Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kuna Williams
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)
I currently live in Tempe, Arizona. At the time of my accident, I was a homeowner in Surprise, Arizona.
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I received my traumatic brain injury (TBI) on July 27, 2006. I was 26 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was involved in a motorcycle accident a couple blocks up the street from home. I was on my way to play a game of billiards.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
When I was hit, a gentleman found my cell phone and called the phone number titled “Mom.” My mother and my father drove from Glendale to the scene of the accident – Surprise. I was taken to the hospital while in a coma. The following morning my mother was advised that, among other injuries, I had received a traumatic brain injury.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I received emergency treatment and was ambulanced to the hospital. I was unresponsive at the scene of the accident, and therefore I was intubated. My left lung was collapsed (left pneumothorax) for which a chest tube was inserted. My left wrist was broken. (I had an open left distal radius and ulna fracture.) It was repaired with multiple screws. An EVD (external ventricular drain) was made for a closed head injury and remained for two weeks. I received a trache (tracheostomy tube) and was placed on a ventilator. (A tracheostomy tube is inserted into the trachea for the primary purpose of establishing and maintaining an airway.) A GJ-tube (gastro-jejunal tube) was also inserted. (GJ-tubes can be used to bypass the stomach and feed directly into the second portion of the small intestine.)
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a medically induced coma for twelve days. About four months after my accident, they put in a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt (which redirects excess fluid away from the brain to the abdomen, which can more easily tolerate surplus fluid). They also installed an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter (used to prevent blood clots from moving through the blood into the lungs), which will stay inside for the rest of my life.
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?
I had both inpatient and outpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab was for three months and included physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Holistic outpatient rehab included physical therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, and speech therapy. Holistic rehab was for a total of eighteen months. I continue to see a neuropsychologist.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Due to my TBI, I have memory issues, changes in the speed of processing, a field cut (vision loss), and balance issues.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
Certain aspects of my life are better. I have more of an appreciation for what life has to offer, and I am more optimistic about what can be achieved. My feeling of optimism comes from my Faith, the many resources that are provided, and networking.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss cruising custom cars.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy spending time with my wife, drawing, attending brain injury events, participating in church, and – best of all – being a caregiver and helping others who have physical and/or mental challenges.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I don’t have much that I don’t like. It’s just sad how it took an accident to bring this new outlook on life.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
What helps me with acceptance is that I realize It can always be worse. I attend support-groups. Others with the similar conditions share with you their compensations, and you share your tips and tricks. You feel good about how you can help someone. I accept my challenge and realize I can use compensations. Acceptance is tough, but, once you have accepted your circumstance, think Oh well. Move on … things WILL get better!
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. What has changed is that I’m not out gallivanting and abusing substances. What has also changed is my financial life and spending tactics.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
See my answer to the previous question.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am a survivor, but I also work as a caregiver. My main consumer has a TBI (just like me), and the other gentleman was born with challenges and wasn’t expected to live as long as he has. I treat them as friends that I can relate to. I don’t make their challenges a characteristic.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I have previously done computer-aided drafting before and after my injury occurred. I also worked retail before I got back into drafting. After my TBI, I was no longer good at drafting. But, I am good at talking to people, and I love to draw. So, that is what led me to being a caregiver part-time and designing T-shirts part-time.
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.
Survivor of Brain Injury – Kuna Williams & wife, Evie
I’ve learned from my rehab that “Things Take Time.” Don’t rush things, but keep trying. Show steady persistence until you develop a routine for something. Find something you are good at or something you want to do.
20.What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Find your Niche!
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