TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘• SPEAK OUT!’

So, Whaddya Think? . . . My Opinion: Sports Benefits Outweigh the Risks

So, Whaddya Think?

My Opinion: Sports Benefits Outweigh the Risks


 Charles Ross



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4I was eighteen when I had my traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident in 1985. I was brought back to life once. I was in a coma for fifty days. I was in a wheelchair for one and a half years. I have memory problems. My body drew up into a fetal position. It took seven years of painful surgery and therapy and close to thirty procedures to straighten my legs, feet, arms, and hands. Thirty years later, my claw-shaped right hand looks like it has rheumatoid arthritis, but I use it. I write with that hand and walk with a cane in it. Three years after my accident, I went back to college. It took three years of difficult work to get my first Associate Degree and two years for a second in Mechanical Drafting, AutoCAD. I worked fifteen difficult years doing AutoCAD. Not one day since my accident has been easy for me. I am proud of what I accomplished, and I hope my story will be an inspiration to others.

Ross Jr., Charles Survivor 112415 copy

Charles Ross Jr. TBI Survivor

I know personally how tragic it is if a person gets hurt or killed accidentally, but that’s life. I don’t want to seem like life does not matter to me – because it does. (My life now is precious to me. I cherish each moment I have with family or friends. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, whom I never would have met otherwise, have blessed my life.) I am not heartless; I am very compassionate. I cry when I hear a tragic story of any kind. I know what life is. I know what death is. And I know what pain and suffering are.

I played three years of high-school football. Many guys were much bigger than I was, and I was fortunate not to get hurt. It was my third year of driving when I had my accident. Throughout my recovery, I looked back at the grueling football practices, and they football-player-tackling-cartoon-football-playersinspired me to go forward. What a sport does is teach sportsmanship, pride, respect, and loyalty, and it inspires one to do better.

Should I never ride in a car or even drive again because somebody has gotten hurt in a car accident? A baseball player may get hit in the head by a pitch, but now players have helmets to protect them. (There isn’t protective headwear in basketball, volleyball, tennis, or soccer, but maybe there should be.) Thousands of people end up in Emergency football_-_helmet_5Rooms or even in morgues because they fall while walking and hit their head. Should every man, woman, and child wear a helmet simply to walk? It seems just as foolish to end all athletics.


So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Peter Corfield

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Peter Corfield


Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Peter Corfield - Brain Injury Survivor - 2010

Peter Corfield – Brain Injury Survivor – 2010

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

Peter Corfield

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

Marcilly En Bassigny, France      petercorfield3@gmail.com

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

My brain injury happened on June 1, 2010. I was 55 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I had a stroke caused by bleeding of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation).

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

After returning from an art course, my wife found me on the floor.

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

I was stabilized, and then I was helicoptered to Dijon Hospital. There they did a craniotomy and repaired the vein.

Peter Corfield - Brain Injury Survivor 2010

Peter Corfield – Brain Injury Survivor – 2010

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

Yes. I was put into a coma for about two and a half 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 was sent to a rehab centre. There I had rehab for five and a half months.

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

I was hemiplegic (paralysis of one side of the body) with left-side paralysis, and I had an anxiety problem in the form of overactive bladder.

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

My life has changed a great deal. In some ways, it is better; in others, much worse.

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

I miss being able to sleep in a normal bed with my wife. I also miss playing my guitar and driving.

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

I like being able to help others who have had the same experience.

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

I dislike the lack of normality.

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

My wife’s support has helped. Also my writing has been important.

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

It has. My wife and I sleep apart. But, my stroke has made me more thoughtful towards others. I think I am a better person.

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

Yes. My anxiety affects our going out in the dark. The anxiety also makes it awkward to sit on chairs with no arms.

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

My wife is my caregiver. I fully understand how hard it is for her. It drives me on to recovery.

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

I am determined to be recovered enough to look after my wife and to be helping other stroke survivors

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 injury.

Keep a diary to realise just how much you have improved, as recovery is slow.

Corfield, Peter  Leg Push

Peter Corfield – Brain Injury Survivor – 2010

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

I have written Kindle stroke-experience books. I donate all royalties to The ARNI (Action for Rehabilitation from Neurological Injury) Institute (http://www.arni.uk.com) to try to help other stroke-affected people.


Thank you, Peter, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

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

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

(Photos compliments of Peter.)


Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Rosemary Rawlins

SPEAK OUT! – Rosemary Rawlins


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Rawlins, Rosemary

Rosemary Rawlins – TBI Caregiver, Author, Blogger, Speaker

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

Rosemary Rawlins

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

Glen Allen, Virginia, USA

3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you?

Husband – Hugh Rawlins (We had been married 24 years at the time of his injury.)

How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI?


What caused your survivor’s TBI?

A car (driving nearly 50 mph) hit him directly from behind as he was riding his bicycle home from an afternoon workout.

4. On what date did you begin care for your TBI survivor?

Immediately. I stayed in the Intensive Care Unit, and I visited him every day in Acute Brain Rehab. Hugh was in the hospital 33 days.

Were you the main caregiver?


Are you now?

I don’t consider myself his caregiver anymore.

How old were you when you began care?


5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

Yes – twin daughters, age 14. My daughters, Anna and Mary, are wonderful. They were the reason Hugh and I were able to go on.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI? If so, were you able to continue working?

I was a self-employed résumé writer and consultant. I continued working, but I drastically cut down on work to care for Hugh.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

All of my immediate family lived out of state, but people visited periodically, and that helped. Neighbors and friends helped with driving and food, but caring for Hugh was mainly my full-time responsibility. I hired a night nurse so my daughters and I could sleep. That went on for several weeks, until we were able to get Hugh on a day/night sleep schedule. I was exhausted all the time.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in hospital, when the survivor returned home, etc.)?


9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do at that time?

Yes – for a week. I sat by Hugh’s bed for most of it. I kept a journal. My daughters were there a lot too. We simply waited and read notes to him from friends and family far away. We talked to him and waited.

10. Did your survivor have rehab?


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

Hugh was put into the inpatient hospital acute brain rehab for two weeks. He was then released to Day Rehab at a nearby facility for daily outpatient recreational, occupational, physical, speech, and other therapies. (He was in a group therapy and did Interactive Metronome therapy.)

How long was the rehab?

He was released from physical therapy first after a few months, then occupational therapy, and finally speech/cognitive therapy after about 14 months.

Where were you when this was happening?

I was usually at home trying to work, but went in with Hugh from time to time. I wanted to know his therapists, and they worked with me on ways to supplement therapy at home. It was a great help to learn from them. I also hired a personal trainer to cross-train Hugh after he was released from physical therapy, and that helped him make strides in his progress. He swam and did exercises that would use both sides of the brain. Physical exercise helps the brain; at least in his case it made a huge difference.

11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?

For three months, Hugh required a helmet and gait belt every time he stood up because he had a chunk of his skull cut out to relieve brain swelling. After three months, he had that bone replaced, and his balance improved. Hugh required help and prompting with everything – grooming, eating, dressing, and walking. He had swallowing problems and lost most of the use of his left side. By four months, he was more independent, but he had some short-term memory and judgment issues. By two years out, he was in very good shape and started working again.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver?

I don’t consider myself a caregiver anymore in the regular sense of the word, at least not for my husband. Life was miserable in the beginning because there were so many questions without answers. I suffered ambiguous loss because Hugh sat and stared into space, and I missed him. He was with me, but radically changed. I felt grateful and ungrateful at the same time.

Is it better? Is it worse?

I see my life as “just life” with all its ups and downs, and I try to live it day-to-day as it unfolds. It’s the only thing that’s kept me sane. Life right now is good. I work and Hugh works. He made an amazing recovery.

13. What do you miss the most from pre-TBI life?

Feeling safe in the world and feeling a full sense of joy. TBI has made me more neurotic, and I find I get stressed easier now. I work on trying to minimize this every day.

14. What do you enjoy most in post-TBI life?

The love we rekindled and share. Also the work we do together to help others going through what we went through. Hugh speaks with me at some conferences, and we now have a shared mission in life – we didn’t have that before.

15. What do you like least about TBI?

How it robs a person of his or her identity. How it hijacks a family and takes over your lives for a very long time. TBI is full of cruel surprises popping out of nowhere, new deficits that surface, drugs and side effects, seizures and personality changes.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s TBI?

Yes. Loving him, plain and simple.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

I’m sure it has affected my home life in ways I never imagined. My children became caregivers early in life to help me, and they had stresses of their own. In many ways, they missed out on doing a lot of things because their father was very sick, and I was completely focused on Hugh, when I used to be focused on them. But we are all very close today and know that things could have turned out much worse than they did. We’re thankful he achieved the level of recovery he did.

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

Yes. Friends come and go, but I see that as part of modern life too. We have one set of friends in school, then another when we start work, then they change as we marry and have children. It’s a part of life. We love our friends, and some have stuck by us through all of it – we cherish those friendships immensely. I have no hard feelings for friends that drift away; it’s just the natural ebb and flow. I love it when I see someone I haven’t seen in years and we pick up where we left off. Friends mean a lot to me. On positive note, I’ve met some of the best friends of my life through Hugh’s TBI. I feel very close to several people I’ve met because of brain injury, including a few doctors and therapists.

19. What are your plans?

To keep being a writer, a job I love. TBI started my book writing and speaking career, and I love working from my home and connecting with others.

What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I hope to be semi-retired and living in Nags Head, North Carolina, at the beach. Hugh loves to surf, and I love the ocean and the serenity it brings. I’ll always keep reading and writing, though, for the love of it.

20. What advice would you offer other TBI survivor caregivers?

Wow, there’s so much I’ve learned in the past twelve years. Here are some I consider most important for caregivers:

  • Pace yourself – TBI is definitely a marathon, so be sure to keep some space in your life for you at all times
  • Keep up with friends, and ask them how they are. Try to do things that are not TBI-focused all the time. Go to a movie, or go for a walk and talk about your girlfriend’s new job. Friendship is a two-way street. Being isolated can lead to depression.
  • Watch your own health. I came down with shingles 15 months after Hugh’s injury because I didn’t manage my stress. I love guided-imagery tapes. They helped me sleep and relax.
  • Seek counseling or join a support group for times you want to vent, instead of using your family and friends to vent to all the time. You will be redirected toward more healthy outlets, and talking to someone “neutral” has a healing effect.
  • Right after Hugh’s TBI, I kept working toward returning to our “old” life. It took me a very long time to realize that the changes that occurred made that impossible. We had to start over. Counseling helped with this.
  • Be honest with yourself about what to expect, and try to celebrate each advance.
  • Advocate, vote, stay informed of your rights and let your voice be heard. Support your local Brain Injury Association and WETA, who produces BrainLine.org.

Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

I have great respect for TBI caregivers. I can’t think of a harder job on this earth. Hugh got better, much better than most people do, and for that I am humbled and grateful, but I pray every single day for people who struggle a lifetime with TBI in ways that drastically limit them – especially when they cannot find the resources they need. These are the families that keep me motivated to advocate for the rights and support of TBI individuals and their caregivers. So much more research and funding needs to happen to make life more manageable and enjoyable for all families affected by TBI. We need awareness, education, support, research, treatments, and many people need ongoing rehab to maximize their potential. If we join together, we can all make a difference.

Rosemary’s BIO:


Rosemary and Hugh Rawlins

Rosemary Rawlins is the author of Learning by Accident: A Caregiver’s True Story of Fear, Family, and Hope, and a regular blogger for BrainLine.org. She also writes the Family Matters column for Brain Injury Journey Magazine. Rosemary speaks nationally at libraries, TBI events, and conferences. You can learn more about her at www.rosemaryrawlins.com


You can also watch a very informative video about how Rosemary and Hugh pieced their lives together again with the help of some very special counselors. Brain Injury Resources – Couples and Traumatic Brain Injury


Thank you, Rosemary, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

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

(Photo compliments of Rosemary.)

Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.

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