TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘motorcycle accident’

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . Carol . . . (for her husband, Andy)

Caregivers SPEAK OUT!

Carol (caregiver for her husband, Andy)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Carol1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Carol

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

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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?

Andy is my spouse. He was 53. He was in a motorcycle accident on his way to work.th

4. 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?

I began care the day of the accident. I was in the hospital every day for eight to ten hours waiting for Andy to wake up. We finally came home after five months. I became his full-time caregiver, and I still am. I was 50; I just turned 52.

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 working full-time, but I resigned after the accident.

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

We were lucky to have a full team of therapists. But, we had no support-workers because Andy felt that the people were invading his privacy.

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

Immediately. I was in the hospital every day to give my husband moral support and the healing effect of touch.

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

My husband’s coma was induced. I was in the ICU (intensive care unit) with him all day. Holding his hands. Playing his music.e799afda1f4dee4bd0c8c6e0606325b1

10. 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?

My husband was admitted to rehab for almost three months. It was exceptionally long. But, he was not in a position to benefit from all the therapies. He suffered from seizures, and the medication made him tired. He slept most of the days. I was at rehab with him all day. I tiptoed out for coffee breaks, but I didn’t go far.

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

I help with Andy’s problems with gait, balance, cognitive functions, memory, and emotional lability (involuntary, sometimes inappropriate, emotional displays of mood, which are overly rapid and exaggerated). I take care of meals, finances, housekeeping, and Andy’s soiled beddings. After continuing physio three times a week, Andy found that his gait and balance improved. The problem with his urinary tract got better on its own. I still accompany him to all his therapy sessions because of his memory problem.

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

Life has become simpler. No running after unnecessary things. This gave me the chance to notice more, and I realized that there all lots of kind and helpful people around the community. Our roles changed – I have to deal with the house and finances.

13. What do you miss the most from pre-brain-injury life?hotel-clipart-transparent-background-4.png

We travel together two or three times a year. Andy was the one who used to plan and book the trips and accommodations. I miss him sharing his ideas about everything.

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

Being with him. Seeing the progress every day. Listening to his fears and seeing him happy.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

A lot of people are not aware of TBI (traumatic brain injury). I myself never heard of it until my husband was diagnosed as having a TBI. It has drastically changed his life. I have to deal with all the house work and repairs. I have to make the final decisions.

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

Yes. Andy used to tell me that there are no regrets in life. Everything is done through our own decisions. We cannot say “What if … ?”No Excuses

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

Yes. My role is now changed. My two children and I miss Andy’s ideas, suggestions, and guidance.

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

Yes. I have become overprotective. I don’t want to leave my husband alone. My friends are all working, so not only is there no time to meet, but it’s also not easy for me to leave the house without him.

volunteers19. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

I would love to volunteer and help other people.

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

Be patient; time heals. It’s a learning process to both the survivor and the caregiver. And, it’s absolutely worthwhile! It changed my perspectives in life.

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Rodney Smith

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Rodney Smith

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

1 Rodney Smith

Rodney Smith – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Rodney Smith

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

Ravenswood, West Virginia, USA

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

It happened on May 14, 2008. I was 52.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

It was just another day – Wednesday, May 14th, 2008. Really, it was just another day – in the middle of the week, in the middle of the month, and almost in the middle of the year. It was beautiful weather, a little cool maybe, but a great morning for a quiet ride to work. Little did anyone know it could have been my last

I showered, shaved, and got ready for a day at the office like I had for the last eight years. I got on my motorcycle like I did most days for the last four years. I chose the Yamaha TW200 this day for reasons I will probably never remember. (I actually hope I never do.) I rode to the end of our dirt road and then headed west on Georgia 16. My wife left about the same time or shortly after, but she headed east on Georgia 16.th

About 10 miles down the road, my wife saw a Georgia State Police car speeding west with its blue lights flashing. Immediately, she felt sick in the pit of her stomach. She resisted a strong urge to turn around and follow the trooper. She said to herself that she had no way of knowing where the police car was going, but she felt deep in her heart that she was sure what had happened. The only question was “How bad was it?” My wife kept driving, and less than a mile down the road, a Spalding County sheriff’s car in front of her flipped on its blue lights, pulled a U-turn, and flew past her, going west on 16. The sickness in my wife’s stomach got worse, but once again, she fought the urge to turn around. She didn’t know anything for sure, and cops do that all the time, so she kept driving.

Shortly after, my wife’s cell phone rang. She looked at the number, and it all but confirmed her worst fears. It was from my cell phone, and I never used my phone while I was riding. Since I had left the house less than 20 minutes earlier and since it is at least a 30-minute ride to my office, this couldn’t be good. Still she had hope that maybe I forgot something or just broke down and was calling to let her know. But, as soon as she heard the voice on the other end, she knew. A man’s voice confirmed what she suspected when he asked, “Do you know an older gentleman who rides a motorcycle?” All she could say was “How bad is it? Is he alive?”

He told her I was alive. My wife said she was on her way there, but he told her not to come out 16 because the whole road was blocked. He told her to head for downtown Atlanta because they were life-flighting me there. He didn’t know which hospital yet, but he would call and let her know as soon as he found out.

This all seemed to be happening in slow motion, but the next few hours were a blur. My wife doesn’t remember stopping to turn around, but she found herself headed back to the house to get things she knew she would need – like the phone numbers of family and my office. She was not a person who prayed much, but she took time to ask God to help and keep me alive if He could. My wife did not give much more thought to that prayer, but God apparently did.

The only thing resembling a clear memory between the Sunday before the accident and the first week of August is of a canyon I was looking into. I was about to step in or float in or something when I felt a beautiful and powerful presence surround me and pull me back from the edge. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew it was my wife, Bonnie, pulling me back from wherever I was headed.

I believe with all my heart that that happened when I was in the life-flight helicopter. The medical reports say they had to revive me twice while flying me to Atlanta. I feel that, during that time, God heard my wife’s simple and sincere prayer and sent her spirit to the edge of the Valley of the Shadow of Death to bring me back because He was not finished with me yet. He wasn’t finished with either one of us.

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

I didn’t fully realize anything for about two and a half months. On the second or third day I was in the hospital, my wife, Bonnie, knew something was not right. She told the kids, “He’s not in there.”

2 Rodney Smith ICU

Rodney Smith – Brain Injury Survivor

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

I was treated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. Grady is a very good trauma center. It’s staffed with Emory University doctors. They did a great job with my broken jaw and broken wrist, fixing those with titanium plates and screws. They did a CT (computerized tomography) scan and found some bleeding on the brain. Since I could talk and tell them a birth date (actually, a wrong one), they didn’t refer me for any kind of rehab. Bonnie kept telling them that something was wrong. On the day of my discharge, they had an evaluation done and decided to refer us to a neurologist.

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

Maybe 36 hours

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)?

After working our way around the medical system for two and a half months, we finally got to a neurologist who at least knew she couldn’t effectively evaluate me. We were referred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta. This was the turning point in my recovery. Shepherd Center is one of the top ten rehabilitation hospitals in the country. They specialize in spinal cord and brain injury rehab.

3 Rodney in HospitalHow long were you in rehab?

I spent about three months in the Shepherd Pathways Day Program, which is their outpatient brain injury rehab. I had sessions three times a week in speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

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

I have short-term and working memory problems. I lost most of my ability to multitask. I have problems with balance. Problem-solving takes much longer than it did pre accident. I have issues with dyslexia. I tend to cry more easily.

10. How has your life changed?

Is it better?

My life is better in that I appreciate things more and care more about things that really matter. I care less about things that don’t matter. My attention to detail is better when it comes to the one detail I can focus on (see how my life is worse).

Is it worse?

My life could be considered worse because I can only focus on one thing at a time. Because of this, people around me can’t depend on me the way they used to. But, there’s a flip side to that. When I work on a project, my single-mindedness allows me to focus on what I am doing and be more precise than before the injury. Those days, my mind was often on many things at the same time.

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

I miss being able to solve problems quickly.Decisions

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

I enjoy spending quality time with my wife, Bonnie, and my kids and grandkids. I also enjoy building things and working at my own pace.

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

I don’t like that it is still very difficult to make decisions. It takes me what seems like forever to weigh options and decide on anything. Bonnie makes a game of it, sometimes continuing to give me options. That’s frustrating, but amusing.

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

I accept it because I see that God has a plan, and I’m still part of it.

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

Yes. Bonnie and I are closer now. But, her life is more difficult because she doesn’t know what I will remember and what I won’t, so she has to remember everything just in case.

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

Not really. My social life is not much different, since I was kind of a loner and spent most of my time with family anyway.

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

Bonnie is my main caregiver and my angel. I know it is a very difficult task. I am very thankful every day for what she does.4 Rodney Smith Sideboard

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

I hope to be building furniture and fixing things for many years to come.

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.

One thing Bonnie and I have discovered is that, since my memory can’t be relied upon, I now use my camera phone and take pictures of everything I might need to refer to later.

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

There is hope and purpose after brain injury.

 

Thank you, Rodney for taking part in the SPEAK OUT! project

To learn more about Rodney Smith, visit his website, Hope After Traumatic Brain Injury

Take a few moments and pop over to Lash & Associates Publishing to read Rodney Smith’s article, “Brain Injury Adjustments: Self-Reinvention.”

**********

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . . Terry Davis (survivor)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury –  Terry Davis (survivor)

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

 

terry-davis-1

Terry Davis – Brain Injury Survivor

Terry Davis (survivor)

I have a traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident back in 2006. I’ve been thinking about what I went through during my recovery. I was taken to the Center for Neuro Skills located in Bakersfield, California for six months. I went through some intense exercises to get back my memory and my cognitive thinking. I was totally delusional and made things up that were total fabrications. Anyway, I finally started coming back to reality, and in recognizing that I had recovered, they released me to back to the world I used to know. It was very hard. It’s been ten years since then, and I can honestly say that I’m doing much better now.

terry-davis

Terry Davis – Brain Injury Survivor

I’m slowly realizing who I used to be and what I agreed with and had opinions about. My psychologist told me to forget the “old” Terry and find out who the “new” Terry is and improve on that. It made life so much easier.

 

Thank you Terry Davis for sharing your story.

(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 Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury Beth Kidd Koziol (survivor)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Beth Kidd Koziol

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

Beth Kidd Koziol

Beth Kidd Koziol – Survivor

My brain injury happened in 2005 from being a passenger on the back of a motorcycle. I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI)/closed-head brain bleed, a fractured clavicle, five fractured ribs, a lung contusion, many fractures in my left hand, including a fractured scaphoid bone. (I was told that, if the blood supply could not get to it, I would lose the use of my hand. Thank God, it healed!) I also had a badly fractured pelvis and several torn ligaments in my left shoulder. I was airlifted to a trauma unit, where I stayed for three days. I was then transferred to a rehab hospital for about two months. There I got extensive occupational, physical, and speech therapies. I had a neuropsychologist, a neurologist, an orthopedic specialist, and a pain-control specialist. After I left the rehab hospital (in a wheelchair), I visited three times a week for an additional three to six months. I had to learn how to eat, swallow, talk, and walk. I had taste and smell issues with food, plus I couldn’t swallow normal foods. I got dizzy when I moved my head. It was determined that I had shattered microscopic bones in my left ear (the side of all my injuries). After about three weeks of physical therapy, I had a treatment that corrected that problem and reset those little microscopic bones.

I left the rehab hospital in a wheelchair. It took me another three to four months before I could walk with a walker and then with a cane. Now I use nothing. After six to nine months of continued outpatient sessions of physical therapy and occupational therapy, I was called “Wonder Woman” and “Miracle Child” because no one knew how determined I was in my recovery. I was my own caregiver because I was 3,000 miles away from family. Rather than alarm them, I did not tell them of my accident until I was well enough to travel back to the East Coast and tell them in person, so they could see that I was OK on the outside. My family still doesn’t understand the damage and changes on the inside that I endure daily. I have short-term memory problems, I can no longer multitask, and I have to talk in detail as if I were writing a book or describing a picture. I’m told I talk too much; that hurts. If I am doing anything, including talking, and I am interrupted, I cannot remember what it was that I was going to say or do. This is commonly the new normal for many brain injury survivors.

Beth Kidd Koziol 2 survivor 051616

Beth Kidd Koziol – Survivor

The best thing I can suggest is to find materials – books to read to get informed or educated and websites that help you understand what a TBI-person goes through. It helps the survivor when you understand and are patient with him or her. After ten years for me, I still find areas in which I am still healing.
My motto is “Never Give Up!” [smile emoticon]

 

As I say after each post:

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Evan Powers

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Evan Powers

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Powers, Evan Joseph Motorcycle

Evan Powers – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Evan Powers

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

Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA

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

My brain injury happened on August 30th, 2014. I was 31.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was riding my Harley V-Rod Muscle with friends, and I was hit by an SUV. The driver, in a rush to buy smokes, turned illegally left and hit me. I died, was revived, fell into a coma, and “received” a traumatic brain injury (TBI) (diffuse axonal injury and brain stem damage). I had to relearn how to do everything! I’m doing very well, however – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and I’ve proven to be a tough SOB. (LOL!)

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

At the scene of the accident

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

A lot (LOL) – a craniotomy, arm surgery (compound fracture of my left arm), and intensive therapy (cognitive, vocational, physical, vocational, mental health, etc.). And I continued therapy (once a week and checkups).

Powers, Evan Joseph hospital

Evan Powers – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Yes. I was in a coma a month.

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 intensive inpatient therapy at Craig Hospital in Colorado (an incredible place!). Afterward, I continued with intensive rehab. Now I’m going only once a week.

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

I have balance issues, left-side weakness, and memory loss. I am prone to impulsivity and mood fluctuations.

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

My life has changed in many ways – both negatively and, more importantly, positively! I suffer with balance issues, left-side weakness, memory issues, impulsivity, and emotional control issues. While those deficits suck (LOL), I’ve changed in so many ways for the better. I’m more positive. (I struggled with depression terribly before the accident.) I do not take life for granted, I am funnier and more fun-loving, and I am more passionate. Further, I’ve gained an understanding into the hell of having a TBI, and I have been moved to work with those who experience likewise – encouraging, sharing, and helping other survivors!

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

I miss some things – my job, my friends (lost a lot after the accident), having a sense of purpose, working, and – crazy as it may seem, considering what happened – riding my motorcycle (LOL). … But all in time!

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

I like how positive and passionate for life I am now. J

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

I dislike not working and my left arm being weaker.

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

Yes. I have been helped by friends, doctors, experience, time, and especially my mom!

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

Yes, very much so! I’m now divorced. (My ex and I had a rocky relationship before the accident.) Because of my problem with impulse control, I rush into relationships and “move too fast.”

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

Yes. I lost a lot of friends after my accident. There were several reasons: my crazy behavior, being afraid of interacting with me, or just being “lousy friends” (LOL) – (for the best, I see now).

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

My mom is my main caregiver. She helps me out tremendously. I couldn’t have done what I did without her and my brother, Chris. Their love and support is much needed and is greatly appreciated!

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

My future plans include going to school to get a degree in a field in which I can work with TBI survivors. I want to continue to heal, and I plan to start working part-time. I intend to better myself and help others, which has me excited!

Powers, Evan Joseph

Evan Powers – Brain Injury Survivor

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.

Recovery from a TBI is brutal, but it gets better. Sometimes you run; other times, you crawl. Keep pushing and fighting – it’s worth it!

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

Be patient with yourself. Do the best you can – that’s all you can do. Keep fighting. I know that it’s hard, but it is worth the struggle! Also, reach out – get involved with other survivors. We understand each other more then others without injuries can. We’re family – rely on, encourage, and strengthen one another!

 

(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.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

 

As I say after each post:

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

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow Me Via eMail” on the right sidebar of your screen.anim0014-1_e0-1

If you like my blog, click the “Like” button under this post.

If you REALLY 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. That works for me too!

 

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Shane Coco & Gary Rankin

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Shane Coco & Gary Rankin

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718

It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Coco, Shane Survivor 080415Shane Coco (survivor)
It is a good day to be alive – a good day to be grateful. I think that somewhere, deep inside, my gratitude helps keep me alive. I’ve suffered and felt like dying. I looked at my situation and saw I have no friends. My gratitude may have kept me alive. I can drive; I have a job; I have a family who loves me; I have a dog; and I have fellow associates who told me today they love working with me. I can walk, talk, and drive!

I remember when I couldn’t talk right and when I couldn’t walk. I thought that if I could walk, everything else would be a breeze. Well, it wasn’t. I had other obstacles. Then driving was my next huge thing. I thought that, when I learned how to drive, all the ladies and friends would come to me. I would have it made, man. Well, I can drive, but I’m kind of still working on the “ladies and friends” thing. Then I needed a job. I’ve got a job now. How grateful was I then – and still am!
It certainly is a good day to be grateful. It’s a good day to be alive. This injury may have happened to me for me to see all that I have – not to moan and groan about what I wish I had.Shane Coco 2

A while ago, I took yoga, but I quit because I did something embarrassing during the session. (Use your imagination, and you probably got it right.) The instructor always used to say to the group, “Simply be.” This really helped me relax. But nowadays, I may be thinking differently. I want to move forward. I don’t want to stop or move backwards. Progress. I want to become. I want to transform. I like to say, “Simply become.” Get stronger. Get wiser. Don’t waste time. I don’t have to be perfect. I just can’t stay in the same spot for too long. I’ve got to keep on moving. It works for me. “Simply become.”

Gary Rankin (survivor)

10276317_10152345727842604_1934167730_nOn October 27, 2001, I took my friend’s motorcycle for a joyride. It was as if I were there speeding away, and then it was as if my eyes were closed all the way. So to speak, I never came back that day. I arose like a phoenix on the eighteenth day. Later I was told that I had been in a coma. I fractured my lower vertebrae and had a closed-head injury that led to a traumatic brain injury. I had to relearn to walk and to use the left side of my body. (I tied my right arm to my body to force me to use my left.) My autonomic system is broken and two years of memory of anything from before the accident has been deleted. I don’t remember 9/11 happening. I’m just going to say that it’s weird not remembering a major event in our history. I feel like an alien.Rankin, Gary Survivor 080415

Western medicine wrote me off. My walking again was not on the table. I kept telling the doctors they were wrong. My mom read me Emeral’s New New Orleans cookbook while I was in a coma. My dad looked down at me and said, “You beat this, and I’ll help you become anything you want.” OK, game on.

Rankin, Gary Survivor 11328938_10153306807537604_1330621617_n Rankin, Gary Survivor 11263812_10153306807512604_40752643_nI was enrolled into culinary school before I walked out of the hospital. I earned three culinary degrees from the Florida Culinary Institute. I have been traveling around the country as a chef, pastry-chef, and baker for the past nine years. I had my debut appearance on the Food Network. I crushed everything Western medicine put in front of me. I did it without their drugs and their help, and I did it on my time-line. I left the hospital eighteen days after I woke up. I have not seen a doctor since I left the hospital in 2001.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Pamela Sveum & Sherri Diehl Ward

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury  Pamela Sveum & Sherri Diehl Ward

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

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It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Svenum, Pamela Caregiver to son, Robby 080315Pamela Sveum (mother and caregiver for her son, Robby)

Seventeen years ago, my son, Robby, (then age 15) suffered a traumatic brain injury from an accidental gunshot wound to the head with a .357. He was moving his boss’ gun from the seat Robby Sveum 1of the truck to the dashboard when the gun went off. He was given a 0% chance of survival. Medically speaking, Robby should not have survived. Medically speaking, everything pointed to zero at the very best. Robby’s survival and recovery are nothing less than a miracle! Robby Sveum 4The picture on left is Robby dancing at his best friend’s wedding a few years ago. He was the best man. The one on the right is Robby getting his dog, Holly, about five years ago. May 27, 2015, is the date on which I acknowledge feeling very blessed – very thankful for Robby’s presence in our lives and his continuing progress. I feel a bit of sadness for the things we lost along the way – there were casualties. My message: Keep the faith, never give up hope, and always be willing to continue to be surprised with what life has in store for you. With Robby, life is always full of surprises.

Sherri Diehl Ward (caregiver)

Ward, Sheri Diehl Caregiver 080315Our story in a nutshell: My husband, Bill, was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident on July 11, 2009. He was thrown from his bike and lay in a ravine in the woods – about twenty feet from the road. When Bill wrecked and was thrown, the bike stayed upright and continued down the road about 300 feet. The police got to the scene and saw the bike with minimal damage. They assumed that the rider dumped it and left. Bill lay in the woods until a police officer found him. The police were actually ready to leave the scene, when Officer Hurd from the Winslow Township Police Department saw something in the road and went to see if it was part of the accident scene. When he approached, he heard Bill’s moans coming from the woods. At that point, everyone sprung into action, so to speak, as Bill’s time was quickly running out. The helicopter was called in. En route to the hospital, Bill actually coded. He was gone for four minutes. Ward, Sheri Diehl CAregiver 080315 2When Bill arrived at the hospital, I was not far behind him, as I had been notified by my brother-in-law, a police officer from our town. (Once the police ran the plates on the bike and realized who the victim was, they contacted my brother-in-law first, as they knew him.) He picked me up, and we quickly made our way to the hospital, not knowing if Bill was dead or alive at that point.

When I first saw Bill, he was completely unrecognizable. He had broken every bone in his face, broken his jaw in three places, fractured his neck, broken eight ribs, and, worst of all (the reason I am writing this), received a traumatic brain injury. It was very touch and go for weeks. Bill spent three of them in a coma. He had to have complete facial reconstructive surgery, and he had his jaw wired for twelve weeks. Bill came home about a month and a half after the accident, complete with a peg tube (a tube inserted through the abdomen that delivers nutrition directly to the stomach) and a trach (tracheotomy – an opening surgically created through the neck into the trachea to allow direct access to a breathing tube).

Ward, Sherri Diehl Husband with BI 080315Although Bill healed physically, I don’t think he will ever be fixable emotionally and mentally. We now struggle daily with bouts of amnesia, sporadic memory loss, cognitive impairment, confusion, disorientation, paranoid delusions, hallucinations, nightmares, flashbacks, and early signs of dementia, among many other things. Bill’s severe and drastic mood swings and rage are a part of daily living as well. We try to make the best of the situation at hand, and I am forever grateful to still have him here, but living with a TBI survivor is not a life I would have chosen – for obvious reasons. I can only hope that one day we will all have peace.

Disclaimer: Any views and opinions of the Contributor are purely his/her own.

(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 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 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.

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