TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Donna Figurski’

Past Blast: Survivors SPEAK OUT! George Visger (former NFL player)

SPEAK OUT! George Visger (former player for the San Francisco 49ers)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! George Visger

(former NFL San Francisco 49ers player)

(originally published July 7, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

#74 NFL San Francisco 49er, George Visger @ 1981

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

George Visger

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

Cypress, California, USA     visgergeorge@gmail.com

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

I was first injured – had surgery – at age 22 during the 1981 Super Bowl season with the San Francisco 49ers.

4. How did your TBI occur?

I had a number of concussions throughout my 12 years of playing organized football. My first serious concussion occurred at age 13, during my third year of Pop Warner. I was hospitalized on that one. My final, and most severe, concussion occurred in 1980 against the Dallas Cowboys. I suffered a major TBI in the first quarter, yet I never missed a play by the use of over 20 smelling salts during the game (or so I was told later in the week when my memory returned). I also never missed a practice. Several months later, early in the ‘81 season, I developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and underwent emergency VP (ventriculoperitoneal) shunt brain surgery at Stanford. I have since survived nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries, including five in a nine-month period in ‘86-‘87 while completing my Biology degree. I have also had several gran mal seizures, and I have been on anti-seizure meds for over 30 years.

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

I realized I had a problem during the ‘81 season. I developed major headaches and projectile vomiting. I saw balls of light in front of each eye each night. The team doctors diagnosed me with high blood pressure and prescribed diuretics for over two weeks, until I suffered focal point paralysis of my right arm. The team doc diagnosed me in the locker room with a brain hemorrhage. I drove myself to the hospital, where I underwent emergency VP shunt brain surgery.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have (e.g., surgery,

tracheotomy, G-peg)?

I have had nine emergency VP shunt brain surgeries since then. They drilled a hole in my skull and installed a permanent drain tube, which runs to a pressure valve in the back of my head. They plumbed that to drain into my abdomen. I am also on Lamictil for seizures.

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

Nine months after my first shunt surgery, the shunt failed while I was fishing in Mexico with my brother. It took him a day to get me home, and I was in a coma from the pressure on my brain. I had two more brain surgeries ten hours apart and was given last rites. I was 23 at the time.

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

I was never offered rehab. In fact, I was forced to sue the 49ers for Work Compensation just to get my second and third brain surgeries paid for. Until now, it was brain surgery, out the door, and “See you next shunt failure.” I did use Vocational Rehabilitation Services when I returned to school in ‘86 to complete my Biology degree. But, I was on my own to rehab after each of the five brain surgeries that I had while finishing my degree. I discovered B.R.A.I.N. (Brain Rehabilitation And Injury Network) founded by Sue Rueb in Cypress, CA, last year while speaking at a TBI conference. I literally moved there last August to get daily treatments – first treatments I have ever had. I do neurocognitive therapy and Yoga therapy, and I counsel other TBI survivors, which helps me as well.

How long were you in rehab?

I’ve been rehabbing since August 2013.

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

I have gran mal seizures, MAJOR short-term memory issues, poor judgment, anger-management issues, loss of direction, poor concentration, problems getting my words out or thinking of the right word, numbness in extremities, constant headaches, vision problems when my shunt goes out, diminished hearing, personality changes, problems handling finances, and brain seizures from alcohol, to name a few.

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

I completed a Biology degree in 1990 at age 32 after eight brain surgeries, and I followed my second dream to be a wildlife biologist. I have never let my injury define me, and I thank God for it. I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not been injured. But recently, things have begun to spiral out of control. I lost my environmental consulting business (Visger & Associates, Inc.) in 2009, and I lost our house in 2011. My wife of nearly 19 years, and the mother of my children, and I are going through a divorce. It’s been too much for her.

Visger, George  2008-06-15 21.03.51

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

I miss my family. I miss being The Giant – the guy who “could do anything,” as my wife used to say. I miss being able to remember things. I literally do not remember numerous out-of-state bow-hunts, months of my life, kids’ activities, etc.

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

I enjoy being able to use my injuries to help others. I feel it is my God given mission in life now.

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

Loss of my marriage

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by my belief that God has a plan for me and that “something good comes out of everything.”

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

It has destroyed my marriage, and I lost my ability to provide for my family.

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

Social activities were impacted, as I liked to drink back in the day. Now the only impact is that I will forget to attend a social outing. I have never been embarrassed about my injuries. I’m just as goofy now as I was before my injury.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

I was single until my late 30’s, and I have been my main caregiver ever since. My mom stepped in for a few days during surgeries, and my older brother, whom I worked with, kept an eye on me. My wife has done what she could over the years, but she has never been through a surgery with me.

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

I understand better than most what it takes to be a caregiver. I also understand what caregivers go through. I call it the “Ripple Effect.” My family members and caregivers have taken a worse beating from my TBI than I have. It is much harder on our loved ones than it is on ourselves.

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

I founded The Visger Group – Traumatic Brain Injury Consulting in 2010, and I have spoken all over the country. I coordinate directly with the NFL on rule changes to reduce TBIs in football at all levels. I have spoken at congressional hearings, conduct motivational talks at schools and businesses, and currently am working with our veterans suffering from TBI. I am also suffering from frontal lobe dementia, and I hope to kick a few butts and rattle a few cages while I can, in hopes of changing the way the medical field treats TBI survivors and families. In ten years, I expect to be working with government agencies, our military, academics, and sports leagues. I plan to be leading and speaking at TBI-recovery groups.

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.

George Visger #74  4th row from bottom, 2nd from right  @ 1981

George Visger #74
4th row from bottom, 2nd from right
@ 1981

In football, there is a saying: “Short, Choppy Steps.” If you over-stride, it’s easy for someone to knock you on your butt. You want to keep your butt down, your head up, and take short, powerful 12-inch strides. Forget about breaking long touchdown runs. Get the little things done each day, and you will reach your goals. If a football team only got four yards each play – no more, no less – they would never lose a game. Think about it. They would get a first down every three plays, and they would score every time they had the ball. Life is no different. You need long-term goals for sure: score a touchdown, win the game, win the Super Bowl. But, you will NEVER get there if you don’t get your four yards a carry. We sell wrist bands on our website (www.thevisgergroup) that say “Short, Choppy Steps” and another one we give to coaches and players that says “Use your head, DON’T use your head.” Focus on small daily victories, and you’ll win the game.

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

Keep in mind everyone has a cross to bear. Carry your cross; don’t let it carry you. All of us TBI survivors have a lot to give to everyone. Turn your negative into a positive and touch people’s lives. Focus on your positives. Work hard, and put it in God’s hands. It will all work out.

That’s all anyone can do.

You can learn more about George Visger on his blog and these YouTube videos.

George Visger Blog – Life Before and After Football

George Visger talks about his life in these videos:

The Damage Done — George Visger’s Concussions

Battle Scars: Stagg High Alum, Former 49er Fights on Despite Brain Injuries

George Visger addresses specific topics in these very short videos:

Visger-275x300

Do Helmets Give Football Players a False Sense of Safety?

Would This Retired NFL Player Do It Again?

Thank you, George, 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.)

(Photo compliments of George.)

If you would like to be a part of this 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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New News: . . . Sanctuary Magazine Features an Excerpt from Prisoners without Bars

Excerpt from Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale
in Sanctuary Magazine

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Sanctuary is a magazine that seeks to be a catalyst for the inspiration and motivation of women. In their words, “Sanctuary is a community of like-minded women. We have evolved into a destination where our readers can find enrichment for body, mind and soul and where we can share the best of ourselves in order to inspire others.” I am proud to announce that Sanctuary Magazine has published an excerpt from my book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale by Donna O’Donnell Figurski.

Click book cover to read complete excerpt.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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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 Blog

SPEAK 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 donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.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.

 

Sherrie Crusha – Brain Injury Survivor

Sherrie Crusha (survivor) … I haven’t been able to draw a whole picture since my TBI (traumatic brain injury), 31 years ago. I did my best one yet a couple of days ago.

Drawing by Sherrie Crusha

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

A young Boston University professor, Steve Ramirez, a neuroscientist, has identified cells of a mouse brain that enhance the positive or negative scientist-clip-art-41a38614afbd47caca00c32a563f44defeelings of a memory.

Stimulating cells that enhance positive feelings can suppress or deaden the trauma associated with a bad memory. In contrast, stimulating cells that enhance negative feelings makes a bad memory feel worse.

The hippocampus in both the mouse brain and the human brain is the region of the brain responsible for storing memories, including all the details and emotions associated with them. Each memory activates a unique combination of cells of the hippocampus.  Some of the cells affect emotion and behavior.

mouse-clip-art-grey-pink-mouse-mdRamirez and his collaborators (including first author Briana Chen of Columbia University) used genetically engineered mice whose neurons glow when they’re activated. Those cells can later be artificially activated with laser light. The team found that a negative memory (like getting a mild electric shock to the feet) activates cells at the bottom of the hippocampus.  A positive memory (like being in the presence of a female mouse) activates cells at the top of the hippocampus.

They then were able to stimulate those same cells with a laser.  When the bottom cells of the hippocampus were activated, the mouse behaved (freezing and/or avoidance behavior) as if it were recalling the negative memory of the shock. Stimulation of the cells in the top region of the hippocampus reduced the avoidance response.51wUt-P+FKL._SL500_

This is basic research, but it is a significant first step in the eventual development of treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression.  (Full story)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

 

 

SPEAK 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 donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.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.

 

jennifer-stokely-survivor-052615

Jennifer Stokley – Survivor of Brain Injury

Jennifer Stokley (survivor) … I met a stranger at my door who was sent to do “bug home care” (no notice). I let him in to do his work. I asked questions and had him explain things I needed to misc_welcome2know. I have Severe Anxiety Disorder and huge panic attacks.  Strangers are a HUGE trigger; letting them into my home is even bigger! I handled it all – no anxiety; no nothing!

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Excerpt 7

Chapter 21

“Don’t Worry” Means “Worry”

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

woman_on_cell_phone_3… I always screened the messages, so I stopped before I closed the door and listened. My skin prickled as I heard a familiar voice. Dr. Bradofsky from Radburn was leaving a message. He said not to worry—everything was okay, which, of course, meant I would worry and that everything was not okay. Doctors rarely call with good news. I dashed up the stairs, snatched the phone from the cradle, and identified myself.

Dr. Bradofsky said that David had fallen out of bed and landed on his head! Though it man-s-head-bump-cartoon-stars-56250235didn’t appear to be serious, he expected a large goose egg on David’s right temple. He said he would observe him. He also had arranged for an ambulance to transport David to an imaging facility the following day for a CT scan to rule out additional trauma. I “calmly” accepted his news, told him I was on my way, and hung up.

About half way to the hospital, I lost it. I was terrified this “bump on the head” would cause more brain injury. I pounded the steering wheel and screamed, “Why? Why? How could this happen? Why!” as I wiped the nonstop flow of tears from my eyes. I could not get to the hospital fast enough Calm Womanand prayed that the expressway would be rid its usual overwhelming commuter traffic that morning. I underwent a minor breakdown. By the time I reached the hospital, I was composed and ready to handle the situation …

 

Please leave a comment/question. I will respond.

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Past Blast . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly: TED Interview

“Gabby Giffords & Mark Kelly: TED Interview”

(originally published April 28, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Gabby & Mark TED Intreview Apri 2014

 

 

When TED interviewer, Pat Richards, asked former Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords (who is recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury caused by a gunshot wound to her head), if she wanted the “old” Gabby Giffords back or whether she was embracing the “new” version of herself, Gabby emphatically said, “The New One! … Better! Stronger! Tougher!”

Listen to the interview – “Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly: Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.”

Gabby and Mark are working for a safer world. See Americans for Responsible Solutions.

(Photo compliments of TED.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily mine.)

 

As I say after each post:

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Permission granted to “Reblog” my post.

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