TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Karen Dickerson’

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Dickerson

Never Give Up!


Karen Dickerson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingOn March 2nd, 2014, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life forever. My speech was slurred; I couldn’t read; I couldn’t even write my own name.


Karen Dickerson – Brain Injury Survivor

Two months after my accident, I was so proud to write my name again that I signed divorce papers I couldn’t comprehend. I also signed so that my brain injury wouldn’t be used to take my children away. For fifteen years, I was married – and in an abusive relationship. I had three children, and I was left with nothing. Not even child support. I had lived a fairly comfortable life, financially speaking. I just wanted out and couldn’t take the confusion of court proceedings, but yet I couldn’t understand why. Everyone said I looked “normal.”

I struggled to feed my children. I swallowed my pride even when I was standing in line at a food pantry. I walked dragging my left leg to my speech, physical, and occupational therapy sessions, thinking that my leg problem would just go away in a few weeks. A friend helped me buy a car with what little money I had. I spent a few cold nights sleeping in it, confused as to where I was, what I was doing, and when my next appointments were. I’d yell at anyone who crossed my path – losing friendships. Family left me all alone. I fought with my auto insurance company for my rights in a no-fault state, and, after several months, I finally received compensation for wage losses.

I’m not sure how it happened (as things are a complete blur at times), but I finally found a good doctor and a nurse case-manager to help me. I was put into a neuro rehab program an hour away from home. (I had to let my children go live with their dad.) Seven days a week, I learned basic living skills and tried to control my anger and frustrations and emotional outbursts. I had constant legal issues, as I was beginning to realize that what I had signed in my divorce was not what I thought. The settlement was not good for me. As a result, I had to fight for my children and for child support. After a few battles, I won their support! After getting through those struggles, I finally realized I needed to take this TBI (traumatic brain injury) head on and fight to get my life back.counsleing

I was angry that I couldn’t do the simple things a child could do, and I was frustrated that I had tested intellectually as lower than high-school level. As hard as it was, I learned coping skills to control my damaged frontal lobe and to try to focus. After my rehab program ended, I moved back home to be with my children. I went to all my therapies (three times a week) and to numerous tests and doctors. I got my kids to and from school every day. I learned how to cook again. After almost two years, I was finally beginning to live a somewhat normal life again. I was even able to meet a wonderful, humble, and understanding man. What were the chances that his own brother-in-law had a TBI? The new man in my life knew exactly what I was going through and accepted my flaws and deficits.

I then started to get interested in learning about this misunderstood injury. I attended the BIAMI (Brain Injury Association of Michigan) meetings in Lansing, Michigan. Using social media as a tool, I advocated and educated others. Hearing good vibes from all over the country and the world, I began to realize how many people just like me were out there. I had to do something about brain injury, as I was so misunderstood and I was tired of being called “crazy.”social-media

I began to excel in all my therapies, which moved me into vocational training. I was asked to put my résumé together. I did – I looked at it and saw that I never had the opportunity to go to college. I was a single mom at nineteen, and I married someone who wouldn’t allow me to grow. I could have gone back to real estate, but how was that helping people? I could have returned to the ophthalmology career that I had for years, but I was limited by the small area I live in. I had already worked for the one surgeon, but he told me that he didn’t trust me with his patients anymore because of my TBI.

th-1As hard as occupational therapy was for me, it was also fun. I gained friendships with my occupational and speech therapists. Even if I couldn’t do their tasks that day, they were still there for me to talk. They comforted me and encouraged me to keep on going. I looked into the OTA (occupational therapy assistant) program and thought Why not see if I can try it? With my disability, there should be some accommodations, and, after what I’ve been through with so many occupational therapy sessions, I thought I might just know a little about it!

I took the test and was accepted to Baker College! (Two years and five months post TBI.) I went to orientation yesterday and teared up as I walked on campus.

Karen Dickerson - Brain Injury Survivor & College Student at Baker College

Karen Dickerson – Brain Injury Survivor & College Student at Baker College

As I sat in a loud room with others picking their classes, I struggled to drown out the noise, as audio is still a daily struggle. The abbreviations and so much on the class schedule – even with military times, were problematic. I thought for one second I can’t do this. Then I remembered all those times I did “do it,” and I focused and got my class schedule done. At 39 years old, a TBI survivor, a domestic-abuse survivor, and a mother of three, I am a college student!

This program is offered near Grand Rapids, Michigan, over three hours away. As I checked in, I met the president of the college, and he noted where I was living. All I could say was, “I’m going to do this.” It is in my heart. God has gotten me this far. I will NOT give up!

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

Jump for JoyKaren Dickerson (survivor)…OMG! I was crying and jumping up and down (LOL). I passed my college entrance exam! Even better: 93% in English/Writing! Here I come, Baker College of Michigan, to become an Occupational Therapist Assistant. There is hope!Bakers College

Two years ago, after my motor vehicle accident, I couldn’t even process what I was reading, and I had to learn how to write my name again. I’ve worked very hard to get that comprehension back. I had over two years of speech and occupational therapies. Math is still a problem, just like it was twenty-one years ago. But I’m so proud. I didn’t think that I would ever reach this point after my TBI (traumatic brain injury).


writing pencil animated

Ric Johnson (survivor)…Well, it took me two months, but I was able to write an article concerning the importance of support-groups for the recovery and healing of TBI survivors. I have it published in the TBI Hope TBI Hope & INspiration& Inspiration magazine, June 2016 edition.


FamilyElizabeth Leonard Lawrence (survivor)…I am twelve years post TBI from an accident I got while serving in the military. I was told by doctors that I would never have a family, that I would never drive a car, and that I would take multiple pills a day for the rest of my life. Well guess what! I have a wonderful husband of three years, a three-year-old little boy, and I only take one medication now. So overall, I’d say it’s a huge accomplishment in my life!


Jennifer Stokley (survivor)…I had the most amazing day. I actually went out without any fear with a friend who has been coming over for a while to do “talk therapy” with me. She asked me if I wanted to go over to her farm, and I immediately said, “Yes!” Farm

Out the door I went – no cane, just my coffee in hand and a smile on my face. I totally trust this person; I’ve gotten to know her well. In the car we went. Away… to a place I’ve never been to before. A real farm! WOW! We spent hours there. She cleaned out the stalls, while I sat on the grass watching the cows in the field near the pond. It was beautiful.Cow Then she came, and together, while sitting and lying on the grass, we spent the longest time just talking about anything and everything. It was absolutely the best time. I loved every second of it. I didn’t have a moment of anxiety pop up. I can’t wait to do it again. We intend to real soon.



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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger Karen Dickerson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I Love the Person I’ve Become

I Love the Person I’ve Become


Karen Dickerson



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingI had a somber moment yesterday as I, for the first time, heard my 9-1-1 call and saw photos of the scene of my accident. I didn’t know that on March 2nd, 2014, my life would be changed forever.

As all my friends are aware, I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a brain injury that will affect my life forever. I’ll never be the same person I once was. I still struggle daily with cognitive deficits and problems with memory, lights, sounds, fatigue, and headaches. I wrestle with irritability. Also, the left side of my body is weak. I spent the last year angry for what has happened to me. The struggles were so huge that I didn’t know how I’d ever survive daily life as a woman and single mother.

Next week, I have the opportunity to face the driver who caused this injury to my body and my life. I get the chance to tell that person everything I’ve gone through to get to where I am today. In writing my statement, I found it hard to look back and relive the hell I’ve been through and am still going through today.

Dickerson, Karen Survivor 2 120315

Karen Dickerson – TBI Survivor

However, in many ways, the accident also brought some positivity – the growth that I’ve had as a person, the strength it has given me, my faith to be stronger, and the opportunities to share my story with so many. Through the use of social media alone, I have shared my triumphs and failures all over the country.

I am trying to bring a voice to the small community in which I live, where there isn’t much help or support for this invisible injury. My brain injury has helped me to choose wisely whom I bring into my life and to let go of negative people, including those in my immediate family who did not understand or did not desire to educate themselves to help me.

Dickerson, Karen Survivor 120315 1

Karen Dickerson – TBI Survivor

I’ve asked why this had to happen to me. I thought that life was already difficult enough. It was hard to get on my feet after a tough childhood and an abusive marriage. Today, I know why. I am thankful for what I have – as little as it may be. I am especially grateful for all who I’ve worked for and fought for – my children and the loved ones close to my heart.

My accident could have been worse. My children might not have had a mother to take care of them; I would never have made new friendships and grown stronger relationships with the ones I had; and I would never have met my Okie.

I’m blessed to be here today. TBI or not, I love the person I’ve become because I’ve fought to become her.


Thank you, Karen Dickerson.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Karen Dickerson)

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 (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!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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