TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘motorcycle accident’

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.

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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.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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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]

 

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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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Hayley Nichols

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Hayley Nichols

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Hayley Nichols Survivor 0727151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Hayley Nichols

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

I live in Valparaiso, Indiana, USA. My accident occurred in Lafayette, Indiana.

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

I had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on November 16, 2014. I am 23 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Some background: I went home to Lafayette, Indiana, for my brother’s birthday dinner with my family on November 16. My brother does motocross as a hobby, and I had never been on a dirt bike before. So, that day I went for my first ride. We made it down the road, and then we wrecked. An eyewitness of our accident said that we were not speeding at all, but the bike started to teeter back and forth. My brother was able to dodge a mailbox. The bike then hit a drainpipe head in a ditch. The eyewitness said that the force propelled my brother and me ten to fifteen feet into the air. We were so high that we were in the tree branches before we landed on the ground.

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

As a result of our possible head traumas, my brother and I were rushed to two different hospitals. My mom told me that it was horrible to have us separated but that one hospital wouldn’t be able to handle us if we both needed emergency surgery for head trauma.

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

I did not have any emergency surgery the day of the accident. I did have surgery to repair my nose. I hit my face so hard that my nose was completely flattened.

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

I was not in a coma, but my mom told me I could only respond by moaning whenever a doctor or nurse performed a sternum rub. My mom told me that, after a few days went by, I was able to wiggle my toes and fingers. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for almost a week.

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?

I did rehab as an inpatient for about four weeks. I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies Monday through Friday. Once released from rehab, I had to continue therapy as an outpatient.

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

When we had our accident, I landed on the left side of my body, so my left knee is always painful. I am able to walk on my own, and I am even driving. But, I only drive down the road – I haven’t been on the interstate yet. When I was first released from rehab, I had trouble with depth perception. I still have trouble with balance. One of the biggest problems that have resulted from my TBI would be dealing with personality changes. (I become upset easily. I could be crying my eyes out over something someone said to me, then five minutes later, be completely happy.)

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

My life has changed tremendously. A good thing that has resulted from the accident is that my family is much closer. The worst thing that has happened to me is that my entire memory of my life has been erased. I am now able to remember things if someone triggers the memory by a song or by giving pieces of the event. It is honestly scary not to recognize people whom I have known my whole life and who have known me. It is frustrating not to recognize people from school. I hate not remembering things that have occurred in my own life. The only way for me to learn about my life is through pictures. Sometimes, I feel like a stranger in my own life.

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

I miss being able to run outside. I love to do activities outside – like playing kickball with my family or walking my dog. I also used to be a cheerleader and a ballroom dancer. I don’t see myself being able to do those things anytime soon.

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

I appreciate life. I do not allow little things to bother me or make me upset. I pay attention to the tone I use when I say things and to the words I choose. I have had people in a joking manner say, “Your accident was months ago. Isn’t that memory-excuse getting old?” They say it in a joking way, and, in the context of the situation, it was not a direct attack. But, it was hurtful. My TBI is a silent disorder, just like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), Alzheimer’s, depression, and so many others. I never want to offend anyone, so I have learned to be compassionate of anyone with any disorder.

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

Memory loss is the worst outcome of my TBI. Some days, I look through pictures and feel like I’m looking at a stranger – and the girl in the picture is me. It’s an odd feeling to have everyone around you know more about you than you do.

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

Honestly, what works for me is to have a positive attitude and to be able to rise above the negative things people say. I am also helped by reading blogs online to learn how other TBI survivors live everyday life. My family has been my motivation to keep going.

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

I live with my boyfriend, Travis, now that my family has allowed me to return to Valparaiso. He is my primary caregiver. He does everything for me. He is my whole world. He drives me to my doctors’ appointments, to therapy, and to school, and he even helps me with my homework. I would not be able to go back to school or even try to get back to a normal life without him. My mother and I are very close, and my accident brought us even closer. She helps me calm down when I get upset and frustrated. She is a great listener, even when I call to tell her the same story for the third time in the same day. My mother is a hospice nurse. Her background and experience working with patients who need her to do everything have helped her to help me. My mother has a positive attitude, even when I say I can’t do something. She says, “Not yet, but you can do….” She will then list all the things that I have learned to do again.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?Screenshot_2015-04-29-22-30-34-1-1

My friends are wonderful. But, I would love for them not to be so protective of me nor to change plans because they think that I can’t do something. I want to try and be normal like them. If I can’t do it, I just think, “I know they mean well. I think they need more time to get used to it all.”

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

My main caregiver is my boyfriend. I live with him, so he helps me get to school and to doctors’ appointments. Travis is my everything. He has made possible going back to living my old life. My mom is also my caregiver. She helps me with all of my doctors’ appointments and life-decisions. She and Travis work as a team to help me.

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

My future plans began with graduating in May from Purdue North Central with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Ten years from now, I plan to attend veterinary school.

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.

Don’t become overwhelmed with your current state. Don’t be afraid of the future. No doctor has all the answers, so don’t become discouraged if he or she can’t understand your TBI. No TBI is the same. Have faith.

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

Talk to those around you. Education about TBI to those who don’t understand will help spread the knowledge. Also, not being afraid to explain your TBI will help those around you understand and help you.

(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 Hayley Nichols.)

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