Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)
by Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Thomas Hopkins, Jr.
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Mountain Home, Idaho, USA (originally from Wisconsin)
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I was 19 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I have had several head traumas that led to my brain injuries. I’ll discuss the main ones. I have two injuries from February 2003. The first was due to a JDAM bomb (Joint Direct Attack Munition – a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs into all-weather precision-guided munitions). The second was from an explosion in a unit I was working with. In 2006, on my 4th tour, I had gotten a hammer to the head. I do not recall this incident at all. My fourth injury was in May 2007. I was still on my 4th tour. Our camp got morning RPG/mortar hits. The shop I was working in had one hit close by that shook the shop. The 40-lb. equipment I was working on fell over and hit me in the back of the head.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I started noticing issues after my first injury back in 2003 – daily headaches, ringing in my ears, light sensitivity, plus I would invert numbers.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Due to the units I was in, I did not get treatment. I’ll rephrase that – due to the units I was part of, unless you lost a limb, your sight, etc. or your life was in danger, you were not allowed to seek medical treatment.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
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 started seeking help once I got out of the army. I started at the VA (medical care at hospitals of the Veterans Administration). It was not the best outcome.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have convergence insufficiency (a condition in which your eyes are unable to work together when looking at nearby objects, creating double or blurred vision),
photophobia, daily headaches that turn into migraines, and constant tinnitus. One doctor said I have damage to the autonomic and limbic systems in my brain. Other doctors have said that I don’t even have a brain injury! (LOL) I have no concept of time; I experience jerks (involuntary muscle movements); I search for words; my speech is slurred; my brain often won’t let me get my words out; and I have a poor memory. I do not feel 60+% of my body, and my lower limbs do not work a lot of the time. “Partial Para” is what they call it. At times, I need to be in a wheelchair.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss my memory. It used to be photographic.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
Retirement (LOL) … Driving my wife nuts (LOL) … Um, working my brain in different ways to work on problems and situations that come up in my hobbies
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I’m not Johnny-on-the-spot anymore. I miss my memory. My body is going to shit.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
MY WIFE. Even though most of my injury is “invisible,” she showed me that I also have physical scars that I and others can see.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yup. That’s a very long answer.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yup. We lost a lot of friends and family because I was not the same Tommy I was before I was brain-injured in the war.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
MY WIFE! I have a rough idea of some of what she does for me, but I have no clue of what all she does.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My “plan” is to maintain what I have and live each day as if it is my last.
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.
Yes. You have to adapt to your new self. That old person is gone. I had to realize I will never be as I once was, BUT I am still able to do most things with adaptation.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My advice: Good days come and go. Work with the day you have because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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