TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘https://survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com/’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Bonnie Weikel

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Bonnie Weikel

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Bonnie Weikel – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Bonnie Weikel

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

New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA

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

I was 47. My brain hemorrhage was in 2004.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (blood leaking into the space between two of the membranes that surround the brain; mine was from a ruptured brain aneurysm). I always like saying the correct medical terminology because I can actually remember how to spell it. For the majority of the time, I refer to it as “My head blowing up.” I also had a stroke during my craniotomy.

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

I was aware of my problems after I woke up from surgery. (The doctor wasn’t able to guarantee what kind of shape I would be in if I survived the surgery.)

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

First, the hospital ruled out a stroke, and, because I complained of “the headache from hell,” they did a CT (computerized tomography) scan and found the bleed on my brain. They packed me up and transported me to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where I had my brain surgery done.

operating-theatre-illustration-surgeon-patient-hospital-41734906.jpg7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

No, thank God. I recognized everyone when I came out of surgery. I just couldn’t remember who was there to visit from one minute to the next. My daughter took pictures of me with everyone who came to see me.

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

I was in inpatient therapy for a month and then in outpatient therapy for about five weeks. I had to learn to do everything all over again – starting with feeding and dressing myself.

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

I have short-term memory loss and issues with balance, vision, and hearing. I have worked very hard over the past ten years to get to where I am today, and I did it all by myself.

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

My life has changed dramatically. It is better. I love the “new” me much better than the old version. I also found out who my true friends are.

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

I did lose one thing I used to love to do. I used to sew for hours. I had my own sewing business. I made anything from window treatments to wedding gowns, and I was good at it. I lost all desire to sew; it is no longer something I love to do. It is more of a chore.

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

I like that I am back in school. I am taking college courses online. It is the biggest challenge I have taken on since the TBI (traumatic brain injury).

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

I have an invisible disability, and some people think I am faking it and living off the system.

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

Yes. Changing my attitude about people and life in general has helped. One day, I decided I could sit and cry for the rest of my life about all that I have lost, or I could be happy with my new life and live it.

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

My home life has been affected, but in a positive way.

I take pride in myself and in my accomplishments. Relationship-wise, it’s been a curse.

I haven’t been able to find people who can deal with my issues because they just do not understand. I am thankful they don’t understand how life is for a TBI survivor because, if they did, it would mean they also suffered a TBI. (The only way anyone can truly understand what life is like for a survivor is to live it themselves.)

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

Yes. My social life has changed a lot. During the first year, I found out who my real friends are. Now I have a small circle of friends who I know I can trust. I go out dancing once a week with friends. I do this because I still can.

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

After living with my daughter for about a year, I am now on my own. I do everything myself – I am even back to driving. I will say this much: I thank God for my GPS! Ha, Ha! Yes, I understand what it is to be a caregiver, and it takes a special kind of patience for a caregiver of someone with a TBI.

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

I am working on a Communications degree and changing to Community Service and Social Work. My goal is to work with other survivors as a life-coach/advocate. I am getting better grades now than I ever did in high school. I can only handle two classes a semester, so it will take twice as long as normal to get my degree. But, I will see it through to the end.

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.

It didn’t take me as long as it does for some others, but learning to love your new self and accept your new life is, I believe, the secret to moving on. Love and acceptance of yourself is the base you can grow from.

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

I highly recommend that brain-injury survivors seek out other survivors. It was such an awesome feeling the first time I spoke to someone who “Gets it.” It was like someone turned my light back on. I felt free and almost normal again. I was no longer alone. I have a motto I live by. It was written from one of the first survivors I met – in a Yahoo health and wellness chatroom. I think he went by “Rhino.” Anyway, here it is. “Mourn what you lost. Use what you have. Anyone can quit.” My strongest advice to other survivors is “NEVER GIVE UP!”

 

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jordan Emerson

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Jordan Emerson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

jordan-emerson-2

Jordan Emerson – Brain Injury Survivor – Race Car Driver

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

Jordan Emerson

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

Windham, Maine, USA

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

I had my brain injury at 13 years young.

4. How did your brain injury occur?dan Emerson

Jordan Emerson - Brain Injury Survivor - Race Car Driver

Jordan Emerson – Brain Injury Survivor – Race Car Driver

I was driving a fully-safety-equipped racecar.

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

When I was unconscious

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

I was given a trach. I had emergency procedures for a cracked left hip, brain stem, seizures, a crushed left arm, paralyzed vocal chords, and paralyzed stomach.

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

Jordan Emerson - Brain Injury Survivor

Jordan Emerson – Brain Injury Survivor

Yes. Almost 3 months

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

I have occupational and physical therapies as an outpatient. I was also helped by a speech-language pathologist.

How long were you in rehab?

I’m still attending OT and PT as an outpatient.

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

I still have awful trouble going to the bathroom. Being in crowded areas makes me tired. (It’s “overstimulation,” but instead of overstimulation, it feels like a “draining of my energy.”)

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

My life is neither better nor worse. It’s just different.

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

I miss being able to run around outside with my dogs.

th-112. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I like that everybody seems to offer to help more often.

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

I dislike that I’ll be thinking so hard about something, and then, *poof* it’s gone.

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

Talking with other survivors has helped.

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

Before I developed a filter, I said things to friends, and over time, those friends disappeared.

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

Yes. I have lost friends.friends

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

My mom is my main caregiver. I’m thankful for her every day.

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

I plan to be driving, living in my own apartment, married, etc.

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.

Hard work really does pay off.

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

Jordan Emerson and Mom & Dad

Jordan Emerson – Brain Injury Survivor and Mom & Dad

I owe a lot of my journey to my loving parents – I couldn’t have done this without them. I ♡ them!
Please feel free to reach out to me (#Believe). I enjoy helping whenever I am able. Believe!

 

 

 

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

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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

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

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

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

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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!

david-jareds-wedding-060513

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.

animated-book

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.”

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! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . . Carol Starke-Pyle (caregiver of her son, Thomas)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Carol Starke-Pyle

(caregiver of her son, Thomas)

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Carol Starke-Pyle (caregiver of her son, Thomas)

carol-starke-pyle-1

Carolyn Starke-Pyle – Caregiver for Brain Injury Survivor

 

This is my son’s story. Thomas was 43. He trained/rode horses for a living. He was very athletic, vivacious, funny, etc. He came to visit me one Sunday, and, as the day wore on, he became more and more delusional. I called an ambulance. My son knew his name, knew where he was, and walked to the ambulance. I followed to the Emergency Room. I was able to see Thomas twenty minutes later, as he was waiting in the cubicle. He could not talk – he babbled incoherently. He could not sit up or walk. He didn’t know me. He was admitted and was given many tests: a CT (computerized tomography) scan, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and a spinal tap. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) was called in. It was concluded that Thomas had brain damage. After two weeks, Thomas was transferred to a neurological center. He didn’t know how to swallow, he knew NO ONE, he was in a huge crib, and he was in diapers. More the-brain-hispinal taps and more MRIs. I was told his frontal lobe looked as if a bag of M&Ms had been tossed into it. Infectious/viral disease had been ruled out. It was determined that, due to numerous concussions from falls off horses, his brain had suffered too much damage – which was IRREVERSIBLE! I collapsed when his doctor said, “The Thomas you knew a month ago is no longer with us.” He continued to tell me that my vibrant son would need a nursing home for the rest of his life.

I went onto Facebook and shared my anguish and pleaded for prayers. A prayer chain encircled the globe. Meanwhile, I attended TBI (traumatic brain injury) seminars and met with social workers and more doctors to find a special nursing home for Thomas. Two months later, on my visit, his nurse grinned and said she had a surprise. Thomas was standing up! The next week, he was walking, then talking (he made little sense, but … !), then recognizing us, and then eating by himself. As I was a teacher, I chose to stick up all sorts of stimuli – photos of family, friends, pets, and horses. horse_adoptable_bay_animated_by_hikari_yumi-d5hrf17Thomas slowly improved (contrary to the opinions of ALL specialists). After four months, with short-term memory loss and some loss of intelligence, Thomas was released. I asked his doctor to explain. He looked at me and quietly said, “It is a miracle!”

My son is back to work with horses, has absolutely NO memory of the hospital, has a touch believe-clip-art-at-clker-com-vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-qep8hi-clipartof short-term memory loss, and is as bright as he always was. BELIEVE IN MIRACLES! I am praying for YOU ALL!

 

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

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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

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

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

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

Feel free to “Like” my post.

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

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 Step

me

 

Jennifer Stokley (survivor) … I recently met a stranger at my door who was sent to do bug home care. There was no notice, but I let him in to do his work. I asked questions – I had him explain things I needed to know. 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!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

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

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

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

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Repair of Brain Injury in Mice by Transplanted Neurons

Repair of Brain Injury in Mice by Transplanted Neurons

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Newsboy thThis is an incredible finding with strong clinical implications! There already is evidence that transplanted neurons can survive and grow in the brain. The newly introduced neurons can form synapses, and they sometimes improve function by partially compensating for a damaged brain circuit. What was not known was whether the original damage could be repaired. Now scientists have shown in a well-studied mouse model of the brain that transplanted neurons can replace the damaged neurons, make the appropriate connections, and repair the damage.ridkk855t

The research was done in Germany by scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich in Planegg, the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, the Helmholtz Center Munich, and the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Neuherberg. Neurons in the visual cortex of the adult mouse brain were killed, then immature (embryonic) mouse neurons from the cerebral cortex were transplanted into the damaged area of the adult mouse brain. What the scientists found was remarkable. The transplanted neurons developed into mature cells – the same kind as the killed cells, and the new cells replaced the killed cells to give normal function. The process took several months.th-1

The visual cortex is one of the best studied areas of the mouse brain. The structures and connections of the nerve cells are known. So, the scientists, using sophisticated tools, were able to propose that the transplanted neurons used the same developmental signals that were used by the original cells. The transplanted immature neurons developed the proper structures, targeted the same areas of the brain, and made the same connections throughout the brain as did the original cells. The transplanted cells repaired the damaged circuits and allowed the visual cortex to function normally again.gray-mouse-hi-1

This basic research in mice has astonishing clinical implications for humans. (I wrote before about how the mouse is a good first model for the human.) Lost or damaged neurons can be replaced with incredible precision. That means there may be a future treatment, maybe even a cure, for all kinds of damage to the brain, including that which occurs from acquired and traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. (Full story)

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ed Steeves – Standing Still

Standing Still

by

Ed Steeves

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Boy Blogger thNo matter how great it sounds, we can’t go back. No matter how much we may want to, that bridge has burned. The past has passed for a reason. We need to accept that it is over. We can only take the lessons we’ve learned.

Now we have a choice, since we can’t change the past or return to it. We can’t get the past back and never will. So, the decision that we have to make is Will we move on into the future, or will we simply stand still?k20874676

I, for one, will go forward with my life. I have decided that, somewhere ahead, there is something better to find. Because, if we just stand there and stare at what’s dead and gone, we will surely lose our mind.

The thing we fail to notice at times is that, no matter how amazing the past was, the future is better. The past, sadly, is occupied only with our memories, and it’s our prison. Only in the future can we all be free.

Ed Steeves - Survivor

Ed Steeves – Survivor

It’s OK to take some time to reflect – to forgive and move on. I’ve finally given up on all that’s there in the past.

But remember that life is still alive in the future, and we are never certain how long it will last.

Thank you, Ed Steeves.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ed Steeves.)

 

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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No memory of the day that changed my life

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

Everything and nothing. GM1123 😊

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