TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for the ‘TBI Tales’ Category

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TBI to “Victory” . . . . . . . . . . . . . by Daniel Mollino

TBI to “Victory”

by

Daniel Mollino

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Daniel Mollino – Brain Injury Survivor – Red Bull Athlete

Well, what a year I have had! I watched as all my competitions were abandoned due to blood clots (DVT, deep vein thrombosis: a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body), which laid me up for three months. But one race continued to call to me – the Red Bull 400 in Park City. See, I am a cyclist not a runner, but last year I took on the Red Bull 400 in Park City to simply see how I would do, and I completed it. I did no special training outside my usual for cycling. However, the Red Bull 400 in Park City is a whole new world of insanity in racing!

I initially went into this year with the push to try and race all the Red Bull 400s around the globe in a single year. But then medical issues struck.

The Park City race, however, still called for me. My wife wanted to run it. She has never run an event of any kind before, and I needed to get at least one competition in for the year. I was medically cleared a couple of weeks before the race. But I hadn’t done a bit of training of any kind to prepare.

Daniel Mollino -Brain Injury Survivor & Red Bull 400 survivor with spouse, Amby Silex

Nevertheless, I took it on. Now just crossing the starting line is an accomplishment, considering. I honestly hoped I would at least make it to the top somewhat close to the time I had the previous year. Sadly, that did not happen.

I did finish, eventually. My time this year was a little over 39 minutes. (I had to take the steps for the last half.) This is over double the time of last year. Still, I did cross the finish line and have an official time.

We ran and we finished. Last year’s time was much better, but it was a victory nonetheless considering the medical issues I had this year. Onward and upward ….

 

READ MORE about Daniel Mollino and the “Red Bull 400” results here.

 

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the author.)

If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at neelyf@aol.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

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TBI Tales: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Messy Kitchen & Fruit Salad

 

A Messy Kitchen
by
Michael Puffer (caregiver for his wife, Maria)
presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Puffer. Michael & Mari a

Maria Puffer – Brain Injury Survivor Michael Puffer – Caregiver for Maria

I came home after a long day and found what looked like a mess in the kitchen. I sat down and put my face in my hands and cried. I couldn’t believe what I came home to. I wasn’t angry, but I couldn’t stop the tears.

Twenty-three months ago, the state of the kitchen would not have been a remarkable finding. Tonight, it was truly unbelievable, and I was blown away!Messy Kitchen

Just under two years ago, I thought I had lost the most important person in my life. My loving wife, Maria Puffer, was in a horrific car accident. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord contusion, and she was in a coma at North Memorial Hospital near Minneapolis.

Ever since that day, Maria has fought to show us she is still with us and she is ever-determined to recover and get her life back. Week by week, day by day, hour by hour – she never quits, complains, or feels sorry for herself. Maria practices walking with a walker an hour a day, sometimes nearly falling asleep because she always wants to push herself. She thanks me every night for taking care of her. She shows all of us what true grit and love is.

Fruit_salad_clipartMaria asked me a few days ago where the Kitchen Aid mixer was. I told her it was in the pantry. The next day – there it was on the counter. Maria asked daughter Samantha to pick up the ingredients to make fruit salad. I told her we would make fruit salad over the weekend, but there never was time to do it.

Maria didn’t wait. She made the fruit salad by herself.

My tears were tears of joy and wonder. When she came into the kitchen, I reached out, gave her a huge hug, and said, “You are awesome!” (Maria is absolutely the strongest person I’ll ever know. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in her life!)Man & Woman Hugging

We had dinner together and enjoyed the very best fruit salad in the world for desert.

I will try forever to be the best husband that I can be. I know I have the best wife, and she deserves the best from me.

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TBI Tales: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I Tripped & Stumbled, but Did Not Fall by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

I Tripped & Stumbled, but Did Not Fall

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Recently, as I got out of my car, I stumbled on the curb. Somehow in the darkness, I did not see it. Though the event took less than a second, one thought ran through my head. It was not, “Oh, no! I am going to break a bone or scrape my knee.” It was not, “What a klutz! I’ll ruin my clothes.” And it was not about how embarrassed I would be. All of those possibilities probably would have been my first thoughts – before brain injury entered my life when my husband had a traumatic brain injury in 2005.

Now my mind is only a thought away from brain injury. So, as I tripped and stumbled, but did not fall, my mind raced to, “Please don’t let me hit my head.” I didn’t care how silly I looked or about my clothes being ripped or about getting any broken bones (they would heal). I worried about getting a brain injury. I worried about how a brain injury could change my life forever. I worried that if I were hurt, I could not sufficiently care for my husband, who needs my daily attention. Yes, those thoughts did race through my head in that fleeting second.

It only takes a second for a brain injury to occur. Most brain injuries occur because of an accident. Though we may be aware of the possibility of accidents, they cannot all be avoided. Fortunately, my accident was avoided – just barely. I can only hope that my potential accidents will be few and far apart in the future. I hope yours will be too.

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TBI Tales: Inspiration . . . . . . . . by Bonni Villarreal (caregiver)

Inspiration

by

Bonni Villarreal (caregiver)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Bonni Villarreal – Caregiver

March 21, 2012, is a day that changed my life forever. It started off like any average day. I got up and went to work. Mike was asleep when I left. I called him around 8:30 that morning to let him know I wouldn’t be at my desk, in case he tried to call me. He sounded fine. Then, just by chance, I happened to be at my desk at 10 am when my phone rang. It was Mike … telling me he was having a stroke.

By the time I got to the house, the ambulance was there. Mike was awake and reaching for me. I didn’t think it was too serious because Mike was alert and talking. But, by the time we got to the hospital, that had changed. The doctor informed me that Mike had a huge blood clot near his cerebellum, and he had to be life-flighted to another hospital because he was too critical to stay at the one he was at.


I had to sign papers for life-saving brain surgery. Mike was in a coma for ten days. We didn’t know if he would wake up, and, if he did, what condition he would be in. When he “woke up,” Mike wasn’t anything like the man I married. He stayed in the hospital for another month, and then he was transferred to a nursing home.

Those days were some of the darkest in my life. They treated Mike as if he were a hopeless case. I wonder what would’ve happened to him if I hadn’t been around.

Mike Villarreal – TBI Survivor

He was tube-fed, couldn’t speak (he wrote instead), and couldn’t walk. He was totally helpless. Plus, he was battling infection after infection. I didn’t think things would ever return to normal.

Fast forward to January 2017 – almost five years post stroke. Mike passed his barium swallow test, and he is having his G-tube removed! He is walking almost unassisted! He is talking! I told Mike, “You are an inspiration. You give hope to people who have lost it, you have renewed hope for people who are about to give up, and you keep hope alive for people who are just starting this long journey.”

Mike wants everyone to know – DON’T EVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP. No matter if it’s been five, ten, or fifteen years. Keep hope alive! Mike did, and look how far he has come!

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TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Caregivers, We Appreciate You

Caregiver’s We Appreciate You

by

Penny Byler

byler-penny-survivor

Penny Byler – Brain Injury Survivor

For the caregivers and families of us survivors, I know there is so much you can never understand about what we live with every day. But, please know that all you do is noticed and appreciated. Sometimes, we just don’t have the words to let you know that we understand that, on the day our life as we knew it completely ended, you also lost someone.

caregiver-supports-clipart-1Most of you never had the chance to mourn the loss of the loved one you knew because you were too busy helping this “new” person fit in where your dreams for your loved one left off. Although we don’t always show it, your kindness, love, support, and acceptance are noticed and appreciated. Thank you for never giving up on us. You help us know we can continue. We may not have the words to use when we need them, but you will see it in our eyes, by a touch of the hand, or when we smile.

You are a very important part of our recovery. You are noticed. You are appreciated.

 

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Twelve Years, But Who’s Counting?

Twelve Years, But Who’s Counting?

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1242232191169820850212_white,_green_rounded_rectangle.svg.med.pngTwelve years! Twelve years ago today, I came as close as a breath to losing my husband and best friend, David. While exercising (a thing he did every day to stay in shape), David did thirteen chin-ups, one more than he had done every other day. That was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” or in David’s case, the “chin-up that caused his subarachnoid hemorrhage.” That day, as I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital, I never realized what lay ahead for us. I never dreamed that this blip would be life-altering. I thought we’d be home by the end of the day, carrying on with life as usual. I was wrong!

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David H. Figurski, Ph.D. – Brain Injury Survivor

David remained in the hospital in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the step-down unit at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now New York Presbyterian Hospital) for three weeks. While he was there, he was treated to two more brain surgeries – one for an aneurysm and the other for an arterial venous malformation (AVM). He then became a guest at a local rehab hospital for another two months, until insurance wrongly said he was fine to go home.th-1

I am grateful that David is still with me. He wasn’t expected to be. Each surgeon gave me little hope that he would survive any of his surgeries. I’m glad that David proved them all wrong. I’m glad that we have had twelve more years together, and I hope to spend many more with this man whom I have loved since I was sixteen years old.

animated-book

Hopefully, in the sometime future, you will be able to read David’s whole story in my book-in-manuscript, titled “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.”

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Smiling is Contagious . . . . . . Smile, Harry, Smile!

Smiling is Contagious – Smile, Harry, Smile!

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

harry-jordan-in-gym

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – in Gym

Recently I published Harry Jordan‘s “Itty-Bitty GIANT Step” and a great photo of a smiling Harry on my blog. Afterwards, we exchanged messages by Private Message on Facebook. I told him that I loved his smile. However, he told me that he rarely smiles and that his mother would be shocked to see this smiling photo of him.

Well, that was enough incentive for me to challenge Harry. I told him I would publish his smiling photos on my blog if he would send me five more. He did – including one of him AND his mom.

smile

 

harry-jordan-and-mom-122716

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & his Mom

 

 

You can read our chat below.

Donna: I just love your smile.

Harry: I really don’t smile. My mom will be shocked.

Donna: Why will she be shocked?

Harry: ‘Cause I don’t smile.

Donna: Well, you SHOULD every minute. You smile with your eyes.

Harry: I don’t look at my pics – always mean – no real reason to smile.

Donna: Well, look at this pic, and maybe you can see a reason to smile.

Harry: I will try.

Donna: It made me smile, and it’s contagious. See how many people you can affect. Start with your mom.

Harry: If it can help ANYONE, I will smile.

harry-jordan-smiling

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – Smile, Harry, Smile

Donna: Well, it helped ME!!!!! Pick your mom up and hug her and give her a BIG smile. Then let me know what she said.

Harry: And for that I will smile.

Donna: See … it’s working! Send me five NEW photos of you smiling, and I will publish them. Challenge is on.

Harry: Ha! Ha! Ha! Dang, now THAT is a challenge.

Did you know that smiling really is contagious? How many times have you walked down the street or through a store and someone, a stranger, smiled at you. What did you do? Chances are you smiled right back. It’s almost an automatic reaction. Did you know that smiling is healthy for you? It is! It releases neurotransmitters, like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones are produced in the brain and can help to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Whoever thought that a smile could be your best medicine? Well, it’s certainly worth a try.

harry-jordan-and-friend

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Friend

So, as we so often hear, “Turn that frown upside down!” and see how much better you feel. Harry did! Just look at all the photos of his wonderful smile. He makes me smile, and I hope he does you, too.

harry-jordan-original-smile

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the author.)

If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at neelyf@aol.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the top right sidebar. (It’s nice to know there are readers out there.)

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

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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