TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Aquired Brain Injury’

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

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

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

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

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

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

Shelley Taylor and her daughter, Taylor Trammell (survivors)

Taylor, Shelley survivorValentine’s Day 2010 would turn into a complete game-changer – a day we will never forget. It’s a day I’ve documented so, if the day comes when my memory is gone, I can always reflect back on God’s goodness and mercy. Following is my account of the night we were poisoned. God provided the most beautiful second chance.

We were experiencing a “Texas Winter” and had received about six inches of snow. We had been without power for three days. On day 3, we ran a generator in the driveway, near our garage. The garage door and windows were open. The Fire Chief later told us that, since it was so cold and there was no wind, the carbon monoxide gas probably just settled. Instead of blowing away, it just crept back into the house via the eaves.

Trammell, Taylor Survivor 050617

Taylor Trammell – Brain Injury Survivor

Taylor (my daughter; 13 at the time) and I had gone to bed. She told us that someone had called her name and she was trying to get up to see who it was. She got up, fell face-first into the wall, collapsed and crawled out of her bedroom, shimmied up the wall, and collapsed again. The thud of Taylor falling on the concrete floor is what woke me up. Charlie (her dad and my ex-husband) heard this as well from the living room. We went to the hallway and found Taylor passed out and lying on her face. We couldn’t get her to respond! Charlie sent me for the flashlight that was by my bed. On my way, I felt like I was not right either. I got the flashlight and ran back to the hall so I could get to Charlie to let him know I wasn’t OK. I knew that if I collapsed in the bedroom, he wouldn’t know to come for me.

Everything was spinning out of control, and I was experiencing the worst feelings I had ever had! When I turned the corner to the hallway, I collapsed face-first (without using my hands or arms to brace myself). I fell onto the metal flashlight and severely cut my forehead. I told Charlie I felt blood running down my face. He looked at me with the flashlight and said he had to get me to the hospital! My head began to pulse blood. Taylor, I, and the walls were covered in blood. Meanwhile, Taylor was in and out of consciousness. I was having convulsions and banging my face into the concrete floor. Charlie then called 9-1-1.

First to respond were the police. Charlie told them we had no power, so they used their flashlights. They immediately saw my blood and the bloody handprints in our hallway, and Charlie had my blood on him as well. Immediately they accused Charlie of a crime. Shortly thereafter, the fire department arrived, and luckily Charlie knew one of the firefighters who quickly came to Charlie’s defense. Charlie told the Fire Chief of the generator, and immediately the Chief went to the truck to get the carbon monoxide detector. Even at the entrance to our driveway, the readings on the detector began to rise quickly. The readings went higher as he got closer to the house. Upon reaching the door, he called for his crew to exit the house and got Charlie, Taylor, and our dogs out as well. Paramedics were left inside with me to get me stable enough for transport to the hospital. Eventually I left by ambulance, and Charlie and Taylor left in Charlie’s truck.ambulance6

At Mansfield Methodist Hospital, Taylor’s and my blood gases were checked. They were found to be “through the roof.” We were then transported to Dallas Methodist to use their hyperbaric chamber. First, my head injury was closed up with fifteen stitches, and I had to have a CT (computerized tomography) scan to make sure I was transportable. Off we went in the ambulance. Upon arriving at Dallas Methodist, a doctor explained the procedures for going into the hyperbaric chamber. (I was trying to comprehend all of this while the carbon monoxide was still doing damage to my brain!) We found out that the family that had just been in the chamber before us had all died, except the father – not comforting!

When we came home, my sister Kimberley moved in for approximately a month. Physically, my head was healing, but, mentally, I was left with a traumatic brain injury. I literally started over with kindergarten flashcards (I would look at an apple and say “library”), and my friends and family completed most of my sentences. My neurologist was a great comfort to me as I struggled with memory and cognitive skills.

My neurologist also told me that people don’t survive what we went through. He said they really don’t know how to treat me. He said carbon monoxide goes into your brain and destroys whatever it attaches to, and we have no control over what functions are affected.CO-Danger

Taylor and I struggle daily, but some recovery continues every day for both of us. Taylor is young, and healing has come differently for her. Memory and migraines are big battles she continues to face.

I’ve come a long way, but I continue to deal with balance, breathing, vision, and memory. It seems I have fallen more times than I’ve stood. By far, my greatest challenge is breathing. Every day, at some point I struggle to breathe. Coughing has become my norm.

Memory LossMy memory is horrible at times, and I’ve lost so many precious memories. Taylor and I have a routine when it comes to trying to remember things. We just look at each other and ask, “Did we have fun?” The one who remembers says to the other, “Yes, we had fun!” That’s all that matters.

What a Valentine’s Day! Taylor saved us by miraculously waking. We endured my bloody head injury which required fifteen stitches, a concussion, a CT scan, blood gas analyses, ambulance rides, and approximately three-hour “dives” in a hyperbaric chamber. (And, we’re both very claustrophobic!) Nothing says “I love you” like a brain injury.

To be alive is amazing, in whatever capacity! God is good – no, great!


Thank you, Shelley Taylor and Taylor Trammell, for sharing your story.

Surviving Brain Injury - Stories of Strength & InspirationNOTE 1:

Taylor Trammell and her mother, Shelley Taylor, are contributing authors in “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer. Shelley and Taylor’s story is titled, “Our Story of Poisoning — and of Grace.” It can be found in Chapter 75 on page 299.


My story, “Nightmare in the Disability Lane,” can be found in Chapter 29 on page 114 of the same book, “Surviving Brain Injury: Stories of Strength & Inspiration,” edited by Amy Zellmer.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . William

SPEAK OUT! – William


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


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


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

Eastern Tennessee, USA

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

Age 43

4. How did your ABI occur?

I was subjected to 334 ppm (parts per million) of carbon monoxide for six days.

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

At 6:00 am on the seventh day, I was found unconscious outside my apartment door.

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

A hyperbaric chamber was used on three occasions while I was in a coma.

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

I was in a coma 32 days.

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 had physical and speech therapies for two years – first, inpatient; then outpatient.

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

Pre-injury, I was a retired Marine Colonel on discharge leave. After my injury, I developed a pronounced hyperkinetic motion disorder, with severe spasticity, a short-term memory disorder, and slow-awakening problems. I cannot walk, type, write, or do anything requiring either fine-motor control or large muscle use.

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

I went from an active Marine to an inactive thinker. From one perspective, my life got significantly worse – about the worst it could. In another perspective, it became rather better. I have a better logical process; I am more understanding of others; and I have the dubious privilege to be unable to use any pharmaceutical drug. To combat this odd aspect of my disability, I studied to be an herbalist, and I live quite well. I cannot have many food chemicals, so I eat better too.

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

I miss being a Marine Corps Colonel.

What do you enjoy most in your post-ABI life?

12. I enjoy knowing how to help people who cannot yet cope with their disability. I help anyone who asks.

13. What do you like least about your ABI?

My brain injury turned me into a burden on everyone in my circle. I can do very little. Whenever I try to use my muscles, hyperkinesia starts up, followed by severe spasticity. It makes doing most things impossible.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your ABI?

I eventually realized that this was what I had left in my life. I could either mope about lost opportunity, or I could grasp any opportunity that came my way. I chose the latter – I cannot change anything, so I willingly accept it.

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

My life has been affected in every conceivable way. Everything is different. Relationships are far harder – people do not wish to know the twitching cripple in the fancy wheelchair. Physical relationships are completely different – I cannot be an active partner, so I must be passive. It takes a special person to be able to cope with that.

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

Able-bodied people do not like to see severely disabled people. It embarrasses them. This makes socializing rather difficult. People will say “Call me” and give me the wrong number. Or, they will shudder at the thought of seeing me again. In stores, I am apparently invisible.

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

Caregivers come and go. Some are good; some are perverts; some are thieves. They are necessary, so I lose things, get humiliated, or get assaulted. I have a friend who takes time to look after me once or twice a month. My friend works away and is home infrequently.

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

It would be nice to still be breathing. I have lived as I do now for twenty years. I hope to live for longer.

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 ABI survivors with your specific kind of ABI.

Accept it as it develops. It takes time to reach the level you will live at. Accept that, and it will be easier.

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

It is easy to be angry at the condition you find yourself in. You were not supposed to get disabled in any way, and you probably think that it is horrifically unfair. That is completely true in every case, but it does not help you go on with living. To do that, you have to look at what you have been given, what you still have, and what you can do. Take that inventory slowly and carefully because it is important. When you know what you have to work with and what you can do, don’t try getting anything else. Just accept what you have and adapt to live at that level. When you have done that and you can live calmly at that level, you could try to do more, but not until you are calm with your disability. So many people spend all of their time trying to fight the un-fightable. They are constantly miserable because it does not seem fair. I know it isn’t. I lost nearly everything three months after I retired from the Marines. All my dreams, hopes, and expectations died along with some of my brain. I really do not need to make worse what I have left by being miserable about it. That is foolish. I have to go on living. I had, and still have, no alternative, so I must make the very best of what I have. You will enjoy a better standard of living if you do the same.


Thank you, William, 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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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