Survivors SPEAK OUT! Lisa Dryer
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Lisa Robin Dryer
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Scottsdale, Arizona, USA email@example.com
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was born twelve weeks too early. The NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse who was in charge of me was also taking care of another baby, whom she deemed sicker. Our emergency calls often had false alarms. In this case, the nurse only had to tap me on the foot so that I would start breathing again. But, I went into cardiac arrest, and I lost oxygen to my brain. It was this incident that caused my TBI (traumatic brain injury). As a child, I never knew it as such, but instead as a “learning disability.” When I was seven, we found out that I was having a seizure a minute, which also most assuredly inhibited my learning. I’ve always had motor-skill and spatial relationship issues as well. In college, I realized something else was wrong. In 2004, it grew worse. I was searching for a diagnosis, but I was degraded and shoulder-shrugged for years.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
Last year, a friend, Hanna, dragged me to a hospital. At the time, we were both living on the East Coast. We were nannying between acting jobs and reveling in the history of the Potomac River. It was just a fun spa weekend for two best friends. But, half of my body failed to function. I was stubborn and tried to walk it out. I had a complete distrust of doctors at this point, but Hanna dragged me to the Emergency Room. They thought I might be having a stroke. My symptoms on the CAT scan (computerized axial tomography; also called a “CT” scan for “computerized tomography”) showed an abnormal brain. When they told me that, I laughed and said, “I know that already! Tell me something I don’t know.” So, they sent me to Washington, D.C., for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and faster than you can say “MS,” it was said!
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I don’t believe I had any treatments, but they certainly did some interesting testing on me!
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
No. However, I have since been concussed several times.
I have done inpatient rehab now twice, and I am currently doing outpatient rehab for the second time. I like to take pictures at rehab, so you can see some of my rehab and hospital journeys on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I do physical, occupational, and speech therapies, and I’m supposed to be doing shoulder therapies.
How long were you in rehab?
Each visit was a month long, and I’ve had about three.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I have several issues: balance, sight, auditory, emotional, tactile, and sensory. I also have a problem with perception.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
This is a very hard question for me. I am the kind of person who likes to roll with the punches that life brings me. Right now, I think this must be where I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing. I have met so many wonderful people who are really grateful that I am in their lives – being just the way that I am and wholly accepting me. That is a really beautiful thing. I really love that I can write about positivity in the face of adversity, that I have such a great response, and that I see that so many other beautiful communities are forming.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss my dog, and I miss my trailer. I miss acting.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I have to say I really like my friends – both online and those who have come out to meet me. I have a special place in my heart for them. I met my current boyfriend online. We started talking more in one of my groups. He asked if he could send me flowers. He then sent me cards. Then he flew from Cleveland, Ohio, to Arizona to take me on a date! I think the rest will be romance history in the TBI community!
My back spasticity
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Learning to put a smile on and taking some deep belly-breaths have helped me.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Living with my mother again at 33 has been interesting. We have a very strong bond, but we are almost too close. We clash more than a bit. But, we have a lot of laughter and smiles too.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I really don’t have a social life anymore.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My mother is my main caregiver. Until last year, I was sometimes a primary caregiver as a live-in nanny for children with disabilities. It was a job I loved. I also worked as a teacher at the Head Start program for the Los Angeles Unified School District and for needy children in other school districts.
As John Lennon said, I’d like to be happy.
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 have three recommendations:
- Try to continually be finding the beautiful around you.
- Find your center, and try to stay calm.
- If things seem off, they usually are. Talk to someone.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
No matter what you think, know that you are a powerful, beautiful person and that you can bring so much joy to this world. I have seen so many people in pain who just needed a smile, a word of kindness, or a hand-squeeze. No one in life is that different – we all need love. People also need education. Don’t be afraid to raise your voice and tell your story. And, remember that you are beautiful.
Thank you, Lisa, 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.)
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 Lisa.)
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