Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jason Westhoff
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)
Phoenix, Arizona, USA email@example.com
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
March 11, 2012 Age 29
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was assaulted after leaving a club in Peoria, Illinois.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I realized I had a problem around eight months after the assault. I was in the Emergency Room and honestly realized I had lost all control. I had no clue how to go about regaining that control and made many wrong attempts over the next five years.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was knocked unconscious from the assault, and I was transported by ambulance to the hospital. The medical staff noticed the swelling, and, as a result, I was taken into emergency surgery. I had a craniotomy to relieve the swelling.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
After the emergency surgery, I was placed in an induced coma for approximately three weeks. I had another two surgeries during this time.
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 approximately three weeks of inpatient rehab before I was discharged. Afterwards, I continued physical, occupational, and speech therapies on a twice-weekly basis for approximately three months before I returned to school. At this time, I knew something was different, but I did not understand the battles I was fighting.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
After my TBI (traumatic brain injury), I was a completely different person. It took me years to realize the extent of my injury. My balance and normal body functions were the easiest to check and the most obvious. The major changes, which I am still trying to adjust to daily, are my personality and perception during normal life-events. My injury has placed strains on every previous relationship I had and the new ones I have developed. I honestly feel like two completely different people. I still have the same general personality, but my ability to adjust to unplanned change is the ability most affected. I have a problem with the skill of adjusting in the moment.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life has been extreme on both sides. It seems as if everything is extremely better or extremely worse on a rotating cycle. I am thankful on the whole because of the strength I have found to deal will all issues that have occurred. I am still working every day on my recovery, but I know, through this fire, I will become a better human being.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss my intellect and communication skills. It always feels as if I’m grasping for, but never quite reaching my projected goal.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy the communities I never knew about and the social interaction within the “brain-injury-support community”. There is a bond, which I have never quite been able to explain to others, of just knowing how something feels.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Time. It has been extremely difficult to adjust and accept my brain injury.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. It has been hard to be a successful father without the resources desired. Relationships in general have been a struggle because I don’t completely understand myself at all times. There is a constant unbalance in my life since the injury.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I had struggles – extreme struggles – in my social life, primarily involving drugs and alcohol. Alcohol was a bigger problem than the drugs. I often get so stressed and/or anxious I want to drown my thoughts away. It is very easy just to give up at times.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My parents have been my main caregivers, my mother in particular for emotional support, which is where it has been needed most. It took me 2-3 years to start to comprehend the stress involved in being a caregiver, until I really tried to manage Jayla (my daughter) by myself for an extended period of time.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My plans as of this moment are just trying to get my medications set and lowering my mental-fatigue issues. My focus is primarily on understanding my new mind and body so I then have the ability to make the proper adjustments. I love it here in Arizona! By the time I do my radio interview with Donna, I will have been in Arizona for fourteen months. I am currently looking forward to doing more work in the brain-injury community.
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.
Listen! Listen! Listen! I am one of the worst listeners. I have proved this point time and time again. I would suggest to swallow your pride and let people help you.
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 to give to any survivor is to never stop growing. Don’t become content with your situation. We can always improve!
If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI SPEAK OUT! Survivors Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.
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