain. I’m unhappy with having no friends, no job, little money, and no hope. That about covers it.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Passage of time, but nothing really helped. I just realized shit happens, and you have to deal with it.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I live alone and always will. I can’t really deal with people anymore. I don’t trust anyone, the reason being that my psychologist lied to me. As a result, I ended up in the mental ward of St. Helena Hospital and Health Center for two nights and three days. I also had a therapist call the police after I had done what SHE SAID I SHOULD DO!
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I used to have somewhat of a social life, but now, the only person I do anything with is my mom. That’s a tad depressing.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I don’t really have one now.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I have no future plans. I will probably be doing the exact same thing ten years from now – nothing.
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.
Just deal with it the best you can.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Do as much stuff for yourself as you can. Doing “everyday living” stuff is the best therapy. If you can walk, walk as much as you can.
Check out these books by Geo Gosling.
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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