TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘David Figurski’

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Twelve Years, But Who’s Counting?

Twelve Years, But Who’s Counting?

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1242232191169820850212_white,_green_rounded_rectangle.svg.med.pngTwelve years! Twelve years ago today, I came as close as a breath to losing my husband and best friend, David. While exercising (a thing he did every day to stay in shape), David did thirteen chin-ups, one more than he had done every other day. That was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” or in David’s case, the “chin-up that caused his subarachnoid hemorrhage.” That day, as I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital, I never realized what lay ahead for us. I never dreamed that this blip would be life-altering. I thought we’d be home by the end of the day, carrying on with life as usual. I was wrong!

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David H. Figurski, Ph.D. – Brain Injury Survivor

David remained in the hospital in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the step-down unit at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital (now New York Presbyterian Hospital) for three weeks. While he was there, he was treated to two more brain surgeries – one for an aneurysm and the other for an arterial venous malformation (AVM). He then became a guest at a local rehab hospital for another two months, until insurance wrongly said he was fine to go home.th-1

I am grateful that David is still with me. He wasn’t expected to be. Each surgeon gave me little hope that he would survive any of his surgeries. I’m glad that David proved them all wrong. I’m glad that we have had twelve more years together, and I hope to spend many more with this man whom I have loved since I was sixteen years old.

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Hopefully, in the sometime future, you will be able to read David’s whole story in my book-in-manuscript, titled “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.”

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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 lastname to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

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

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

 

byler-penny-survivor

Penny Byler (survivor) … So, today, I took off my leg brace and climbed the side of a small cliff. Yes, I MADE IT ON MY OWN! It was fun. I’m glad I did it. My leg, on the other hand, is refusing to listen to me now. It doesn’t want to support ANY of my weight. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow.

 

Dave Figurski (survivor) … My trike has changed my life! Cat Brubaker, who rode alongside Dan Zimmerman on a 5,390-mile cross-country trek, introduced me to the Catrike 700, which both she and Dan have. Cat and Donna encouraged me, and I bought the same model in April 2015. I ride three days a week, fifteen miles each ride. The recumbent trike is perfect for me because I have a balance problem. When I ride, I feel perfectly normal. (The day I did my first ride was the first time in ten years that I was outside alone!) I recently passed 2500 miles.

David on Recumbent Trike

I have much farther to go before I equal the mileage done by Dan and Cat on their cross-country ride. But, I’m having fun, and I don’t intend to stop.

 

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Ric Johnson – Brain Injury Survivor

Ric Johnson (survivor) … I spent twelve hours (in two days) in my back and front yards to aerate both, and then I spread compost on both. I’m not going to count all the holes my shovel and I dug, but there must be more than 200. Hard work, but I did it!

 

 

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Alex Manning (survivor) … I got a little emotional today. At the end of April 2015, a skateboarding accident left me in a coma that permanently changed my life. Health professionals thought I might not survive through the night.

alex-manning-survivor

Alex Manning – Brain Injury Survivor

Despite my coma only lasting a day, I didn’t remember anything for three weeks, and I forgot mostly everything from my prior 23 years. In the hospital, I accepted that I might not return to living independently. Returning to independence was such a struggle; I never thought I’d be capable of something like this. I’m staying by myself in Sydney this week. I know a grand total of three people in this country, and they’re far away! They’re located in Melbourne and outside of Brisbane. Independence doesn’t get much more independent than this. TBI (traumatic brain injury) is not the end. It’s just a new beginning!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

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(Photos compliments of contributors.)

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Trike Treks – David Figurski

Trike Treks – David Figurski

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

David Figurski 2004 Pre-Brain Injury

David Figurski – pre-brain injury

My husband, David, bought a Catrike 700 in April 2015.  He rides three days each week, 15 miles each day. David loves his trike. Despite not being able to walk outside unassisted because of a balance problem, he feels “normal” when he rides. He has found that people have a lot of curiosity about the trike. People have stopped him to ask questions. One woman talked to him from her car when they were at a Stop sign.

David is excited because he just broke 2,500 miles. But he still has a ways to go before he equals the 5,390 miles ridden by Dan Zimmerman and Catherine Brubaker on their cross-country trek.

David’s cumulative mileage as of 10/13/16               2,580 mi

Miles to reach 5,390* miles                                          2,810 mi

UPDATE:

David’s cumulative mileage as of 09/04/117               3,727 mi

Miles to reach 5,390* miles                                          1,663 mi

*done by both Dan Zimmerman and Catherine Brubaker on their cross-country ride

Figurski, David Trike

David Figurski – post-brain injury on his Catrike 700

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Repair of Neural Circuits in Stroke-damaged Mouse Brains

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit

Repair of Neural Circuits in Stroke-damaged Mouse Brains

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

newsboy-thBasic research on the repair of damaged mouse brains has again produced a potential breakthrough for human therapy. The research may accelerate our ability to repair damaged human brains. A trial study for using this therapy in humans is now being designed.

I’ve already written about the extraordinary promise of cell therapy in eliminating or greatly reducing the effects of brain damage. Much of this promise has to do with the discovery of stem cells, which have the stunning ability to develop into virtually any kind of cell. (The previous NewsBit, however, showed that scientists found a way to cause a common cell type to develop into functional neurons directly without going through a stem-cell stage.) In a study earlier this year, scientists showed that stem cells surgically implanted into damaged human brains reduced the severity of symptoms. But in that study, the scientists were surprised to find that the added stem cells themselves did not become new neurons and form new circuits, but they somehow revved up the brain’s natural ability to heal itself.animal-cell-hi

Now scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) with help from scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found a way to activate the implanted stem cells so they develop into neurons and become part of new neural circuits. The direct involvement of the added stem cells resulted in enhanced repair and a much greater loss of symptoms. One NIH scientist said, “If the therapy works in humans, it could markedly accelerate the recovery of these patients.”

CellScientists had previously shown that an FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved reagent, the engineered protein 3K3A-APC, caused stem cells in culture to become neurons. The USC scientists wanted to see if 3K3A-APC would help the recovery of a brain-injured animal. The model used for brain damage was mice that were induced to have a stroke. The scientists implanted human stem cells and then treated the mice with 3K3A-APC or a placebo (mock-3K3A-APC). Mice that were treated with stem cells + 3K3A-APC did markedly better (some were almost normal) in tests of sensory perception and motor skills than did mice that were treated with stem cells + the placebo. Unlike the earlier study in which the added stem cells did not become neurons, these stem cells did become neurons if the mouse had been treated with 3K3A-APC.

ScientistThe human stem cells not only became neurons, but they also formed normal connections with mouse neurons. Because the implanted cells were human, the scientists were able to use a human-specific toxin to kill only the implanted cells (the mouse cells were resistant to the toxin). When scientists killed the new neurons, the mice lost the signs of recovery. The scientists concluded that 3K3A-APC caused the cells to develop into neurons that then formed functional neural circuits, ultimately leading to recovery.Brain Cell

USC physician-scientist Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., who directed the research, said, “When you give these mice 3K3A-APC, it works much better than stem cells alone. We showed that 3K3A-APC helps the cells convert into neurons and make structural and functional connections with the host’s nervous system.” (Full story)

 

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Common Mouse Cell Type Converted to Neurons

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit

Common Mouse Cell Type Converted to Neurons

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thCommon Mouse Cell Type Converted to Neurons

You’ve probably heard of the promising future of cell therapy. The excitement comes from the fact that injuries might be treated by implanting fresh, healthy cells. Stem cells, which can mature to many different cell types, have been discovered in almost every organ in the body. They hold enormous potential for helping to heal injured organs. Already, scientists are devising methods to add new muscle to damaged hearts and to add insulin-producing cells to the body to cure Type I diabetes. The brain also has stem cells, and much of the natural recovery from brain injury is due to stem cells, which rebuild the damaged part of the brain. The beauty of stem cells from the brain is that they can develop into healthy neurons and replace damaged circuits. But the natural healing of the brain is often insufficient. Scientists have been looking for ways to make more stem cells and to activate them so that implanting them is practical and they can result in more healing.scientist

I want to tell you about exciting basic research on cell therapy that may make possible or speed up the development of new therapies for brain injury. Scientists at Duke University have found a way to make neurons from common mouse cells, called “fibroblasts,” without resorting to stem cells. The scientists made a modified protein and put it into fibroblasts. The modified protein found and activated the master regulator genes needed to turn on the genes for the cell to become a neuron.

In the past, a cell’s change into a neuron required that extra copies of the master regulator genes be introduced into the cell. The cell maintained its neuron-like properties only if the extra activators were present. If the extra copies were lost, the cell reverted to its original form. Scientists said that the neurons were “unstable.” Still, it was a breakthrough. To help stabilize the neurons, extra copies of genes for the master regulators were added to its chromosomes. The neurons still weren’t perfectly stable, and the presence of extra copies in the chromosomes was unnatural.

In the new method, activation of the neuron genes is natural. The neurons are “stable,” even when the modified activator protein is gone. As far as the scientists can tell, the neurons formed this way appear to be like natural neurons.

MouseOf course, these studies need to be done with human cells. But, because the mouse is similar enough to humans genetically, new neurons are likely to be made from human cells. If so, cell therapy to treat brain injury will become common in the foreseeable future. One benefit is that therapy can be personalized. It’s not practical to get your neurons from a brain biopsy, but your easy-to-get fibroblasts can be converted to neurons. Those neurons can then be tested with therapeutic drugs to see what works best with your genetic background. Also, the implanted cells would not be rejected by your body (prevention of rejection is the reason for immunosuppressive drugs today) because the neurons would be made from cells of your own body. (Full story)

 

(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.

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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.

 

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Julie Attwell (survivor)…I’m in Oz (Australia). AustraliaI recently got out of hospital. I was in because of epilepsy from my acquired brain injury (ABI). My discharge was HUGE for me! I was finally put on the list for rehab for fine motor skills, speech,Hospital Bed walking, reading, and writing. I am able to start being me again. I’m super excited! My injury happened in February of 2015, and I have had no help. Now I am finally getting some. YAY!

 

David June 14 copy

David Figurski Brain Injury Survivor

 

David Figurski (survivor)…I’m ecstatic that I finally walked 1.5 miles on the treadmill! I did it at 2.5 mph.

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YOU did it!

Congratulations to 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!

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photo compliments of contributor.)

Another Fork in the Road Reasonable, Responsible, & Realistic Resolutions

“Another Fork in the Road”

Fork in the Road copyThis category is an extension of my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs at 5:30 pm (Pacific Time) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month on the Brain Injury Radio Network. (See the “On The Air Show Menu” category for a list – with links – of all my shows, which are archived and thus always available.)

On the 1st Sunday of each month, I host a panel of brain injury survivors, caregivers, and/or professionals in the field. On these shows, my panelists and I examine topics pertaining to brain injury.

On the 3rd Sunday of each month, I host guests – brain-injury survivors, caregivers, or professionals in the field.

Since I spend countless hours in preparation for each show, I decided to share the knowledge that I gather with my readers.

 

Reasonable, Responsible, & Realistic Resolutions

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

blank list of resolutions on blackboard

New Year’s Day has passed. A new year is always a time of renewal – a time to look back on the past year and make positive commitments for the upcoming year. As humans, we seem to strive to improve, to make life better. The new year is a good time to correct old mistakes and to look to the future and make new plans.

I think this topic is appropriate now, as we look back on the past two months to determine if we are honoring our New Year’s resolutions. Did we, in fact, make reasonable, responsible, and realistic resolutions?

 It feels like the whirlwind of the holidays happened eons ago, and yet it’s just been two months. If you are like most of the population, you probably made resolutions on New Year’s Day – promises to yourselves that you would do something in your life to better it. In the days after the New Year’s celebration, you will see more people in the gym or running through the streets – maybe decked out in new running clothes to increase their motivation. You might hear folks talking about the new diet they are going to try to lose those unwanted pounds. Some folks vow to stop smoking or drinking, or at least they intend to cut down. Folks promise to take more time for family or friends, save money, travel more. new-years-resolutionsThe list goes on and on. Usually these resolutions are good intentions for the year that last maybe a week or two – perhaps even a month – but for whatever reason or reasons – time, lack of interest or motivation – many of these good intentions fall by the wayside.

Each new year, I usually make the resolution to exercise more. I start off okay, but not long after New Year’s Day is past, the motivation walking_girlstarts to wane. Lack of time, or more like “inability to properly manage time,” is a big factor for me. I seem to be always too busy with tons of projects, most of them involving writing. I work daily on my blog. I spend hours preparing my radio show. I’m writing articles for publication, and, of course, I have to write a lot of query letters to agents and publishers as I try to sell my book, “Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story.” It seems that the only things that ever get any exercise are my brain … and my fingers as they fly over the keyboard. Uh, did I say “fly”? I meant more like “stumble.” Most of my projects have deadlines – if not actual ones, then at least self-imposed ones. So, due to my over-commitments, this year I chose not to make any resolutions that I know I will not keep. Not keeping my resolutions only makes me feel like a failure, and that is not productive. I bet a lot of people fall into this category.

Folks with a brain injury are continually working to improve their lives, and New Year’s resolutions may seem even more important. Brain-injured people are used to taking small steps, but the temptation for New Year’s resolutions may be to try to do too much.

I’m going to discuss how to keep interest up and to make it possible to reach the goal of a reasonable, responsible, and realistic resolution.

DO YOU ENJOY YOUR GOAL?

Don’t have a goal you will never want to do. That’s a recipe for disaster. Is your resolution such a chore that you can easily find any excuse to NOT do it? If you’d rather clean toilets than complete your resolution, then perhaps you should reassess your resolution. toilet1I can pretty much guarantee that you will not be successful and that lack of success is certainly going to instill feelings of failure. I think a big part of being successful in keeping a resolution is to give the goal some thought first.

DECIDE HOW YOU WILL IMPLEMENT YOUR GOAL

If you want to get more sleep and go to bed earlier, then set an alarm for 30 minutes before your desired bedtime so you can start your sleep in bedbedtime preparations. If you want to always remember where your keys are, put a hook on the wall and ALWAYS hang your keys there. You will never have to search your home again for keys. Following a routine makes life easier. That goes for anything. Also, use available tools (calendar, Post-It notes, smart phone, etc.) to help you keep organized.

KEEP A TRACK RECORD

By keeping a record of your accomplishments, you are setting yourself up for success. You could keep a record in a journal-like notebook. journalSimply write the date at the top of the page, and write what you accomplished that day (e.g., Sit-ups – 5 minutes; Meditated – 10 minutes). You could also simply use a calendar dedicated just to your resolution and write your activity under each day that you do it. If you are computer savvy, you could keep a spreadsheet. Place the days in the left column; list the activities across the top. Then just put a checkmark in the box corresponding to day and activity. That would be the way I would do it.

I like to see my progress. It motivates me. I enjoy seeing how well I am doing – or NOT doing, so that I can readjust and improve. It may work for you too.

BE PATIENT – YOUR GOAL WILL NOT BE ACCOMPLISHED OVERNIGHT

Your success will not happen overnight. It will take time. You may even become lax at times, but don’t worry. The record keeping that we spoke of above will help to get you back on track.

Before his brain injury in 2005, my husband, David, used to do a half hour of his version of Tai Chi every morning. He’d run twenty miles each week, and he’d regularly lift small weights to strengthen weight_lifting_13his arms. He was fit and healthy. He exercised not only for his health, but also to leave the stress of his laboratory behind. David’s disabilities are all physical, including severely compromised balance, which makes him unable to run. He regrets this, but he has turned his attention to the treadmill – with its handrails – for exercise. He has also recently acquired a recumbent trike, which allows him to pedal away on his own with no danger of falling. None of this was possible when David first arrived home from the hospital. He was confined to wheelchair and bed. He could not even stand unassisted. It was a slow process – one that he has worked on over the past eleven years, but with small steps and small increments of exercise, he is gaining his strength and his independence.

So, no matter what your goal is, BE PATIENT. Reach for the stars, but remember, it will take time.

BE FLEXIBLE

If you choose a goal that you find is not appropriate – it’s too hard, it’s too easy, or you are not enjoying it – QUIT IT!

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It’s your life, and you can make the choices. Because you are a brain-injury survivor, I am sure there are many goals you would like to accomplish. Make new resolutions. (It doesn’t have to be a new year.) And, mix it up.

If you are not seeing the progress you want – for whatever reason, choose something else to work on. You can always come back and try again later. That’s why I encourage you to make reasonable and realistic resolutions. You want success to be imminent.

Once David tried a form of therapy on the recommendation of a friend who insisted that it helped her greatly, and, in fact, it did help her. David tried it for quite a long time and dedicated himself to it, but found it tedious and boring. He soon quit and set his sights on something more enjoyable that was not going to make him miserable. That’s where the flexibility comes in. Do what works for you.

TRY SOMETHING NEW

I mentioned earlier to “mix it up.” That’s not a bad idea for anyone. If boredom sets in, your chance of success will fall greatly. You won’t reach your proposed goal, and you will become disenchanted with the activity. The feelings of failure are right behind. So, don’t put yourself in that position. Make a new resolution, and try something different. It can be something different that is still familiar, or it can be something so different that you have never done it before.David on Recumbent Trike

I want to go back to the story of David’s recumbent trike. In his adult life, he never rode a bicycle. As I mentioned, his preferred method of exercise was to run. When that was no longer a viable exercise mode, he turned to a recumbent trike. That has changed his post-brain-injury life. Before the trike, David was unable to leave the house alone. Now he can leave whenever he wants to. He is able to go to the garage, get on his trike, ride for several hours, and return. (The only thing he cannot do is get off the trike anywhere else because his balance issues do not allow him to walk freely outdoors.) So, try something you have never done before. Maybe you always wanted to draw or paint. Do it.

HAVE A BUDDY FOR SUPPORT

You may want to exercise with a buddy. Exercise can be much easier with a friend. I much prefer walking and talking or treading water in the deep end of a pool and talking or rotating through the machines in the gym and talking. Are you seeing a pattern here? I find exercising with a friend much more enjoyable than exercising alone. No matter what your goal is, if you can do it with someone else, it makes the exercise easier. It also adds an element of accountability. If you have made plans with a friend, you are more likely to meet your goal.swimming

For most survivors with brain injury, life has drastically changed. The kinds of resolutions that you may have made before your brain injury are now more than likely impossible to attain. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t set goals that you can successfully achieve. The gym may be out of the question, but you can set aside some moments at home for leg lifts, small weights, push-ups, stepping-in-place, etc. You can do anything to keep your body fit.

Each brain injury is different. The disabilities that accompany each brain injury are wide and varied. For some folks, the injury entails only cognitive/learning disabilities or emotional issues. For others, the brain injury might include physical disabilities.

So basically, you want to assess what you can do to improve your life while not being miserable. You want to make resolutions that can fit into your lifestyle. You don’t want to set your goals so high that they cannot be achieved. But, if you set your goals too high, change them. Make your resolutions reasonable, responsible, and realistic. Most of all, make them FUN.

have_fun

 

Click here to listen to my show:

“Responsible Resolutions” on “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network.”

(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 intact it 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

 

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