Survivors SPEAK OUT! Charles Ross, Jr.
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
Charles Ross, Jr.
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
Pittsburg, Missouri, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
My TBI (traumatic brain injury) happened on November 15, 1985. I was 18 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was in a head-on car crash on a narrow, two-lane highway on a rainy and foggy day. I swerved around a truck that was stopped in the road. The truck left the scene.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
A witness came to the car and forced the door open. I had thrown up on impact. Until help arrived, he held my head up to keep me from choking.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I had the paddles put on me before I got on the helicopter to fly to a large hospital. I also had a tracheotomy.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
I was in a coma for fifty days.
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 had physical, occupational, and speech therapies as an inpatient for nine months after I came out of the coma. I continued physical therapy as an outpatient for seven years after the accident. My mom then took over. She was a physical therapist aide in a nursing home at the time of the accident. She also did occupational therapy with me too.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I was in a wheelchair for one and a half years. I can now walk with a single cane. That level did not immediately come after the wheelchair. It occurred after seven summers of surgeries on my legs. I walked with two canes for many years. I also have epilepsy. That diagnosis took a grand mal seizure five years after the accident. I had thousands of petite mal seizures prior to my grand mal seizure. Only then did the neurologist say that the “spells,” as I called them then, were petite mal seizures. I take multiple medicines to control them. It took twenty-two years to find the right mixture to control them. Balance and memory are also great problems today – thirty years later. My sense of balance is gone. I fall frequently, even using a cane. My short-term and long-term memories were damaged. The short-term memory was destroyed. It took years of training to get back what I have. Long-term memory – I don’t recognize it as affecting me so badly. I just don’t think of it. I take two medicines that they give to Alzheimer’s patients. I am hoping they help me. I don’t know yet if they do.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I struggled to get two Associate Degrees over seven years. I struggled more in the workforce for fourteen years. Most of the time, I had no insurance. The meds I needed for the seizures came out-of-pocket. So my credit rating tanked, and a bankruptcy followed. I filed for disability insurance after losing my last job. I was making the most money ever, but I still had no benefits. On the last job, I grossed more money in a week and a half than I make in a month now.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss a sense of being normal – being able to go out and do anything at almost any time. My only restriction was money.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I enjoy knowing the people I have met as a result of the injury – the countless doctors and nurses who took care of me and other individuals who also have had head injuries. I never would have met them, or even thought of meeting them, had I not had a head injury.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike not having my “normal” life.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
I never had the attitude where I just wanted to give up on life, even though it could be depressing at times.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes. I think I experienced jealousy from a brother because I got more attention afterward. I’ve had many different relationships, but all have ended up failing. The lack of money was the usual excuse. Most relationships were started over the web.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I don’t go out very much. Right now, I’m living with my mom. (My dad just passed.) As a 48-year-old male, I don’t regret living with my mom. It’s just not normal.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
I am able to take care of myself, including my meds and my bills. I cooked when I was not with my mom.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I want to get a place of my own again.
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.
My advice: Do not turn down any kind of help that’s offered – do not be too proud.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
You should take pride in being a survivor. Most people, if faced with the challenges you have, could not do it. You have already accomplished the hardest thing, which was to survive.
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.)
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