TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . Sheria Westhoff-Eubanks

Caregivers  SPEAK OUT!  Sheria Westhoff-Eubanks

(caregiver for son, Jason Westhoff)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Sheria Westhoff Eubanks – Caregiver for son, Jason Westhoff

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

Sheria Westhoff-Eubanks

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

Hendersonville, Tennessee, USA

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

The brain-injury survivor is my oldest son, Jason. He was 30 years old. He was attacked from behind.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

On Sunday, March 11, 2012, I began to care for my son in a new way. Yes, with my husband and my ex-husband. Now we are his support. I was 51years old when my son was injured.

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

No, we were not. Jason’s youngest sibling was in his first year of college.

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

Sheria Westhoff Eubanks – Caregiver for son, Jason Westhoff with Darryl Eubanks

My husband and I were both employed at the time. We both took a leave-of-absence and temporarily relocated to Illinois.

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

We were so incredibly blessed with help and support from family, friends, church members, strangers, and the wonderful doctors and staff of St. Francis Hospital. There was housing for the families of patients and transportation to and from the hospital. I think we used it for almost three months. When it was time for my son’s discharge from rehab, a good friend of my son provided us with a home to stay in – rent free. We resided there for five months. Friends and family donated money, food, gift cards, and groceries. Some spent nights with Jason, so that my husband and I could both sleep. Youth Build provided my son with money for clothing. He had lost so much weight.

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

Jason Westhoff – Survivor of Brain Injury

Our support of Jason started immediately. He’s our child. We needed to be with him, and he needed us with him. He lived in Illinois, and my husband and I live in Tennessee.

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

Jason was not in a coma when we arrived in Illinois, but in a few hours, he was. (A coma was induced for medical reasons.) While Jason was in the coma, we talked to him, touched him, loved on him, and played music. My husband read the Bible to him, and we prayed, cried, and believed God would heal him.

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Yes, Jason had inpatient and outpatient therapies. He had speech, physical, and occupational therapies. I think he had four weeks of inpatient therapies and about twelve weeks of outpatient therapies. We remained with him every step of the way – mainly my husband or I and his youngest sister.

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

Jason needed our care for everything but feeding himself and bathing. However, my husband had to be near the bathroom due to Jason’s issues with mobility and stability.

Jason Westhoff – Brain Injury Survivor with Parents, Sheria & Darryl Eubanks

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

Since I’ve been a caregiver, I treasure life more. I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety. I’ve had to learn my new Jason. I really can’t characterize life as “better” or “worse.” It’s just our new normal.

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

It’s not what I miss for me. It’s what I miss for my son. I miss his stamina – both physically and mentally.

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

I enjoy Jason’s heart for people, his heart to help.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

I don’t like the constant restarts.

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

Yes. The Fathers and Sisters at St. Francis helped me remain focused on one moment at a time. This is what it is!

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

Yes, it has. We talk to Jason a lot more. We’ve had good times and bad times. I believe that our family is stronger post injury. I don’t take tomorrow for granted.

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

Initially my social life was altered, but not now.

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

Ten years from now, I will be retired and hiking in Arizona.

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

I would strongly advise other caregivers of brain-injury survivors to get connected with a support-group. You must take care of yourself to be able to support and care for your loved one. Take people up on their offers of help.

 

(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Tatiana Puckett

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Tatiana Puckett

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Puckett, Tatiana Caregiver 1 0713151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Tatiana Puckett

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

Palmdale, California, USA     tatianamdiaz@yahoo.com

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

The traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor is my spouse (Joshua). He was 31. Josh was assaulted late at night outside our apartment building.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

I began care on April 10, 2013, the day Josh left the hospital. I have always been his main caregiver. I was 30.Puckett, Tatiana & Josh 071315

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

I was caring for my two sons, and I was pregnant with the third.

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

I was employed but gradually had to go from full-time to part-time, which got me laid off from that position. My mother-in-law moved in with us, which allowed me to continue working and accept a new job.

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

My mother-in-law takes care of the boys almost around the clock since the date of the injury to now.

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

I began care as soon as Josh got home from the hospital.

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

No. Josh wasn’t in a coma, but he was given a lot of sedatives. Josh is very rebellious and antsy. You can’t tell him to sit still because, even prior to his TBI, he wouldn’t. Josh constantly tried to flee the hospital and the rehab center. I even had to go to the hospital one night in the middle of the night to convince him to stay. I drove between home and the hospital a lot, especially since the hospital didn’t allow children under 12 to visit. My mother-in-law and I had to take turns.

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Yes, Josh had inpatient rehab – occupational, speech, and physical therapies. It should have been a lot longer, but Josh managed to talk his way out of it in two days time. When Josh had rehab, I was right there with him.

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

I try to keep Josh calm, which can be difficult. It changes daily and can get really frustrating, but I do my best to keep aggression at bay.

Puckett, Tatiana & Josh 2 07131512. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

It’s difficult. I feel guilty because I feel torn between work, the kids, and Josh. Josh requires a lot of my time. I feel like my kids are missing out on time with me because, when I’m not at work, I’m with Josh. And, sometimes when Josh needs me, I can’t help him because I need to spend time with my boys.

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

I miss being able to depend on my husband for everyday things. I have to parent with my mother-in-law instead of with my husband, which isn’t bad, but it’s not ideal. Josh can’t be around the kids too long because they overwhelm him. It’s hard.

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

I like watching Josh discover new aspects of his creativity. He has a newfound excitement for writing and painting, both of which have bloomed since his TBI.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

I find Josh’s new personality to be overwhelming at times. He wants to share every poem, every drawing, and every thought with me, even when I just want a quiet moment.

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

Time. As time goes on, it gets easier, but some days are still really hard.

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

Like I mentioned above for question 12, I feel stretched in every direction. I did before as a working mom, but even more so now. I feel like, in a day, I end up with maybe two minutes to myself, but, once I get those minutes of silence, Josh needs me to listen to a song, a poem, etc. I’m happy for him, but, between work, handling home finances, kids, and him, it’s so tiring.

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

A little. I mean, maybe Josh and I go out a bit more. With his mom home, we get to go to open mics, so Josh can play music and read his poetry.

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

I’d like to say that we will own a home in ten years. We all need space, so this two-bedroom apartment isn’t cutting it.

Puckett, Tatiana Caregiver 2 07131520. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add? 

Give yourself and your TBIer some space. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If you feel an argument starting, stay calm and, as calmly as possible, explain that you should both step away before emotions escalate out of control. Remember not to take things personally. It’s not you your survivor’s mad at. It’s a frustrating world, and it’s scary, and your survivor’s lashing out. Just keep calm and step away.

 

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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TBI Tales . . . A Letter to Attackers Jasmine Oldham

To My Husband’s Attackers – One Year Later

by

Jasmine Oldham

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Oldham, Jasmine Caregiver 071115You’ve been on my mind lately. Frankly, you’ve been on my mind most of this year. Do you realize today marks a year since you attacked my husband while he was walking in Toronto? Doesn’t it seem odd that your actions almost ended my husband’s life, and you haven’t even seen it?

I wonder about you. I can’t help it. When we’re in the city for appointments (don’t you know that all the brain-injury specialists are in the same city in which this happened), I watch the eyes of the men we meet. I wait to see if they recognize my husband – if they are seeing the ghost of the man whom they thought they murdered a year ago. I don’t know that I’ll ever stop being curious or watching for you. It just makes sense that we will meet; the police assigned to this case are kind and smart, and the world isn’t as big as you might think it is.

My husband and his friends were out for his bachelor party. I know they told you. I know you knew I was waiting at home for the love of my life. And yet, my husband and his friends barely talk now. Traumatic brain injuries have a way of breaking up friendships. Our first year of marriage was spent in doctors’ offices and rehab clinics, instead of having vacations and adventures.Oldham, Jasmine 071115

I wonder at your group dynamics now, and I am curious if they parallel ours. Have you pushed each other away because you can’t stand seeing your friends as the monsters from that night? Or, do you hold each other close – keeping tabs on each other to make sure the secret stays secret? Which of you will be the next with a boot to the head for saying the wrong thing? And that girl. Does she worry each time you all go out that you’ll be arrested? Or beaten? I wonder if she struggles with panic attacks each time a phone rings? I did. For months, I relived the voicemails detailing your attack on my husband.

When we meet, I hope you tell me you’ve counted the days. I hope that night changed each of your lives and convinced you to spend every day paying penance for the life you hurt. I hope the aftermath – living with that secret – haOldham, Jasmine 2 071115s propelled you from the boys you were a year ago to men. I hope you’ve done something stunning with your life.

Of course, I hope you approach the police and confess. I’m not going to lie and say that’s not a wish. But, even on my most optimistic days, I can’t see any of you being strong enough to step up and accept the consequences. Nor, can I imagine any of you with enough compassion to want to put us at ease and offer us closure. (If you want to prove me wrong, by all means contact the police at the 52nd Division – http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/d52/).

At the very least, let this monumental, awful thing that rocked our world rock yours too. Don’t be so callous and immature not to realize the gravity of what happened that night. You stole the life we were planning on. Oldham, Jasmine 3 071115Let that change you. Become better. Make it up to the world. Instead of letting your actions of that night define you, choose to make it the catalyst for a good life. I hope one day you can look back and say that that night you realized how powerful you were and you chose to invest your life in helping others instead. And, I hope when we meet, you can tell us that we’ve been on your mind too.

(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.

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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