TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘motorcycle/motor vehicle accident’

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Jessica Fell

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Jessica Fell


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Jessica Fell – Caregiver

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

Jessica Fell

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

Mobile, Alabama, USA     chrissmomi05@gmail.com

3. What is the TBI survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the TBI? What caused your survivor’s TBI?

The survivor was my boyfriend of four years, now my husband. We just got married on New Year’s Eve, his birthday.
 Daniel was 29 when he got his TBI. He was driving to work on his motorcycle, and a truck turned into a driveway without yielding. Daniel had no time to stop, slow down, or swerve. He collided with the truck.

4. On what date did you begin care for your TBI survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

I never left the hospital. There wasn’t a single day in the two months Daniel was in the hospital that I didn’t stay the night with him. Initially I was waiting for him to “wake up” from his coma. I am, and have been, Daniel’s only caregiver. We lived together with my two little girls. I stopped working to take care of him at home, instead of having him go to a rehab hospital. I was 27 when he was injured. I turned 28 while he was in the hospital.

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

I was caring for my two children. I still do now.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s TBI? If so, were you able to continue working?

I continued to work until a few days before Daniel was released from the hospital. I do not work now.

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

I had no help at all. Daniel’s family came into town every weekend, but they did not stay at our home.

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


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

Daniel was in a coma for nineteen days. I stayed by his side constantly waiting for him to wake up.

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 this was happening?

Daniel had rehab in the two-month period that he was in the hospital. He only had physical therapy afterwards – once a week. He has not yet started any other therapy.

11. What problems or disabilities of your TBI survivor required your care, if any?

The only thing Daniel needs me for now is driving. I did have to help with his walking, showering, and getting dressed. But, he’s fully capable of those things now.

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

I have had to grow up a lot and learn to be more patient. It’s not better because I would like to be working now and to still be doing outgoing things with him. But, I am hopeful that he’ll get back there soon. It’s not worse because our relationship is so much better than it’s ever been.

13. What do you miss the most from pre-TBI life?

I miss Daniel’s crazy, spontaneous personality. I miss his being so full of life. He’s still very funny, and he loves to laugh. But, he can’t hang for long, and he gets very anxious and worried so easily.

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

I enjoy that our loyalty to each other is so much stronger. I am happy that Daniel has calmed down some.

15. What do you like least about TBI?

I dislike the anxiety Daniel has, his memory’s not being as good, and sometimes his temperament.

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

I believe I have come to accept Daniel’s TBI through God and family and by trusting each other. I’ve come a long way.

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

Daniel and my mom no longer speak because she doesn’t understand. It makes it difficult for me to balance their time together and ours.

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

I can’t leave the house without worrying that Daniel is going to be OK or wants me to come home. I feel guilty that he’s not with me.

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

I hope that we are both back at work and in our own home, which we hope to purchase one day. I hope we have a child together.

20. What advice would you offer other TBI survivor caregivers? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add? 

Jessica Fell

Jessica Fell – Caregiver

My main advice is to never, ever give up. Don’t let TBI take away your life. Don’t let it destroy your relationship. It shouldn’t just be the survivors who are forced to change. The survivors might not have control, but you can change how you handle yourself when it comes to certain things. We have to adapt to this new person and learn to love him or her again. The survivor deserves love and needs it. Be dedicated. Be a believer in yourself and in your survivor because spirituality does take you a long way in this journey. God puts you in situations for a reason – to learn from them. Find out your reason; learn from it; let go and let God. He will get you through any situation he places you in. Trust and believe in that and in yourself.


Thank you, Jessica, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

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

(Photo compliments of Jessica.)

Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.



SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger: DuWayne Hall . . . My Journey

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger: DuWayne Hall

My Journey

Boy Blogger thIt was a day like any other day. I got ready for work. As usual, I rode my motorcycle there. I drove around the hairpin turn that lies in front of the Emergency Room at Saint Benedict’s Hospital, where I worked. I arrived 15 minutes early, as usual, and I parked in the parking spaces up in front by the Admission doors. The day was as mundane as expected. Nothing exciting or out of the ordinary had happened. This routine had been repeated daily for eight years. Every day had been painfully identical: I arrived to work at 11:00 pm, worked until 7:00 am, and then went home. I lived only 10 minutes away. As expected, my shift went painfully slowly.

At 7:00, my shift relief failed to show up and relieve me. I was required by my employer – and by law – to stay on the job for another shift.

The Psych ward was about full. Almost half of those patients were minors. I went to my shift change, learned the medical history on my patients, and then began to gather the supplies necessary for my Group Session.

The patients filed in to attend the first Group Session of the day. I handed out supplies and manuals to document the progress of the patients’ recovery from whatever crises had caused them to be admitted into the hospital in the first place.

I thought my usual shift was long, but the next shift felt longer because it was all day. At lunchtime, I clocked out to get off the hospital grounds. I drove down the road to McDonald’s. Before I drove back, I removed my helmet to place my lunch into it to shield my dinner from the wind – thus, keeping it warm during my ride back.

As I rounded that hairpin turn in front of the Emergency Room, a car pulled out right in front of me, causing me to lay the motorcycle down. The bike pinned my right leg under it and then dragged me 100 feet down the road. As a consequence, my head bounced just like a Super Ball between my shoulder and the ground. I acquired a massive amount of “road rash” on my right side, as my chaps and uniform became shredded from the grinding of the motorcycle scraping across the road. I acquired a severe Traumatic Brain Injury and a compound fracture of my right collarbone. I also shattered my right elbow. I crushed my right cheek. I almost ripped off my right ear. I broke my right leg. My right eye was hanging out of its socket. My Big Mac sandwich did much better than I did!

To control brain swelling, the doctors introduced a shunt and placed me into a prolonged coma. While I was in my coma, I did not know that I was injured. I imagined myself on a mountaintop overlooking the city I lived in. I kept thinking to myself, When are they going to start the fireworks? I was only in the mountains to observe the fireworks from up above, instead of from down below, for a better view of the show. The fireworks finally went off. The next thing I knew, I was looking through hospital bed bars. I had no idea where I was or how I got there or when I got there. The last thing I remembered was being in the mountains with friends and watching the fireworks go off.

I was in my coma for 25 days. On the 24th day, the doctors began preparations to remove me from the life-support equipment. My parents, not wanting my daughter to see me dead, had made arrangements to first bring her into my hospital room to view my body before they disconnected me. My daughter, who had not seen me in nine years, was brought into my room. The doctors, nurses, my parents, and several friends watched passively as my daughter, who was 10 at the time, walked over to me and asked, “Daddy, do you want a cup of coffee?” To everybody’s amazement, I started to laugh. I had inexplicably come out of my coma. The doctors immediately started backpedaling. Nobody could explain how it was that they thought I was going to die until I was asked if I wanted a cup of coffee!

The documentation on head injury is incomplete at best. Rehabilitation therapists only follow a standardized guideline on how to treat a head injury. Every article I’ve ever read states that head injuries are unique. So it stands to figure that if every head injury is different, then it is ludicrous to apply standardized testing. The doctors did not like the fact that I was questioning my treatment. I was transferred to three different rehabilitation hospitals over a period of five years, while I relearned to walk, talk, interact with other people, and relearn names. I was taught how to add, subtract, eat, cook for myself, shop, take a shower, wash my clothes, phone, and use the toilet. I had to brush up on my job, my family, relationships, schooling, etc.

Ten years into my disability, because of my coordination problems, I slipped and fell in my own home. I broke my neck. It was a miracle I did not paralyze myself from the neck down. Because I was brain-damaged, nobody believed that I was badly hurt. They thought I was exaggerating my symptoms. The X-rays were not interpreted by a radiologist. Instead, the Emergency Room staff sent me home with instructions to be careful. First thing the next morning, the hospital called me and informed me that I had, in fact, broken my neck. They wanted me to return for admission and treatment, even emergency surgery. I was operated on for a permanent fusion of my T1 and T2 vertebrae.

Eighteen years into my disability, I received a second severe head injury. It occurred while I was just walking across the road. A truck driver did not see me crossing the road, and he hit me in the crosswalk. That injury gave me PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) along with new neural deficits. At this point, I am rated by Social Security as 105% disabled. I am more than totally disabled, just because I walked across the street!

It has now been more than 23 years post-injury. I have learned so much that I cannot even begin to describe what my journey has been like. I do know that EVERY single DAY is a challenge for me as a TBI survivor. We as survivors need to negotiate trials that the average person may find overwhelming. Little things could be insurmountable – for example, deciding what to wear and what, or even if, to eat. My own body is the enemy. Just talking to people can be a challenge. People misunderstand me all the time. I am a loner, but not by choice. It hurts me inside to be alone. Obviously, it is not healthy to be alone. Yet, many TBI survivors are alone. The stats validate that fact. Most marriages attempted by someone with a TBI end in divorce. It would seem then that survivors of a TBI make poor candidates for relationships. Everything is a challenge for the TBI survivor! You can never know what it is like until you “walk a mile in another man’s shoes.”

Favorite quotations:

DuWayne Hall

DuWayne Hall

You’re only as old as you feel!

You only live once in life!

You won’t know unless you try!


Thank you, DuWayne Hall.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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