TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . Jenifer Fallert

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Jenifer Fallert

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

  1. Jenifer Fallert CaregiverWhat is your name? (last name optional)

Jenifer Fallert

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

Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

  1. 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 brain injury survivor is my daughter, Jordan. She was one month away from her 24th birthday when she was struck by another car as she drove home from work.

  1. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?Jordan Fallert

Jordan was in the ICU (intensive care unit) for about 25 days before she was transferred to a regular floor. Thirty days after her accident, she was transferred by ambulance to another hospital (Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital) in Lincoln, Nebraska. Jordan was at Madonna until June 25. She was then discharged to home care. I was Jordan’s only visitor, along with her nurses who cared for her from the time of her admission. Even in the ICU, nurses aren’t able to attend to every need, so I did as much for Jordan as I could. I am Jordan’s primary caregiver, but my role has changed to more of an advisor. I was 47 at the time of Jordan’s accident.

  1. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?Young Teenagers Colorful Casual Clothes

I had two other teenage children whom I was caring for at the time of Jordan’s accident.

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

I was employed as the Director of Operations for a preschool at the time of Jordan’s accident. I took a six-month leave and worked part-time before deciding to stay home with Jordan full-time.

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

Jordan was injured during COVID, so most of the time that she was in the hospital or rehab, I was the only one helping her.

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

I provided as much care for Jordan as I possibly could. I started immediately after the accident.

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

Jordan was in a coma for about 14 days and minimally conscious for about another month. While Jordan was in a coma or in her minimally conscious state, I did as much as I could to care for her. I read or crocheted a little to pass the time in the hospital and rehab. I was also dealing with insurance companies and the legal entities involved.

  1. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Jordan received inpatient rehab at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. She received physical, occupational, speech, and recreational therapies. She also did intensive outpatient therapy at Madonna for another six weeks before coming back home and doing outpatient therapy at SSM Rehab in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. I moved to Nebraska and lived in a home for caregivers on the grounds of the rehab facility. Once Jordan was released to outpatient therapy, she lived with me in Nebraska until we came home.

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

R-4When Jordan first came home from rehab, she required help with most of her ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). As time has gone on, she has been able to perform most of her ADLs on her own. She has short-term memory loss, so my role is helping to make sure that she remembers things and stays safe.

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

My life has changed a lot since I have become Jordan’s caregiver. I no longer work, and I spend most of my time with her at home. The thing is that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have always loved being with Jordan and spending time with her. My greatest joy is being a mother to all my daughters. I’ve gotten to help raise Jordan twice, and that is quite the gift!

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

I miss the daughter whom I knew for 23 years, the relationship Jordan had with her sisters, and the innocence that we all had – the blissful unawareness that most people have that tragedy can strike at a moment’s notice.

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

I enjoy getting to spend so much time with Jordan and helping her grow into the wonderful person that she is.

  1. What do you like least about brain injury?

The emotional and cognitive side of brain injury can be very draining and hard on family relationships.

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

No answer

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

Jordan’s accident, the legal trial, and COVID have had profound impacts on our family. (The other driver in Jordan’s accident was charged with second degree assault. He was driving 79 mph in a 45-mph zone and had a history of aggressive driving. I can’t describe how that feels. His act of violence on an innocent human will reverberate through our lives forever.)Jordan Fallert Survivor

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

We spend more time at home now. Social settings are hard on Jordan’s ability to communicate effectively, which makes her feel very frustrated.

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

I don’t know what I hope to be doing in ten years. Even though it’s been over a year since Jordan’s brain injury, we are still in the early stages. I hope she is more healed.

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

When Jordan was in the hospital, the doctors and nurses would tell me that this is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. That is the truest statement. It takes years and years to heal from a brain injury. Time and patience are key.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jordan Fallert

Survivors SPEAK OUT!     Jordan Fallert

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Jordan Fallert

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

My name is Jordan Fallert.

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

I live in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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

I got my brain injury on February 5th, 2021. I was 23 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I got my TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a car crash around 5:30 on a Friday. I had just left work to go home to study for a test for my master’s degree. Studying

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

What saved my life was that a fire truck had responded to a fire on that same road. They were told their backup was no longer needed. Their captain (who was in an SUV, not the fire truck) saw the crash happen. I was unconscious on impact, and they had to use the “Jaws of Life” to get me out of the car. After I was rescued, they took me straight to the hospital to have emergency surgery. I was in a coma for six weeks. I slowly gained consciousness and became aware pretty quickly that I was in the hospital, but I had no idea why. That was my biggest indication that something was wrong. Also, I couldn’t walk, and I had extreme right-side weakness.

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

After I was rescued from my car and in the ambulance, the firemen realized very quickly I was having extreme difficulty breathing. I was hit on a road that had a speed limit of 45 mph. I was turning onto the road and going about 12 mph, and the other driver was speeding and going over 60 mph. Even though I was going so slowly, the force of the impact caused my diaphragm to rupture, my lungs to push on my stomach, and my stomach to push on my heart. Once I was at the hospital, I was immediately taken to the trauma floor. I was in surgery for about six hours.

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

I was in a self-induced coma for about six weeks.

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

Yes. I did a lot of rehab. I was in the hospital for about four months. As soon as I was conscious, they began putting me into rehab. I did speech, occupational, and physical therapies. After I was released from the hospital, I stayed with my mom in a house on the hospital campus and did intense outpatient therapy. And when I came home, I did more therapies at a hospital near me. It’s difficult to say how long I was in rehab, but I would guess about nine months.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?  wearing-specs-retro-cartoon-girl-teen-vector-illustration-148518868

My vision is one of my biggest problems so far. I go to a neuro-ophthalmologist to help combat my double vision. I have had some personality changes that my mom would probably agree with. But I would consider a lot of these “personality changes” to be normal for a very intelligent 24-year-old who had the whole world going for her. Someone else’s actions took that away. I also lost my independence.

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

My life has changed, but I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse; it’s just different. (I personally have really tried my best to think like that.) My life has changed in that I have to rely on people a lot more than I am comfortable with. I got a car for my 16th birthday (almost ten years ago), so I’ve always been able to go places and do things without having to ask other people for rides and things like that. It feels like I was knocked down a peg or two.

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

This is a bit of a complicated question for me. My life was in such a weird place when my crash happened. Courses all went online because of COVID. I had to come home–exactly from my undergrad degree. I continued with a job where I had my internship at, but I hardly saw my friends because of COVID. They were all in different cities in the US, and we couldn’t really travel. So I guess what I really miss are my college years because those are the most recent and foremost in my mind. Because of the accident, I have retrograde amnesia. So I don’t remember anything from about two years before.

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

Jordan Fallert & CavapooBefore my accident, I was on a breeder list to get a cavapoo puppy. I was sixth on the list, and a litter was born in May 2021. Some people skipped on this litter of two (the Tom and Jerry litter), so I was able to have my choice. I chose Tom and renamed him Brew. He has been my saving grace after my brain injury. He’s my best friend and constant companion. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

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

I don’t like feeling weak. This right-side weakness has been an uphill battle to deal with. But it’s getting better.

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

My parents have really been my saving grace. They have never given up on me and never make me feel like I am limited. If I want to do something, they encourage me and help me do it.

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

I continue to live with my parents since my brain injury. I was living with them before due to COVID. My parents have been nothing but great. But I have had a lot of friendships wither and decay, which has been hard in and of itself.

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

Yes and no. I didn’t have a social life before the accident because of COVID. After the crash and when I came home, I had some friends come see me at my house, but they slowly drifted away. It’s hard when you can’t drive, so you are always having to ask others to drive up to see you or drive you somewhere.

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

My main caregivers are my mom and my dad. I do not understand–and hope to never understand–what it takes to be a caregiver. I just know that they are the strongest individuals I know.

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

My plans are very fluid and always changing. I recently (less than a month ago) got my license, and last week, I was able to buy my own car. With these changes, my attitude and outlook have drastically improved. I feel like I can conquer the world if I have this outlook. A Traumatic Brain Injury won’t keep me down and will not limit me. I won’t let it!    R

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.

I was always angry that my brain couldn’t heal faster, but my mom kept reminding me that it’s not like a broken bone. It’s an organ that controls your entire body, so give it time to heal.

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

Don’t take your anger out on your caregiver(s). They want to help you get your life back. Hug everyone tighter, and tell them you love them. A brain injury will only limit you if you let it.

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                                                               Stay Safe and Healthy!

Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

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

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