TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

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On The Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Radio . . . . . . . . “Another Fork in the Road” with Ann Boriskie, Director of Brain Injury Peer Visitor Assn.

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 

with

Guest: Ann Boriskie, Director of Brain Injury Peer Visitor Assn.

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boriskie, Ann Training in Florida Survivor 011116Ann Boriskie, a TBI survivor of more than 17-years says, “Get involved. Volunteer.” “By helping others with a brain injury, you truly help yourself in so many ways.” Ann is the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association Director and her motto is “YOU CAN!”Peer Visitation BannerBoriskie, Ann Survivor 011116

 If you missed this show with Ann Boriskie on “Another Fork in the Road” on January 17th, 2016 don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here. Click the link below.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Ann Boriskie, Director of Brain Injury Peer Visitor Assn.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Ann Boriskie

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Ann Boriskie

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Boriskie, Ann Survivor 011116

Ann Boriskie – Survivor: Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association Director

 

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

Ann Boriskie

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

Alpharetta, Georgia, USA (a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia) aboriskie@braininjurypeervisitor.org

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

November 12, 1998, at age 48

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury occurred in a car wreck less than five miles from home. I was headed to a regular dental checkup.

A woman was talking on her phone while driving, and she obviously missed her turn. She stopped suddenly, but I was able to stop my car and not hit her at all. She just sat there at the bottom of a hill on the two-lane road. She did not move. A young student (16 years old) came down the hill. He said he was messing with his radio and just did not see us. He hit my car going 50 mph and pushed my car into the woman’s car.

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

About 48 hours after my wreck, I started having concussion symptoms. I experienced dizziness and mental “fogginess.” I could not walk. There was bruising under my eyes. The toes on my right foot went numb. My left eye was out of focus.

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

None. I walked away from the wreck thinking I was just fine. After 48 hours, I went to a 24-hour clinic, but they just sent me home. They told me I had no real problems and I would be fine. I also went to an eye doctor right away, but again, I was told there that nothing was wrong physically with my eye. Several months after my wreck, one neurologist told me that I had “post-concussion syndrome” and to go home – that I would be just fine. No one else mentioned my having a brain injury for one year. Then a dental TMJ specialist told me that I had a brain injury. That was what was causing my mental symptoms. (TMJ = temporomandibular joint)Peer Visitation Banner

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?

My brain injury went undiagnosed for over a year. The physical therapy that I received was in relation to each of my physical injuries (see #9), especially to help after the surgeries that I had to have to repair the parts of my body that were injured.

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

a. My brain injury caused depression, anxiety, and anger (more so in the first several years). I had lots of memory issues. (I could not remember friends or faces. I got lost. I could not write. Then once I could write, I couldn’t write in cursive – I still can’t.) Some memory issues remain today. I permanently lost many of my past memories. (I can’t remember family events or experiences or places where we had lived. I lost memory of cities and our time there.) I lost a lot of my math skills (I was an A+ math student, and I was in advanced math classes), but I have regained many of these math skills.

b. My neck was injured. (The C4, C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae were knocked out of line.) I had to have neck surgery (for fusion and a metal plate holding these four levels together). My neck is in CONSTANT PAIN.

c. I had an injury to the L5 and S1 levels of my spine. (The last two vertebrae are not attached now to my spinal cord). Surgery was recommended, but my neck did not fuse properly, so I decided not to have back surgery. I am in CONSTANT PAIN in my lower back. The pain often radiates to my hips and legs.

d. I popped a tendon from its bone in my right elbow. (I braced my body on the steering wheel in the wreck.) It required surgery. The doctor said it was one of the worst tears he had ever seen.

e. Permanent nerve damage was created in various body areas.

f. The left part of my jaw was knocked out of line. It literally took years of appliance therapy to get the bone back into its correct place.

g. A valve was torn on the left side of my heart. This caused irregular heartbeats for a while. It repaired itself.

h. My left side remains weaker than my right side.

i. Numbness remains in my hands (which makes it harder to use my hands). I also have numbness in my feet, down my arms, and down my legs.

j. Sometimes my left eye will not focus or work well with my right eye.

k. I have a shorter attention span.

l. All of these physical injuries caused me to have fibromyalgia and constant body pains.

Boriskie, Ann Podium

Ann Boriskie – Survivor

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

In the long run, I have to say my life is truly better. All three of our children are in the medical field. (My husband and I have raised one daughter, now a neonatologist who takes care of premature babies and helps the moms; raised a son, now a doctor of internal medicine who works as a hospitalist; and raised another daughter, now a Registered Nurse in a mental-illness hospital unit.)

My priorities changed in my life. I went from being a “work-oholic” and a person who was very competitive to a person who lives to help other people, including my family and friends.

I slowed down my life’s pace. I had to learn that I could no longer work at a full-time outside-the-home job. (For years, I could not work at all.) I also had to learn to take care of myself – due to all of the physical and mental problems that the wreck created.

I was at home, and thus I was “there” more for my children and husband. I was able to give them more help and more attention.

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

I miss my higher energy level. I miss many of my memories. I miss all of the physical sports and activities that I can no longer do (water skiing, snow skiing, kayaking, swimming, playing golf, etc.).

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

I enjoy running the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association and being able to help thousands of brain-injury and stroke survivors throughout the United States and the world. I’ve done this each year since 2006.

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

I dislike being in constant pain (which also affects my brain). I also dislike having to push myself more and having to work much harder to accomplish my goals and to do my work than I did prior to my wreck.

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

  1. Helping other people helps me also.
  2. Sharing my experiences with others and listening to each brain-injury survivor’s problems (This helps me to better understand my own brain injury.)
  3. Attending support-groups (and being very open to sharing my own problems, experiences, successes, and methodologies)
  4. In the past, gaining the help of neuropsychologists
  5. Going to medical doctors who treat brain injury (e.g., a psychiatrist)

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

Yes. I am much more dedicated to my husband and three children. I treasure our relationships. I also treasure my friendships more. You really better understand that life is way too short and can change in a second.

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

Yes. I no longer like to be in big crowds or in a noisy environment. Going to a party is now a struggle and sometimes a chore. I just avoid noisy places and huge crowds. This requirement definitely limits the activities in which I can participate.

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

My wonderful husband is my main caregiver. I am blessed that he “stuck it out” with me and helped me go through all of my physical and mental recoveries. He is also one of my biggest supporters – even financially supporting my association and approving of all of the volunteer hours that I dedicate to the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association.

Boriskie, Ann Training in Florida Survivor 011116

Annn Boriskie – Survivor

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

I plan to continue running the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association as long as I possibly can. My dream is to continue to grow the association throughout the United States and even internationally.

I also plan to continue to enjoy and spend time with my immediate family and their families.

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.

Accept your limitations, but continue to “push yourself” to improve. Realize that, even though you are different from the pre-TBI you, you are still a valuable person in the world. Let your “old self” go. Realize that person won’t be back. Embrace the “new you,” and learn to love yourself for who you now are. Remember that YOU CAN. Don’t defeat yourself by focusing on all of the things you can no longer do.

2011 Community Service Awards from WXIA 11

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

Help others. Get involved. Volunteer. By helping others with a brain injury, you truly help yourself in so many ways. You will help yourself get better, and you will gain confidence.

 

You can hear Ann Boriskie on my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road” at 5:30pm PT (6:30MT, 7:30CT, 8:30ET) on Sunday, January 17th on the Brain Injury Radio Network (BIRN)

Click here on Sunday 5:30pm Pacific Time. Another Fork in the Road: Ann Boriskie – Director of Brain Injury Peer Visitor 

You can call in to listen to the show or talk to the host by dialing this number. 424-243-9540

(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.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Interview with Ann Boriskie – Teach Believe Inspire Award recipient

Interview with Ann Boriskie – Teach Believe Inspire Award recipient

by

Stephen Smith

(presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski)

Ann Boriskie 1 Survivor 062915A traumatic brain injury survivor, wife and mother of three, Ann Boriskie has redefined each of these roles as she progressed physically and spiritually since her car accident. Along the way she also founded the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association, which offers hope, support and education to brain injury survivors and their families.

Ann’s commitment to helping brain injury survivors has garnered her the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant in 2013 and again this year in 2015. The Brain Injury Law Center is honored to recognize such a champion for traumatic brain injury survivors.

Ann, Teach Believe Inspire Award recipient, recently took the time to answer some questions from the Brain Injury Law Center.

Q: It wasn’t until a year after your auto accident that you found out you had sustained a traumatic brain injury. Had you suspected that your brain had been injured, or was it a shock to hear that was the case?

A: I had no idea that I had a brain injury. Not one doctor had said anything at all about my brain. I was told by one neurologist that I had “post-concussive syndrome.” That doctor acted like it would go away — go home and lead your life. He really never explained that my brain may be affected.

I truly thought that the wreck made me crazy. That’s why I had changed and could no longer do so many things that I could do previously.

Q: As you recovered from your accident, did you have physical and mental goals that motivated you through your rehabilitation?

A: I really did not think of my life after the car wreck in terms of goals, since I didn’t realize I had a problem. I knew I had multiple parts of my body that were injured and that hurt — and that I had to go see numerous doctors. I knew all of the “things” I could no longer do — but did not understand that these were linked to an injury to my brain.

I was a mother of three children (youngest fifth grade; oldest in the eleventh grade). I really had no choice but to try to continue my “normal” life. I was happily married. So my goals were to continue taking care of my husband and three children — cooking, cleaning, doing errands, grocery shopping, etc. (Of course, I had to modify how I now accomplished all of this.)

Physical: I have worked out since my early twenties. Thus I continued to do my weight lifting and treadmill walking as I had previously. I didn’t really know what I should or should not be doing. My current doctors tell me that had I not continued all of my workouts, I might be in a wheelchair today. I pushed through my pain and continued to keep my body’s core strong, even though my neck and back were both injured.

Q: How did counseling help your healing process? What kinds of people helped you?Ann Boriskie Survivor 4 Award 0629151394302_10202076860104199_1450531656_n

A: Doctors truly gave me my life back — both physically and mentally.

My psychiatrist (a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation) was the one to determine physically what problems that I had and how they all were interrelated (since I had 10 parts of my body injured in my car wreck). She tailored my medicine to help me live as normal of a life as possible.

I found several neuropsychiatrists who helped me better understand the different facets of brain injury, and helped teach me “compensatory strategies” to live my life somewhat normal.

The neuropsychiatrist and counselors explained that so many of my symptoms and changed behaviors were absolutely common with an injury to the brain.

It was so much better for me to realize that I had a brain injury — instead of labeling myself “crazy.”

I joined support groups where I could converse with others in my situation, again helping me understand that my symptoms were just like theirs — and normal for an injury to the brain.

Q: How did the accident change how you identify yourself as a person and as a mother and wife?

A: Previously I was extremely driven in my work and competitive. The job often came before my family. The person I was, was defined a lot by my work.

After my car wreck I couldn’t work — I tried numerous times. Thus I had to figure out who this “new me” was. I struggled with this for years. It took me wholly accepting the “new me” and my realization that I was still a very valuable person in life to become the helping person that I am today.

As a mother and wife, I became much more accessible to my family and their own problems and needs. I put them first. They taught me my value with each of them.

The master plan for my life was to give up a big chunk of who I was as a person to raise two doctors (a neonatologist and an internal medicine hospitalist) and one RN nurse. Because of my own struggles, my 3 children are devoting their own lives to help others.

What advice do you have for TBI survivors who become depressed about their new life?

  • “Push the envelope” — remember I CAN — don’t ever let others tell you all you can’t or should not do.
  • Identify all of the things that you now have and can do — do not focus on what you can’t do.
  • Help others. By helping others you will help yourself, and see yourself having self worth.

Ann Boriskie Group Survivor 062915Q: You founded the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association. How did you realize the importance of visiting people who have suffered TBI?

A: My association does not just help TBI survivors. They also help all non-traumatic brain injury survivors (such as stroke, aneurysm, tumors, abscesses, bleeds, AVM, cancer, etc.). It’s so important for the world to understand that all of these causes make up a brain injury — and all are not TBIs.

I initially heard about the American Stroke Association’s Peer Visitor Program, which has been in existence for over 40 years. They only serve stroke patients in the inpatient rehab units of hospitals.

I thought that if the American Stroke Association was successfully helping stroke patients that I could help traumatic brain injury survivors as well as ALL of the non-traumatic brain injuries which exist, not just stroke.

I loved the idea of helping other people like myself. I had no one there to help me — I had no information on what a brain injury even means — I felt so very alone, isolated.

I also saw the need to talk to the patient and/or family from the very beginning of the brain injury event — to give them information immediately to help them understand.

Thus my program begins in the ICU unit and step-down units, the inpatient rehab units, then the day or outpatient program of the hospital. A person’s journey through their brain injury changes the questions they have and the type of information that they need.

Q: It’s easy to see that a person who has suffered a TBI needs help, therapy and education. How important is it to talk to the families and caregivers of the survivor?

A: Extremely important: “Knowledge is Power.” The more a survivor understands about their own brain injury, the easier time they will have of accepting the injury. When the family reads about and understands why their loved one has changed and why they are different, why they are exhibiting a large range of behaviors — then the family can better help and deal with their loved one.

With acceptance that they did indeed injure their brain, which changed their brain and changed the person they were, a survivor along with the family can move forward and actually work toward improvement.Ann Boriskie Survivor 2 062915

Without this knowledge, the survivor often hates himself/herself. The survivor will become suicidal, more emotional, reclusive, and not wanting to get better. The family without an understanding and acceptance often shuns their own loved one, often leaving them or deserting them emotionally or physically.

That is why my Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association’s program hands out a variety of packets of information full of book lists, website lists, resources, CDC information, newspaper and magazine articles, survivor and caregiver stories, etc.

Q: If someone wants to volunteer with the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association, do they need to have first-hand experience with TBI?

A: To be a Brain Injury Peer Visitor they have to be a survivor of a stroke or some form of brain injury, or the caregiver of a brain injured survivor. (Otherwise a person cannot relate in a personal way — as a person “who has been there and done that.”)

thQ: What did it mean to the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association to receive the Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation both in 2013 and again this year?

A: It is a huge honor to receive the Quality of Life grants. I so respect all that Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana did to help others during their life-time. They represented the true selfless love and help that I so respect and hope to emulate.

Reading Christopher Reeve’s two books inspired me to get better and to actually do something with my life. I thought that if a man in a wheelchair who can do so little could help so many other disabled individuals, then I could get better and help brain injured survivors.

Reeve became the face of those that are disabled. He taught that a disability can be the beginning of your life — not the end.

The grants also assured the printing of the information then the continuation of providing a Packet of Information to every brain injured and often paralyzed survivor and their caregiver who are Peer Visited by the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association.

Q: What goals do you have for the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association going forward?

A:

  • To continue to serve all of the hospitals and their various units and all of the rehabilitation facilities where we currently have our Brain Injury Peer Visitor Program.
  • To continue to grow the program by establishing our program at more new hospitals and facilities.
  • To train more new volunteer survivors and/or caregivers in order to serve more individuals.
  • To help educate as many brain injury survivors and their families and loved ones.
  • To educate the public across the United States and throughout the world about all forms of brain injury through our website at braininjurypeervisitor.org.
  • To create a true understanding of what the word “brain injury” means — to make it a household word that is understood and accepted.
  • To help create a tolerance and loving understanding for a person with a brain injury.
  • To help develop a least one Brain Injury Peer Visitor Program in every state.

This interview by Stephen Smith was posted in Teach Believe Inspire Award on June 2, 2015. Stephen founded the Brain Injury Law Center to help brain injured victims, survivors and their families.

Ann Boriskie Survivor 3 062915To learn more about Ann Boriskie and her work with brain injury, please visit the following sites.

Video of Ann Boriskie and the Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association

Ann Boriskie’s blog – The Brain Fairy

The Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association

The Brain Injury Law Association

(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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