TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Iraq War’

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

jeannette davidson-Mayer 0417151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

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

New Plymouth, Idaho, USA     2004djmjdm@gmail.com

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

My husband, DeWayne, has a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was 38 when it happened. While serving in Iraq, DeWayne survived one Humvee rollover, two close-range IEDs (improvised explosive devices), one helicopter explosion (They were guarding a downed helicopter when the remains were blown-up for disposal), and lastly an IED that went off right under the command seat, where DeWayne was sitting. All this happened in 2005 between May 23rd and October 3rd.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor?

At the end of October 2004, DeWayne was flown to Madigan Air Force Base in Washington State on the advance plane from Iraq. I made a few trips there to see him. He was allowed occasional trips home. By February 2006, DeWayne was home for good. We didn’t know DeWayne had a TBI until mid-2007. We just knew something wasn’t connecting right in his daily mental functions.

Were you the main caregiver?

Yes. Our daughter as well has learned to be a caregiver over the years.486770_10200560183360321_1086965832_n

Are you now?

Yes

How old were you when you began care?

33

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

No

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?

Yes, I was employed. My employer helped above the call of duty. In mid-October 2014, I did have to quit working because DeWayne’s medical needs had increased. Also, I had gone to one of our smaller companies, which is a 10-minute drive vs. a 5-minute walk. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend this change, which created hardships for our daughter and for DeWayne and me as a couple.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

I couldn’t make it without the love and support of our family, friends, and church family. Help is from driving DeWayne to assisting with happenings at home. Most of all, help is providing an ear to listen.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?

My quality of care has grown over the years. It took a while because I didn’t know how to ask for help. I was embarrassed to ask, and I didn’t understand how to ask either. I felt that if I couldn’t do it myself, I was failing my family.

9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?

No, but DeWayne was knocked out several times.

10. Did your survivor have rehab?

Yes

If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?

DeWayne had occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapies as an outpatient. He also had behavioral health therapy.

How long was the rehab?

Rehab started out three days a week, eight hours a day, for three months at Idaho Elks Rehab. DeWayne was then moved to the Boise VA (Veterans Administration) facility, where he went several days a week. DeWayne still has recreational therapy, physical therapy, and occasionally occupational therapy. And, monthly behavioral health therapy.

Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Idaho Elk’s Rehab, Boise VA Medical Center, Tri-Cities Physical Therapy, St. Luke’s Spinal Care

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

DeWayne has many difficulties. He has fixations. He’s easily lost, confused, and disoriented. He tires easily. His short-term memory is a problem. DeWayne doesn’t always understand what is happening around him or what is being said to him. Also we don’t always understand what he is trying to say to us. He suffers from migraines/headaches. He has silent seizures, bi-lateral hearing loss, tremors, and sensitivity to light.

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

I can’t really say if life is better or worse because of the TBI. We are both different from the deployment alone. I am the lucky wife because he came home alive, which is a celebration in itself.

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

There is a lot I miss (for example, long hiking trips and long conversations). But, the trade-off is worth it.

14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?Jeannette Davidson-Mayer & DeWayne

We have learned to depend on each other completely – as spouses and as a family. We tend to stand up for what we believe in. We hold on tighter. We often show each other how important we are. We travel off-season, which is nice because the crowds are less. Nicer indeed!

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

We never know what to expect from day to day, yet it is also a positive, for we never have a dull moment.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?

Through many trials and errors, we have finally discovered our saving grace. Our kitchen has become our “Central Command Post.” Our lives center around our kitchen. We were able to set up an atmosphere that can adapt to DeWayne’s ever-changing daily new normal. Post-it Notes and whiteboard markers saved our family.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Of course, DeWayne’s TBI has affected home life, relationships, and so on. We have lost.

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

Our social life has been cut. We don’t go out as much. We avoid crowds, noisy situations, and places that make DeWayne uncomfortable. I also have become uneasy about the same things that make DeWayne uneasy.

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

Our plans for the future are to continue to live in joy and love together, to share our lives with our children as they continue to grow, to travel the world in an RV, and to reach out to others to show them that they have the inner strength needed to move forward. (How they move forward is unique to each family.)

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

Never give up. Give in from time to time. Let it out – cry or scream. Then look back on what is happening to find ways to make adjustments or to find solutions to the challenges. Know that you are not alone. You yourself, along with your family, have so much to offer.

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

Military families are not alone in living with TBIs and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and in being caregivers. We didn’t sign up for this life, but we have it. Now let’s figure out how to keep moving forward, so we can reach higher, dream bigger, and hold on tighter.

To learn more about Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, you can listen to her interview with me on “Another Fork in the Road” on blogtalkradio.com or at R4 Alliance.

 

Jeannette Davidson-MayerThank you, Jeannette, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

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

(Photo compliments of Jeannette.)

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

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“Another Fork in the Road” . . . Brain Injury Radio Network . . . Interview: Juliet Madsen

 You Are Invited

Juliet Madsen – US Troop, TBI Survivor, Quilter, and Author

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Juliet Madsen has served in the US Army since she was 17-years old. She was involved in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. While serving her country, Juliet suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury and at least one stroke, which changed her life forever.

Come One! Come ALL! 

What:        Interview with Juliet Madsen, US Troop, TBI Survivor, Wife, Mother, Quilter, and Author

Why:        Juliet will share her story of living with brain injury and how she is helping the brain-injured community.

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Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, May  17th, 2015

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

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

Call In:    424-243-9540

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

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside USA

or SKYPE

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photo compliments of Juliet Madsen.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Juliet Madsen

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Juliet Madsen

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

#4 Juliet Madsen 21. What is your name? (last name optional)

Juliet Madsen

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

Parker, Colorado, USA     juliet@strokeofluckquilting.com

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

I had three strokes (2004, 2009, and 2010), and I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was 33 in 2004.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injuries are complex: heat strokes complicated by a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2004. I was being moved to a secondary location because of a heat injury, when there was a series of explosions on the highway. So, I have the illustrious honor of having both a brain injury as a result of heat injury and then a traumatic brain injury. This creates a problem for the doctors because I do not fall into any one category. I have very complicated neurological issues.

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

My family and the people I was stationed with in Iraq realized there was a problem. I was not making much sense when I wrote patient notes and when I wrote letters home. Then my speech was becoming garbled. I exhibited a halting speech pattern, in which I had trouble “spitting out” words. I also had tremors, which made even the simplest tasks difficult. #3 1454864_10200875275550279_968652467_n Manual dexterity issues, massive migraines, and balance problems caused my unit to put me on night shift and to adjust how and where I was living in Iraq. Then I was being transferred north where I could work in a more controlled environment when we were involved in a series of vehicle explosions. After that event, I was sitting with a few of the guys at the chow hall, and I said that “I didn’t feel well.” I suffered a seizure in the chow hall, and that started my slow trip home.

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

I had emergency care to stabilize me in Iraq, then in a C-130 flying from Iraq to Kuwait, then again from Kuwait to Germany, and again to Walter Reed, and then to Ft. Bragg.  Although I know I had care to treat seizures and stroke, I only have very few bits and pieces of my memory from that time.

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

No, I was not.

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 have had rehab both as an inpatient and as an outpatient. I am in and out of occupational, speech, physical, and recreational therapies even today. I have gone in and out of these therapies, as my TBI symptoms change over the years. I have often described my TBI as causing “rolling blackouts.” The polytrauma team that treats me has been really good about getting me in to see the appropriate team.

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

That is such a loaded question…. Initially I had left-sided weakness from the stroke, difficulty talking, balance issues, drop foot, short-term memory loss, major time perception problems, migraines all the time, and ringing in my ears. I was sound-sensitive. I have constant neck and head pain. I have hearing and vision changes (which the doctors tell me are a direct result of the TBI). I absolutely have personality changes. I was someone who always got along with people, worked as a paramedic, and did research. Now I have no concentration, I am angry with everyone, I am short with people, I cry easily, and I feel very defeated. Even with all of the incredible accomplishments in my life, I am disappointed in the perceived failures in my day-to-day life. I have had times since my brain injury when it is like I forgot who I was or what I have always stood for, and I hurt the ones who have always cared for me. I have major learning disabilities. I can’t do anything with numbers or time, and learning new information is extremely difficult – this from someone who graduated from college with honors. Concentration and accomplishing simple tasks are often very difficult.

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

My life has changed 100%, but I can’t say that it is worse because I am still here. So, that is a good thing, but it is very different. I was a paramedic in the United States Army. I was always busy working, and now I am retired. I become tired and overwhelmed far too easily. I quilt for a living, and I make quilts for programs across the country. I am on the Board of Directors of a national non-profit organization that works with programs for the families of military and veteran personnel with TBI/PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The organization provides other programs through recreational and activity-based services. This is a very different place from being a paramedic and saving lives.

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

I admit that I miss who I was before I was hurt. I miss being able to go to the store alone. I miss being able to be trusted with my own finances or being able to read a recipe and understand it the first time I read it. I had a very definite plan for my life, and my injuries changed all of those plans. I miss feeling like I really contribute to my family and to the world around me.

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

I try to enjoy simple things: butterflies, the pure joy of my dogs lying with me, my kids telling me that they love me, etc. I like learning new recipes, listening to music, or holding hands with my husband in case I can’t tomorrow. Basically, I try to enjoy this moment because I know that tomorrow isn’t promised.

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

I would give anything to trust my memory and my body again. But, if I could have one wish, it would be to have my memory back. I have no memory of any of my kid’s proms, their birthdays, their graduations, etc. I wish I could just remember these events for their sakes.

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

#8 Juliet & Peter MadsenMy family has helped me to accept my injuries because, although we joke around, they accept me for all that has happened. I was so angry and really emotionally crushed when I first came home. The only thing that I can always count on is my family, no matter what. The only other thing that has probably helped is time.

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

My husband, Peter, and I are so lucky to have each other. After twenty-three years together, I am thankful that this injury has not torn us apart, but it came very close. A TBI is exhausting for everyone involved, and I think that the first few years are spent in emergency mode – performing triage. Then as we started to get comfortable with how things were going, my brain “kicked us” – I suffered another stroke. We had a whole new series of issues and rules to learn. Peter and the kids have been incredible at supporting me. Although it has been a really rough road, we have been through it together. We are stronger because we are always together, and that part I am thankful for.

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

Yes, I have actually lost friendships because of my TBI. I describe myself as a “golden retriever.” (I am excited to see you, but if you leave the room and come back in, I don’t know how long you were gone, but I am still really excited to see you.) It is because of this lack of the concept of time that I have lost friends. Also I wasn’t good enough at keeping in contact. I had a friend call me and tell me that I wasn’t an attentive enough friend. So now, I tell every potential friend this cautionary story. But to be honest, I don’t really try to make friends any more. Most people don’t understand me – or our family. Because of that, we are very private people. We don’t do a whole lot with others. It’s just easier that way. We would prefer to have lots of friends, but it just isn’t that easy.

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

My husband, Peter, is my main caregiver. I am so very thankful to him, in love with him, indebted to him, sorry, and every other adjective I can think of. I have moments of clarity when I see how terribly hard all of this is. It kills me that I have become a burden, and yet I am still his wife. I’d also like to say that I have had to watch my kids become my caregivers. They have taken care of me on too many occasions to count. It is incredibly hard on the entire family. They all suffer from PTSD as we go through this process. They all deserve so much more credit than they get for surviving this experience.

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

I am ten years out from my injuries, but I am light years from my initial injuries. I hope to continue my physical improvements, and I would like to recover better in terms of my learning disabilities and mental health. I would like to go back to school and get a degree in Art Therapy to help other veterans and their families with TBI and PTSD. In ten years, I would really like to be working with military families through art in my own program. I would also like to have published my own quilting book.

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.

There are so many setbacks during the recovery process. I never seem to be where I am supposed to be. But, I never stop because there are no set rules and no one is saying where you have to be. So, just keep going – never give up.

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

I think the worst thing I do to myself is to constantly beat myself up about what I could have or should have done to either prevent this or to change it now. It kills me to know where my family is and how my family has been changed forever because of all of the things that happened since 2004. I would give anything to change it, but I can’t. On good days, I can accept it and move past it, but on bad days, I can’t. It hangs over me and suffocates me. It is my wish that others out there like me hold on and cherish the life you have because no one can live it like you can.

Thank you, Juliet, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and #6 Juliet Madsen Snowinspiration 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.

(Photos compliments of Juliet.)

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 lower right corner of your screen.

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.

 

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, Caregiver – Military Spouse

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio

“Another Fork in the Road”

with Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, Caregiver – Military Spouse

presented by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

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When Jeannette Davidson-Mayer’s husband, DeWayne, had five brain injuries – the result of his active duty in Iraq – Jeannette became his caregiver. To combat this 24-hour job, Jeannette redesigned her kitchen to become the family’s “Central Command Post.”  Jeannette will discuss how she, DeWayne, and their daughter make11023816_10204963754366844_8119135603280691384_n this system work for them.

If you missed her interview on “Another Fork in the Road” on April 19th, you are in luck. You can listen to the archived show here.

Click the link below to listen to Jeannette Davidson-Mayer and me.

See you “On the Air!”

On the Air: Brain Injury Radio – Another Fork in the Road”

with Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, Caregiver – Military Spouse

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

“Another Fork in the Road” . . . Brain Injury Radio Network . . . Interview: Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

putthis_on_calendar_clip_artYOU Are Invited!

When Jeannette Davidson-Mayer’s husband, DeWayne, had five brain injuries – the result of his active duty in Iraq – Jeannette became his caregiver. To combat this 24-hour job, Jeannette redesigned her kitchen to become the family’s ?Central Command Post.” Jeannette will discuss how she, DeWayne, and their daughter make this system work for them.

Come One! Come ALL!

What:        Interview with Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, caregiver to spouse, DeWayne Mayer

Why:        Jeannette will talk about how she and DeWayne and their daughter live on the TBI Trail.

Where:     Brain Injury Radio Network

When:       Sunday, April  19th, 2015

Time:         5:00p PT (6:00p MT, 7:00p CT, and 8:00p ET) 90 minute showjeannette davidson-Mayer 041715

How:         Click: Brain Injury Radio Network

Call In:    424-243-9540

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

Call In:    202-559-7907 free outside USA

or SKYPE

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photo compliments of Jeannette Davidson-Mayer.)

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . . . . Military and Traumatic Brain Injury

The Military and Traumatic Brain Injury

 

Newsboy thIt has been said that traumatic brain injury is the signature wound of troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mild TBIs (mTBIs), many of which are concussions, constitute the majority of TBIs. Often an mTBI is invisible. Even the injured soldier may not be aware that he/she has an mTBI. Treatment, if it is obtained at all, is sometimes sought weeks or months later. mTBIs are common, but they can have serious consequences. The Military has increased its awareness of TBI. For example, they are supporting research to develop a hand-held eye-tracking device that will enable a troop with an mTBI to be diagnosed quickly in the field. It will help soldiers get immediate treatment, and it will prevent those troops from being sent back into the field. Here are two powerful videos (parts 1 and 2) of returning soldiers with a TBI and their families discussing their new lives. I have also provided a link to the Department of Defense’s material on TBI. (Videos Part 1 and Part 2) (DoD page)

 

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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.

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