TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Brain Injury’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Rodney Smith

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Rodney Smith

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1 Rodney Smith

Rodney Smith – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Rodney Smith

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

Ravenswood, West Virginia, USA

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

It happened on May 14, 2008. I was 52.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

It was just another day – Wednesday, May 14th, 2008. Really, it was just another day – in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month, and almost in the middle of the year. It was beautiful weather, a little cool maybe, but a great morning for a quiet ride to work. Little did anyone know it could have been my last

I showered, shaved, and got ready for a day at the office like I had for the last eight years. I got on my motorcycle like I did most days for the last four years. I chose the Yamaha TW200 this day for reasons I will probably never remember. (I actually hope I never do.) I rode to the end of our dirt road and then headed west on Georgia 16. My wife left about the same time or shortly after, but she headed east on Georgia 16.th

About 10 miles down the road, my wife saw a Georgia State Police car speeding west with its blue lights flashing. Immediately, she felt sick in the pit of her stomach. She resisted a strong urge to turn around and follow the trooper. She said to herself that she had no way of knowing where the police car was going, but she felt deep in her heart that she was sure what had happened. The only question was “How bad was it?” My wife kept driving, and less than a mile down the road, a Spalding County sheriff’s car in front of her flipped on its blue lights, pulled a U-turn, and flew past her, going west on 16. The sickness in my wife’s stomach got worse, but once again, she fought the urge to turn around. She didn’t know anything for sure, and cops do that all the time, so she kept driving.

Shortly after, my wife’s cell phone rang. She looked at the number, and it all but confirmed her worst fears. It was from my cell phone, and I never used my phone while I was riding. Since I had left the house less than 20 minutes earlier and since it is at least a 30-minute ride to my office, this couldn’t be good. Still she had hope that maybe I forgot something or just broke down and was calling to let her know. But, as soon as she heard the voice on the other end, she knew. A man’s voice confirmed what she suspected when he asked, “Do you know an older gentleman who rides a motorcycle?” All she could say was “How bad is it? Is he alive?”

He told her I was alive. My wife said she was on her way there, but he told her not to come out 16 because the whole road was blocked. He told her to head for downtown Atlanta because they were life-flighting me there. He didn’t know which hospital yet, but he would call and let her know as soon as he found out.

This all seemed to be happening in slow motion, but the next few hours were a blur. My wife doesn’t remember stopping to turn around, but she found herself headed back to the house to get things she knew she would need – like the phone numbers of family and my office. She was not a person who prayed much, but she took time to ask God to help and keep me alive if He could. My wife did not give much more thought to that prayer, but God apparently did.

The only thing resembling a clear memory between the Sunday before the accident and the first week of August is of a canyon I was looking into. I was about to step in or float in or something when I felt a beautiful and powerful presence surround me and pull me back from the edge. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew it was my wife, Bonnie, pulling me back from wherever I was headed.

I believe with all my heart that that happened when I was in the life-flight helicopter. The medical reports say they had to revive me twice while flying me to Atlanta. I feel that, during that time, God heard my wife’s simple and sincere prayer and sent her spirit to the edge of the Valley of the Shadow of Death to bring me back because He was not finished with me yet. He wasn’t finished with either one of us.

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

I didn’t fully realize anything for about two and a half months. On the second or third day I was in the hospital, my wife, Bonnie, knew something was not right. She told the kids, “He’s not in there.”

2 Rodney Smith ICU

Rodney Smith – Brain Injury Survivor

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

I was treated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Grady is a very good trauma center. It’s staffed with Emory University doctors. They did a great job with my broken jaw and broken wrist, fixing those with titanium plates and screws. They did a CT (computerized tomography) scan and found some bleeding on the brain. Since I could talk and tell them a birth date (actually, a wrong one), they didn’t refer me for any kind of rehab. Bonnie kept telling them that something was wrong. On the day of my discharge, they had an evaluation done and decided to refer us to a neurologist.

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

Maybe 36 hours

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)?

After working our way around the medical system for two and a half months, we finally got to a neurologist who at least knew she couldn’t effectively evaluate me. We were referred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta. This was the turning point in my recovery. Shepherd Center is one of the top ten rehabilitation hospitals in the country. They specialize in spinal cord and brain injury rehab.

3 Rodney in HospitalHow long were you in rehab?

I spent about three months in the Shepherd Pathways Day Program, which is their outpatient brain injury rehab. I had sessions three times a week in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

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

I have short-term and working memory problems. I lost most of my ability to multitask. I have problems with balance. Problem-solving takes much longer than it did pre accident. I have issues with dyslexia. I tend to cry more easily.

10. How has your life changed?

Is it better?

My life is better in that I appreciate things more and care more about things that really matter. I care less about things that don’t matter. My attention to detail is better when it comes to the one detail I can focus on (see how my life is worse).

Is it worse?

My life could be considered worse because I can only focus on one thing at a time. Because of this, people around me can’t depend on me the way they used to. But, there’s a flip side to that. When I work on a project, my single-mindedness allows me to focus on what I am doing and be more precise than before the injury. Those days, my mind was often on many things at the same time.

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

I miss being able to solve problems quickly.Decisions

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

I enjoy spending quality time with my wife, Bonnie, and my kids and grandkids. I also enjoy building things and working at my own pace.

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

I don’t like that it is still very difficult to make decisions. It takes me what seems like forever to weigh options and decide on anything. Bonnie makes a game of it, sometimes continuing to give me options. That’s frustrating, but amusing.

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

I accept it because I see that God has a plan, and I’m still part of it.

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

Yes. Bonnie and I are closer now. But, her life is more difficult because she doesn’t know what I will remember and what I won’t, so she has to remember everything just in case.

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

Not really. My social life is not much different, since I was kind of a loner and spent most of my time with family anyway.

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

Bonnie is my main caregiver and my angel. I know it is a very difficult task. I am very thankful every day for what she does.4 Rodney Smith Sideboard

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

I hope to be building furniture and fixing things for many years to come.

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.

One thing Bonnie and I have discovered is that, since my memory can’t be relied upon, I now use my camera phone and take pictures of everything I might need to refer to later.

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

There is hope and purpose after brain injury.

 

Thank you, Rodney for taking part in the SPEAK OUT! project

To learn more about Rodney Smith, visit his website, Hope After Traumatic Brain Injury

Take a few moments and pop over to Lash & Associates Publishing to read Rodney Smith’s article, “Brain Injury Adjustments: Self-Reinvention.”

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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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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

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David Smith – Brain Injury Survivor

David Smith (survivor) … Today’s Itty-Bitty Giant Step is going to be to just get out of bed and to stay up.

bed

 

 

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Bonni Villarreal – Caregiver for Husband

Bonni Villarreal (caregiver) … My husband had a stroke in 2012, so he has an acquired brain injury (ABI). It has been a long, hard road as is most of what you post about. But, I do have wonderful news to report. After almost five years of having a G-Tube (gastrostomy a332i0_185tube), Mike is now able to drink fluids! (He’s been eating for a long time, but we didn’t think he would ever get back the ability to swallow liquids.) So, DON’T EVER GIVE UP! It’s almost five years later, and Mike is proving doctors wrong every day. He is going for a swallow test, so the tube can come out for good … best present ever!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

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(Photos compliments of contributors.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

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

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Daniel Bellmore - Brain Injury Survivor

Daniel Bellmore – Brain Injury Survivor

Daniel Bellmore (survivor) … I graduated from grad school with my Master’s Degree in mental health counseling, specializing in trauma and addictions.mental-health

David Smith (survivor) … In the past week, I’ve been working for a guy I met in town. I have been cleaning out his basement, 16358690_1201798153189065_1370881325_nthe entire house, etc. Yesterday, I began painting a bedroom, and I plan to finish this morning. I went to a TBI (traumatic brain injury) workshop – an art-therapy group. I also went to a “celebrate-recovery” group – I’ve been trying to help a friend.

clip-art-painting-314011I have difficulty staying focused on these accomplishments and others, since I woke out of a coma eight months ago. I’m glad that I can do these things.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributor!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

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

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Smiling is Contagious . . . . . . Smile, Harry, Smile!

Smiling is Contagious – Smile, Harry, Smile!

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

harry-jordan-in-gym

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – in Gym

Recently I published Harry Jordan‘s “Itty-Bitty GIANT Step” and a great photo of a smiling Harry on my blog. Afterwards, we exchanged messages by Private Message on Facebook. I told him that I loved his smile. However, he told me that he rarely smiles and that his mother would be shocked to see this smiling photo of him.

Well, that was enough incentive for me to challenge Harry. I told him I would publish his smiling photos on my blog if he would send me five more. He did – including one of him AND his mom.

smile

 

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Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & his Mom

 

 

You can read our chat below.

Donna: I just love your smile.

Harry: I really don’t smile. My mom will be shocked.

Donna: Why will she be shocked?

Harry: ‘Cause I don’t smile.

Donna: Well, you SHOULD every minute. You smile with your eyes.

Harry: I don’t look at my pics – always mean – no real reason to smile.

Donna: Well, look at this pic, and maybe you can see a reason to smile.

Harry: I will try.

Donna: It made me smile, and it’s contagious. See how many people you can affect. Start with your mom.

Harry: If it can help ANYONE, I will smile.

harry-jordan-smiling

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – Smile, Harry, Smile

Donna: Well, it helped ME!!!!! Pick your mom up and hug her and give her a BIG smile. Then let me know what she said.

Harry: And for that I will smile.

Donna: See … it’s working! Send me five NEW photos of you smiling, and I will publish them. Challenge is on.

Harry: Ha! Ha! Ha! Dang, now THAT is a challenge.

Did you know that smiling really is contagious? How many times have you walked down the street or through a store and someone, a stranger, smiled at you. What did you do? Chances are you smiled right back. It’s almost an automatic reaction. Did you know that smiling is healthy for you? It is! It releases neurotransmitters, like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones are produced in the brain and can help to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Whoever thought that a smile could be your best medicine? Well, it’s certainly worth a try.

harry-jordan-and-friend

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Friend

So, as we so often hear, “Turn that frown upside down!” and see how much better you feel. Harry did! Just look at all the photos of his wonderful smile. He makes me smile, and I hope he does you, too.

harry-jordan-original-smile

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

(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

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the top right sidebar. (It’s nice to know there are readers out there.)

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Bonnie Nish

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Bonnie Nish

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

bonnie-nish-5

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

Bonnie Nish

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

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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

I had two: one in 2012 at age 55 and another in 2013 at age 56.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

For the first one – a child I worked with in a school was using a zip line, and, as he was coming off, he began to lose his balance. I put my head on his back to steady him, and his head came whipping back – the back of his head caught me just above the temple. For the second one, a basketball bounced off the rim and hit me in the same place that the first one did.boy-on-zipline

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

Immediately

basketball-clip-art-free-download6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

At first, I just went to a walk-in clinic, and they told me I should be better by Monday. (It was Friday.) About two weeks later, I couldn’t get two words out without stuttering, so I went to the Emergency Room. They did a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan and sent me to see a neurologist. That neurologist thought I didn’t have post-concussion syndrome, even though I was stuttering and couldn’t move my right finger from my nose to his finger. The Workmen’s Compensation neuropsychologist disagreed with this and thought I did have it.

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 outpatient therapy as designated by the Workmen’s Compensation Board.

How long were you in rehab?

Four months

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

I experience nausea, dizziness, light-sensitivity, loss of appetite, an inability to retain what I read, an inability to write, stuttering, a loss of words, impulsivity, anxiety, and an inability to follow multiple conversations at once. I have a problem with my balance. I lost twenty-five pounds. I have an over-stimulated sense of smell, an inability to play piano and remember what I knew, a loss of executive decision-making skills, a constant buzzing in my head, and concentration problems.

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

It’s mixed. I still have buzzing in my head all of the time, and it gets louder if I do too much. And, I still have some memory problems. But, I also appreciate my ability to think like never before. I have published two books since my concussions.

bonnie-nish-2

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

I miss not hearing buzzing and not feeling anxious.

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

I enjoy knowing when I can do things that I couldn’t do while I was in the middle of it all.

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

I dislike not being able to write or read. That is the scariest thing for me.

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

Yes. Time.

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

Yes. My children became my caregivers. That was hard for them, especially for my youngest daughter. It took some time for us to get past my being dependent on her.

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

Yes. I don’t go out as much as I used to. I still find it hard to be in large groups and crowds.

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

My youngest daughter was my main caregiver. Yes, I understand how hard and how demanding it was for her. And how scary.

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

I have returned to my academic work. I intend to finish my PhD and teach and write. I would like to get a few more books out. (I am currently working on two.) Also, I hope to live somewhere else in the world for a while.

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 advice is to let people around you know that one thing that might happen to you is that you might become very impulsive. It is best if you can get some help with this. Leave your cards at home and only take a certain amount of cash with you. Mention to your friends and family that if they see you buying something you would never normally buy, they might want to question this. I didn’t figure this out until I was in the concussion clinic and heard a few of the guys talking about how impulsive they were. For this reason, they kept only $20 in their pockets. This was after I bought a stationary bike when I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed it. I also bought five dresses and have worn only two.

bonnie-nish-1

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

This is a hard and difficult journey. You may feel as though you are a different person. You are in some ways. It takes time to grow into this new way of being. Have patience with yourself – the way you would for a dear friend.

 

 

 

To learn more about Bonnie Nish, please visit her website.

To order Bonnie’s book, click here.
 “Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline” 


 

(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.)

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

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . . Matthew Vickers (survivor)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Matthew Vickers (survivor)

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.

matthew-vickers-3

Matthew Vickers – Brain Injury Survivor

Matthew Vickers (survivor)

I was diagnosed with a severe diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury two years ago as the result of a motor-vehicle accident. The car flipped four times, and I was ejected from the vehicle. The result was that I was in a coma for a month, and it was thought that I would remain in a vegetative state. I awoke, and, when I was able, I began rehab, which I matthew-vickers-2continue to this day. I have completed speech and vision therapies, and I am continuing physical and occupational therapies. Cognitively, I am 100% there, but physically, not so much. Although I am not wheelchair-bound, I have lost the ability to walk from the accident. Through physical therapy, I have progressed to using a cane and a walker. I can walk with minimal assistance a good seventy feet.

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Matthew Vickers – Brain Injury Survivor

Going to therapy has been relearning life skills. With determination, I excel. It was thought that if I regained consciousness, I would be a vegetable. I’ve been told I’d never walk again. But, walk I do. Never accept defeat. Never quit.

Thank you Matthew Vickers for sharing your story.

(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.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Richard Schooping

Survivors SPEAK OUT!    Richard Schooping

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Richard Schooping - Brain Injury Survivor

Richard Schooping – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Richard Schooping

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

Orlando, Florida, USA     apebblethrown@gmail.com

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

I was 44.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

A mysterious brain infection from AIDS attacked my entire brain and spinal cord.

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

My functions in my mind and body began to slow down. Typing and talking slowed to zero over the period of a month. I watched it happen from a shattering mirror of identity.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?patient-in-hospital

I was put in the hospital on liquid experimental medications to slow the attack of the mysterious virus. Also, I was on oxygen therapies to raise my blood-oxygen level. Doctors had never seen anything like this. I was also informed I had aphasia.

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

No. I was awake and asleep intermittently for days.

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 was in a nursing home for three weeks of intense rehabilitative therapy. Then I had occupational therapy for as long as insurance would cover it – about three months.

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

Richard Schooping - Brain Injury Survivor

Richard Schooping – Brain Injury Survivor

I seemed to lose everything. I had no idea who I was during the infection. I lost my ability to swallow, my speech functions, and all motor functions. I atrophied so quickly over a few weeks that I became immobile and rail thin. Bladder control also became an issue, as well as balance and perceptions. But, I am blessed – most of everything has returned. I also worked incredibly hard to survive and shine for others.

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

My life is truly hard, but it’s also amazing. I am not able to work. I take care of my mother, which could not have happened without this stroke. My days are unpredictable – my energy can wane quickly without warning. Arthritis and neuropathy and HIV dementia fill my days, as well as domestic duties while my husband works. I am creative daily in some aspect. I add inspirations to Facebook. I am grateful. I know I am more than this body. I am an eternal spirit. I feel aware and know that I am more.

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

I miss writing music, freedom of body and mind, fluidity of speech, my handwriting, and self-reliance.

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

My compassion has deepened and expanded in my life in ways unimagined. I embrace and deepen into being a source of inspiration and hope for others. I enjoy volunteering; creating digital pieces of heART; having quality time for my sister, Laurie; and having time with my cat, Autumn. I also enjoy singing.

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

I dislike feeling caged in my body, not being able to do what I once could do effortlessly, and my speech and motor functions being so affected, but I have faith.

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

Several things have helped me: meditation, Qi Gong, chanting, forgiveness, singing, playing, and serving others.

Richard Schooping - Brain Injury Survivor

Richard Schooping – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Yes. I feel it confused and bewildered all of my friends. Many fell away, and I do not blame them. This is my journey. My marriage to my amazing husband is withstanding the strain this stroke has brought into our lives. My family is very supportive. We have all become stronger and more caring people.

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

Yes. My social life is only what I make happen now. It still takes effort to talk and think, but many new friends have opened their hearts to me and accept me as I AM.

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

My husband, Cal Kalaf, is my main caregiver. I do know what caregiving means. I understand in that I helped three previous husbands pass over from AIDS.

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

"From Suffering to Soaring" by Richard Schooping

“From Suffering to Soaring” by Richard Schooping

I will share my story of hope through my first book, “From Suffering to Soaring.” I will offer insights and strength to as many souls as possible. I plan to tour and to write more books. I will finish my second book, which shares both my and my husband’s perspectives of the stroke. I hope to write more albums as well. I want to make the most of my time while I am still here.

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.

Don’t judge the stroke or disease. Things happen. There are huge patterns at play. Respond with caring and self-love. Nutrition is important. We are what we eat. This is good advice for all of our senses.

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

Richard Schooping - Brain Injury Survivor

Richard Schooping – Brain Injury Survivor

Find a creative outlet.

Get out in nature more.

Simplify your life.

Honor the entire process.

When emotions rise and attempt to capsize you, become aware of your breath and breathe through them.

Emotions are only energy.

Energy is neutral.

Look into mindfulness meditation.

Keep the faith.

Don’t blame.

Do whatever calms you.

This too shall pass.

Share your story.

 

(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.

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No memory of the day that changed my life

My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

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