TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for the ‘Survivors SPEAK OUT!’ Category

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . Bill Gasiamis Stroke Survivor & Podcaster

Survivors SPEAK OUT!     Bill Gasiamis

Stroke Survivor & Podcaster

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Bill Gasiamis

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

Bill Gasiamis

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

Melbourne, Australia

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

My stroke happened on February 12, 2012. I was 37.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

It was caused by bleeding of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation).avm-clipart-1

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

It was seven days before I took any action about it.

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

I was in hospital for seven days. After six weeks at home, my brain bled again (March). It bled again in November 2014, and then I had surgery.

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 had inpatient rehab for one month and out-patient rehab for six months. I had to learn to use my left side again and learn how to walk.

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

I have numbness on my left side. Fatigue is a problem. I have minor balance issues when I am tired.

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

Life is better. It’s more complicated because of what happened but my personal growth has been huge.

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

I miss playing running-sports, like soccer.R-2

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

I have a new appreciation for working on things that are hard and take a long time to complete.

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

Sometimes, I wish I had more energy.

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

I was helped by lots of counselling.

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

It has, but for the better. By my own standards, I am a better person than I used to be.

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

No

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

I don’t have one. (I am my own caregiver.)

03 BILL GASIAMIS mage-1024x998-118. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I intend to continue to interview stroke survivors on my podcast, to speak on stroke-related topics, and to write books on stroke recovery.

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.

Survivors need to understand that emotional recovery is a very important part of recovery. It is often overlooked. Emotional recovery supports both the physical and mental aspects of a survivor’s recovery.

R20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Take responsibility for your own recovery, and learn to put your energy into solutions instead of focusing on the problem.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Casey Chaffey – Living and Dealing with Chronic Pain

Survivors SPEAK OUT!     Casey Chaffey

Living and Dealing with Chronic Pain

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Casey Chaffey 1

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

Casey Chaffey

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

Kentucky, USA     iluvtkj@yahoo.com

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

In 1998, at the age of 22, migraines had become a part of my life.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Besides the severe head-throbbing, the migraines were often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, mental confusion, and more. I gave up caffeine (including chocolate), dairy, and gluten to try to reduce as much inflammation as possible. After being passed from doctor to doctor, I was diagnosed with a vestibular imbalance. That did not improve, even with almost a year of physical therapy, and it became the scapegoat for all of my symptoms.

A few years later, the pain changed from an unwelcome visitor to a permanent resident. Even on my migraine-free days, I still had a persistent headache. Dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, and constant light-sensitivity decided to join the party as well. Fifteen years after my migraines first started, I was spending about five days a week in bed, and prescription medication was required for me to complete simple daily activities. Finally, after trying more than eighteen different prescriptions and seeing ten different doctors, I had a diagnosis. A fairly large cyst had been growing in the middle of my brain and putting pressure on my optic nerve, which is what caused the vision issues.Migraine

When I was 38 years old, a neurosurgeon removed the cyst. Recovery was not easy or quick. I had double vision for more than four weeks. My brain felt exhausted all the time, and I could not look at any screens (TV, phone, or computer). I had a panic attack for the first time in my life. I had to rest a lot. And my hypothalamus was damaged.

However, the moment I woke up from surgery, my constant headache was gone. I no longer felt and heard my pulse in my head. I went from migraines five days a week to six or seven days a month. My dizzy spells rarely show their unwelcome face anymore. I still have limitations and light-sensitivity, and I am always in some level of pain. My blurry vision will occasionally return, and an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) in 2019 showed evidence of a small stroke at some point. In spite of that, I am thankful for how far I’ve come.

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

See above.

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

I’ve had treatments, but I didn’t go to the Emergency Room of a hospital.

There are two types of brain injury. Traumatic brain injury is caused by an external force, like a blow to the head or an object passing through the skull. A non-traumatic brain injury is caused by internal factors, such as a lack of oxygen or pressure from a tumor. I had both a cyst that put pressure on my brain for many years (non-traumatic). Surgical tools that were used to get to the center of my brain to remove the cyst (traumatic).

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 do any clinical rehab. My husband helped me go for walks, even when I didn’t want to. We started by just going to the end of our short driveway and back. We slowly worked our way up to crossing the street and then circling our small cul-de-sac. When we decided to attempt a loop at the park, I eventually made it. As I continued to push through, the distances grew.

When I was one day shy of being three-months post-op, I stood at the starting line of a half marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. I obviously could not run, but it was possible to walk 13.1 miles in the four-hour time limit, so I was going to try. It was one of the most difficult things I have done, but I crossed the finish line just under the wire.narathon

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

Looking at computer and phone screens for extended periods of time increases my migraines. I still have to rest more than healthy people, and my vision will get blurry if I do not rest in time. Socializing exhausts me, and I often spend the next day in bed with a migraine. Since my hypothalamus was compromised during surgery, I experience frequent hot and cold flashes. (The hypothalamus helps regulate the body’s core temperature.) I get overheated and feel like I cannot breathe, but when I take just my socks or sweatshirt off, I can start shivering and feel chilled to the bone within a minute or two. I used to love the heat of summer, but now it makes me sick if I spend much time in it.

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

My life is immensely better than it was the few years before my surgery. At that point, I wasn’t really living; I was simply existing. I have been able to offer advice and encouragement to others who were going to undergo brain surgery. Without my experiences, I would not have had those opportunities. I also recently published a book called 30 Days to Understanding Chronic Illness and Pain.Casey Chaffey 2

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

Besides just feeling healthy, I used to be active and fit. Working out gave me an energy boost and made me feel better, like it is supposed to. Now, I still try to exercise and I love hiking, but those things exhaust me. I often have to nap right afterward, and physical exertion can make my head hurt and feel foggy.

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

Besides my brain injury, I have other chronic illnesses. I believe that if I want people to understand, then it is my job to teach them (with patience and kindness). Of course, not everyone is willing to listen; but if I do not at least try, then I am not even giving them the opportunity. Navigating through the limitations and suffering can be discouraging. In addition to the symptoms themselves, the stigmas and misconceptions may seem insurmountable. My goal for my book is for it to be an easy and informal read that covers a wide range of topics, including invisible illnesses, cost, guilt and loneliness, fatigue, brain fog, pacing, prevalence, and more. My hope is that it will help me help healthy people gain a better understanding of what life with chronic illness and pain is really like, while also offering support and encouragement to those who are struggling. 

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

See above.

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

No answer

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

No answer

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

See above.

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

No answer

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

See above.

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 little girl has something to say

I wish I would not have stayed silent about my struggles for so long. I used to avoid talking about my pain and the journey that I was on. I do not like to complain, and I know that everyone has challenges in life. But as I slowly began to open up, people came out of the shadows. I realized that I was not alone in feeling alone and that others were going through the same or similar things. When we keep our suffering to ourselves, it can steal our entire focus and limit outside interests and distractions. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, resentment, or loneliness. There is no shame in seeking therapy or other support to help you develop coping skills. While you may not be able to control the pain or limitations themselves, you can take control of how you deal with them. 

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

Rest is not laziness, and pacing is vital. We live in such a fast-paced world, and there is always so much to do. One of the hardest lessons to learn is to slow down because you cannot do everything that you used to. It is easy to feel guilty, lazy, or left out. It is difficult to leave projects unfinished and to stay home when everyone else is out having fun. But once your body informs you that you are overdoing it, you need to rest and stop comparing yourself to others. When you rest because your body is weak, you are not wasting time doing nothing. You are doing exactly what you need to do. You are recovering.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Karina Seda

Survivors SPEAK OUT!     Karina Seda

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

03 Karina Seda

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

Karina Seda

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

I live in Orlando, Florida, USA.     Email: livingwithoutlimitswithkarina@gmail.com

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

My brain injury was in 2008 when I was 15 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

After surgery, my intracranial pressure rose and caused a hemorrhagic stroke. (An artery popped.)

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

Regarding the stroke, everything happened in the hospital, so the nurses were the ones who identified it. But if we go a few years back, my journey began when I was 12 years old and was diagnosed with an aneurysm.

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

I was rushed back to the operating room, and they used the defibrillator twice to bring me back. They also opened my cranium again to stop the bleeding. R

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

Yes. I was in a coma for two 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?

I took in-patient rehab for one month and out-patient rehab (occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and health guidance) for around four years – until my insurance reached its limits.

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

I had lost all movements of the left side of my body, including speech, and my eyes were stuck facing a single direction.

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

Everything changed, including career, eating habits, social activities, and desires. However, everything changed for the better: I am living with a purpose, married with my soul mate, and helping others to be the best version of themselves.

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

I miss my social life and my friends.

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

I enjoy being able to see life at a young age with a completely different point of view. I like living with gratitude, admiration, compassion, and wisdom.

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

I don’t like the headaches.144-1447424_migraine-cartoon

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

I realized that everything happened with a purpose.

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

I’ve been affected by seeing how my situation changed the people around me and by how they treated me.

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

24 Karina SedaYes. In the past, if anyone called up to do something or to go somewhere, I could easily say “Yes.” It was hard to adjust to a life where I could not. Also, I try to do everything myself, but it is a bit hard whenever people try to help when I really don’t need it.

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

At the beginning, my mother was my caregiver. But now, I am my own caregiver. Yes, it takes a lot of passion, patience, and dedication to help some who, at the time, cannot help themselves.

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

I hope to keep living in the best version of myself and to be living my purpose. And I expect to keep working on my recovery. I also want to be helping others in a transformational way so they also can do the same.

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.

It was very frustrating to be living in suffering for a long period of time by myself. Having the right support, accountability, and system can be a tremendous help in working towards recovery.

15 Karina Seda Banner Living Without Limits20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Never give up! It is never too late to reintegrate into life in a healthy way and work towards recovery.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Dawn Wasserman Corbelli

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Dawn Wasserman Corbelli

 presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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

Dawn Wasserman CorbelliDawn Corbelli

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

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA      corbelli@q.com

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

February 13, 2008

At the time of the accident, I was 39 years old, and my daughter, Veronica, was 15 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Car accident

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

The day of our car accidentR-4

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

I was hospitalized. There I had X-rays and a CT (computerized tomography) scan. Staples were put in my head, I had to use a catheter, and I was given morphine.

My daughter had exploratory surgery, X-rays, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), life-support, and many other things that I do not know because I lost my memory for seven weeks.

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

I was not in a coma.

My daughter was in a coma for two weeks and one day.

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 speech, occupational, and physical therapies – inpatient for two weeks and outpatient for months.

My daughter was in speech, occupational, and physical therapies – inpatient for six hours/day for 2½ months and outpatient for over a year. She had physical therapy on and off throughout the years since our accident (almost 14 years ago now). She also participated in manual therapy in which specially trained therapists put pressure on muscle tissue and manipulate joints in an attempt to decrease back pain caused by muscle spasm, muscle tension, and joint dysfunction.

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

Dawn Wasserman Corbelli 2My disabilities are memory loss, lack of comprehension, decreased cognitive speed, balance difficulty, vertigo, a very short temper, and extreme mood changes. I became more depressed, and I now suffer severe anxiety. I have bipolar disorder that has been exacerbated due to my moderate brain injury. When driving, I would sometimes forget where I was, where I was going, and why. It happens less now, but it still happens. My math skills have become extremely poor. I couldn’t read for years; I read like a five-year-old trying to put words together. I am capable of reading well now.

My daughter has a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). She has a sheared brain stem that causes trouble with swallowing. (She frequently chokes on her own saliva.) She was paralyzed on her left side, but she now has full use of it. She has severe short-term memory loss, and she also suffers from long-term memory loss. (She has forgotten the three months before our accident and the three months after.) Her cognitive speed and the speed of her speech has been affected, but not to a great extent. She cannot run due to her previously paralyzed left side. She has a great deal of chronic pain. She broke her pelvis in eight places, both of her hips, and her left ankle, all of which cause her pain daily. She cannot stand in one place for more than a few minutes. Her left ankle swells up. She has balance issues.

Because my daughter’s hypothalamus was damaged, she gained 4.5 pounds a week after leaving the hospital until she gained 70 pounds, which she still carries today. Her body thermometer is also broken. She is hot all the time and doesn’t even wear a coat in 30-degree weather. Her personality is sexually perverse. Her mind is frequently on sex and, with very little filter, she speaks frequently in a sexual manner, but it is much better than it used to be. She is quite impulsive, and she has poor decision-making skills, which can sometimes leave her in danger. For years, she would take off her shirt in public to show her breasts. When we are there to guide her, we can keep this from happening. She takes things very literally. If someone makes a suggestion that is inappropriate, she will take it seriously. She does what her friends do (for example, not wearing a seatbelt). She has a severe mood disorder. Sometimes severe anxiety makes her cry for long periods of time. She is on medication. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, not. So we have been going through med changes for the past couple years.

Note: She was very stable pre TBI.

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

We are deep believers in the Lord and believe that everything happens for a reason. Now we cannot imagine our life any other way. For many years, we lost all of our friends, and we were very lonely. But we always had each other and became best friends. Life with a brain injury is very difficult. But we have always seen and appreciated our blessings and have learned to find joy in every day again. Our faith brought us through and carried us when we couldn’t carry ourselves.

Veronica believes life is better because many blessings came from our injuries. Our lives are not really “better” or “worse”; it is as God has planned. He gives us the strength to get through any situation, and we do what we have to do even during the difficulties. Veronica believes she is a better person and is much closer to God now. My bipolar episodes are worse now, but, thankfully, I do not have them very often.

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

I miss my very sharp thinking. I am slower, and there are many things I just do not understand without them being explained to me in a different way – with the use of different words now.

My daughter misses having stable moods. She does not have the independence she always dreamed of. She lives at home, cannot drive, and cannot work. Since she was 10 years old, she knew she wanted to go to college at ASU (Arizona State University); join the Air Force, like her parents did; and

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?Dawn Wasserman Corbelli Family

I enjoy my family. I enjoy staying home with Veronica. Who wouldn’t want to raise their child twice if given the blessed chance?

Veronica enjoys spending time with her boyfriend most.

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

I dislike that I forget so much and that it sometimes frustrates my husband.

Veronica hates her deficits, especially the short-term memory loss, the anger, and her labile moods.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?smart-cartoon-clipart-1

After 12 years, I saw a wonderful counselor who taught me that my deficits have nothing to do with my intelligence.

For Veronica, the fact that her family and friends accept her brain injury helps her accept it. Her boyfriend did not know her pre injury and loves her just the way she is. 

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

Yes. My husband and older daughter are very protective of us now. We all worry that if we can’t get a hold of each other, the one we are trying to get a hold of is on the side of the road dead in a car accident.

Being sexually perverse and very touchy feely, Veronica ended up being raped twice by different people we knew. That ended friendships, of course.

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

For many years, we had no social life or friends outside of our family. Veronica and I were very lonely for friends and ever so grateful every day that we had each other. We prayed for a very long time – years – for new friends to come into our lives, and they eventually did. A family (the husband is Greg’s best friend); the wife is my best friend, and their grown children and their families are Veronica’s best friends. We spend evenings, a week, and often a day on the weekend with this family. And after eleven lonely years, Veronica has a boyfriend again.  

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

I am Veronica’s main caregiver, but my husband and I both are co-guardians of Veronica.

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

My husband will be retired, and we plan on doing some traveling. I hope to be promoting the book I recently published and maybe another.Dawn Wasserman Corbelli Book

Veronica hopes to be moved out, with a man (maybe this boyfriend), and not be living at home.

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.

Use Google maps so that if you are driving and you forget where you are, where you are going, and why, at least you will know where you are.

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

The biggest problem daily is memory loss. I have learned how to manage it pretty well on a daily basis. Write everything down that you want to remember. Keep paper in every room of your house and in the car if you drive. Be responsible for your own notetaking. That way you cannot blame anyone else for your forgetfulness. Put notes anywhere they will help you remember. Put them in the kitchen on the counter, taped to the microwave, in the bathroom, on the toilet seat, or on the steering wheel of the car if it will help.

If a brain injury survivor’s loved ones do not accept the new person he or she has become, neither will the survivor accept himself or herself. So, survivors, allow yourself to grieve, but don’t ever say, “I miss the old you.”

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Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Gail Waitkun

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Gail Waitkun

 presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

24 Gail Waitkun 3 105769029_10221153417692680_1997538277250787609_n

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

Gail Waitkun

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

Portland, Maine, U.S.A.

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

February 25, 2015

At what age?

60

4. How did your brain injury occur?

It was the tipping point of twelve head injuries incurred over my life. The first eleven were sports-related; the last was a seemingly innocuous jolt of my head (whiplash).whiplash-583bc2a7e4b74

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

I realized I had a problem soon after my accident, although I drove home. The desk manager at the car repair place suggested I be seen by a doctor. I did not think I was acting any differently … but, apparently, she did. I then decided I should probably go to the hospital. I lived alone, and there was no one to assist me.

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

I was seen at Mercy hospital where I was given an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and diagnosed with a grade 3 concussion. (A severe concussion, lasting longer with greater impact. A grade 3 concussion is generally considered the most severe of this type of traumatic brain injury.) There was no treatment. I was actually allowed to leave and drive myself home!

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

No

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)? How long were you in rehab?

I had initial evaluations/meetings and perhaps four weeks of testing and rehab. There were an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, and a neuropsychiatrist. I did not meet with any one of them more than three or four times. As my insurance time was dependent upon my schooling participation (I was completing a nursing degree), I had only the time afforded by my contract.

411-LKXRQhL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

The following is edited information taken from my book: Heal Your TBI.

  • Altered sense of smell
  • Altered taste
  • Anxiety; feeling “hot-wired” comes and goes
  • Balance problems
  • Body temperature fluctuation (too hot, too cold)
  • Difficulty with conversations (hard to follow, respond in the moment, or connect thoughts and ideas)
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty focusing on a single task
  • Eye problems, blurred vision, floaters, changes in vision, light sensitivity, night vision challenges
  • Headaches
  • Highly emotional
  • Inactivity, lethargy, no energy
  • Indecisive
  • Isolation (self-imposed)
  • Lost career and relationships
  • Loss of smell (I did not realize to what extent this was for me until I was tested.)
  • Loss of taste (I did not realize to what extent this was for me until I was tested.)
  • Hypersensitive to hyper-stimulation
  • Impulsive; saying whatever comes into my mind
  • Inability to drive
  • Loss in confidence
  • Memory problems
  • Overstimulated; can’t fall asleep
  • Pain (unexplained)
  • Personality changes; cranky, sad, depressed, angry, craving solitude (not normal)
  • Problems in judgement
  • Peripheral vision problems
  • Sadness
  • Sleep issues; sleeping constantly on and off, difficulty staying asleep, restlessness, baddreams
  • Sleepy – off and on throughout the day
  • Stuttering and slurred speech
  • Trouble holding onto new information
  • Trouble making or holding eye contact whenspeaking
  • Trouble remembering important daily information (e.g., if I paid a bill)
  • Weight gain, change in the brain and gut connection
  • Errors in writing things, spelling issues, mathissues/executive functioning skills compromised

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

My life is better. It has been enhanced by my brain injury and the necessary steps I had to take to move forward. My life has changed, as now I feel a sense of purpose and I have been given a gift of service. There is much to be done in this area.gift-clipart-animated-8

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

I miss my ability to process information quickly – thinking and responding in the moment. However, this improves with every opportunity I have to interact.

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

I enjoy my newly acquired purpose, commitment, and confidence; an ability to persevere without caring about what other people think; my newfound knowledge; and an ability to help others.

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

I dislike my injury, but my subsequent challenges were a gift.

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

Yes. Important were my attitude and my mindset about what my brain injury has presented in the form of an opportunity to help initiate important changes.

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

My brain injury has absolutely affected relationships! It has enhanced many relationships and has helped “separate the wheat from the chaff.” As with all significant life-events, my injury has a way of helping me see things more clearly. This will happen for you if you are open to accepting the changes and using your creativity and appreciation for the opportunities these events offer.

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

My social life was indeed changed as I lost my ability to remain on my planned path. Those individuals in my profession carried on … as they should have. As they were involved in a career that was particularly constraining in allowing them to have a social life outside of their colleagues and career, I fell out of touch with them. Now, I have developed new interests and goals. This new career path has placed me in the company of others who are on a similar path – one that assists those who are in need. So my circle of friends has expanded in a wonderful and fulfilling way. The “old” friends are still there … but they are not actively present in my life.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?03 GAIL WAITKUN 2 copy

I am my main caregiver. I do understand what caregiving requires. I have written two books to help others so that they don’t need to take six years to experience improvements.

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

My plans are to continue writing, to develop tools that will assist the brain injured, and to speak publically to those directly involved with diagnosing brain injuries and to those who care for the brain injured and/or are in contact with them. I plan on reaching them through my writings, speaking engagements, and coaching. I intend on having facilities with an established universal protocol for helping those in need. They will be specifically for the recovery of brain injured athletes.

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! Get a qEEG read with the LORETA method. (Electroencephalography <EEG> is the measurement of electrical patterns at the surface of the scalp which reflect cortical activity, and are commonly referred to as “brainwaves.” Quantitative EEG <qEEG> is the analysis of the digitized EEG, and in lay terms this sometimes is also called “Brain Mapping.” The LORETA method <LOw-Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography Analysis> is a relatively new method for localizing the electric activity in the brain based on scalp potentials from multiple channel EEG recordings.) Do neurofeedback as designed by the results of that test administered by a qualified individual. Get a complete body scan (MRI) after an accident to insure the compromised areas that you may not be aware of because of your brain’s inability to serve you. Hire a coach who specializes in brain injury … especially someone who has gone through the process firsthand … as he or she will really know what is happening and what needs to be done in order to help.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?13 GAIL WAITKUN Heal Their TBI 182937333_10223542933629085_7895588353411287889_n copy

I would like those of you who are challenged by a brain injury to know that the body is geared to total wellness … and, when provided the opportunity, can recover completely. Mindset is key, as is a team of people who can support you in your recovery. Isolation is deadly and will not help. It is best to allow yourself to be open to those who are willing to help and to know that, although those individuals may not totally understand all the time, their willingness to help and, most especially, their love can be the most powerful of all therapies and medicines.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Laura Miller

Survivors SPEAK OUT!

presented by

Laura Miller – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Laura

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

London, Ontario, Canada     brainsageyoga@gmail.com 

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

My first motor vehicle accident that caused a TBI (traumatic brain injury) with memory loss was June 5, 2002. I was 28. 

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was rear-ended while I was stopped at a red light. I woke up to people around me and looking at me. They didn’t help whatsoever. My vehicle was seized, and I was very unsure of everything. At first, I didn’t even know I had had an accident. I didn’t know anything about my personals, like phone numbers, etc. All I saw when I tried to think was blackness. I was so cognitively impaired that finding the right words was very difficult. I didn’t know what my past was. I had no awareness or memories of events in my life, my child, or my child’s father.

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

At work, the customers noticed. It was thought that time off would help. But I went to the doctors a few weeks later. I thought I was concussed. It wasn’t my first concussion, so I thought it would get better. But I wasn’t getting better. The concussion was responsible for humiliating incontinence at night. I incorrectly thought I could handle the headaches, the noise, not understanding the concept of time, and the daily forgetting to do my pre-TBI mom and wife duties. I had a high-volume job with a multi-million-dollar company, but I had no memory of how to conduct my managerial duties. Unfortunately, in the grief of my confusion, I resigned. To this day, I consider that to be one of the worst mistakes of my life. All because of my accident and the brain injury.

The doctor then set up MRIs (magnetic resonance images), CAT (computerized tomography) scans, and a few other appointments, and I found a lawyer as well. The lawyer set up neuropsychology testing. In the year following my accident, a diagnosis was made. I had a moderate traumatic brain injury (whiplash 3) with amnesia. I couldn’t remember how long the doctor had said it might take me to “heal” to my pre-TBI state. The neuropsychologist highly doubted I would ever return to my pre-TBI level of function. He said that, in his expert opinion, my brain injury was catastrophic and permanent. 

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

I had no emergency treatment. I should have had first responders immediately, but I didn’t for some reason. But a legal case was set up soon after the accident. The lawyer had me take tests, and several people were involved: a nurse case manager, a rehabilitation therapist, and a physiotherapist. Therapy was scheduled for my neck and shoulder and for speech. (My stutter was pretty bad, and, when my breathing got in the way of thinking, the stutter would get worse. I would start crying when my breath stopped from the panic of having no thoughts. My neck injury meant that my tongue couldn’t lift properly to pronounce certain words.) My personal research indicated that I may have a neurological hairline fracture, which can affect several parts of the brain. If so, it could explain my symptoms. Also, I had already had a pre-existing severe frontal lobe concussion when I was a child. I and others thought that this may have been responsible for my learning difficulties – not the learning disability I was diagnosed with. But my new injuries in 2002 stopped my learning dramatically. My TBI made a mess of my life. Like many other survivors, I had to do combat with my insurance company.

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 had occupational therapy, a rehabilitation therapist, speech therapy, counselling, physio, massage, chiro, and gym. I had a team of about ten individuals. I feel to this day my therapy was very well organized. 

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

I had many difficulties with balance and my gait at first. I had throbbing headaches. 

Smells would make me vomit. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I had no sense of direction, and I was completely unorganized. I couldn’t lift my right leg fully to get into the tub or to walk, so I had assistants for the first few years. I slept in a chair for almost three years because I couldn’t sit up or roll out of bed.

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

From 2002 to 2005, I had an additional three accidents, with a pregnancy loss in one of them. My marriage broke up. (I was married for ten years, but I had no memories of this marriage.) I was diagnosed as having clinical depression, and I was extremely suicidal. The medications helped neither. So, needless to say, my life got worse.

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

I don’t know. I have no clear memories.

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

I started having a better view of life with in-depth yoga. I also used my free time from being unable to work to see if maybe in the future I could become a teacher and be an inspiration to others in the brain injury and mental health communities. Yoga has the ability to calm the autonomic nervous-response system; calm the vagus nerve, which transmits information from the surface of the brain to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body; and chill out PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and anxiety. (My anxiety was always heightened, but with my rehabilitation therapy of thought process, yoga, and meditation, my anxiety is now probably 50% controllable most days.)

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

I dislike the grief. The grief of all my losses is still pretty hard for me.

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

Not really, but I am doing work to try and accept my brain injury. My child is super-supportive and has been guiding me to be independent and to try a new way of life. I do yoga. I am going to neurology school. I now see that I am worthy of something in life. I work on acceptance multiple times a day.

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

Yes! My daughter and I still have struggles. She was under 10 when I was injured, and she had no true support other than her dad. I am thankful he was a good dad for her. Looking at her with no memory is a heartbreaking lens to deal with. As for romance, I haven’t had a real relationship since my divorce. I haven’t been in the right frame of mind. One day I hope the universe will align with my life and help me find true love.

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

I don’t do much socially, mostly because of my PTSD and my financial situation. I’m integrating my yoga life into volunteer work.

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

My daughter helps me and assists me with the big decisions. I also have about five other family members who keep regular contact. Even though it’s difficult, they will help if needed. But it’s important for me to be in charge of my own care and to live independently. This helps with my depression.

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

I’m trying to see how this yoga business will work out for me. I want to do workshops and classes. Maybe I could work alongside a rehabilitation therapist for TBI patients. I am writing an autobiography. I’d like to better my financial situation so my child will be set just in case. And I hope to be in a loving forever relationship as well.

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.

Talk! No matter the dark thoughts, talk! I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t been honest about my thoughts of suicide. Keep negative friends away. Participate, even when your mood doesn’t want to! Know that one day, things will click, and your life will begin to change for the better. Your responsibilities for daily living may seem overwhelming at times, but never stop planning. It can be a time saver. (I plan all my meals in advance and make them on the weekend. I save at least eight hours a week by having my meals already made.)

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

Do yoga and meditate! Seriously, they’re life-changing.

Be educated on what depression medication does with TBI. (I plan to give a workshop on this topic.)

Stop repetitive thinking. (You can do this by smelling essential oils, having positive thoughts, or by doing deliberate simple actions, like moving a limb or picking up a picture.)

Learn how to breathe. (Proper breathing is so important to brain injury problems, like PTSD and anxiety.) I have a saying: “Once we own our breath, no one can steal our peace.”

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Danielle Skranak

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Danielle Skranak

 presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Danielle Skranak 1 051621

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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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