Survivors SPEAK OUT! Cheri Marie Johnson
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Cheri Marie Johnson
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Hayward, Wisconsin, USA
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
September 11, 2016 I was 24.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I fell down 27 stairs.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I was out with my dad. A person from the establishment saw me fall instead of going to the restroom. The doors to the men’s room and ladies’ room were right next to each other, but I was found at the bottom of the stairs – unconscious. So, I was life-flighted to North Memorial Hospital. It was the best TBI (traumatic brain injury) ICU (intensive care unit) near me.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was in an ambulance, put on a back board, given a neck brace, and brought to Spooner for a life-flight.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for three weeks in North Memorial and then put on the general floor. I was sent to Miller-Dwan in Duluth, Minnesota (of Essential Health-Duluth). I was in another coma for three weeks because I was still bleeding in my brain. It was swollen, so they couldn’t do surgery. They said I wouldn’t have lived.
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?
When I was sent to Miller-Dwan, it was for inpatient occupational, physical, and speech therapies. I was there for four days and then put into another coma after the coma I was in in the ICU. I had a tracheostomy, and, two weeks later, I was put on the general floor for three weeks. There I had occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Now I’m in speech therapy. I talk differently, and I have a hard time breathing from the intubation. I am also in occupational therapy. I have bad posture, and it’s hard to breathe that way.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have bad balance. (I recently fell out of the shower.) I am being put on life-alert (helps contact emergency services). I have vertigo when I lie down. My personality has changed – I’m like a different person. I have anger that I can barely handle. At times, it feels like a Jekyll and Hyde disorder.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It’s worse. I am so angry all the time. I try to talk to who I am – it seems like I talk to an old friend of the person I used to be.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss singing and working for my kids.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy my kids and my dad. They make me so happy.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I don’t like all the confusion. It’s even hard to put one foot in front of the other.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
I’m glad I’m alive and still have my kids.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
I can’t work anymore. I’m exhausted. I need help with almost every daily task. I barely know how to take care of myself, but I still know how to take care of my kids. Relationships are a little harder because of my anger issue.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
People like to abuse people who they know they can. I have kicked people out of my life – they tried asking me for my medicine, and I will not do that.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I have a social worker and a nurse team help me. I also have a nurse who comes over twice a week to plan my medicine box and write down my appointments. I just did a neuropsychological test, and they are saying I need a guardian.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I’m hoping to feel like I am better, then okay. I hope they can find a way to fix my throat so I don’t have to live with a tracheostomy for the rest of my life. And I hope to find a way to not be so angry.
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.
Find things that make you happy – your kids, animals, activities, etc. It will take you out of thinking about what happened.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
I am here if you need to converse with a survivor. It’s nice to open up to someone with the same condition.
Please leave a comment/question. I will respond.
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