Survivors SPEAK OUT! Paul McMahon
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)
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I was 28 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
At my birthday party, I fell 3 1/2 floors – off a building onto concrete.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
The moment it occurred
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I had surgeries for my physical condition. I have had no assistance with brain injury.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Yes. Three days, I believe
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?
Yes. I was in rehabilitation during my first three months at hospital and then a required three months following my exit. It was six months in total, but I now realise that it should have gone for longer. Part of that was my own fault – by passing the neurological test at the minimum six-month recovery point (Australia). I should have waited longer – to realise the challenges I could face. I needed more time to think of how my second stage of recovery would take place.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have problems with short-term memory and especially with attention to detail. Attention to detail in quick moments was a great challenge. I work in communications/policy, and so this is certainly a working issue that can’t be avoided. Also, my aura was different, and I could not connect with people as I once did. This emotional issue lasted about three years.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
It’s different. I have learnt so much. I have fewer friends, but I knew my intelligence was not taken by the accident. I started a Master’s degree and wrote my book. I am editing now.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss people’s lack of judgement about me. People assume they are helping by telling you what is wrong with you. That is 100%, and it is an instigator for suicide, as you feel no one understands, but tells you how to react. The loss of their lack of judgement is my deepest pain from the brain injury.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I have learned to be more compassionate. I have a deeper understanding of mental health and realise that I couldn’t understand depression or other illnesses in the same way previously.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike the way people handle my judgement – when you assume you are right, but others judge a situation with no thought of your opinion. It hurts and is damaging psychologically and, at times, in your economic life at work.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Yes – writing. My book was my therapy. It is safe to say that, if I sell zero books and have zero readers, I will still be happy, as I believe writing helped me heal faster.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. Many friends just ignore me or keep away to feel self-security. I guess the upcoming book tells the rest of the story.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes! I felt very anti-social. While I would attempt a little, I needed people to be more open and accepting of my changes. I felt this was a lonely journey, so I took that avenue – different from my old caring self.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I don’t have one.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I will finish the book, earn a Master’s Degree, and be as different as I always am. I’ll be economically safe and live the full experiences of this world.
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.
From the beginning, I felt my brain injury was temporary, so all I can say is to KEEP GOING and DON’T GIVE UP! I learnt that when the accident occurred. I would also say to FOLLOW YOUR PASSIONS. Don’t do only what a therapist tells you – you know you better than any external you-decider.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Remember that your passion to follow your dreams may have been limited due to the accident. That does not mean STOP! It means you continue to train your brain in what you love and hold dear. Listen to you!
You can learn more about Paul McMahon on his Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/paulmcmahonauthor/).
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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