TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘brain injury survivor’

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.

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

 

Excerpt 3

Chapter 11

Hearths

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

figurski-1

David Figurski, PhD – a few months before brain injury

… The waiting room was huge. There were couches in clusters—some small, some large, each with a table in the middle. The groupings reminded me of The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel that I read many years ago. Auel wrote about prehistoric man, the Clan people. She told how each family gathered around its hearth at night. The hearth was a private place. It was illustration-of-a-caveman-family-dancing-around-a-bonfire_158190224-1considered impolite to peer into someone else’s hearth. That’s the way it felt in the waiting room too …

 

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jim Ledgewood

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Jim Ledgewood

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Jim Ledgewood 1

 

 

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

Jim Ledgewood

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

Phoenix, Arizona, USA

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

January 27, 2006      Age 27

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was shot with a 9 mm on the left side of my face.14 Jim Ledgewood 071518 f0282624

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

I did not realize I had a brain injury until seven years after being shot. My company brought to my attention that something was off.

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

I had multiple surgeries. They had to put twenty-five coils around my carotid artery to stop the bleeding around my brain.

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

I believe they induced a coma in me. Not sure, though.

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 inpatient rehab (cognitive, physical, and speech therapies) at St. Joseph’s Hospital/Barrow Neurological Institute and at Mesa General Hospital; outpatient rehab (cognitive, physical, occupational, and speech therapies), for one week at Mesa General and for one week at Chandler Regional Medical Center.

18 Jim Ledgewood 071518 f293356169. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

The frontal and temporal lobes were damaged, so all the things that those two parts of the brain control were affected in a negative way.

Donna’s note: The cerebral cortex can be divided into four sections, which are known as lobes: frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal.

Following a frontal lobe injury, an individual’s abilities to make good choices and recognize consequences are often impaired. Damage can cause increased irritability, which may include a change in mood and an inability to regulate behavior, such as anticipation, goal selection, planning, initiation, sequencing, detecting errors, and initiating novel responses.

The temporal lobe is located behind the ears and extends to both sides of the brain. It is involved in hearing and holds the primary auditory cortex, which receives sensory information from the ears. Secondary areas process the information into speech and words. Left temporal damage can disturb recognition of words and impair memory for verbal material.

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

There are certain things that I was able to do before my TBI (traumatic brain injury) that I cannot do now. This has affected all aspects of my life.

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

I miss the control I had over my life.Control

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

I like helping others and being able to share my story. I take pleasure in doing something that only 5% of 5% of the population is able to do.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?Jim Ledgewood 2

Everything

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

Learning and understanding my TBI and what it is doing have helped.

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

I have to move at a different pace than others. A lot of people around me have a hard time because they don’t know or understand why I do what I do or why I express myself the way I do. Once people learn that I have a TBI, the part of my brain that was injured, and what that part of the brain controls, they get more comfortable. But, I believe they are still not 100% comfortable.

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

I was not in a relationship before my injury. I have found it hard to get into a relationship since my injury.

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

I am my own caregiver.

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

I hope to have that relationship/family that I thought I would have by now. I don’t try to look that far into the future.

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.

6iyo54M5TI would say that you should learn as much as you can about your TBI. That way you know that problem. Then you can try to come up with solutions to better your life.

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 not what happens – it is what you do about it that defines the person you are.

N-E-V-E-R  G-I-V-E  U-P!

 

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company. Here are pre-order links for Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

 

Excerpt 1

Chapter 1

Everything’s Blurry

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

… On January 13, 2005, David’s morning started much the same as it did each day. The only difference was that he delayed his rising by one hour. He planned to work at home that morning, preparing a talk about his

figurski-1

David Figurski, PhD – a few months before brain injury

research that he expected to deliver at Wesleyan University in Connecticut on Saturday. A long-time professor-friend was retiring from the faculty, and David was a featured speaker at his retirement symposium. It was an invitation and an honor that may have saved David’s life. …

 

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Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Resources . . . . . . . . The Crash Reel – Kevin Pearce

Brain Injury Resources………The Crash Reel – Kevin Pearce

(originally published March 30, 2014)

th-8

 

 

The Crash Reel” is a gripping 4+ star movie about Kevin Pearce, a champion snowboarder who was expected to win a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Kevin Pearce - after TBI

Then his dream was interrupted by a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI.)

There is amazing footage of Kevin before and after his crash.  The incredible love and concern of his family is readily apparent.  Kevin’s dream is different now, and he has found a useful and fulfilling life.

The movie/documentary will give you an inside look at one young man’s battle with TBI. I highly recommend the movie.

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Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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New NEWS: Countdown to Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

Can’t wait for the release of my book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

 

04.29.18

184 days to the release of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

4,440 hours to the release of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

266,400 minutes to the release of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

15,984,000 seconds to the release of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

But–WHO’S Counting?

Me! Me! Me! I am!

Check out my new website:  donnafigurski.com

 

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . Heather Sivori Floyd . . . Caregiver for her son, TJ

 

 

Caregivers SPEAK OUT!

Heather Sivori Floyd (caregiver for her son, TJ)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Heather Sivori Floyd – caregiver mom to her son, TJ

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

Heather Sivori Floyd

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

Oldham County, Kentucky, USA

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you?

He (TJ) is my son.

How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury?

TJ was 7 years old.

11 TJ Floyd

TJ – Brain Injury Survivor – bicycle accident

What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

TJ was riding his bicycle when he wrecked into the back of his brother. He flipped over the handle bars and hit his head on the concrete. He went to “sleep” and never woke up until days after his emergency open brain surgery.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor?

April 21, 2010

Were you the main caregiver?

Yes

Are you now?

Yes

How old were you when you began care?

Age stinks. I’d rather not discuss it. LOL!

TJ and Mom Heather Sivori Floyd

TJ – Brain Injury Survivor & his Mom, Heather Sivori Floyd

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

Yes – my three other children. I was also pregnant at the time.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury?

Yes

If so, were you able to continue working?

Yes – part time from home.

7. Did you have any help? Mother-in-Law

My mother-in-law moved in to help with my other children so I could care full-time for TJ with his therapy and doctors.

If so, what kind and for how long?

Well, she is still here.

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

Immediately

9. Was your survivor in a coma?

I’m not sure of the medical term, but he was unresponsive until several days after his brain surgery.

If so, what did you do during that time?

I slept beside TJ in a chair. I was three months pregnant and heartbroken at the fear of the unknown. What was it they called it? . . . Ah yes, “the new normal.” I was trying to figure out what that meant. You don’t actually “get it” until years later.

14 TJ & Mom Heather Sivori Floyd copy

TJ – Brain Injury Survivor & Mom, Heather Sivori Floyd

10. Did your survivor have rehab?

Yes

If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?

Physical, occupational, and speech therapies; also, hippotherapy (the use of horseback riding to improve balance, coordination, and strength)

How long was the rehab?

TJ still goes to therapy.

Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

With TJ

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

brain-injury-imageEverything. TJ’s brain bleed damaged the whole left side of his brain and parts of the right. He was left with severe impairments, specifically in speech, language, memory, and cognitive function. He has safety issues. Because of attention, safety, and balance issues, he has trouble walking without hands-on help constantly. He also has memory problems, speech problems, vision problems, physical issues from having hemiparesis (weakness on one side), and a lot more.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver?

Things that mattered to me prior his accident are non-issues to me now. I often times feel I can talk with doctors and therapists better than I can with most people my age. It can be lonely, difficult, and frustrating at times to find common connectors in my personal relationships with friends and family. Some weeks are packed full of appointments. I’m drinking so much coffee I think my system will crash. Just this past week, I knocked out four appointments in one day. The most I’ve done in one day has been seven.

Is it better?

I would say yes – my life is better. Even though this is the most challenging task of my life, my son is innocent, happy, and laughs a lot. I believe having the privilege to care for my child, who is special needs, has been the most rewarding love one can experience. The impact special-needs children make are life-long. You learn so much through them in how they view the world.

Is it worse?

No parent ever wants this for his or her child. That being said, my life is better because of the profound true joy my son has brought me. The worst part, I would say, is having struggles that are hard to overcome. Watching him struggle is hard. I do whatever I can to help him when this happens. Also, the stress of future planning is scary and overwhelming.

18 TJ & Mom Heather Sivori Floyd copy

Heather Sivori Floyd & her son, TJ

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

Our conversations. Most of the time, our conversations now are basic – food, eat, play a game, etc. I miss those conversations with my child that went beyond basic needs.

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

Oh gosh, a child like TJ changes you in a profound way. The love you have in your heart for your child and others like him or her is something that is hard to put into words. I want to protect all of them forever. The world is full of evil people who would take advantage. I also enjoy trying to help others – to make it easier for the family who comes after us. There will always be another family. I’ve also learned to let the little things slide because, at the end of the day, they are just that – little.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

Everything. It’s unrelenting and nasty. It takes a lot and rarely gives anything back.

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

Yes – TJ is happy. It is hard to justify my being sad or my crying all the time when he is happy. He lives in the now – not for tomorrow or the day before.

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

1-divided-path-tracie-kiernanYes – especially my personal friendships and my relationships with family. I think we are on different paths in life now. While they talk of work and social events, I am constantly thinking What can we do to make it better for TJ and others going through this? My closest friends are now the caregivers and survivors I’ve met locally. We work together locally to make a positive change for the brain-injury community. I also work with an amazing team of ladies who help me run two support-groups for survivors and caregivers. I started my first one seven years ago. I was scared after TJ’s brain injury, and I needed to know I was not alone. I needed hope. The groups grew to over 30,000, and the rest is history. The friendship we have is unbreakable. Shout-out to my amazing admins and friends: Melissa, Shauna, Margie, Mary, Michael, Eddie, and Alex. Love you all! We’ve met many who have inspired us in this journey.

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

Um, what social life?! Seriously, I have no social life. It’s too hard to connect with others.

19. What are your plans?

My #1 plan is finding the best long-term situation for TJ that will ensure the best care he can have when we can no longer do so. Personally, I also plan to continue making a difference locally. We have several projects we are working on, and I have some more ideas to help. I ALWAYS have an idea. I’m always thinking big. Nothing brings me greater joy than helping others. It is important for families to know they aren’t alone and that people care enough to try and make it better. I try to do my part because of my son and the many we have met.

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

I hope to still be laughing and loving the small joys in life with TJ. Hopefully, we will have made a big impact locally and beyond for the brain-injury community.

20. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors? Never Give Up

Never give up. Let the small things go. Love deeply, and give your all. If you don’t, one day you will wish you had. Be the voice for your loved one. Never let “no” be an obstacle; there is always a way. If the door closes, kick it open. Most importantly, hang on when the days are hard and you feel you cannot go on. You can, and your survivor needs you to. Connect with other caregivers so you don’t feel like you walk this path alone – because you don’t. There are many who walk it with you daily

Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

I think I’ve said what’s important for caregivers to know.

 

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(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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