TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Another Fork in the Road’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

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

John Bradshaw

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

Apple Valley, California, USA

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

July 4, 2012     Age 56

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Car accident

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

The impact was immediately known to be serious. I was in a coma at the scene of the accident.

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

I was air-lifted from the scene of the accident. My condition was assessed. I had CT (computerized tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and I was put on a respirator.

7. Were you in a coma?

Yes

If so, how long?

Deep coma: 1 week; sleep coma: 3 weeks

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)?

I had my therapies – occupational, physical, and speech – both as an inpatient and as an outpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

My therapies basically lasted 1+ years. I still do physical therapy every year to help with balance and strengthening.

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

I have problems with balance and perception. I have a personality disorder, a mood disorder, memory-loss, and nervousness, to name a few issues.

10. How has your life changed?

There is no normal. Every day is different.

Is it better?

No

Is it worse?

Yes

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

In general, I miss knowing where I am, my quick train-of-thought, and my memory.

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

I enjoy the people I have connected with through support groups and rehab.

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

I dislike not knowing things in general and not understanding why I am like this.

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

Yes. Jesus sent me back to let everyone know he and his father are alive. They love us, so it doesn’t matter what church you go to. They want to see us come home.

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

Yes

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

Yes. I find it very difficult to interact with others now.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

My wife

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

No

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

I have no plans for the future. I take it one day at a time.

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.

(No answer)

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

Life will never be the same. Take it one day at a time, and believe it does get better with time. My wife’s favorite reminder motto is: “I am not what has happened to me … I am what I choose to become.”

 

 

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Past Blast: Survivors SPEAK OUT! George Visger (former NFL player)

SPEAK OUT! George Visger (former player for the San Francisco 49ers)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! George Visger

(former NFL San Francisco 49ers player)

(originally published July 7, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

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

George Visger

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

Cypress, California, USA     visgergeorge@gmail.com

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

I was first injured – had surgery – at age 22 during the 1981 Super Bowl season with the San Francisco 49ers.

4. How did your TBI occur?

I had a number of concussions throughout my 12 years of playing organized football. My first serious concussion occurred at age 13, during my third year of Pop Warner. I was hospitalized on that one. My final, and most severe, concussion occurred in 1980 against the Dallas Cowboys. I suffered a major TBI in the first quarter, yet I never missed a play by the use of over 20 smelling salts during the game (or so I was told later in the week when my memory returned). I also never missed a practice. Several months later, early in the ‘81 season, I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and underwent emergency VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt brain surgery at Stanford. I have since survived nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, including five in a nine-month period in ‘86-‘87 while completing my Biology degree. I have also had several gran mal seizures, and I have been on anti-seizure meds for over 30 years.

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

I realized I had a problem during the ‘81 season. I developed major headaches and projectile vomiting. I saw balls of light in front of each eye each night. The team doctors diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed diuretics for over two weeks, until I suffered focal point paralysis of my right arm. The team doc diagnosed me in the locker room with a brain hemorrhage. I drove myself to the hospital, where I underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery,

tracheotomy, G-peg)?

I have had nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries since then. They drilled a hole in my skull and installed a permanent drain tube, which runs to a pressure valve in the back of my head. They plumbed that to drain into my abdomen. I am also on Lamictil for seizures.

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

Nine months after my first shunt surgery, the shunt failed while I was fishing in Mexico with my brother. It took him a day to get me home, and I was in a coma from the pressure on my brain. I had two more brain surgeries ten hours apart and was given last rites. I was 23 at the time.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)?

I was never offered rehab. In fact, I was forced to sue the 49ers for Work Compensation just to get my second and third brain surgeries paid for. Until now, it was brain surgery, out the door, and “See you next shunt failure.” I did use Vocational Rehabilitation Services when I returned to school in ‘86 to complete my Biology degree. But, I was on my own to rehab after each of the five brain surgeries that I had while finishing my degree. I discovered B.R.A.I.N. (Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network) founded by Sue Rueb in Cypress, CA, last year while speaking at a TBI conference. I literally moved there last August to get daily treatments – first treatments I have ever had. I do neurocognitive therapy and Yoga therapy, and I counsel other TBI survivors, which helps me as well.

How long were you in rehab?

I’ve been rehabbing since August 2013.

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

I have gran mal seizures, MAJOR short-term memory issues, poor judgment, anger-management issues, loss of direction, poor concentration, problems getting my words out or thinking of the right word, numbness in extremities, constant headaches, vision problems when my shunt goes out, diminished hearing, personality changes, problems handling finances, and brain seizures from alcohol, to name a few.

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

I completed a Biology degree in 1990 at age 32 after eight brain surgeries, and I followed my second dream to be a wildlife biologist. I have never let my injury define me, and I thank God for it. I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not been injured. But recently, things have begun to spiral out of control. I lost my environmental consulting business (Visger & Associates, Inc.) in 2009, and I lost our house in 2011. My wife of nearly 19 years, and the mother of my children, and I are going through a divorce. It’s been too much for her.

Visger, George  2008-06-15 21.03.51

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

I miss my family. I miss being The Giant – the guy who “could do anything,” as my wife used to say. I miss being able to remember things. I literally do not remember numerous out-of-state bow-hunts, months of my life, kids’ activities, etc.

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

I enjoy being able to use my injuries to help others. I feel it is my God given mission in life now.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

Loss of my marriage

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by my belief that God has a plan for me and that “something good comes out of everything.”

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

It has destroyed my marriage, and I lost my ability to provide for my family.

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

Social activities were impacted, as I liked to drink back in the day. Now the only impact is that I will forget to attend a social outing. I have never been embarrassed about my injuries. I’m just as goofy now as I was before my injury.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

I was single until my late 30’s, and I have been my main caregiver ever since. My mom stepped in for a few days during surgeries, and my older brother, whom I worked with, kept an eye on me. My wife has done what she could over the years, but she has never been through a surgery with me.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I understand better than most what it takes to be a caregiver. I also understand what caregivers go through. I call it the “Ripple Effect.” My family members and caregivers have taken a worse beating from my TBI than I have. It is much harder on our loved ones than it is on ourselves.

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

I founded The Visger Group – Traumatic Brain Injury Consulting in 2010, and I have spoken all over the country. I coordinate directly with the NFL on rule changes to reduce TBIs in football at all levels. I have spoken at congressional hearings, conduct motivational talks at schools and businesses, and currently am working with our veterans suffering from TBI. I am also suffering from frontal lobe dementia, and I hope to kick a few butts and rattle a few cages while I can, in hopes of changing the way the medical field treats TBI survivors and families. In ten years, I expect to be working with government agencies, our military, academics, and sports leagues. I plan to be leading and speaking at TBI-recovery groups.

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 TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

George Visger #74  4th row from bottom, 2nd from right  @ 1981

George Visger #74
4th row from bottom, 2nd from right
@ 1981

In football, there is a saying: “Short, Choppy Steps.” If you over-stride, it’s easy for someone to knock you on your butt. You want to keep your butt down, your head up, and take short, powerful 12-inch strides. Forget about breaking long touchdown runs. Get the little things done each day, and you will reach your goals. If a football team only got four yards each play – no more, no less – they would never lose a game. Think about it. They would get a first down every three plays, and they would score every time they had the ball. Life is no different. You need long-term goals for sure: score a touchdown, win the game, win the Super Bowl. But, you will NEVER get there if you don’t get your four yards a carry. We sell wrist bands on our website (www.thevisgergroup) that say “Short, Choppy Steps” and another one we give to coaches and players that says “Use your head, DON’T use your head.” Focus on small daily victories, and you’ll win the game.

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

Keep in mind everyone has a cross to bear. Carry your cross; don’t let it carry you. All of us TBI survivors have a lot to give to everyone. Turn your negative into a positive and touch people’s lives. Focus on your positives. Work hard, and put it in God’s hands. It will all work out.

That’s all anyone can do.

You can learn more about George Visger on his blog and these YouTube videos.

George Visger Blog – Life Before and After Football

George Visger talks about his life in these videos:

The Damage Done — George Visger’s Concussions

Battle Scars: Stagg High Alum, Former 49er Fights on Despite Brain Injuries

George Visger addresses specific topics in these very short videos:

Visger-275x300

Do Helmets Give Football Players a False Sense of Safety?

Would This Retired NFL Player Do It Again?

Thank you, George, 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.)

(Photo compliments of George.)

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

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury
Alisa Marie

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

Alisa Marie

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

New Hampshire, USA

Truecolorsartist@gmail.com

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

October and November 2012

But, my very first concussion was in 1998. I was 30 years old. 

4. How did your brain injury occur?

tenor

The event in October 2012 was a fall caused by vertigo. In November 2012, I was cleaning under the pool deck. I went to get up and banged my head, causing me to be knocked out. I don’t remember what happened in 1998.

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

My boyfriend at the time found me unconscious under the pool deck.

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

I was taken to the Emergency Room, and I had rehab. I had to live with my parents for a while because they had to take care of me. I thought it was the year 2005 and my children were 5 and 10, but it was 2012 and they were 13 and 18. Also, I was going through a divorce, and my house was in foreclosure.

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)?

I had occupational and physical therapies as an outpatient and speech therapy both as an outpatient and as an inpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

I’m not sure because I’ve been in a lot of rehabs for head injuries. I was in three in 2015. My last rehab was in 2018, as my last concussion was in 2017. (I slipped on clothes on my floor because my perception was off.)

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

I struggle with many issues: balance, perception, personality, cognitive and executive functioning, memory, staying on task, aphasia, and impulsivity. It’s hard to make decisions and hard to be organized. I lost my independence. I lost my license for cognitive reasons back in December 2013.

Alisa Marie – Brain Injury Survivor

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

I’m an artist, designer, and poet. I am also trying to have my own business, Alisa’s True Colors. I began melting Crayola crayons in 2013 when Emily, my younger daughter, showed me how to apply wax to canvas using a blow dryer and a fork.

This was helping me as art therapy, where I could take physical and emotional pain and turn it into something colorful and bright. It was all I could focus on for a while. I didn’t know it then, but the seeds of Alisa’s True Colors were being planted. It helped me learn and adapt to the new me. I was creating my ability out of my disability.

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

Freedom and independence

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

I have come to realize that we hold within ourselves the power to heal. I have learned we don’t need a superhero to save us; we need to be our own hero in our own story. We need not to be afraid to chase after our dreams. And, if one door closes keep looking for the open ones.

I am learning happiness, calmness, and patience. I am accepting the new me, and, with my limitations, I am finding new ways to adapt. I have let go of the past and my old ways of thinking of what I believed of myself.

I have gained wisdom, knowledge, self-confidence, and the courage to look fear in the eyes – to truly know that being a survivor means being a fighter and not to give up no matter how dark my world gets.

I want to awaken others to their true colors by helping them accept their new life after trauma – to help them heal through art.

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

I dislike that I can’t stay on task or stay organized. I am forgetful, and I talk strange sometimes because I can’t remember the right word. I regret the loss of close family and friends who don’t understand.

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

Art and poetry 🙂 

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

For a few years, I lost what empathy was. My emotions were all over the place. I had a lot of anger and resentment in me. You find your own “True Colors” with a brain injury or from a trauma where it can get very confusing when you are trying to find your true self. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that sometimes you see the “True Colors” of your loved ones. We can look fine on the outside, but no one can see our brain on the inside all messed up trying to find a new way of living.

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

Yes. I have social anxiety at times, and I’m embarrassed when I talk and can’t find the words or when I can’t stay on task.

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

Me, myself. and I

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

I hope to travel around the world with my story and products and to teach my art. And, I hope to also donate money to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and other non-profit organizations.

I had to lose everything from suffering traumatic brain injuries due to repeated head injuries. I also had to deal with being diagnosed with viral meningitis in March 2015. Then in the year 2016, I lost my home, and all my personal belongings were discarded because of toxic environmental illnesses. I’m surviving by designing.

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 isn’t the ending to your life; it’s a new beginning. We all are creative. So, you just must keep trying new things, whether it be writing, poetry, drawing, photography, ceramics, embroidery, knitting, singing, or dancing. There is so much you can do – you are not your disability or a diagnosis a doctor gives you. I never gave up hope. I kept learning and reaching for my dreams when all I saw was darkness

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

Every struggle, every life-lesson is a gift because it makes you go deeper into yourself to find your “true colors” – your inner strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.

I want others to see and know that there is beauty in the darkness, that there is beauty in your pain and tears and heartache. There is beauty in the ashes. There is a rainbow after the storm. I hope people see my True Colors as a message of hope and faith and love, to give them the hope and courage and strength to show it is possible to overcome the battles we endure in this lifetime.

I never went to art school. I have no degree – just education from repeated concussions and my life-situations. My art saved my life and is continuing to do. It helps with built-up resentment, emotions, grief, and physical pain. Art teaches that you are a new person after your injury, and it teaches how to adapt to your new life. Art is my therapy. I take the physical and emotional pain I feel and I turn it into something beautiful and bright on the canvas.

3 Alisa Marie

Never give up!

To learn more about Alisa Marie, check out her website at Alisa’s True Colors.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

A young Boston University professor, Steve Ramirez, a neuroscientist, has identified cells of a mouse brain that enhance the positive or negative scientist-clip-art-41a38614afbd47caca00c32a563f44defeelings of a memory.

Stimulating cells that enhance positive feelings can suppress or deaden the trauma associated with a bad memory. In contrast, stimulating cells that enhance negative feelings makes a bad memory feel worse.

The hippocampus in both the mouse brain and the human brain is the region of the brain responsible for storing memories, including all the details and emotions associated with them. Each memory activates a unique combination of cells of the hippocampus.  Some of the cells affect emotion and behavior.

mouse-clip-art-grey-pink-mouse-mdRamirez and his collaborators (including first author Briana Chen of Columbia University) used genetically engineered mice whose neurons glow when they’re activated. Those cells can later be artificially activated with laser light. The team found that a negative memory (like getting a mild electric shock to the feet) activates cells at the bottom of the hippocampus.  A positive memory (like being in the presence of a female mouse) activates cells at the top of the hippocampus.

They then were able to stimulate those same cells with a laser.  When the bottom cells of the hippocampus were activated, the mouse behaved (freezing and/or avoidance behavior) as if it were recalling the negative memory of the shock. Stimulation of the cells in the top region of the hippocampus reduced the avoidance response.51wUt-P+FKL._SL500_

This is basic research, but it is a significant first step in the eventual development of treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression.  (Full story)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Steven A. Marderosian

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Steven A. Marderosian

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Steven A. Marderosian Before TBI 20190429_120335

Survivor – Steven A. Marderosian Pre-TBI

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

Steven A. Marderosian

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

Barrington, Illinois, USA; E-mail: steven@marderosianlaw.com

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

February 28, 2018; I was 49 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

AVM (arteriovenous malformation) rupture – hemorrhagic stroke

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

My wife heard me sounding confused while talking to someone on my phone. Later she saw me looking at my phone as if I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. Then I started to notice my left arm going numb, and then, my left leg. I tried to “walk it off,” but I crashed to the floor.

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

My wife raced me to the Emergency Room, where I triggered a “stroke alert” response. I recall only the very start of it. My wife was kept outside a curtain, so I don’t know any of the details before I stabilized.

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

By the grace of God, 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?

Towards end of two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit/neurology (and removal of my AVM by rare cross-craniotomy brain surgery), I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy evaluations in the regular hospital. I spent two more weeks in a rehab hospital for physical, occupational, and speech therapies. I then moved home with six more weeks of physical therapy and occupational therapy in a partial admission “day rehab” at the same rehab hospital. My total was more than two months of rehab.

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

My left side was paralyzed from the shoulders down – it was near total from the ribcage down. (I had no balance – I couldn’t stay up on all fours.) My left shoulder/arm/hand was moderately impaired. I have no real cognitive deficits per se, but my mental processing is disabled in high-level speed and volume capacity. My AVM was at the border of the frontal and parietal lobes, bleeding into the frontal lobe in the right hemisphere. It fractured me emotionally.

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

surfer-boy-clipart-1It’s a mixed bag. I got up on a board and surfed just three months “post op” (against a “no contact sports” order). I’m physically stronger and even faster than I was pre TBI. But, my mental processing speed and capacity are still disabled. A bipolar diagnosis a few years pre TBI (likely due to progressive blood flow abnormality) appears to have been rectified by the AVM removal. But, while my mood is more stable, I still struggle to figure out my new personality. My general emotional state is different and strange.

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

I miss the lightning-fast mental processing and the seemingly limitless volume capacity. I miss not having to relearn every maneuver in black belt karate and fighting, downhill (telemark) skiing, and all other physically demanding things I’d been doing. I miss the 6-6.5 hours of sleep per night without ever napping or feeling tired.

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

I like that I care about the real suffering in the world (i.e., not my own, by comparison), in the midst of which I lived and rehabbed. I like having a far more stable mood and seemingly being cured of bipolar disorder. I’m looking forward to this second chance to fix past mistakes and live as God wants me to. And to never, ever, fear anything in the world again – other than God.

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

I dislike needing way too much sleep and always being tired no matter what I do or don’t tired-clipart-they-7do. I don’t like figuring out my new altered personality, my future career, and even my likes and dislikes. I don’t like having to relearn every advanced physical maneuver and regaining my previous mental processing speed and volume capacity.

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

I have been greatly helped by my undying (and now bulletproof) faith in Jesus Christ; by my eldest son, who is bipolar (now I want him scanned for an AVM too) and is the only one in my family who understands my continuing emotional turmoil; and by the support of my close friends in Christ and by my BFF of 45 years.

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

I look, speak, and act “fine,” so family (except my eldest son) and others don’t really understand my continuing emotional turmoil and new personality. So, I keep my inner feelings mostly to myself (and to my BFF, to my eldest son, to my bible study group, and to my therapist).

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

I was kind of a homebody before, so my social life is not much different. But, busy, noisyno-noise-clipart-1 places, like crowded restaurants, create a sensory overload that can become overwhelming, especially after high-stress or high-volume days. It’s like I can hear every individual sound of 100 people, intercoms, TVs, and devices all blaring at once. I just want to scream, “Will everyone please just shut the f#@k up!?”

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

I’m so undeservedly blessed that I don’t have or need a caregiver anymore. My wife had to do it for the first few months after I moved back home, but I’ve been mostly on my own since then. My “emotional caregivers” are probably my BFF, my eldest son, my bible study group, and my therapist.

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

I can’t tolerate the blatant dishonesty and BS involved in practicing law anymore (especially litigation, where it’s the worst) – not my own, but that of others who simply “double down” when I catch them and call them out. Far too many “judges” seem even worse than the lawyers. My BFF and I have done construction rehab work, and we just launched a demolition and construction company. In ten years, I hope it will be my main source of income, with my eldest son working with us and me taking only select legal work “on the side” (which sounds like Heaven). I wrote a book on God’s miracles in m

Steven A. Marderosian After TBI 20190429_113920

Survivor – Steven A. Marderosian Post-TBI

y experience. I hope to write more and to speak to inspire and help others overcome their crises and follow Jesus Christ.

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.

Don’t try to force yourself back into who you were; you simply aren’t that person anymore and never will be again. I always say that as well as I’m doing now, “everything is different” somehow. Embrace who you’ve become and the power your experience and resilience have given you to overcome any obstacle. And, help others do the same.

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

Thank God constantly for every breath you take; every blessing you have; and even every challenge, setback, and outright sorrow you experience. All these things work together to achieve God’s will to make you stronger and better as the person He wants you to be. And never, ever, sweat the “small stuff” again – life’s just too short.

With all God’s blessings to all survivors everywhere,

Steven A. Marderosian

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(Photos compliments of contributor)

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What is your name? (last name optional)

Steven A. Marderosian

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

Barrington, Illinois, USA; E-mail: steven@marderosianlaw.com

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

February 28, 2018; I was 49 years old.

How did your brain injury occur?

AVM (arteriovenous malformation) rupture – hemorrhagic stroke

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

My wife heard me sounding confused while talking to someone on my phone. Later she saw me looking at my phone as if I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. Then I started to notice my left arm going numb, and then, my left leg. I tried to “walk it off,” but I crashed to the floor.

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

My wife raced me to the Emergency Room, where I triggered a “stroke alert” response. I recall only the very start of it. My wife was kept outside a curtain, so I don’t know any of the details before I stabilized.

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

By the grace of God, no

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?

Towards end of two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit/neurology (and removal of my AVM by rare cross-craniotomy brain surgery), I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy evaluations in the regular hospital. I spent two more weeks in a rehab hospital for physical, occupational, and speech therapies. I then moved home with six more weeks of physical therapy and occupational therapy in a partial admission “day rehab” at the same rehab hospital. My total was more than two months of rehab.

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

My left side was paralyzed from the shoulders down – it was near total from the ribcage down. (I had no balance – I couldn’t stay up on all fours.) My left shoulder/arm/hand was moderately impaired. I have no real cognitive deficits per se, but my mental processing is disabled in high-level speed and volume capacity. My AVM was at the border of the frontal and parietal lobes, bleeding into the frontal lobe in the right hemisphere. It fractured me emotionally.

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

It’s a mixed bag. I got up on a board and surfed just three months “post op” (against a “no contact sports” order). I’m physically stronger and even faster than I was pre TBI. But, my mental processing speed and capacity are still disabled. A bipolar diagnosis a few years pre TBI (likely due to progressive blood flow abnormality) appears to have been rectified by the AVM removal. But, while my mood is more stable, I still struggle to figure out my new personality. My general emotional state is different and strange.

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

I miss the lightning-fast mental processing and the seemingly limitless volume capacity. I miss not having to relearn every maneuver in black belt karate and fighting, downhill (telemark) skiing, and all other physically demanding things I’d been doing. I miss the 6-6.5 hours of sleep per night without ever napping or feeling tired.

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

I like that I care about the real suffering in the world (i.e., not my own, by comparison), in the midst of which I lived and rehabbed. I like having a far more stable mood and seemingly being cured of bipolar disorder. I’m looking forward to this second chance to fix past mistakes and live as God wants me to. And to never, ever, fear anything in the world again – other than God.

What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike needing way too much sleep and always being tired no matter what I do or don’t do. I don’t like figuring out my new altered personality, my future career, and even my likes and dislikes. I don’t like having to relearn every advanced physical maneuver and regaining my previous mental processing speed and volume capacity.

Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I have been greatly helped by my undying (and now bulletproof) faith in Jesus Christ; by my eldest son, who is bipolar (now I want him scanned for an AVM too) and is the only one in my family who understands my continuing emotional turmoil; and by the support of my close friends in Christ and by my BFF of 45 years.

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

I look, speak, and act “fine,” so family (except my eldest son) and others don’t really understand my continuing emotional turmoil and new personality. So, I keep my inner feelings mostly to myself (and to my BFF, to my eldest son, to my bible study group, and to my therapist).

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

I was kind of a homebody before, so my social life is not much different. But, busy, noisy places, like crowded restaurants, create a sensory overload that can become overwhelming, especially after high-stress or high-volume days. It’s like I can hear every individual sound of 100 people, intercoms, TVs, and devices all blaring at once. I just want to scream, “Will everyone please just shut the f#@k up!?”

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

I’m so undeservedly blessed that I don’t have or need a caregiver anymore. My wife had to do it for the first few months after I moved back home, but I’ve been mostly on my own since then. My “emotional caregivers” are probably my BFF, my eldest son, my bible study group, and my therapist.

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

I can’t tolerate the blatant dishonesty and BS involved in practicing law anymore (especially litigation, where it’s the worst) – not my own, but that of others who simply “double down” when I catch them and call them out. Far too many “judges” seem even worse than the lawyers. My BFF and I have done construction rehab work, and we just launched a demolition and construction company. In ten years, I hope it will be my main source of oncome, with my eldest son working with us and me taking only select legal work “on the side” (which sounds like Heaven). I wrote a book on God’s miracles in my experience. I hope to write more and to speak to inspire and help others overcome their crises and follow Jesus Christ.

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.

Don’t try to force yourself back into who you were; you simply aren’t that person anymore and never will be again. I always say that as well as I’m doing now, “everything is different” somehow. Embrace who you’ve become and the power your experience and resilience have given you to overcome any obstacle. And, help others do the same.

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

Thank God constantly for every breath you take; every blessing you have; and even every challenge, setback, and outright sorrow you experience. All these things work together to achieve God’s will to make you stronger and better as the person He wants you to be. And never, ever, sweat the “small stuff” again – life’s just too short.

 

With all God’s blessings to all survivors everywhere,

Steven A. Marderosian

 

So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . . . . . Do Motorcycle Helmets Protect the Brain?

So, Whaddya Think?

Do Motorcycle Helmets Protect the Brain?

by

David H. Figurski, Ph.D

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D. survivor of brain injury

Whether or not motorcycle helmets reduce head injuries is a topic that is highly controversial. Witness the fact that some states have motorcycle helmet laws while others don’t.

Clearly, helmets do not prevent all brain injuries. Former National Football League lineman George Visger (San Francisco 49ers), who’s a survivor of a football-induced brain injury, worries about the false sense of security that helmets can engender.  (Listen to minutes 12:00-14:00 of Donna’s August 16, 2015, interview of him.)

On the positive side, many people believe motorcycle helmets can reduce minor head injuries and thereby mitigate or even prevent some brain injuries. I am staunchly pro-helmet in my viewpoint, but I am also realistic about how protective a helmet actually is. Recently, I encountered someone who is an adamant proponent of the anti-helmet viewpoint. Here’s what happened.

Donna and I recently attended a lecture by Carrie Collins-Fadell, Executive Director of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ), on the basics of brain injury and the work of the organization. At one point, I asked Carrie if BIAAZ had an official position on motorcycle helmet laws. (Arizona currently has no such law.) Given the current debate, her unsurprising answer was that it does not.

I’m a firm believer in helmets because one saved my face and possibly prevented a serious brain injury. I loved my bike, and, like most riders feel about their riding ability, I considered myself to be competent, alert, and safety-conscious. But, my bike was totaled in an accident that was not my fault.Vehicules-Moto-476361

As I rounded a bend in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York one Sunday morning, I encountered a massive oil spill that was left on the road by an emergency car repair. My tires lost their grip, my bike and I went down, and my bike ended up underneath on oncoming car. Fortunately, I was thrown from my bike and ended up down the road. (The hysterical driver thought I was still with my bike underneath her car.)

The point of this story is that I was wearing the best full-face helmet I could buy. I hit face-first. I know that because the chin-bar on my helmet was ground down from the road. Because of that helmet, I was able to walk away – although with some road-rash. I hate to think what would have happened to me if I had not been wearing that helmet.

CoolClips_vc040139I told Carrie that I was in favor of helmet laws. But, another member of the audience took issue with me and presented the opposing view. “The only reason I would wear a helmet is if a law required me to.” We had a short discussion about our opposing beliefs. There are valid arguments for both opinions, and I know much more could have been said. But, I was mindful of the time, and I suspected Carrie was eager to get back to her talk. (I know Donna was happy I ended quickly!)

Both of us made valid points. I’d like to address comments that were stated and what could have been said.

The audience-member argued that a helmet adds possibly dangerous weight to a rider’s head. This is a valid point.

Helmets can add up to 5 pounds to the head, and that extra weight can endanger the neck, with consequences for the brain and/or spine. (Professional race-drivers are well aware of this danger. I raced cars at the amateur level, and, again, I considered myself to be safety-conscious, although Donna thought that racing cars at all was a strange way to show it! Nevertheless, I was the first driver in the group to use a HANS device – a carbon-fiber collar that’s held tight by the safety harness. The point is that the weight of the head and helmet is somewhat counteracted by tethering the helmet to the device. There is evidence showing that the reduction in the number and/or force of head impacts by a HANS device is protective.)dk163

The audience-member also argued that a full-face helmet cuts down on peripheral vision.  I completely agree that good peripheral vision is really important for safe riding. I adamantly disagreed with the statement, however, that a full-face helmet interferes with peripheral vision, but I didn’t take the time to give my reasons for believing that way.

It’s true that old full-face helmets have small eye-ports and restrict peripheral vision. But, many modern full-face helmets have wide eye-ports so peripheral vision is not restricted. That was a consideration when I purchased my helmets for motorcycling and car racing.

Another point the audience-member made was that a helmet does nothing to protect the brain in a serious accident and, as was noted above, may make neck injury more likely. I agree that helmets are not protective in a major accident. I know of a rider who was killed while wearing a good helmet.

A helmet will not protect the brain in a catastrophic accident, but a helmet might reduce the severity of a brain injury in a minor accident. A slight impact of the head in a highly-cushioned helmet may lead to no brain injury at all or to a less severe brain injury. But, a slight impact of a helmetless head could lead to a serious brain injury or even be fatal.incident-clipart-accident

The audience-member also mentioned that he’s been riding 40 years without a helmet. I congratulate him for the accomplishment of never having had a serious accident. I too thought I would ride my bike for many years. But, unexpected things happen. One such incident happened to me. It’s why some of us wear safety gear.

The audience-member and I ended by agreeing on a point. We both understand that, during a serious impact, no helmet can protect the jelly-like brain, which exists inside a hard skull.

I understand there is considerable joy in riding totally free and unencumbered. Motorcycles are about freedom, and the principle of individual freedom is paramo61463unt for some people. Those of us who wear safety gear are concerned with the significant risk of riding with the lack of precautions. We still experience the feeling of the impressive freedom that comes from riding a motorcycle – just a bit less.

 

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(Photos compliments of contributor)

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Courtney Clark Photo 2

Courtney Clark – survivor of Brain Injury & Motivational Speaker

 

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

Courtney Clark

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

Austin, Texas, USA

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

In the spring of 2011, at age 31, I discovered I had an AVM (arteriovenous malformation).

4. How did your brain injury occur?

An AVM is a congenital birth defect of the blood vessels. I actually had no symptoms and no warning signs, but I had been living with it for 31 years when doctors found it.

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

My oncologist actually found my AVM at my 5-year cancer-free scans! Because I didn’t have any symptoms (usually symptoms are headaches and seizures), I had no idea that I had it. I also learned that three aneurysms were within the AVM. Any one could have ruptured at any time.brain-20clip-20art-brain4

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

I flew to New York to be seen by one of the top neurosurgeons I could find. I had three brain surgeries.

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

I wasn’t in a coma. I woke up from surgery the first day, but I struggled with consciousness for almost 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 didn’t have to do rehab, but I did have to teach myself how to read again over the course of about a month because I really struggled with comprehension.

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

visionThe main issues I struggled with right away were visual issues. I had a problem with depth perception, and, because of that, I couldn’t walk for several days – I could only walk a few steps at a time. For the next several months, I also had to work on reading and anything else that required visual comprehension.

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

My life the first year was painful. I was running a small nonprofit out of my home, and I found that I could barely stay awake long enough to do any work. I felt completely helpless. (I couldn’t even take myself to the bathroom.) Now, I’d say my overall life is better – going through this with a supportive husband by my side has shown me I chose the right partner (the second time around). Also, I have even more perspective on life.

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

Yoga! I am NOT a natural athlete like everyone in my family. But, in yoga, I had mastered the headstand. I could do not one but two cool headstands! I felt like a rock-star athlete for the first time in my life! When my neurosurgeon told me that I could no longer do Yoga th-1headstands (it sounds obvious now but caught me completely off guard at the time), it was the first time I really, truly wept. Like, I’ve been through so much, and now I can’t even do this ONE THING that brings me so much joy and makes me feel like a beast!

In a larger sense, I also miss that feeling of immortality that we all have when we’re young – when we think nothing bad could ever happen to us.

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

I’m so much more appreciative of my husband, my loved ones, and my life! Because of everything I’ve been through, I now get to research, write, and speak on resilience, and I love traveling the world to get to help other people.

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

These days, nothing!

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

One of the main things that helped me was volunteering and giving back to other people. (It’s a strategy I ALWAYS use to help me when I’m struggling with something.) Research shows that volunteering is one of the best ways to get perspective on our struggles.

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

My relationship with my husband, Jamie, has been affected – because I feel 100% certain that I’ve chosen the right life-partner. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 26, my then-husband wasn’t as supportive as I would have liked. The push in the direction to end my marriage was painful, but necessary. Jamie, my second husband, and I hadn’t even been married a year when the AVM was found. I was so worried that having to take care of me – take me to the bathroom, etc. – was going to hurt our new marriage. But, Jamie was, and continues to be, a most-supportive, caring partner.

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

I feel very lucky – I didn’t have any long-term changes to my social life. Short-term, yes; but long term, not really. I will say that, after my surgeries, I have a “life is short” feeling – I don’t put up with a lot of BS or unkindness from friends.

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

Image result for Free Cartoon Clip Art love life

My husband was my main caregiver. I don’t know if anyone can totally “get it” until he or she has been through it, but I always say that in some ways it’s almost harder to be the loved one than the patient. It was especially difficult for Jamie to deal with me because I had experienced the world of cancer also! Jamie didn’t always get to be the one to choose the treatment plan, but he had to just go along with whatever I chose. And, I got wheeled away, and I slept through the 10-hour surgery, but my husband was awake, pacing the floor the whole time!

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

Ten years from now, I want to continue traveling and speaking to groups to help them gain resilience and handle change and challenge.

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.

My biggest helpful hint is that helping someone else is a tool that EVERYONE can use. So often, we think that, if we’re struggling, we have nothing to give. And, we may feel drained, exhausted, or like “Why do I need to help somebody else? I’m still getting help?” or “How could I even help someone, with my life the way that it is?” But, giving doesn’t have to be directed downward – to someone less fortunate. When I was sick the first time, I kept up with my volunteer activities, and I found that it gave me a sense of personal power and accomplishment, even when I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much in my everyday life.

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

My best advice is that healing and recovering from a brain injury isn’t a linear process. Before your brain injury, maybe you were like me: go-go-go, getting everything done, climbing the ladder, all about success. You can’t just “bounce back” after something like this. It’s a long, slow trudge, which our society doesn’t glamorize. But, the slow journey is really the only option, and that’s not all bad. It’s an opportunity to reprioritize and savor the smaller things (which I used to ignore).

 

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Courtney Clark – Survivor of Brain Injury – will be Keynote Speaker – BIAAZ Rays of Hope Conference – May 17, 2019, Phoenix, Arizona

 

Learn more about Courtney Clark on her website, Courtney Clark – Accelerated Resilience.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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