TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for the ‘Survivors SPEAK OUT!’ Category

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Danielle Skranak

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Danielle Skranak

 presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Danielle Skranak

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Washington DC, USA

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

October 26, 2014     I was 19.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I fell during Army Basic Training.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?ce3f3b31921bb023c9c1c8c8dcbb8f34

It was witnessed by my entire company.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I did not receive any emergency treatment.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No

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 did not attend rehab or have any other outpatient therapy.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I had long-term and short-term memory loss, vertigo, and aphasia.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

It’s neither better nor worse, just different. It made me become more independent, I suppose.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

Easily remembering things and my memories 

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Speaking about my injury and meeting other survivors 

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

remember-note-wqq-hiI dislike how easily I forget stuff and having to constantly ensure I’m eating right – so my brain is working at its optimal capacity.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Time, really. Nothing else has contributed. 

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

I was more easily manipulated. I was involved in a domestically violent relationship that did not end well.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?Danielle Skranak 2 Ms Gilbert 051621

I used to easily trust people because so many wanted to help me, but I’ve since learned that you cannot trust everybody. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. 

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

N/A

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to be fully recovered and to help those who need help. Perhaps in the next few years, I will have earned my Juris doctorate.

Ra3aca9d8126fdc212dc543ced6b1071219. 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.

I wish I would’ve known early on that not everyone’s recovery is the same. Some are longer; some, shorter. There’s no magic pill you can take to make recovery shorter. 

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Take everything slowly. It’s not a sprint to recover.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Annie Ricketts

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Annie Ricketts

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Annie Ricketts – Survivor of Brain Injury

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Annie Ricketts

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Isle of Wight, United Kingdom

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

July 23, 2000    Age 36

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I flew off a horse.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I was diagnosed with a severe TBI (traumatic brain injury) in the hospital.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

None! On the day of the injury, I was left in the waiting area alone and unconscious for four hours. The next day, I was taken back to the hospital by ambulance and admitted. I had no scan – no observational tests were taken at all. I was sent home three days later without seeing a specialist.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I was unconscious after the accident, but never in a coma.

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?

As an outpatient, I had occupational and speech therapies from year 5 to year 6.5 post injury. These therapies were repeated in years 10, 14, and 18.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

My problems are complex and multiple, but there is no visible physical impairment.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

It is fabulous!

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

Nothing

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Living life with a purpose

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

My executive-function impairments intrigue and fascinate me. There is nothing I like least. I accept everything and continue to work on improving.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I had a total loss of self-awareness, so I didn’t ever have any problems with acceptance. It is a different journey.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

My family didn’t understand – it took a lot of time. Now, I get a lot of understanding and support.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I have been isolated since the injury, and I want to remain this way. I had a normal social life before.

17.Who is your main caregiver?

My daughter.

-Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Yes, absolutely.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to be doing what I am doing now – only less hours!

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.

Annie Ricketts – Brain Injury Survivor

Neuroinflammation starts straight after injury. It is like a switch being flicked ON. For many people, this inflammatory response continues until it is addressed. Research shows it can last upward of 17 years post injury. If you would like to know more about this and how inflammation creates and exacerbates symptoms, please visit globalbia.org.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Take care of your body – it is connected to your brain.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Meghan Beaudry

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Meghan Beaudry

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Meghan Beaudry – Brain Injury Survivor

     1. What is your name? (last name optional)

     Meghan Beaudry

     2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

     Houston, Texas, USA        meghan_wang@yahoo.com

     3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

     In 2009, I developed lupus, an autoimmune disease, that turned into brain inflammation. I was      twenty-two. Five years later, in 2014, I had another severe brain inflammation flare in which I forgot both how to walk and much of my past.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I first realized something was wrong when I began to struggle in grad school.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

A female Doctor.

A female Doctor.

I had a difficult time getting diagnosed, so I did not receive treatment the first year I was sick. I saw seven doctors before I was diagnosed with lupus. 

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No.

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?

No.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have some short-term and long-term memory loss. While I don’t have noticeable balance problems, I have a poor sense of balance for someone my age.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life has changed in many ways since I’ve survived brain inflammation. In some ways, it has improved. I’m more fearless and confident. Because living with brain injury and lupus takes up so much energy, I have little energy for negative thoughts and people who might hold me back

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss being able to memorize information quickly and with little effort.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I never would have started writing if I hadn’t developed a brain injury. It’s been an honor to be able to share my experience so that others with brain injuries can feel less alone.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike the fatigue that comes with lupus, as well as worrying that I will have a memory slip when speaking, presenting, or performing.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

What has helped me let go of my grief is understanding that, while living with brain injury is not a choice, grief is. I’d rather only live with one chronic condition than with two.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

It took a while for my family to accept that my abilities and needs were different after my diagnosis. My second episode of brain inflammation led to my divorce because my husband was emotionally unable to handle it.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I’ve been lucky to know friends who understand my limitations, especially because of the fatigue I experience daily. In many ways, brain inflammation has deepened many of my existing friendships.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

When I was very sick and bedridden with the second brain inflammation flare, my mother-in-law moved into my house to take care of me. Her selflessness and positive energy were huge factors in my recovery.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to have published a memoir about my experience.

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.

I use my phone to help me remember everything. There are so many apps to help you keep track of your life.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Always remember that the lowest point in your injury/life is not the point at which you will stay forever.

 

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Surviviors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Craig J. Phillips . . . . . Survivor of Brain Injury

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Craig J. Phillips

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Craig J. Phillips
Survivor of Brain Injury

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Craig J, Phillips

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

My email is secondchancetolive1@yahoo.com.

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

August 11, 1967 at age 10

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Motor vehicle accident – We were in a Volkswagen Beetle that was hit by a woman driving a Cadillac. She lost control of her car, ran off the side of the road, hit a pole, came across her two lanes and a grass medium, and hit our car in the passing lane. I went up over my Dad’s bucket seat and hit the windshield, fracturing my left femur.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My father, who was driving.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

Hospitalization – I was not expected to live the night of the accident.  I was put into traction to set my femur. I was then placed into a full body – or Spica – cast for 5-6 months. With obvious external wounds, an invisible traumatic brain injury was not considered.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Yes. I remained in a coma for three weeks.

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?

In 1967, there was nothing in the way of brain injury rehabilitation. Once my external wounds healed, I was on my own to navigate life with the impact of right frontal lobe damage and a severe brain bruise. I attended two physical therapy appointments, but was then on my own to teach myself how to walk.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig — Learning to Walk Again by Not Giving Up (Part 3)

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I underwent two EEGs (electroencephalograms – given to detect electrical activity in the brain) and a battery of cognitive and psychosocial tests. The results showed that I probably would not succeed academically beyond high school. That conclusion was shared with my parents, but not with me. I grew up not knowing that my life was being impacted by the traumatic brain injury that I sustained when I was 10 years old. I had difficulty reading non-verbal cues and social nuances and learning sequences of information. I had to discover how I learn best and to accept myself. I am not my traumatic brain injury.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

Better – I obtained my undergraduate degree in ten years, after attending two universities and one college and having four different majors. I obtained my graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling in three and a half years, after attending two graduate schools.

There were twenty years of getting and losing jobs. Twice, I had Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) evaluations. I was deemed to be unemployable by the DVR counselor after the second evaluation. Of my three applications for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance), two were denied, but I was approved after the third application.

Nevertheless, I still wanted to contribute and use my gifts, talents, and abilities. I created Second Chance to Live on February 6, 2007 (secondchancetolive.org). I have written 1860 articles and made 413 video presentations and 10 eBooks. I have 30 slide show presentations, 33 posters, and other creations.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig – My Academic Path (Part 4)

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I had my TBI (traumatic brain injury) at the age of 10. I don’t remember my life before then.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy using my creativity in ways that work for me. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

It is as it is. I would like to have more of a social life. However, I accept that I do not have the skills to have more of a social life – so it is stressful for me.OIP-1

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

When I reached a point in my life when denying my reality became more painful than my need to deny my reality, I began to grieve my reality through the five stages that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross spoke about in her book, On Death and Dying. Once I moved through confronting my denial; experiencing anger for what I was powerless to change; trying to bargain my way out of what I could not change; and experiencing depression, I was able to increase my acceptance. As I grew in acceptance of what I could not change, I was open to discovering possibilities. Possibilities through choices. Choices that helped me to get into action. Action that helped me to create hope in my life.

For details, see my article:

15. Finding Craig – My Brain Injury Awareness (Part 5)

Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. As I accepted my reality, I stopped needing to convince other people of my reality. People cannot give what they do not possess. For people to accept my reality would mean that they would have to feel feelings and make changes – feelings and changes that they may not know how to feel or want to feel. Changes that they may not know how to make or want to. As I stopped trying to change people, I had more peace in my life.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I enjoy my solitude and my freedom to create through Second Chance to Live. I have a small circle of friends.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I am my own case manager. As a rehabilitation counselor, I fully understand what a counselor does. A counselor is not in the position of having to do for another person what that person cannot do for himself or herself. As a counselor, what I seek to do is to teach and encourage the individual to fish – not provide fish, so that that individual will never go hungry again.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I am an author, advocate, keynote speaker, and a motivational coach. I created Second Chance to Live nearly fourteen years ago. I do not know what the future holds. I am preparing to be available to present at more conferences and organizational settings as a keynote speaker/workshop leader. I am doing the footwork – one day at a time. I am trusting the process, a loving God, and myself. More will be revealed with time. The pieces of the puzzle will come together at the right time and in the right order.

For details, see my article:

Finding Craig – Making Sense of Brain Injury (Part 8)

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.

Pursue excellence, instead of being driven by perfectionism.

I have difficulties learning sequences of information. I have written an article that explains what has helped me with this information: Neuroplasticity, Small Successes and Learning/Relearning Skills and Skill Sets.

Craig J. Phillips 120. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Trust the process, a loving God, and yourself.

See that your circumstances are a way to build you up, not to keep you down.

See that you are not your traumatic brain injury or your disability.

See the disappointments and disillusionment that you experience as important parts of your process.

See how those events move you in the direction of your destiny.

Find ways to use what you can through your gifts, talents, and abilities.

Accept your inability to do some things because of your deficits and limitations. Stop berating yourself for your inability to do those things.

Live and explore outside of the box that society seeks to keep you in through dismissing, discounting, patronizing, minimization, and marginalization.

Love, accept, and celebrate who you are as an individual.

Break free from the denial system that keeps you feeling like a mistake. Stop identifying as a patient.

Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, have the wisdom to know the difference, and then be at peace with that difference.

See life as a process – a journey.

Realize that your job is to learn “how-to” from various ingredients and then combine what “you learned” together to bake various “cakes.”

Realize that there is no such thing as failure, only an opportunity to learn.

Realize that what occurs in your life is meant to set you up, not set you back.

Begin to live the “now” in life.

Struggle makes you stronger.

Avoid the comparison trap.

Share with other traumatic brain injury survivors that there is hope.

Realize that what happened to you is not as important as what you do with what happened to you.

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

 

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . Rico Principe

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Rico Principe (survivor)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Rico Principe – Brain Injury Survivor

Rico Principe (survivor and advocate)

Don’t let my looks fool you. I have a laundry-list of deficits. Some are obvious, and some become obvious only to those who live with me. The brain aneurysm didn’t kill me, but it killed the “me that I was” and gave my family and my friends the “new me.”

The brain aneurysm turned my world upside down. I wasn’t even aware of brain aneurysms until I had the “worst headache of my life” in 2004. It gave me a 24/7-headache, occasional bouts with depression, aphasia, neurofatigue, forgetfulness, memory loss, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), sleeplessness, and loss of filter.  I also have a short fuse.

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It came unannounced, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the actions of my wife (Elvie). She was there and called 9-1-1 so I could be taken to the hospital as soon as possible.

I struggle with the “baggage” that comes with being a brain aneurysm survivor, but I chose not to be burdened by it.  Instead, I chose to be an advocate. I help run a Facebook group of brain aneurysm survivors with almost 11,000 members.

This is me. A survivor and an advocate.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . Nolan McDonnell — Survivor of Brain Injury

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Nolan McDonnell

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury – Nolan McDonnell

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Nolan McDonnell

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

San Jose, California, USA     Nolan@CoachNolan.com

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

My traumatic brain injury occurred on April 23, 2017, at the age of 31.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was the victim of a robbery. I was held at gunpoint and then shot in the head. My brain injury is bilateral, as the bullet went through both sides of my brain.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

I was found in my car, which was riddled with bullet holes. I had an entrance wound in my skull from the bullet.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I had seven blood transfusions, a craniotomy, and maybe some other things.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?physical-activity-clipart-10

Yes – fifteen days.

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 have or had speech, occupational, physical, stretch, recreational, massage, and craniosacral therapies and acupuncture. It has been two and a half years now, and I put in eight hours a day, five days a week.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I was a paraplegic – I could not move from the neck down. I worked hard to overcome this, however. I still suffer from extreme spasticity, muscle imbalance, and minimal range of motion on the left side of my body, as well as in my legs.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life is better after my traumatic brain injury. Before the injury, I did not know how short, valuable, and fragile life is.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss skateboarding, making new friends at school, the freedom to get up and do anything I wanted at any given time, athletics, not having a caregiver, living alone, and having guests come over.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I like my perspective on and my valuing of both life and people. Life is so valuable to me now – more meaningful and beautiful.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I love everything about my brain injury. Life is more important to me now.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

No

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes. We had to make everything wheelchair-accessible, and someone always needs to be with me. Also, with my injury, I can’t get up and go make myself a sandwich or go to the store and get something that I want. Somebody needs to do those things for me. I am a lot more limited in that aspect, but it’s not a big deal if I plan ahead.

The biggest aspect about this question is addressing the invisible injury. People look at me and see that I’m strong, and they expect that, at any moment, I can just get up and start walking, hiking, or going on dates.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Not really for me. I have always been a very social person, and my wheelchair is a great conversation starter! People come up all the time and ask me what happened. I am always making new friends.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

My mother

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

(not answered)

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.

This is a tough question because no two injuries are the same, but I will share my input and what worked for me to get my legs strong again.

Learning how to use my legs has been especially difficult. My parents bought an assist-bar at Home Depot and mounted it to the wall, a little below chest height. I can use my wheelchair to wheel up to the bar and practice standing up, do squats, stand up, and let go and learn how to balance.

Another great thing that I would love to share is to go to your local community college and check out adaptive PE (physical education) classes. The community colleges by my house have adaptive PE – they have standing frames and parallel bars, and all of the equipment and workout-machines are wheelchair-accessible. Adaptive PE programs usually have water classes as well.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Nolan McDonnell – Survivor of Brain Injury

I would suggest that other brain injury survivors take initiative and demonstrate that they want to help themselves because that will encourage support from other people. Also, always continue doing exercises and stretching. Try to increase your range of motion, and workout constantly. Fitness creates a mind-body connection and promotes new neurological pathways. Additionally, if you take care of yourself physically, you tend to eat better – and proper nutrition is very important for a healthy brain.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.anim0014-1_e0-1

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

 

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! ………. Mimi Hayes – Survivor, Author, Comedienne

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Mimi Hayes – Survivor, Author, Comedienne

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)

 

Mimi Hayes – Survivor of Brain Injury Author of “I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head”

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Mimi Hayes

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Brooklyn, New York, USA

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

My brain injury happened approximately in late August 2014. I was 22 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I got a bad migraine while I was on a blind date. After about a week, I’d developed weird symptoms, vision problems, coordination difficulties, etc.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My mom knew pretty quickly that something was wrong. It wasn’t until after a few doctor visits

that we got an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and it was finally taken seriously.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

MRI

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

Nope

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 was in inpatient therapy for two weeks and in outpatient therapy for about three months. I had speech, occupational, and physical therapies.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have some lasting vision issues on the left side, but they’re minimal and happen only when I’m tired. I have issues with concentration, memory, fatigue, coordination, and sensitivity to lights and sounds.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

My life changed for the better in every way. Yes, it’s hard to have to adjust to a new brain, but I would never be where I am or who I am without this experience

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

Probably just being a bit more fit. I used to play ice hockey, and my brain completely forgot that

muscle-memory. Also, I wasn’t such a scatterbrain, but that’s endearing most of the time.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

Challenging myself to live in New York City, a place where I never imagined I could live with a TBI (traumatic brain injury).

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I don’t like that my brain injury has elevated my anxiety, which I had before the injury. It’s probably a low-grade PTSD (post traumatic-stress disorder) tied to all things medical.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I don’t think I’ve ever not accepted my brain injury. It’s just that I forget it sometimes. I maybe do something I could have done before with no problem, like a concert, but I’m completely exhausted the entire next day.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Sure. My family had to learn about my new challenges. We had to stop eating dinner with the TV on in the background, and we learned that I’m quicker to anger. They never weren’t there for me, and, if anything, my brain injury brought me much closer to them.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I’ve always been very social. It’s just that now I have to power-down more to recharge.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Me. But, I don’t really understand what it takes to be a caregiver. I was a nanny to three small boys for a year, and that was a lot of work! But no, I’ve never been a caregiver.

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

Hard to say, but I’d like to put out a few more books, do a TED Talk, and continue to travel with my comedy. As soon as theaters are back open, I’d like to put my one-woman show on off-Broadway.

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 give yourself grace. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s recoveries or even to who you used to be before. Also, it’s OK to change who you are after a near-death situation. It’s OK to change your job, your city, hell, anything you want. You deserve to explore the new you.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

There’s a great big community out here. You are not alone. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve met on Instagram and now consider them to be best friends. I would have never met them in real life.

We are strong, and we all want to share our stories with each other and connect. My advice is to get online, start using hashtags, and explore. You will find us. And, we can’t wait to connect with you!

To learn more about Mimi Hayes, visit her website.

Mimi Hayes Website

Mimi Hayes’ book, I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Tommy Hopkins, Jr Survivor of Brain Injury

 

 

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?

No coma

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?

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?

Tommy Hopkins, Jr. Brain Injury Survivor
Caregiver – Kristina Hopkins

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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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

John Bradshaw

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Apple Valley, California, USA

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

July 4, 2012     Age 56

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Car accident

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

The impact was immediately known to be serious. I was in a coma at the scene of the accident.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I was air-lifted from the scene of the accident. My condition was assessed. I had CT (computerized tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and I was put on a respirator.

7. Were you in a coma?

Yes

If so, how long?

Deep coma: 1 week; sleep coma: 3 weeks

8. Did you do rehab?

Yes

What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)?

I had my therapies – occupational, physical, and speech – both as an inpatient and as an outpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

My therapies basically lasted 1+ years. I still do physical therapy every year to help with balance and strengthening.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I have problems with balance and perception. I have a personality disorder, a mood disorder, memory-loss, and nervousness, to name a few issues.

10. How has your life changed?

There is no normal. Every day is different.

Is it better?

No

Is it worse?

Yes

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

In general, I miss knowing where I am, my quick train-of-thought, and my memory.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy the people I have connected with through support groups and rehab.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike not knowing things in general and not understanding why I am like this.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Yes. Jesus sent me back to let everyone know he and his father are alive. They love us, so it doesn’t matter what church you go to. They want to see us come home.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Yes

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes. I find it very difficult to interact with others now.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

My wife

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

No

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I have no plans for the future. I take it one day at a 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.

(No answer)

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Life will never be the same. Take it one day at a time, and believe it does get better with time. My wife’s favorite reminder motto is: “I am not what has happened to me … I am what I choose to become.”

 

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury
Alisa Marie

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Alisa Marie

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

New Hampshire, USA

Truecolorsartist@gmail.com

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

October and November 2012

But, my very first concussion was in 1998. I was 30 years old. 

4. How did your brain injury occur?

tenor

The event in October 2012 was a fall caused by vertigo. In November 2012, I was cleaning under the pool deck. I went to get up and banged my head, causing me to be knocked out. I don’t remember what happened in 1998.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

My boyfriend at the time found me unconscious under the pool deck.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I was taken to the Emergency Room, and I had rehab. I had to live with my parents for a while because they had to take care of me. I thought it was the year 2005 and my children were 5 and 10, but it was 2012 and they were 13 and 18. Also, I was going through a divorce, and my house was in foreclosure.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No

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 occupational and physical therapies as an outpatient and speech therapy both as an outpatient and as an inpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

I’m not sure because I’ve been in a lot of rehabs for head injuries. I was in three in 2015. My last rehab was in 2018, as my last concussion was in 2017. (I slipped on clothes on my floor because my perception was off.)

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

I struggle with many issues: balance, perception, personality, cognitive and executive functioning, memory, staying on task, aphasia, and impulsivity. It’s hard to make decisions and hard to be organized. I lost my independence. I lost my license for cognitive reasons back in December 2013.

Alisa Marie – Brain Injury Survivor

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

I’m an artist, designer, and poet. I am also trying to have my own business, Alisa’s True Colors. I began melting Crayola crayons in 2013 when Emily, my younger daughter, showed me how to apply wax to canvas using a blow dryer and a fork.

This was helping me as art therapy, where I could take physical and emotional pain and turn it into something colorful and bright. It was all I could focus on for a while. I didn’t know it then, but the seeds of Alisa’s True Colors were being planted. It helped me learn and adapt to the new me. I was creating my ability out of my disability.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

Freedom and independence

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I have come to realize that we hold within ourselves the power to heal. I have learned we don’t need a superhero to save us; we need to be our own hero in our own story. We need not to be afraid to chase after our dreams. And, if one door closes keep looking for the open ones.

I am learning happiness, calmness, and patience. I am accepting the new me, and, with my limitations, I am finding new ways to adapt. I have let go of the past and my old ways of thinking of what I believed of myself.

I have gained wisdom, knowledge, self-confidence, and the courage to look fear in the eyes – to truly know that being a survivor means being a fighter and not to give up no matter how dark my world gets.

I want to awaken others to their true colors by helping them accept their new life after trauma – to help them heal through art.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike that I can’t stay on task or stay organized. I am forgetful, and I talk strange sometimes because I can’t remember the right word. I regret the loss of close family and friends who don’t understand.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Art and poetry 🙂 

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

For a few years, I lost what empathy was. My emotions were all over the place. I had a lot of anger and resentment in me. You find your own “True Colors” with a brain injury or from a trauma where it can get very confusing when you are trying to find your true self. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that sometimes you see the “True Colors” of your loved ones. We can look fine on the outside, but no one can see our brain on the inside all messed up trying to find a new way of living.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

Yes. I have social anxiety at times, and I’m embarrassed when I talk and can’t find the words or when I can’t stay on task.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Me, myself. and I

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to travel around the world with my story and products and to teach my art. And, I hope to also donate money to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and other non-profit organizations.

I had to lose everything from suffering traumatic brain injuries due to repeated head injuries. I also had to deal with being diagnosed with viral meningitis in March 2015. Then in the year 2016, I lost my home, and all my personal belongings were discarded because of toxic environmental illnesses. I’m surviving by designing.

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.

This isn’t the ending to your life; it’s a new beginning. We all are creative. So, you just must keep trying new things, whether it be writing, poetry, drawing, photography, ceramics, embroidery, knitting, singing, or dancing. There is so much you can do – you are not your disability or a diagnosis a doctor gives you. I never gave up hope. I kept learning and reaching for my dreams when all I saw was darkness

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Every struggle, every life-lesson is a gift because it makes you go deeper into yourself to find your “true colors” – your inner strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.

I want others to see and know that there is beauty in the darkness, that there is beauty in your pain and tears and heartache. There is beauty in the ashes. There is a rainbow after the storm. I hope people see my True Colors as a message of hope and faith and love, to give them the hope and courage and strength to show it is possible to overcome the battles we endure in this lifetime.

I never went to art school. I have no degree – just education from repeated concussions and my life-situations. My art saved my life and is continuing to do. It helps with built-up resentment, emotions, grief, and physical pain. Art teaches that you are a new person after your injury, and it teaches how to adapt to your new life. Art is my therapy. I take the physical and emotional pain I feel and I turn it into something beautiful and bright on the canvas.

3 Alisa Marie

Never give up!

To learn more about Alisa Marie, check out her website at Alisa’s True Colors.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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