TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries’

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger David A. Grant . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Warning: Graphic Content

Warning: Graphic Content


David A. Grant

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI found myself doing something that I don’t usually do. This morning, I just stared at my keyboard and waited. Most of the time, putting virtual pen to paper is easy. On a good day, I can pour out a thousand words in under an hour.

Not today.

One of the most unexpected by-products of this new life is my PTSD (post traumatic-stress disorder). Since time out of mind, I’ve heard the term PTSD. But like so many, perhaps even you, I mistakenly associated it exclusively with veterans, with those that had seen the unimaginable.

Never did I expect to be walking daily with this newfound friend. Some things you just can’t see coming – like a speeding car driven by a sixteen-year-old driver. Its onset was abrupt. It was unrelenting. It was unexpected.

And it’s more than a bit insidious.

Early on, as my physical injuries began to heal, like a dark flower blooming under a full moon, my PTSD began to blossom. Professional help did little to stem the terror tide.

The nightmares remain the worst part. For a couple of years after my accident, “bad PTSD nights” came anywhere from ten to twenty nights a

month. When I say “bad,” I mean bad. These aren’t your “Boogeyman-under-the-bed” kind of dreams.

Grant, David and Sarah 111715

David & Sarah Grant

Not even close.

Over the years, I have had most every sort of Stephen King horror inflicted upon me after dark. From being burned alive to drowning after drowning, from severed limbs to vivid dream pain that feels more real than reality, it’s been a real shit storm. My apologies if profanity offends, but better a four-letter word than a vivid description of life after dark.

The sound of an ambulance passing by our home drove me to tears for the better part of a couple of years – stopping me dead in my tracks if happenstance found me working in our yard.

Crowds? No more. Action-packed movies? Maybe for you, but not for us. Sudden or abrupt noises? You’ll find my shoes on the floor and me long gone.

Time does have a way of offering clarity. Today I know that I live with a textbook case of PTSD. Like other challenges I face, it’s invisible. Meeting me today for the first time, you’d never know. “Hey, I see that you live with PTSD,” said no one – ever.

As time passed, Sarah and I developed compensatory strategies to help. It is good for us both.

Known by few is a condition called “Secondary PTSD.” Those close to a trauma survivor, though not physically hurt, carry their own deep and painful scars. Sarah has a pretty classic case of secondary PTSD.

Circumstance, rather than virtue of any kind, has reshaped our lives. Our


the Grant’s Sanctuary

lives together today are smaller, but none less rewarding. We shun most crowds, but do not live reclusively. We spend a lot of time outdoors – crowded music festivals replaced by nature walks. Our yard has been transformed into a sanctuary with waterfalls, birdfeeders and flowers abounding. It’s now a sacred place for us – a place where we both continue to heal.

Life today is more enriching than before. I still startle easily. I cry less often at the sounds of a siren wailing. And we are both cautious about what we allow ourselves to be exposed to.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

The events that have unfolded in Paris over the last few days are heartbreaking. It’s at times like these that the rubber meets the PTSD road. I need to be careful of getting sucked in to wanting to know too much detail, balancing it with the very human need to know what is happening in the world at large. I watch “just enough” TV to know what’s happening. I read “just enough” of the news online – very often going no further than the headlines.

Just this morning, as I read the USA Today news on my tablet, a content block caught my eye: WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. Suffice to say, I passed that one right by, knowing that honoring my condition is good for me and good for those around me. I am praying for those who are part of the horror. Blasts mean that there are now new members of the TBI club. Hundreds, if not thousands – perhaps an entire nation – will now live with PTSD. My heart weeps for them.

But even with the most dutiful of diligence, I am reminded that I am forever bound to PTSD.

Last Thursday night was our weekly Date Night. Our cinematic choice this past week was the Peanuts Movie. We’ve seen just about every animated flick released in the last few years. It was a smile-filled night out. Just dinner and a movie. Just us two. Hand-holding and quiet whispers – just the way we like it.

At 10:00 PM, I leaned over, gave Sarah her good night kiss and fell quickly asleep. Though I no longer dread bedtime, I live in the reality that any night can be a bad night.

Grant, David and Sarah 2 111715

David & Sarah Grant

At 11:30 PM, Sarah woke me up as I lay next to her crying out in pain, my feet sinking into molten dream lava, being burned off my torso as I looked down in abject horror. I could smell my own flesh burning. Unable to move, I screamed in mortal terror.

“C’mon David, wake up. Wake up, David,” she called out – again coaxing me back to the relative safety of awakeness. We’ve danced this midnight two-step hundreds of times.

And so the rhythm of our new life goes – enjoying those sacred moments between the tougher times, and hunkering down to ride out the occasional PTSD storms.

In the bigger scheme of things, fate could have been much more harsh. I could have died that day – leaving Sarah to walk through the recent five-year anniversary of the day alone, her memory of me beginning to fade.

But we have each other. And in having each other, we have all we need.


About David A. Grant

David A. Grant 2 101115

David A. Grant

David A. Grant is a freelance writer, keynote speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of “Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury,” a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His newest title, “Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury,” was released in 2015.

David is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.” As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog.

David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter.

David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 15,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community as well as the publisher of “TBI Hope and Inspiration Magazine.”

Thank you, David A. Grant.

Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David A. Grant)

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Melissa Cronin Stages of Forgiveness

Stages of Forgiveness


Melissa Cronin


Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingMore than eleven years ago, eighty-six-year-old George Russell Weller confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. He struck seventy-three pedestrians. Ten people died.

I sustained life-threatening injuries, including a ruptured spleen and multiple fractures. Due to the nature of my traumatic brain injury, it wouldn’t be until three years after the accident when a neuropsychiatrist diagnosed me with a TBI.

During the early days and weeks of my recovery, weighed down by pain and the unthinkable – that others died while I survived – my brain lacked space for anything heady like the notion of forgiveness. Years later, when I possessed enough emotional fortitude to unearth the new articles I had collected about the accident, I decided I needed to find a way to forgive Russell Weller. I’ve been told that forgiveness is overrated, that you don’t have to forgive to heal. While that might very well be true, my want to forgive others for any wrong committed is part of my constitution. So I had to at least make an attempt to forgive Russell Weller. Otherwise, I’d be infected with a case of chronic bitterness and cynicism and worried I’d be contagious. Who wants to hang out with someone with a transmittable illness she has the capacity to heal?

To forgive, one must first assign blame. But, as in Russell Weller’s case, if there is no act of intentional harm, where do you place blame and, therefore, how do you forgive? To add an additional elusive layer, how do you forgive someone you’ve never met? Is it even possible to forgive someone you don’t know? I reached out to Russell Weller’s family years after the accident, but they refused my request to visit him. In 2010 he died.

The following year, I enrolled in an MFA program. During my third semester, still befuddled as to how to forgive Russell Weller, I wrote my critical thesis on the topic: The Face of Forgiveness. I examined how a particular writer, who had sustained life-threatening injuries after a car struck him, navigated the indeterminate nature of forgiveness on the page. Because each circumstance varies, forgiveness cannot be defined in absolute terms. *Since forgiveness is a process, I arrived at the conclusion that it can be charted in stages:

1) Understanding of the accident/incident

2) Transference of anger and other emotions

3) Self-pity

4) Awareness of others’ suffering

5) Avoidance

6) Surrender

Melissa Cronin leaves

Melissa Cronin

These stages don’t necessarily occur sequentially. Like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief – denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – the stages of forgiveness may overlap, or one may become stuck in a particular stage. For me, I became stuck in one or two and skipped another one or two altogether. It’s also worth noting that the stages of forgiveness may not occur in a defined timeframe.

Stage 1: Understanding of the accident/incident

I dedicated months to reading news articles and investigative reports, parsing out the details of the accident: What Russell Weller was doing in the moments before he sped through the market, his medical history, his driving history, what bystanders witnessed at the scene of the crash. Somehow, I believed by reading those articles I would get to know Russell Weller and, therefore, be able to forgive him, or not. But written words weren’t enough – they seemed static on the page. Even though some articles included his apology – “I’m deeply sorry for any pain that everyone went through” – I could not hear his voice, hear his remorse, anger, or fear. And with all the contradicting statements about Russell Weller’s character and what people saw or didn’t see, I only became more confused. I felt like a pendulum – swaying dizzily between sadness and anger.

Stage 2: Transference of anger

As I read articles about the role the local entities had to play in running the market, any anger I harbored for Russell Weller quickly transferred to city officials who were responsible for ensuring the safety of pedestrians. I wondered why they didn’t have sturdy barriers in place, rather than wooden sawhorses. But, similar to my confusion regarding how to feel about Russell Weller, my feelings and emotions swayed – from judgment to understanding, from contempt to submission.

Stages 3 and 5: Self-pity and Avoidance

I did not become victim to self-pity – perhaps the perpetual warring dialogue in my head thrust self-pity aside. For the same reason, I skipped avoidance.

Stage 4: Awareness of others’ suffering

As I continued my dogged search to find meaning within the chaos, I could not help but be lured into an awareness of others’ suffering.  I imagined the physical and emotional pain the other injured pedestrians endured and the rage and anguish that tore into the families of the deceased. I viewed Russell Weller as injured, too – emotionally, mentally, psychically. I imagined Russell Weller’s grief: plagued by nightmares, isolated behind drawn window shades, sallow from regret.

The judge who presided over Russell Weller’s trial said he “lacked remorse” Because he didn’t cry? Why is it that we have a tendency to forgive others only if they exhibit unequivocal remorse: falling to their knees, drooping, sobbing? But a display, or physical showing, of remorse is not necessarily what matters to those harmed. Of course, a sincere apology does not negate the harm done, but sincerely spoken words of remorse are what matter. The quality of the voice matters: is it harsh, tense, creaky?

Melissa Cronin desert

Melissa Cronin

In 2011, I finally obtained and viewed a copy of the videotape of Russell Weller speaking with police officers soon after the accident. I slid the video into the CD player, inched close to the television screen, so close I felt as if he and I were together in the same room. Though he did not cry, his full-toned voice quivered as he said, “I’m in trouble with my heart and soul.” His voice then quieted to a whisper, as if he were in church mourning over the dead: “God almighty, those poor, poor people.”

That’s when I forgave Russell Weller. That’s when I surrendered – to Russell Weller’s remorse.

*Stages of forgiveness conceived by Melissa Cronin


9781611592399_p0_v3_s260x420Melissa is the author of “Invisible Bruise,” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries



Melissa also penned the essay, “Silencing the Boom,” which is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness


To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website/blog at Melissa Cronin.

Thank you, Melissa Cronin.

Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Melissa Cronin)

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio Interview with Melissa Cronin

On the Air – Brain Injury Radio

Interview with Melissa Cronin, author of “Invisible Bruise”

in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries”

Melissa CroninMelissa shares her life both before and after her TBI. She said she was an energetic child who loved to run and play. In college she became a serious student as she pursued her career as a pediatric and a neonatal nurse, a career she loved. But, Melissa’s nursing career ended on that fateful day when a car went rogue careening through 2 1/2 blocks of the Santa Monica, California Farmer’s Market leaving Melissa with not only broken bones and a ruptured spleen, but also with a Traumatic Brain Injury.Melissa playing fiddle

Melissa has picked up the pieces and has found new loves. Her Irish fiddle; her husband, John; and her new career as a writer are just some of her newly adopted loves (NOT in that order).

If you missed Melissa’s interview, don’t fret. You can always listen to the archived show. I’ve included the link below.9781611592399_p0_v3_s260x420

Please SHARE!

I hope you’ll tune in to my show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs the 1st and 3rd Sunday evenings of every month. The show starts at 5:00p Pacific Time and runs for 90 minutes. On the fifth Sunday in a month, Julie Kintz, Host of “Quantum Leap,” and I team up to cohost a show called “Another Quantum Leap in the Road.”

See you “On the Air!”

Interview with Melissa Cronin, Author of “Invisible Bruise”

Click here for a list of all “Another Fork in the Road” shows on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

“Another Fork in the Road” . . . Brain Injury Radio Network Interview with Melissa Cronin, Author of “Invisible Bruise” in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries”



Melissa Cronin was strolling through the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market when an elderly man lost control of his car and barreled into the crowd. That changed her life forever. Now Melissa lives with an ‘invisible bruise.’ But Melissa picked up the pieces and is embarking on a new life. Hear how she copes and thrives after her Traumatic Brain Injury.

Come One! Come ALL!

(NOTE: New Day, Sunday – Same Time)

What:        Interview with Melissa Cronin, Author of “Invisible Bruise” in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injuries”

Why:        Hear Melissa’s perspective of living with Traumatic Brain Injury

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, November 16, 2014

Time:         5:00p PT (6:00p MT, 7:00p CT, and 8:00p ET) 90 minute show

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

Call In:    424-243-9540

Call In:     855-473-3711 toll free in USA

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside US


If you miss the show, but would like to still hear the interview, you can access the archive on On Demand listening. The archived show will be available after the show both on the Brain Injury Radio Network site and on my blog in “On the Air.”

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Melissa Cronin

SPEAK OUT! – Melissa Cronin


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Melissa Cronin Head Shot 2

Melissa Cronin

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

Melissa Cronin

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

South Burlington, Vermont, USA

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

Age 36

4. How did your TBI occur?

In 2003, when visiting the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, an elderly driver confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the market. I was thrown forward, and my head hit the pavement. The force of the impact resulted in a ruptured spleen and multiple fractures, including my pelvis.

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

Fourteen months after the accident, when I returned to part-time work as a public health nurse, I experienced increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and multitasking. My boss threatened to fire me, so I resigned and attempted part-time work in a pediatrician’s office (bad idea for someone with a TBI), but I struggled to keep up in a fast-paced environment. In May 2006, I finally saw a neuropsychiatrist for testing, and the results proved to be consistent with a TBI.

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

I did not have emergency treatment for a TBI. The CT (computerized tomography, also known as “CAT”) scans showed no bleeding (typical for a “mild” TBI). I did have emergency surgery, though, to remove my ruptured spleen.

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


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 physical and occupational therapy at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to help regain muscle mass and strength after being hospitalized for nearly one month. I would be in a wheelchair for four months while my fractures healed, so rehab taught me ways to navigate through my day.

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

Fatigue, difficulty multitasking and concentrating, occasional irritability, depression; and difficulty processing verbal, auditory, and visual information

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

My life is both better and worse. It’s better because my TBI, and other injuries, opened up a path for me to writing. And my husband, whom I met only three weeks prior to the accident, has been my strongest support. It’s worse because I eventually had to give up my 20-year nursing career.

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

Running and skiing, and the babies I cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit where I worked before my injury

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

Writing, playing the Irish fiddle, going for walks, and, of course, my husband’s unwavering support

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I’m much slower at getting things done. I often sleep in until 9:30 or 10:00 am, and I feel as if I’ve wasted much of the day. Also, I often fail to understand concepts others seem to grasp so easily.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by the neuropsychiatrist who diagnosed me with a TBI and by the cognitive therapist who treated me. Also, my therapist – he continually reminds me that my brain has been rewired.

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

Definitely my home life has been affected. I rely on my husband to do much of the “heavy” lifting, like cooking, grocery shopping, and driving, because I am easily distracted.

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

Absolutely. I do not socialize as much as I did before my injury because it doesn’t take much for me to become fatigued.


“Invisible Bruise” Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. June 2014

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

I am my own main caregiver, though my husband does much of the cooking. I do not know what it takes to be a caregiver, though my father is living with Alzheimer’s, and I help out as much as I can.

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

Writing and traveling

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 TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

I wish I understood much earlier the truth about TBIs before I re-entered the workplace and had to face the threat of being fired. For example, I wish someone had warned me that I might have actually suffered a TBI, and that the initial presentation of milder injuries does not mean the consequences are mild.

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

Persevere. Try not to compare yourself to non-brain injured individuals – you’ll only get frustrated. Pay attention to what your body and brain are telling you, and give yourself permission to take naps. Exercise your brain, in moderation, by doing crossword puzzles or learning a new skill. Whatever you accomplish, even if it’s getting out of bed by 7:00 am, is an accomplishment.

Melissa is the author of “Invisible Bruise,” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Melissa playing fiddle

Melissa Cronin with her fiddle

To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website/blog at Melissa Cronin.


Thank you, Melissa, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

(Photos compliments of Melissa.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

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