TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Coma’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . Jamie Crane-Mauzy

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jamie Crane-Mauzy

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

#1 Jamie 5

Jamie Crane-Mauzy – Brain Injury Survivor & Professional Skier

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

Jamie Crane-Mauzy

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

Park City, Utah, USA

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

I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on April 11, 2015. I was 22 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was competing at the world-tour finals in Whistler, Canada. I got 4th first run, and I wanted to upgrade my off-axis backflip to an off-axis double backflip. I under-rotated, caught the edge of my ski, and whiplashed my head into the snow. My brain started bleeding in eight spots. I hurt my right brainstem, so my right side was paralyzed. I started convulsing and slipped into a coma.

#4 Jamie Crane-Mauzy In Air

Jamie Crane-Mauzy – Brain Injury Survivor & Professional Skier

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

Immediately. I started convulsing on the snow. First Response came, and it was obvious at the moment that I was in serious trouble. I was convulsing in a way that usually only happens on the verge of death. After I left in the helicopter, my First Response wrote up my fatality report. They though I had a “one in a miracle” chance of surviving. For the first few days, the doctors didn’t know if I was going to survive. After it became clear I was going to survive, they weren’t sure if I would ever walk or drive. They didn’t think I would be able to go back to sporting activities, accomplish anything, or live a normal life.

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

I became the first person in all of North America (I was in Canada at the time) to be treated with an oxygen-analyzing brain bolt. I didn’t have to have any of my skull removed because I had extra space for my brain to swell into. (See, I am a certified airhead. ;)) I didn’t break any bones or tear any ligaments.

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

I was in a coma for around ten days. I was aware for seconds, when I was flying from Vancouver to Salt Lake City, but I then slipped back into the coma.

#3 Jamie 7

Jamie Crane-Mauzy – Brain Injury Survivor & Professional Skier

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 did two weeks of inpatient therapy. Then I left the hospital and did two months of five-days-a-week therapy. Each day, I did three hours of therapy – one hour each of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. Then I always say I did about five hours of my mom’s therapy. I had to relearn Rosetta Stone in English; I had to use a hand-strengthener; and I had to do Algebra 1, read, write, and do Lumosity. And then, outside of my regular physical therapy, I would do light workouts with a physical trainer three times a week. I would also do modest activities, like go for a one-quarter-mile hike.

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

I have no permanent damage. The emotional damage took the longest to heal.

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

I am more aware about life. I used to be a “park rat,” just interested in skiing. I never really thought past a year, so I was very focused just on the next year of skiing. Now I am aware of my future. I feel it’s important to relax and have fun and not want to make my life in one year. I want to develop a career as a motivational speaker. I now know what I am looking for out of life, and I believe it’s moving positively. I have an incredible story to tell, so I am doing media conventions and television interviews. For the first year, I did lots of healing. Now I am sharing my story. I believe sometimes my  TBI was the best thing that ever happened to me because now I have a way to share a motivational story.

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

I honestly don’t miss much. I can ski, flip, and spin again. I had a lot of emotional issues, but I worked through them all. So now I am just a 23-year-old girl. I don’t know how my life will turn out, but I am accomplishing as many goals as I can.

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

I enjoy several things: the opportunities presented to me to be able to showcase an inspiring motivational story, how happy relearning everything has made me, and how much I have grown up and evolved in one year.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?sport-graphics-skiing-020331

I dislike never being able to compete and go to Dew Tour and X-Games again. A TBI is not like tearing your knee, which sucks, but has an eight-month recovery. It’s a fact that TBI changes your life. You can make it as beneficial of a change as you can. But it did change, and there is no going back to being the exact person you were before the accident.

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

A lot. My family has supported and helped me in a way I will owe them for life. The ski industry has kept me relevant. (For example, I was a guest athlete-announcer at the winter Dew Tour.) Since my accident, everyone has wanted to help me, which has been crazy. Now I am going to the University at Westminster College. I am working at the National Ability Center and setting goals and having accomplishments. Doing flips and spins on the water ramps again has made me so happy. The hardest part for me is dealing with all the emotions – knowing that, once you hit your head, you physically change your emotions and knowing that I was a competitive freestyle skier whose life was competing on the world tour. It’s important to remember every time it’s hard that there are still doors – grab the handles and walk through. I am only 23 and still have an incredible life to live! No one knows where this life will go. (Maybe someone reading this will recommend me to those in charge of their corporate special events who want to hire a public speaker.)

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

My home life and my family have been fabulous. It has changed every week, but it is solid now and has been good for a while. What hit me the most was boys. I usually don’t fall for a boy very easily, but all of a sudden I became obsessed and needy. I wanted someone to save me. I wanted to find the man of my dreams, have him save me, and get married in the future, but fall in love right now. Then I realized that’s not me. I have opportunities, standards, and my own life. I never before wanted to find the one, and I don’t now. I have so much going in my life. I am back to being busy, and it will all work out. When I’m not looking in the future, I might find someone I want to be with. Now I’m my own best friend, and I need no one else to save me.

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

#2 Jamie 6.jpg

Jamie Crane-Mauzy – Brain Injury Survivor & Professional Skier

Going back to what I wrote before, I fell for a lot of boys I was friends with. Because everyone was so happy I was alive, no one told me “no.” They would say, “Yes, let’s hang out” and then blow me off. Now I won’t even approach them to give them the time of day. If someone generally wants to spend time with me, they have to reach out and contact me. If someone doesn’t say what’s on his mind, we can never have a genuine friendship. Many were egotistical, but it made them feel better to always agree with me because I was alive and had almost died. People are beginning to treat me normally again. I really missed how everyone would be overly nice and how no one would tease me, make jokes, or “pull my leg.” I never realized I would miss it so.

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

My main caregiver is my mom. She doesn’t have to take care of me now, but, yes, I do understand how I will owe her for the rest of my life. My mom is the reason I fully recovered. Back when I did three hours of outpatient therapy every weekday, I did five hours of my mom’s therapy. She made me learn Rosetta Stone in English, squeeze a hand-strengthener, do Algebra 1 again, read, write, do Lumosity every day, go for a quarter-mile “hike,” do yoga – three poses and a half hour of Shavasana (the Corpse Pose in yoga, which rejuvenates body, mind, and spirit), and more. I will owe her for more than I can ever repay. There are no words to say how much I owe her for taking care of me and allowing me to heal back to who I was before.

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

Well, I have decided I don’t focus on long-term goals. I focus on making sure that every day I set one little goal I can accomplish and take baby steps in the direction I want to go. I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. I have already done television interviews, and I have media conferences scheduled. I would love to move in the film direction, be on the Ellen Show, do a TED talk, be on talk shows, and spread the message that you can be and accomplish what you want if you focus on taking baby steps and not get stressed out about how far it is to go. I would also love to start getting paid for public-speaking gigs, start filming and tell a motivational story for my segments in ski films, and find someone who sets and accomplishes his own goals (someone who feels our happiness coincides; who loves the mountains, skateboarding, surfing, and being active; who believes our lives just fit in together; and who has the capabilities to go on adventures around the world with me). I want to stay as content as possible and strong and healthy. My future life has so many possibilities. My number one goal is to stay alive and strong and live out my life.

ski-clip-art-ski-clip-art-619. 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 hints are the following:

Believe in yourself. Your doctor might not; your boss might not; your CEO might not; but, if deep, deep down you believe you are going to be OK, it will happen. There are many different levels that are “OK,” but you will be content with yourself.

It’s scary to think how far you have to go and to wonder why this happened to you. So focus on just the short-term. Set one short-term goal you actually can accomplish, and take baby steps in the direction you want to go.

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

Find something that makes you happy. Then go and do it. (For me, it was getting busy, accomplishing goals, and doing sports.) And smile as big as you can.

 

For motivational speaking gigs and media please reach out! MoCrazyStrong@gmail.com

 

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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jen Swartz

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jen Swartz

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

jen swartz Survivor1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Jen Swartz

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

Castleton, New York, USA     Passionate4Christ29@yahoo.com

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

My brain injury happened on June 8, 2000. I was 18.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was in a car accident. I was following a close friend to her boyfriend’s house. My car was T-boned by another car going 55-60 mph. My small car, a 1987 Toyota Corolla, was thrown across the street. Jen (the person I was following) said that my body was hanging out the door. She thought I was dead because there was blood coming out of my mouth. (To top it off, I also have congenital scoliosis and had to have a major operation when I was nine years old – a bone fusion in my neck to prevent the curve from progressing further. I had to wear a halo to restrict neck movement so the bone fusion could heal.)

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

I think it was probably when I was in a coma that people realized that I would have some cognitive problems.

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

I required a tracheotomy and a food tube. Also, my head was shaved for a reason. At the beginning, my brain was swelling, but, praise the Lord, the swelling went down. So, it was not necessary to take a piece of my skull off to allow room for the swelling.

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

Yes. I was in a coma for six 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)?

Yes. I did inpatient rehabilitation at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital. This included speech, occupational, physical, and recreational therapies.

How long were you in rehab?Jen Swartz Survivor

I was in rehabilitation for seven months.

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

I have memory issues for certain! I have problems with concentration, focusing, emotions, and balance.

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

My life is MUCH better! I don’t remember eighteen years of my life, but from what I am told, I was very unhappy. Now I have God. He is my purpose! I am also blessed to say that I am engaged to an incredible man, who has an acquired brain injury (ABI). It is so great! We have known each other for three years, and we see eye-to-eye on practically everything.

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

Absolutely nothing!

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

I like that I don’t take anything for granted and that I am content with the way things are. God blessed me with a second chance at living, so I am trying to make the most out of everything in life.

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

I dislike the anxiety issues, the memory problems (which seem to happen quite frequently), and the migraines.

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

Yes! I was helped by Living Resources, where I participated in a group for people with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). I was also helped by the Cognitive Group, which consisted of survivors working on different goals/strategies for different areas of life. The belief is that each individual can improve his or her life after a TBI. The group is run by neuropsychologists and counselors.

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

Yes. My mother and sister are very distant mentally from me, since they don’t seem to have the desire to want to accept the change that this injury made. I feel it may be caused by a little pride with them, considering the fact that I believe that I was quite an intelligent woman before my injury. Before my accident, I was accepted into Ithaca College, since I wanted to delve into the medical field in some way. My mother and sister do not work well with the cognitive change in me that the injury has caused, such as my not desiring to be with large groups of people or my forgetting things.

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

I believe my life has changed immensely. I used to have many, many friends and loved to be in large groups of people. Now, however, I don’t enjoy being in large crowds or in large groups of people. I get overwhelmed. I enjoy spending much more alone-time now, as well. I have even been taught how to crochet. I love doing crochet, especially when the winter months roll in.

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

I haven’t needed a caregiver, but I understand what it takes to be a caregiver, since I have had staff work with me on and off throughout the years.

Jen Swartz 218. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

My future plans consist of buying a home with my fiancé through the Section 8 program. My fiancé will be my husband on May 27, 2017. I plan to continue working with Living Resources in the years to come, and my fiancé does as well.

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 helpful hint is to be patient. Remember: Slow and steady wins the race! Slow progress is key to amazing growth. Also, be open-minded to hearing from staff-members assisting to help you. If you listen to any suggestions, which may guide you to improve, you are being very wise in opening up your mind for possible progress.

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

Keep at it! Don’t give up! Also, you will grow if you listen to what “staff” suggest you do in order to improve! You can and will do it!
(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 Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

 

As I say after each post:

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

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow Me Via eMail” on the right sidebar of your screen.anim0014-1_e0-1

If you like my blog, click the “Like” button under this post.

If you REALLY 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. That works for me too!

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Brandy Hunter

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Brandy Hunter

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1 Brandy Hunter1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Brandy (Denise) Hunter

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

Blountsville, Alabama, USA (about an hour north of Birmingham and an hour south of Huntsville)

Email (optional)

BrandyDHunter@Gmail.com

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

January 13, 2004

At what age?

I had just turned 24 years old. (My 24th birthday was November 20, 2003.)

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was driving to work to a local restaurant (Ruby Tuesday). The highway on which I was driving is a four-lane. I was in the left (“fast”) lane. (I was driving a four-door Plymouth Neon.) The driver of a full-size pickup truck moved in front of me. He then slammed on his brakes, stopping his truck abruptly in front of my car. I swerved into the right (slow) lane so I could avoid hitting his pickup truck. I assume that I panicked – I either did not see the 18-wheeler driving in the lane I was “escaping” into or I thought I would be able to “beat” the truck. The pickup-truck driver did not stop or even look behind at the devastation he had caused. Witnesses say that that he sped up and went through the next 4-way stop.

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

The driver of the 18-wheeler truck ​climbed out of his rig ​to check on me. I was unresponsive, so he climbed into the car with me. (I “remember” seeing him cradling me – but I’m not sure that is possible because he THANKFULLY did not move me.) ​He began praying audibly. I recall this happening. I remember seeing it from above. I refer to it as an “out of body experience.” (DISCLAIMER: I believe in God, but I am not religious.)

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?4 Brandy Hunter

Paramedics and fire fighters were quickly on the scene. (The accident happened close to where a volunteer firefighter lived – thankfully.) I had a chest tube inserted for a collapsed lung. A “Life-Saver” helicopter transported me to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama (at the University of Alabama). The accident occurred around an hour (driving time) away from the hospital. When I was admitted into the hospital, it was determined that I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). (The first responders had thought I had a TBI, as we were told months later, because I had what is referred to as “doll’s eyes” at the scene.) In the Emergency Room and in the hospital, a breathing tube was inserted, and two tubes were inserted into my right frontal lobe to drain fluid. I had a C2 fracture of the spine. Therefore, I had a brace placed around my neck to keep me from breaking the vertebrae. I wore the neck-brace for about six months.

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

I was medically induced into a coma, and, of course, I fell into one soon after. I remained comatose for approximately five weeks. My score on the Glasgow Coma Scale was 7 or 8, if I am recalling correctly. I know it was a dangerous score.

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?

As a patient, I had occupational, physical, and speech rehab for about two months. After I was released from the hospital, the therapies then continued at an outpatient facility for around two years. I also had a couple of months of voluntary speech therapy about three ​years after my outpatient therapies ended.

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

My memory was impaired for several years after the injury occurred. I would forget the things that happened two minutes prior. Then it was five minutes prior – then fifteen minutes – then hours – and then days. Slowly, I began to recall things more easily. I still get days mixed up. I might believe something occurred several weeks ago, when in reality it happened one or two days ago. I wasn’t able to remember much of the 3-6 years prior to the accident because my brain injury was so severe. It’s now hazy, but I can remember those incidents when my memory is triggered by a smell, a sound, or something else that is considered minor. (The brain is an amazingly complex, yet simple thing.)

Although it has been eleven years since I sustained brain damage, I still have trouble with my balance. I almost always have to hold onto a handrail when climbing and, especially, descending a set of stairs. My balance isn’t nearly as troublesome for me as it was, though. When I am shaky, when I run into things (due to a problem in spatial reasoning), when my speech is slurred, or when dysplasia occurs (saying one thing, but meaning another – usually substituting for the correct word another word that has absolutely nothing to do with what is being said), it is because I am tired. Mom says my brain is overworked and needs to rest. Dad compares my brain to a computer and says that it needs to “reboot.”

My perception is altered a bit (but not enough to hinder my ability to drive a vehicle legally).

My personality is sometimes dramatically changed. I express anger differently. I no longer find certain things humorous like I did before. However, when I do find something funny, it is difficult for me stop giggling. Before the TBI, I would cry “at the drop of a hat.” I rarely cry now. I believe it is because I unintentionally “taught” myself to hold back emotions like that because my speech is very difficult to understand if I am crying when I talk. My always-short patience seems to have been negatively affected. I would once say, “I don’t want (it) yesterday; I want (it) the day before yesterday!” Since the accident, I want (it) three days before yesterday!

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

My life has changed for the better in some ways. (Maybe the reason is also due to maturing.) I have done things I never would have done before. I moved to Long Island for three years. I’ve learned who my TRUE friends are. I’ve accepted and admitted (to myself and others) romantic feelings for “old” friends. I’ve given one man “a chance” that I never did before (and now we are planning to marry one another).

My life is also worse in some ways because I have a hard time controlling my emotions. (For example, I succumb to anger much more easily.) I hate that I am able to control my once-considered “soft heart” where other people are concerned. Also, I am now much more sensitive. I take things personally more often than I once did – I no longer let things “roll off of my back.”

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?5 Brandy Hunter

I miss my voice.

I miss being able to multitask.

I miss being able to work as a “deejay” and have a radio show (sort of the same as my previous answers).

I miss being able to accomplish more than one thing per day. It is tiring for me if I try to go to the store AND go see my grandparent. Add another task in there, and I am spent!

I miss the way I didn’t have such a “wild-eyed” look in photos.

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

I enjoy that I am more willing to accept that I am wrong. Honestly, I like the feeling I get when I admit that I’m wrong. I like that I’m more apt to say, “I’m sorry,” as opposed to allowing my pride to win.

I am grateful that I no longer take little things for granted.

I am grateful that I now enjoy the company of dogs. I was once a “cat person.” I still love cats, but I truly do not know how I would have gotten through the past several years (finishing my college degree, etc.) without the love of my “babies,” Coco and Whiskey. I am not as keen on having children as I once was. I used to say that I wanted a house FULL of kids. Now I am happy with my “chi-weenies” as my only children.

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

As previously mentioned, I dislike how much my voice has changed. I do not like that, due to dexterity issues, my handwriting is sloppy. I don’t really enjoy having to wear glasses for more than reading. But, it is what it is. At least I’m here and able to complain (and understand why I am complaining).

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

I now accept the differences in my life since the TBI. I have learned to accept the difficulties I have now (and will always experience). I finally (and regrettably) accepted that my life will never again become the life I had before the TBI. Knowing that other people (some of them, anyway) understand how my personality is NEVER going to be the same allowed me to learn to accept my new personality too. I was always a proud, strong girl and having my plans (or really “lack of plans” – remember, I expected things to just “fall into my lap”​) altered so severely fueled my desire to become a prouder, stronger WOMAN.

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

My home life is different, since I no longer live with my parents (partly due to an angry outburst I had). My relationship with my mom has been forever changed. My inability to have a strong hold over my reactions/words when I’m angry enabled Mom to see a side of me that I always kept to myself. I regret the reasons things have changed, but I think the ways in which they did are for the better – in BOTH our lives. I am unable to “think before I speak.” Therefore, I often say words I do not mean to people I love, so that I can be “heard.”

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

Yes, my social life was altered greatly. I was once a very popular person with multiple invites to different places, often happening at the same time. I would have to turn off the ringer on my phone in order to take a nap, or even to get a little sleep. People would show up at my house unannounced at any hour.

When I got out of the hospital, people only wanted to visit me out of curiosity. They were curious as to how a brain-injured person looked. I don’t have any scars from the accident. I look exactly the same – luckily. I only have scars from the people who worked so diligently to save my life. Those scars are minor, too. My visitors assumed that, because I was home and looked the same, I was completely “normal” again or that I was the same person they so fondly remembered.

3 Brandy Hunter17. Who is your main caregiver?

My mom was my primary caregiver, with help from my (step)dad when he wasn’t at work. I have lived with a roommate since September 2006, including my current boyfriend since August 2011. The two of us traveled to England, where we lived together for three months.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Yes. I understand that my parents had to halt their own lives so I could have a semi-“normal” one myself. I will never be able to aptly express my gratitude to either of them for their unwavering love.

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

I would like to begin writing on a regular basis.

I do not wish to work outside the home; I am no longer able to prioritize my time. [I have tried to disprove doctors and family and actually work with the public. At one job, I was a cashier at the busiest grocery store on Long Island. The store worked with me and allowed me to have four-hour shifts because my brain would tire out. I worked for almost one year before I was fired for my cash-register drawer coming up short a few times. I had a caseworker come in and fight for me to at least still have a job with the company. I tried working in the floral department (no cash was handled), but I had to quit after about one month. Also, while on Long Island, I worked at Macy’s. I ran a register for three days. I informed the woman who hired me that the job was far too “fast-paced” for me, and regrettably I would have to quit. (I sincerely thanked her for her giving me a chance. She understood because her husband was a TBI survivor.) She gave me a job as a “recovery specialist.” I moved items from the storage rooms to the sales floor. I would put products that were moved by customers back into the correct places. I did that for four hours a day. In both aforementioned jobs, I would work Mondays and Tuesdays for four hours a day. I would have Wednesdays off and then work four hours a day on the following Thursday and Friday. I moved back home to Alabama after I finished my degree online. (I began it while living in New York.) I got a job working as a “pizza maker” at Papa John’s. (I had that job years before the accident.) Apparently, I was not working quickly enough, so I was fired from that job. I had never been fired from a job until the grocery store in New York and later Papa John’s in Alabama. A few months later, I began to look after a 3-year-old boy while his parents worked. That little boy was rambunctious! But for some reason, I was very patient with him. For example, he would tell me he needed to go to the bathroom. So, I would get him situated and walk outside the room to give him privacy. He normally would go without a problem. One particular day, he refused to go after telling me that he needed to. I would not allow him to leave the bathroom until he used the toilet. He got so tired that I made him sit down until he decided to go. My tenacity proved to be a positive thing with this child. We also went through the same thing after he got up and I told him to wash his hands. It wasn’t nearly as difficult because he KNEW I was not giving up. I mostly despise how my brain gets focused on something, but with this child, my focus was a good thing. I also worked at Babies-R-Us for five months. Again, I worked in BOH (back of house). I would run a register occasionally. I quit that job after five months because my now-fiancé took me to Bristol, England, for three months. That was an opportunity that I could not pass up.] When we returned to the States after living in England, my boyfriend said I could be a housewife if I did not wish to work outside of our home. I once never would have imagined that sort of thing bringing me happiness. Now, I am so uberly happy and oh-so-lucky to have his love and understanding.

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.

Accept the challenges you now face daily. Don’t think you will become who you were pre TBI. (As one of my doctors in the hospital would constantly say, “THIS IS NOT TV.”) Difficult as it is, strive to acknowledge that you are no longer exactly like the person you were. You have differences. Learn how it is best for you to handle them and share what you’ve learned with those who are in your everyday life. Acceptance of the “new you” is crucial to being happy in your future. Also, allow the help that people offer. At the same time, do as much independently as you are able.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors?

Don’t dwell on the way life WAS; make the best of the life you still have. Create what is “normal” for you – a survivor. Never accept the “normal” for other survivors. Admit it when you realize that you are wrong. “I’m sorry” is a phrase that will help you with your relationships (be they familial, romantic, or even friendly).

Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?2 Brandy Hunter

Pre TBI, I took life for granted. Even though I was grateful for the life I was given/chosen, I did not actively pursue the things that I wanted. Rather, I expected everything to just “fall into my lap.” Post TBI, it’s taken me almost ten years to realize that there’s no shame in having to work harder at something that WAS simple pre TBI. [I have since attended a traditional university – thanks to my mom and dad, who drove me to classes taught at a university that is ​25 minutes from our home. I made As and Bs studying Broadcast Communication. (Before the injury severely affected my speech, I was an on-air personality for a large-market FM radio station. I was also a producer for a popular morning-show team. My on-air name for that show was “1/2 Pint.”) I finished my degree online through Ashford University, and I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies when I finished my education online at Ashford. (I lacked one semester and an internship in order to graduate from the original university.) I made the Dean’s List each semester I was enrolled at Ashford, and I graduated college with a 3.79 GPA.​]

Read Brandy’s Guest Blog post on my blog at, “I Am Blessed.”

Click here to learn more about Brandy Hunter.

Click here to read Brandy’s blog, Brandy’s Brain.

For the sweetest video about Brandy and her Mom, click here. Because She Loved Me . . .

(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 Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(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.

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

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . Marc Tima

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Marc Tima

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It 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.

Marc Tima (survivor)

Marc Tima 1 Survivor 090715Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a crazy, life-changing event. When I was fourteen years old, I was in a pretty bad car accident, in which I suffered a TBI. I was life-flighted to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. I was in a coma for about three weeks. My doctors prepared my parents for my remaining in a vegetative state. God, my family, and I had other plans. At one point, the doctor told my parents that if she were a betting woman, she would not bet on my chances. My mother was in tears and began to weep. My father, on the other hand, said, “I’ll take that bet, and my son will prove you wrong.”

I spent three months in the Rehabilitation Institute of Pittsburgh. After my rehab, I was barely able to start my tenth-grade year of high school. Instead of getting As and Bs like I used to, I scraped by with Cs and Ds. During my coma, my entire body atrophied. Instead of being a top football and basketball player, I was made a team manager for football and basketball. I spent much of high school crying because of my shortcomings. But, I cried to myself in my room. I also spent every free second I had working out and getting stronger. By my junior year, I was able to get back on the football team. My coaches were worried about my getting injured again, so they would not let me play in the varsity games. I spent my eleventh-grade football career on the scrub team. During practice, I would outplay all the seniors who were able to play varsity. My grades were still very poor, but my short-term memory was improving little by little. By the time I was a senior, I was a starter for football and a top defensive player in western Pennsylvania. My grades were still poor, but they were improving. I got recruited to play football for Duquesne University. Though my high school grades were poor, they let me into Duquesne Marc Tima 2 Survivor 090715because of my football and some heavy pleading from my mother.

Anyway, the hits in college football were too hard for my head. So, I had to give up football. I stayed at Duquesne, though, and earned my degree. I worked extremely hard in high school to earn Cs and Ds. At Duquesne, I worked just as hard, but now I was getting As and Bs. In fact, when I graduated from Duquesne on the Dean’s List, my parents contacted that doctor who bet against my father on my recovery. He showed her my academic record at Duquesne. And, she took my parents out to dinner as payment for losing the bet she made with my dad.

I now have a Master’s degree in Exercise Science, own an “Anytime Fitness” in Ohio, and am a personal trainer. Several of my clients are TBI survivors, whom I help with their recoveries.

(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 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 Jenn Von Hatten

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Jenn Von Hatten

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718On Valentine’s Day 2011, I went to work only for a meeting. (I was a nurse at a long-term mental health facility.) Freezing rain struck during the meeting. The treacherous road condition was responsible for my car’s being T-boned at highway speed. That’s how I acquired my traumatic brain injury. The paramedics found me “clinically dead.” Obviously, I was alive. The pressure on my brain was monitored to see if I needed to have surgery. Also my liver was lacerated. Fortunately I did not need surgery for either. I was put into a medically induced coma because, in addition to my brain injury, I fractured a rib and three vertebrae. I was in a coma for over seven weeks. I managed to develop pneumonia and had to have a tracheotomy. I was discharged on July 14th. I Jenn Von Hatten Emma, & Hannasurvived to see my oldest children graduate from high school. Emma graduated in June 2013, and Liam, in 2014.

Spastic muscles affected my speeJenn Von Hatten & Liamch, so I went to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My balance was severely affected. I used to be in a wheelchair, due to the fractured vertebrae. I since “graduated” to a walker, then to a quad cane, and eventually to a mini quad cane. Now I’m a fall risk. My life has definitely changed. I am no longer able to work as a nurse. I cannot say if my life is better or worse. All I can say with certainty is that my life is different.  I enjoy my time with Hanna, my 7-year-old daughter and youngest child. (I have joint custody. I remind myself that not many relationships survive a TBI.) I now have a cat, Spunkster, which I got from the local SPCA. When Hanna’s not with me, I hang out with Spunkster. I miss most my being able to work as a nurse. But as much as I would like to a work as a nurse, I know I would not be safe – physically (because I am a fall risk) as well as mentally Jenn Von Hatten & Hanna(in terms of remembering if I gave a client his or her medication or treatments). I had graduated as a nurse only seven months before my TBI. I had wanted to be a nurse for over fifteen years. At least I can say I turned that dream into reality! I sometimes miss being able to drive. My driver’s license has not been revoked, but my rehabilitation doctor says I still cannot drive, as my reflexes are not up to snuff. My plan is to help others that are TBI survivors or caregivers. I can provide info and support.

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(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 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 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.

Survivors SPEAK OUT! DuWayne Hall

SPEAK OUT! – DuWayne Hall

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Hall, DuWayne 1

DuWayne Hall

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

DuWayne Hall

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

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA    Braindamagedguy@gmail.com

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

August 16, 1992 – I was 32 years old.

4. How did your TBI occur?

It was a single vehicle motorcycle accident. (For complete story see Guest Blog.)

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

As soon as I became aware in the hospital!

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

I was on total life support, so they did whatever was necessary for that. My arm was tied around my neck because they expected me to die.

I was not wearing my helmet at the time of the accident. I had my right ear torn off; they sewed it back on. My right cheek was crushed from my shoulder’s smacking my face as I face-planted the road. They put a titanium cheekbone in to fix my face. My right eye was hanging out of its socket; it had to be placed back into my skull. I sustained a closed-head injury. My right frontal lobe and the pons portion of my brain sustained what they refer to as a “contracoup” injury (that is, the brain is damaged exactly opposite to the impact point). They implanted a shunt on the top of my head. I’ve got a metal plate in the top of my head.

I had road rash from being dragged 100 or so feet before the motorcycle stopped sliding. My arm was shattered at the elbow. My collarbone was broken in two places. I had knee surgery.

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

I was in a coma 24 days. On the 25th day, my living will was going to become effective, and they were going to unplug me from life support.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?
How long were you in rehab?

I was in rehab three years. I relearned everything from how to go to the bathroom to how to eat again, talk again, and interact again. I was just like a child relearning how to do everything – dress myself, cook, shower, stand upright, etc.

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

As a result of my TBI, I became increasingly more isolated, until Facebook came into the picture about ten years ago. I walk with an uneven gait. I have problems seeing just one of something. I’m partially deaf. My face is partially paralyzed. Over the years, I’ve developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as a result of multiple TBI’s. I get frustrated very easily, but it is perceived as anger by others.

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

It became more burdensome and unfulfilled.

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

I miss friends, family, social relationships, and camping. Any exercise is burdensome. Personal relationships ended. I can’t defend myself. I lost my hospital job of 8 years.

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

Nothing!

13. What do you like least about your TBI?
It gave me PTSD. Anybody diagnosed with it understands what I am talking about! It is hell!

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

It is hard to define “accept.” I know that it has happened and that I can’t do anything about it. I believe all things happen for a reason, but I cannot find any good being returned because I am disabled. So, if I can help keep one soul from going through the hell I’ve been through these last 24 years, then that would be worth it to me!

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

I have been married two times since my TBI. No lady wants me because I’m broken, not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

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

I have no social life! At first, people seemed happy that I did not die. However, after time, I no longer had the number of friends that I had before my accident. The example would be that I receive a get-well card at the hospital with approximately 825 signatures of people wishing me well during recovery. If only 25 percent were sincere, I would have 207 friends. I have two – one who lives out-of-state and one who lives out-of-town. I am constantly lonely and feeling rejected!

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

I don’t have one. I am my own caregiver!

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

I don’t have any plans. I believe that life has ended for me! I am just waiting to die.

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’m too gullible. Most TBIers are.

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

Hall, DuWayne 2

DuWayne Hall

Be patient with yourself. Recovery takes a long time!

 

Thank you, DuWayne, 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 DuWayne.)

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.

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman – Before her TBI

SPEAK OUT! – Joyce Hoffman

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

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

Joyce Hoffman

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

New Jersey, USA

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

April 8, 2009

4. How did your TBI occur?

Hemorrhagic stroke, i.e., a blood vessel erupted

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

I started to convulse at 4 am. My partner saw it, and he called 911.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
(e.g., surgery, tracheotomy, G-peg)

Tracheotomy

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

Yes. 8 days

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., In-patient or Out-patient and Occupational, Physical, Speech, Other)?
How long were you in rehab?

In-patient rehab for 15 weeks, and then Out-patient rehab 2 or 3 times a year

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

Right-sided weakness. Paralyzed arm. I use a quad cane for walking.

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

Better—I wrote my 2nd book, “The Tales of a Stroke Patient,” with one hand, all 265 pages, within 2 years.

Worse—I miss my career as a senior technical trainer and writer for legal applications, and I go slowly now – one step at a time.

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

Total independence

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

Reading and computing

Getting together with friends and family

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

My speaking slowly when I want to talk faster

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

Time heals all, but I’m not completely there yet.

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

My partner had to take over, whereas I did most everything domestic before.

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

A few friends remain. Most of them headed “for the hills.”

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

Cece is my main caregiver. She understands my dilemmas.

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

Doing the same thing I am now—plus more time for lectures

19. What advice would you offer to other TBI survivors

Patience

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

I am starting to NOT resent people who have the ability to go the beach or to run fast. I used to be a runner. My book tells it all. Click the link to buy it

The Tales of a Stroke Patient (from the publisher)

The Tales of a Stroke Patient (from Amazon)

The Tales of a Stroke Patient (Barnes & Noble)

 

Joyce Hoffman - After her TBI

Joyce Hoffman – After her TBI

Thank you, Joyce, 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.)

 

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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