TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Survivors SPEAK OUT!   Pamela Ann Taylor

presented 

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Pamela Ann Taylor Survivor 092417

Pamela Ann Taylor – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Pamela Ann Taylor

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

Mansfield, Ohio, USA     Teach621@aol.com

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

Age 55

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I have been in three accidents in my life. The last one was a rollover.

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

I had some issues with balance and vision after the second accident, but more recently it has become far worse. This is due to the rollover-accident.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?0016

I was transported to a Trauma Center in an ambulance, where they found I had a concussion. I was released and told to go home. They had done some tests, but, because they had given me pain meds, they thought that I was throwing up due to the meds and not the concussion. I was throwing up in the wheelchair all of the way to the car, but they still sent me home.

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

N/A

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 have had occupational, physical, and speech therapies.

How long were you in rehab?

My first round of physical therapy lasted a few months and helped somewhat with back pain, neck pain, and headaches. I am now in rehab again. I have been going for about four months, and I’m still working with an Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapist. Speech therapy did not last as long. I found these places myself through searching and asking my doctor for referrals. A general doctor in my area seemed not to know of TBI (traumatic brain injury) treatments much at all. Be a self-advocate if you can.

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

I have issues with vision, balance, perception, and personality. I’m more aggressive – things escalate more easily. My eyes are like that of a 6-month-old baby – not coordinated.

10. How has your life changed?

I cannot work and cannot drive. I have no income (as the disability stuff is still in process), and I don’t know when I will get an income. I do not go to crowded places or shop for long in fluorescent lighting. I have lost connection with some friends, as I cannot get to them to visit now, etc.

Is it better?

I am home more.

Is it worse?

I get bored, and at times I’m lonely. I wish I could go out to lunch or drive to a friend’s house.

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

I miss feeling like I make a difference in the world. I used to travel and do missions work, but now, without an income and a way to get myself to the locations to serve, it is a real challenge to help others. It is forcing me to focus more on myself.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?no-noise-1

I do enjoy the solace in that I cannot tolerate noise, etc. much anymore. I am finding ways to write like I used to, and I am finding more time to pray, which I do like.

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

People don’t understand – I don’t look sick.

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

I’ve been helped by prayer and focusing on those who love me unconditionally. Baby steps forward bring joy as well.

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

The house is more organized and cleaner (LOL). I have made a new friend through needing a driver to take me to therapy sessions. She is a real gem.

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

My social life is near nil. I can’t get to the places I used to go to.

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

I do most things for myself, but the financial burden is all on my husband. I would rather it be 50:50 like it used to be.

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

I hope to be able to travel again. I am beginning to work on my physical healing, including walking more, etc. I have put on weight and need to get back in shape. I also see myself being with my grandchildren more. I hope to be able to drive to local places and get out more with them and others I care about. I am beginning to blog, and I’m hoping that takes off and helps others. Perhaps I will publish another book one day. (I had a book coming out when the accident happened under a pen name – Phoebe Siylor; the book – Molding Sharon.)

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.

Pamela Ann Taylor & dog

Pamela Ann Taylor – Brain Injury Survivor

I would tell you to be an advocate for yourself or your loved one. Seek out what you need. It does not seem as if those in the medical field know what to do. I should have stayed at the hospital and not gone home. Also, I should have been told about therapy and not had to find it on my own. Seek, and you will find some answers. It is a process, and it takes time. Be patient, and keep moving forward.

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

Find a therapist who knows how to help you. If he or she does not seem to be the right fit, move on. When people comment things, like how long do you expect me to support you in the system, remember that you paid into that system, and it is your right to get help if you need it. Don’t let them kick you down – rise up and be strong. It is hard, but you can do it. Pray – connect with a church and with God – He will always love you unconditionally. I fall back on Him a LOT.

 

HUGZ

You can learn more about Pamela Ann Taylor on her blog. Pamela Ann Taylor Blog.

 

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI SPEAK OUT! Survivors Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

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Drug Reduces Aggressive Behavior in TBI Survivors

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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Emotional changes after traumatic brain injury (TBI) affect quality of life for survivors and are difficult to treat. Aggressive behavior often adversely impacts family and friends. The drug Amantadine, an antiviral no longer commonly used, was found to reduce aggressive behavior in TBI survivors.th-1

The discovery was made by Dr. Flora Hammond, chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the Indiana University School of Medicine and reported in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. Amantadine was on Dr. Hammond’s radar because it was found to improve cognition in patients with Parkinson’s Disease who were taking the drug as therapy for the flu virus.

pills-clip-art-free-1685197After other drugs failed on a colleague who was found to have a minor brain injury, Dr. Hammond tried Amantadine.  Dr. Hammond’s colleague said, “The effects were immediate and just amazing. … It calms down part of your brain and gives you a moment to pause and reflect.” Dr. Hammond has used Amantadine on other patients with success.  She says, “It helps you reclaim your identity a bit. … And to get that back helps you get your quality of life back too.” (Full story)

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Paul McMahon

presented 

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Paul McMahon 1 082817

Paul McMahon – Brain Injury Survivor from Down Under

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

Paul McMahon

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

Sydney, Australia

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

I was 28 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

At my birthday party, I fell 3 1/2 floors – off a building onto concrete.

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

The moment it occurred

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

I had surgeries for my physical condition. I have had no assistance with brain injury.

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

Yes. Three days, I believe

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

Yes. I was in rehabilitation during my first three months at hospital and then a required three months following my exit. It was six months in total, but I now realise that it should have gone for longer. Part of that was my own fault – by passing the neurological test at the minimum six-month recovery point (Australia). I should have waited longer – to realise the challenges I could face. I needed more time to think of how my second stage of recovery would take place.

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

Paul McMahon 2 082817

Paul McMahon- Brain Injury Survivor from Down Under

I have problems with short-term memory and especially with attention to detail. Attention to detail in quick moments was a great challenge. I work in communications/policy, and so this is certainly a working issue that can’t be avoided. Also, my aura was different, and I could not connect with people as I once did. This emotional issue lasted about three years.

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

It’s different. I have learnt so much. I have fewer friends, but I knew my intelligence was not taken by the accident. I started a Master’s degree and wrote my book. I am editing now.

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

I miss people’s lack of judgement about me. People assume they are helping by telling you what is wrong with you. That is 100%, and it is an instigator for suicide, as you feel no one understands, but tells you how to react. The loss of their lack of judgement is my deepest pain from the brain injury.

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

I have learned to be more compassionate. I have a deeper understanding of mental health and realise that I couldn’t understand depression or other illnesses in the same way previously.

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

I dislike the way people handle my judgement – when you assume you are right, but others judge a situation with no thought of your opinion. It hurts and is damaging psychologically and, at times, in your economic life at work.

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

Man Writing BookYes – writing. My book was my therapy. It is safe to say that, if I sell zero books and have zero readers, I will still be happy, as I believe writing helped me heal faster.

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

Yes. Many friends just ignore me or keep away to feel self-security. I guess the upcoming book tells the rest of the story.

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

Yes! I felt very anti-social. While I would attempt a little, I needed people to be more open and accepting of my changes. I felt this was a lonely journey, so I took that avenue – different from my old caring self.

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

I don’t have one.

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

I will finish the book, earn a Master’s Degree, and be as different as I always am. I’ll be economically safe and live the full experiences of this world.

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.

From the beginning, I felt my brain injury was temporary, so all I can say is to KEEP GOING and DON’T GIVE UP! I learnt that when the accident occurred. I would also say to FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS. Don’t do only what a therapist tells you – you know you better than any external you-decider.

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

Paul McMahon & Camel 082817

Paul McMahon – Brain Injury Survivor and Camel

Remember that your passion to follow your dreams may have been limited due to the accident. That does not mean STOP! It means you continue to train your brain in what you love and hold dear. Listen to you!

 

You can learn more about Paul McMahon on his Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/paulmcmahonauthor/).

 

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI SPEAK OUT! Survivors Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

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Meditation After a Brain Injury

by

Ric Johnson

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Boy Blogger thI didn’t meditate before my injury, and I don’t remember what caused me to start meditation. Whatever it was, I’m glad meditation and I became friends.

Many people tend to think that meditation is a “religious” practice. Meditation is actually a broad variety of practices, and the most commonly heard practice is called “mindfulness.” Do I have to get into a yoga pose? Do I have to start saying “Om”? No, I don’t. Nobody needs to.

For me, meditation is actually the practice of focusing on the moment. After my traumatic brain injury, staying focused was (and still is) the hardest part of daily life. Meditation helps me to continue moving forward. I don’t need to clear my mind or empty my thoughts when starting a session – that seems to happen by itself. The longer meditation becomes part of your life, the easier it becomes.

I try to meditate twice a day, especially during a “hard” day. Most of the time, though, I meditate only once – other things seem to get in the way. I try to carve out 30 minutes for each session, but 15-20 minutes is pretty much the normal length I’m able to use. Not sure if 30 minutes would give me better results. Results are really based on the ability to continue to meditate.

I use the breathing-meditation method. We all breathe, so no equipment is necessary. I can do it anywhere and anytime. I only need 15-30 minutes. After waking up, the first thing I do is look at my calendar to see what the day brings. After eating breakfast, I set the kitchen alarm for 30 minutes, sit down and relax in a comfy chair, close my eyes, and listen to my breathing. My breath is the object of my attention. I begin to feel and hear my breath flowing in and out of my body. I use my normal breathing pace. Breathe in – breathe out; breathe in – breathe out; and on and on until the alarm sounds. Like everybody else in the world, I can get distracted by anything. Or, my mind just wanders off (by itself). When that happens, my breathing can bring me back to meditation. Yes, I have start all over again. But that only takes a few seconds, and I’ll be back in the groove.

My second meditation of the day is between lunch and dinner. I actually do the same routine as before, but most times there’s no alarm involved, so I just do it as long as time permits. Those two sessions really help break the day into manageable pieces. I have even meditated in my doctor’s office while waiting to be called for my appointment. I have found that playing music or a white-noise CD just distracts me, so I need to be in a quiet room.

What does meditation give me? I think awareness is the gift meditation gives me. Awareness of the present moment and awareness of my body and mind. When I began meditation, I thought I had to count my breaths to succeed, but that’s not true. Meditation really takes being aware and focusing on your breathing – focusing on feeling the air going in and out of my nose, feeling my lungs expand and contract. My mind opens up to let those feelings become positive thoughts and to block negative thoughts.

If you would like to see if meditation is your cup of tea, find a good place and a good time to give meditation a chance. There are also many websites to get more information – just Google “breathing meditation.” It is not a miracle drug – it’s a place for your mind to open and relax. Meditation hasn’t cured my brain injury, but it does make most days good days.

 

Ric Johnson
13+ years TBI survivor
Facilitator for the Courage Kenny Brain Injury Support Group
Member of the Speaker Bureau for the Mn. Brain Injury Alliance

 

Thank you, Ric Johnson

 

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

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(Photos compliments of Ric Johnson.)

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NFL Rookie Retires
(This news underscores the previous NewsBit.)

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

johnson_combine Clemson Safety Jadar Johnson was undrafted in the 2017 draft. As a Free Agent, though, he was signed by the New York Giants of the NFL (National Football League). Many thought he was a diamond-in-the-rough. DiamondJadar himself was excited and said he would do “whatever” it takes to become part of the team that the Giants field on Sundays. But, before he played a single regular-season game, he abruptly retired. His agent’s statement said “… and he values his health. …” Some say that Jadar retired because he became aware of the research on NFL brains recently published in the CTEJournal of the American Medical Association. That article showed that 99% of autopsied NFL brains (110/111) had the devastating and contact-sport-specific brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

 

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Football, Brain Injury & Kids

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thIs American football a dying sport? With football’s prominence in American culture, it seems safe to assume no one would predict that its days are numbered. But, there is a growing undercurrent that may eventually lead to the demise of football as we know it. There is more and more evidence that the constant subconcussive hits experienced by football players lead to a high risk of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE can lead to early dementia, football12depression, suicidal thoughts, or problems with cognition, memory, or impulsive behavior.

Recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is more evidence of the enormous risk of developing CTE by playing American football. (CTE can at present only be confirmed upon studying brain tissue at autopsy, although research is being directed to finding a test that can detect CTE in the brains of living players.) A study of 202 brains of former football players was done by researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University. They found CTE in 87% of all the brains studied. Of the 110 brains of former professional players in the NFL (National Football League, the premier professional football league in the US), 109 (99%) showed CTE. Playing only college football did not significantly reduce the risk of having CTE, which was found in 91% of the brains of former college players. Playing less football did seem to lower the risk. Only 27% of the brains of former players who played through high school, but no further, showed evidence of CTE. Also, the severity of CTE was probably less with less playing time.

brain4The results have important implications for players. Many players feel they’ve been left ignorant of the risks of brain injury by the NFL, or worse, assured by the league that there is minimal risk. [Some players have quit or retired early (1, 2). Recently, a class-action lawsuit about concussions brought by former players against the NFL was settled for $1 billion.] The NFL has argued, and most players and fans who know about CTE believe, that the brains being studied are biased toward CTE because the autopsied brains in large part are from players already suspected of having a brain injury. Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University researcher who has examined many of the brains, has stated that the results are staggering even for a biased sample (go to 1:35:58 in the video). She has stated, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football; there is a problem.”

Evidence of any CTE in high school football players is particularly disturbing (go to 1:29:08 in the video). Parents have taken note. Even though the NFL is actively promoting football directly to children, enrollment in youth football leagues is significantly down. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE by studying the brain of Mike Webster, the football-teamfamous Pittsburgh Steeler Center, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Let Kids Play Football.” During my radio interview of George Visger, a former lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who had to quit the game because of a brain injury, he speculated that the preeminence of football in American society will disappear because the NFL’s talent pool will dry up. He speculates that the cost of liability insurance will be too high for youth football leagues to pay (go to 30 minutes into my interview of him).

There is no doubt that American football is exciting to watch, and there are many benefits to playing such a demanding team sport. But, difficult as it is to believe, it seems likely that the high risk of brain injury will eventually end the game.

 

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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Jason Holcomb (survivor)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

 

Jason Holcomb (survivor)

Jason Holcomb Survivor

Jason Holcomb – Survivor

In 2005, I was walking a dog (somebody else’s), and a woman’s dog ran out her front door and caused my dog to go nuts. I tripped over the leash and fell backward, and I hit my head on the sidewalk. My brain swelled, I had a craniotomy, and I was in an induced coma for about six weeks. (I don’t remember anything from that day.) I had a trach tube and a feeding tube, and the doctors couldn’t say how I would be if I lived.man Waalking Dog

I went through years of depression and back-pain, which was caused by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) turning my muscles into knots. My back-pain also caused years of poor sleep. I took antidepressants for a couple years. When I stopped completely, I had what I call “racing-mind syndrome.” My back is finally good, I sleep well, and I pretty much feel everything is back to normal except this racing mind. I figured it would go away after enough time, but it has not.

Professor3I was told medication might help. I would rather avoid medication, but I am so tired of this. It has been years, and it gets worse when I have more stress. I am a college professor, and my job is very stressful at

Jason Holcomb 2

Jason Holcomb – Survivor

times. If anyone has experience with this and knows what medication might help, I would be very grateful for that information.

Cheers to all my fellow brain injury survivors!

 

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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