TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘brain injury survivor’

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life

Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life
by
Chelsea Rolph

presented by


Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(author – Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)

 

chelsea rolph

Chelsea Rolph – Survivor of Brain Injury

This has been one heck of a decade! When I think back to how it all began, I would have never seen myself where I am now.

I began this decade healing from a concussion and graduating high school. I chose to do a “Victory Lap” so I could have the time to figure out what I wanted to do with my future.

As the school year began in September 2010, I returned back to varsity sports to continue to do what I loved … play.

Unfortunately, as most people know, it did not end well. I was knocked out during a basketball game in the last 4 seconds, leaving me with the concussion of all concussions.

I remember sitting in accounting, music, and business classes and crying to myself because it hurt too much to read the text. I also remember going home and breaking down because I no longer had the sports to turn to as a stress relief. I was frustrated with the amount of exhaustion I was feeling at the end of the day.

I was sent to a concussion rehab clinic for a few months, and this was the first time I felt like I finally had some answers. At the beginning of this decade, my parents would take me to the hospital every week to get tests done on both my heart and my brain. These tests concluded with doctors suggesting that my “new normal” was going to be a long transition with no end in sight.

Although all of my friends were applying to colleges and universities, I was told that I should not consider post-secondary education at that time. Despite this, I still applied to colleges and universities to keep my options open.

After being accepted to all of my options, I decided to go to McMaster University (MAC), so I had family support close by if I were really struggling. After accepting MAC, I met with a counselor to discuss what the rehab clinic had said I should have for accommodations.

After the guidance counselor at MAC agreed to all of the accommodations that were recommended for me, she suggested that I should take two classes a semester and take ten years to complete my undergrad.

Fast-forward to the end of the decade – most people know that not only did I choose to take a full course load, but I also chose to try to accomplish it without the accommodations recommended. The counselors did not believe I would be successful even with the accommodations and tried to talk me out of it. Not only did I take a full course load, but I was also working close to full-time hours at the same time.

Get-a-Bachelors-Degree-Online-Step-15Four years later, in May of 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In August 2015, I was hired in my first full-time job! After three months, I received a promotion, and then, ten months after that, I was promoted again to the position I am currently in. Over the last 4.5 years, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with so many amazing students and colleagues who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Unfortunately, I have chosen to leave my current position to pursue other opportunities.

As this decade ends, a new and exciting chapter begins! Today I find myself writing this from the comforts of my home as I begin my journey as an entrepreneur. My business partner and I are so excited to have the opportunity to quit our full-time jobs to focus on running our own business.

Along with reminiscing about my professional career over the past ten years, I also think about the personal experiences. Many have been positive, but I also had my share of sorrows. I have lost so many amazing people in my life, including both of my grandmas, my uncle, and a friend. I have lost a pet and nearly lost two more. I struggled with immigration. And, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I am very happy to say that I have also had the opportunity to see my mom defeat cancer and ring that victory bell. I am also happy that Rod and I no longer need to worry about immigration or travelling out of the country together for events. I also have a long list of amazing other things that have happened over the past decade: graduating, falling in love, buying a car, travelling to many cities and countries (for example, Las Vegas, New York City, Ecuador, the east coast of Canada, mainland Europe, and the UK), attending a conference in the United Nations headquarters, fundraising around $150,000 for both OIPlocal and global organizations, making so many amazing new friends, experiencing weddings, getting over my fear of babies, having nieces and nephews, getting a kitten, and going back to school to study French as a second language.

Here’s to hoping that the next decade will bring less of the sadness and more of the happiness and excitement that I have been lucky enough/privileged to experience.

Cheers to 2020!

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury
Alisa Marie

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

Alisa Marie

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

New Hampshire, USA

Truecolorsartist@gmail.com

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

October and November 2012

But, my very first concussion was in 1998. I was 30 years old. 

4. How did your brain injury occur?

tenor

The event in October 2012 was a fall caused by vertigo. In November 2012, I was cleaning under the pool deck. I went to get up and banged my head, causing me to be knocked out. I don’t remember what happened in 1998.

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

My boyfriend at the time found me unconscious under the pool deck.

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

I was taken to the Emergency Room, and I had rehab. I had to live with my parents for a while because they had to take care of me. I thought it was the year 2005 and my children were 5 and 10, but it was 2012 and they were 13 and 18. Also, I was going through a divorce, and my house was in foreclosure.

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

No

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)?

I had occupational and physical therapies as an outpatient and speech therapy both as an outpatient and as an inpatient.

How long were you in rehab?

I’m not sure because I’ve been in a lot of rehabs for head injuries. I was in three in 2015. My last rehab was in 2018, as my last concussion was in 2017. (I slipped on clothes on my floor because my perception was off.)

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

I struggle with many issues: balance, perception, personality, cognitive and executive functioning, memory, staying on task, aphasia, and impulsivity. It’s hard to make decisions and hard to be organized. I lost my independence. I lost my license for cognitive reasons back in December 2013.

Alisa Marie – Brain Injury Survivor

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

I’m an artist, designer, and poet. I am also trying to have my own business, Alisa’s True Colors. I began melting Crayola crayons in 2013 when Emily, my younger daughter, showed me how to apply wax to canvas using a blow dryer and a fork.

This was helping me as art therapy, where I could take physical and emotional pain and turn it into something colorful and bright. It was all I could focus on for a while. I didn’t know it then, but the seeds of Alisa’s True Colors were being planted. It helped me learn and adapt to the new me. I was creating my ability out of my disability.

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

Freedom and independence

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

I have come to realize that we hold within ourselves the power to heal. I have learned we don’t need a superhero to save us; we need to be our own hero in our own story. We need not to be afraid to chase after our dreams. And, if one door closes keep looking for the open ones.

I am learning happiness, calmness, and patience. I am accepting the new me, and, with my limitations, I am finding new ways to adapt. I have let go of the past and my old ways of thinking of what I believed of myself.

I have gained wisdom, knowledge, self-confidence, and the courage to look fear in the eyes – to truly know that being a survivor means being a fighter and not to give up no matter how dark my world gets.

I want to awaken others to their true colors by helping them accept their new life after trauma – to help them heal through art.

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

I dislike that I can’t stay on task or stay organized. I am forgetful, and I talk strange sometimes because I can’t remember the right word. I regret the loss of close family and friends who don’t understand.

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

Art and poetry 🙂 

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

For a few years, I lost what empathy was. My emotions were all over the place. I had a lot of anger and resentment in me. You find your own “True Colors” with a brain injury or from a trauma where it can get very confusing when you are trying to find your true self. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that sometimes you see the “True Colors” of your loved ones. We can look fine on the outside, but no one can see our brain on the inside all messed up trying to find a new way of living.

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

Yes. I have social anxiety at times, and I’m embarrassed when I talk and can’t find the words or when I can’t stay on task.

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

Me, myself. and I

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

I hope to travel around the world with my story and products and to teach my art. And, I hope to also donate money to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and other non-profit organizations.

I had to lose everything from suffering traumatic brain injuries due to repeated head injuries. I also had to deal with being diagnosed with viral meningitis in March 2015. Then in the year 2016, I lost my home, and all my personal belongings were discarded because of toxic environmental illnesses. I’m surviving by designing.

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.

This isn’t the ending to your life; it’s a new beginning. We all are creative. So, you just must keep trying new things, whether it be writing, poetry, drawing, photography, ceramics, embroidery, knitting, singing, or dancing. There is so much you can do – you are not your disability or a diagnosis a doctor gives you. I never gave up hope. I kept learning and reaching for my dreams when all I saw was darkness

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

Every struggle, every life-lesson is a gift because it makes you go deeper into yourself to find your “true colors” – your inner strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.

I want others to see and know that there is beauty in the darkness, that there is beauty in your pain and tears and heartache. There is beauty in the ashes. There is a rainbow after the storm. I hope people see my True Colors as a message of hope and faith and love, to give them the hope and courage and strength to show it is possible to overcome the battles we endure in this lifetime.

I never went to art school. I have no degree – just education from repeated concussions and my life-situations. My art saved my life and is continuing to do. It helps with built-up resentment, emotions, grief, and physical pain. Art teaches that you are a new person after your injury, and it teaches how to adapt to your new life. Art is my therapy. I take the physical and emotional pain I feel and I turn it into something beautiful and bright on the canvas.

3 Alisa Marie

Never give up!

To learn more about Alisa Marie, check out her website at Alisa’s True Colors.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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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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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.

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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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.

NOTE 2:

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.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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