TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Michael Lee Savage’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Michael Lee Savage

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Michael Lee Savage

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Michael Lee Savage Survivor 0623141. What is your name? (last name optional)

Michael Lee Savage

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

Spokane, Washington, USA

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

I was 43.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

It started with double vision on February 26, 2003. I went to Urgent Care, and they immediately took me for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, which showed a bleed in my brainstem called a cavernous hemangioma (a type of blood vessel malformation, where a collection of dilated blood vessels form a tumor). They sent me home to watch it. It bled three short weeks later. They wanted to operate, as the bleed had presented itself outwardly. My neurologist said I could wait. It didn’t bleed again until January 25, 2009, almost six years later. I was sent to Seattle, Washington, to have the surgery.

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

The morning I went to Urgent Care.

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

I had a CT (computed tomography) scan and an MRI scan.

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


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 was in the ICU (intensive care unit) for twenty-one days and in an acute care center for another four weeks. I then had inpatient rehab for three weeks.

How long were you in rehab?

Three weeks

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

I couldn’t walk, talk, see, or swallow for over four months. Nystagmus (rapid involuntary movements of the eyes) and secondary dystonia (a disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions) came on while I was in rehab.

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

My brain injury took away all of my independence, like driving and walking unassisted. I have a feeding tube. My speech is slurred. The right side of my face droops, and my entire left side below the neck is numb.

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

Both independence and friendship have run away.

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

I have regained my joy of cycling.Michael Lee Savage Survivor 062315

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

I dislike not being able to see or to walk without loosing my balance. Lockjaw prohibits me from eating my favorite foods. Also, my voice is gone.

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

Physical therapists and riding my bike with my “guide-bride,” Patty, have helped me. They constantly stay on me to improve my quality of life, and they challenge me when I want to quit.

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

Yes. I am not able to contribute to daily rituals. Most of my relationships have suffered, including my romantic relationship with my wife.

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

Yes. It is hard to eat with others. Most of my friends can’t deal with my appearance and my stressed voice.

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

My wife is my main caregiver. Yes, I do understand how difficult it is, and it is very hard, considering our age and how much I still can’t do without her.

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

I hope to enjoy life more than I am now. I hope to be living life as normally as I can.

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.

Keep fighting to move – do the exercises, no matter how silly they may seem. They all have a purpose, and there are some that I wish I would have done and stuck with.

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

Never quit moving. Never give up hope. I immediately got a trike so I could feel human again. And now, six years later, I’m walking around town with a cane. I’m walking on flat surfaces without any cane. Fight for your independence. It’ll be the biggest battle you’ve ever faced, but eventually you’ll inspire others. They will say, “If you can do it, I can too.”

Thank you, Lee, 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 Michael Lee Savage.)

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

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for Blog

SPEAK 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 donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.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 are this week’s Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Scott M. Chapman (survivor)…I walked almost a mile without my walker or a cane.One Mile Sign th

Michele Dempsey (survivor)…Sometimes doctors tell you that you will never walk, talk, or do other things again. They told me that when I was first injured seven years ago. I think they don’t want to give anyone false hope or something. In my case, I believed what they said. I came home in a wheelchair, and I couldn’t speak well. They said that I wouldn’t walk or talk. Now I do both! Some days, I don’t do either well. If I am tired, it is worse, but I walk with a cane, and I can talk pretty well. When I was tested, I did poorly on everything four years in a row. They said I that I would not be able to handle my own money, have a checking account, or shop on my own. It took time, but I slowly got better at the things they said I couldn’t do.

I shop and pay my own bills, and I recently got a checking account! Checkbook2I was excited, but scared, to do it, but I finally did it. I wrote my first checks yesterday. This morning, my nurse went over everything, and I did it right! I know it is a small thing, but it feels good to be able to do this on my own. I guess what I am learning over all these years is that, if people – even doctors – and testing say you can’t, keep trying. Try again and again and don’t give up! I am proud of myself today over something that might be a little thing to others, and I like it.

Megan Erikson (survivor)…I found a support group! I had to put my pride aside and say, “I do need help and support.” 🙂

Sue R. Hannah (survivor)…I went back to physical therapy today. Not only did I have an awesome session, but I also learned a very valuable lesson. My most recent acupuncturists and my vision therapist assumed that they knew what was best for me. I believe their heart was in the right place, but not so much, their awareness. Emily, my physical therapist, recognized that I needed to work towards MY level of functioning – not anyone else’s. Giving me skills that I’ve never had is a pretty silly goal. I have been impaired since I was so young that I have adapted and developed lots of work-arounds. What the other practitioners didn’t realize is that I didn’t lose skills. I NEVER had them! I guess part of this occurred because I didn’t stress how early my trauma happened, and they assumed that I fit in a box, which I don’t. It’s hard for me to tell people how I got hurt because often they are traumatized by hearing my story. I’ve learned that I need to be careful about whose advice to take, regardless of what their training has been. Can anyone relate?

Michael Lee Savage (survivor)…My wife, Patty, “threw me under the bus” this morning by sayinTreadmill1-483-x-600g I would walk “cane-free” into my therapist’s office. Well, I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I walked from the outside deck, over the threshold, and up and down the hallway in front of my physical therapist. He said, “Looks like we have a new starting point.” Back at home, I hit the treadmill for 35 minutes and then looped the downstairs hallway four times “cane-free.” For the first time in six years, I felt human again.

Susan Shacka (survivor)…My Itty-Bitty Giant Step is trying to be calmer.

Damian Sill (survivor)…I am a person who has overcome TBI. Almost eighteen years ago, I was nearly dead. Today I am fully alive. I am living a wonderful life. I have a great job as a nurse. I own my own home. I am in a beautiful relationship with a great future ahead of me. I look forward to life today. Initially, I was so confused. My life was difficult. But, I kept working away one day at a time, and today I reap the rewards. Thanks to all who helped me along my way.   – Feeling Blessed

if_you_need_someone_to_shovel_snow_flyer-r830f727a107247489fac6587395693ab_vgvyf_8byvr_324Laurinda A. Sousa (survivor)…I got my car out of a giant snowdrift in my parking lot. I did it all with my right arm because I have a frozen left shoulder right now.

Dana Wiedenmann (survivor)…I flew to San Diego at Christmas.

Sandra Williams (survivor)…I am able to maintain my job. Huge! Absolutely huge! I attended an early morning DAC (Disability Action Center) meeting, and I am helping my husband start a business. I am ditzy, but I will press on. I can’t find words; my ears ring; I am seeing double; and I cry a lot, but I will not stop. I will not be beaten!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to all contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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