Survivors SPEAK OUT! Marcia Pelletiere
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)
New Jersey, USA
3. On what date did you have your brain injury?
At what age?
52 years old
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was stopped at a red light in the rain, when I was rear-ended by a Mack truck, since its brakes didn’t work well in the rain.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I went to the Emergency Room. They gave me pain meds and released me – without an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or any other scans or tests.
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?
Yes. I had physical, visual, and cognitive therapies. (Outpatient only)
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
A balance problem, body pain, vertigo, visual perception issues, short-term memory loss, and many other things.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
After 15 years, my life is largely repaired. I learned a lot of valuable lessons. I credit some of the people who helped me with making my new life possible.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss being able to trust my brain to be reliable with dates and my eyes, with visual perception … things like that.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I appreciate what I have so much now. Everything is more precious.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike the way it caused me to spend so many years feeling disoriented and isolated. I was frustrated from not being able to communicate my inner “mess” and distress, from my visual and audio processing problems, and many other issues. Nowadays I live with only a few “leftovers” from the brain injury, and I’ve learned to manage those.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
My cognitive therapist was essential in my recovery. Also, my meeting other TBI (traumatic brain injury) patients was a huge help in accepting the reality of TBI.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Having a TBI is a strain on all relationships. Everything was much more difficult, and that made relaxed relating harder, to say the least!
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Now I prioritize my relationships and appreciate the support that family and friends and brain-injury caregivers gave me when I needed it most.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I have been a caregiver, and I have had caregivers, so I understand a lot about caregiving – and about caregiver burnout! I am my own caregiver now, thank goodness! (I function very well these days. I feel very lucky.)
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I am doing what I want to do right now. I’m doing creative work; I’m also teaching; and I’m spending time with friends and family. In ten years, I hope to have enough health to still be doing creative work, to still be spending time with loved ones, and to be traveling.
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.
Listen to your body. Make sure to keep trying to communicate what is happening, if you can. Find doctors and other caregivers who know about brain injury and who will listen to you and take your symptoms seriously. Check out problems (vision, balance, nausea, etc.) with neuro-optometrists and ENTs (ear, nose, and throat specialists).
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Every brain injury is different. You are the expert on what your brain injury feels like. Don’t devalue your own experience! Your input with doctors and others is important.
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