TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘nurse’

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury Erin Lea Beville & Evelyn Pumarejo-Justiniano

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Erin Lea Beville & Evelyn Pumarejo-Justiniano

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!


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.

A special shout out to two special nurses.nurse_0515-0911-1420-0746_SMU

Breville, Erin LeaErin Lea Beville (survivor)

I’m a sixteen-year survivor. I got my bachelor’s degree in nursing from Florida State University in May (2014) and my RN license last October. Having a traumatic brain injury (TBI), I needed a bit of rest following the hell that is nursing school. I was fried!

I recently started a job as an Integrated Health Wellness Coach and Peer Support Specialist at Community Mental Health. It’s perfect because they want me to share my story and pay me for it. My brain injury is finally an asset rather than a liability. So, hooray for patience, Breville, Erin Lea & nieceperseverance, and determination! I’ve done it – not in spite of my TBI, but because of it. Together, we can be the difference, for each other and for others. Go out there and inspire people. Be the person only you can be – yourself. Then own it. You rock!

Evelyn Pumarejo-Justiniano 2 Survivor 082315Evelyn Pumarejo-Justiniano (survivor)

I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) almost twenty years ago. I had to learn how to walk and talk and to relearn the basic things we take for granted in life. Yet, I feel I am blessed. I overcame all the obstacles and unforeseen Evelyn Pumarejo-Justiniano Survivor2 082431jpgcircumstances put in my life. I returned to school after my injury and had a GPA of 3.79 in nursing school. Today I am a nurse – going on a year now. I am planning to go for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing. And, I thank God for my good husband, who has been by my side the past 29 years.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Jenn Von Hatten

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Jenn Von Hatten

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718On Valentine’s Day 2011, I went to work only for a meeting. (I was a nurse at a long-term mental health facility.) Freezing rain struck during the meeting. The treacherous road condition was responsible for my car’s being T-boned at highway speed. That’s how I acquired my traumatic brain injury. The paramedics found me “clinically dead.” Obviously, I was alive. The pressure on my brain was monitored to see if I needed to have surgery. Also my liver was lacerated. Fortunately I did not need surgery for either. I was put into a medically induced coma because, in addition to my brain injury, I fractured a rib and three vertebrae. I was in a coma for over seven weeks. I managed to develop pneumonia and had to have a tracheotomy. I was discharged on July 14th. I Jenn Von Hatten Emma, & Hannasurvived to see my oldest children graduate from high school. Emma graduated in June 2013, and Liam, in 2014.

Spastic muscles affected my speeJenn Von Hatten & Liamch, so I went to physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. My balance was severely affected. I used to be in a wheelchair, due to the fractured vertebrae. I since “graduated” to a walker, then to a quad cane, and eventually to a mini quad cane. Now I’m a fall risk. My life has definitely changed. I am no longer able to work as a nurse. I cannot say if my life is better or worse. All I can say with certainty is that my life is different.  I enjoy my time with Hanna, my 7-year-old daughter and youngest child. (I have joint custody. I remind myself that not many relationships survive a TBI.) I now have a cat, Spunkster, which I got from the local SPCA. When Hanna’s not with me, I hang out with Spunkster. I miss most my being able to work as a nurse. But as much as I would like to a work as a nurse, I know I would not be safe – physically (because I am a fall risk) as well as mentally Jenn Von Hatten & Hanna(in terms of remembering if I gave a client his or her medication or treatments). I had graduated as a nurse only seven months before my TBI. I had wanted to be a nurse for over fifteen years. At least I can say I turned that dream into reality! I sometimes miss being able to drive. My driver’s license has not been revoked, but my rehabilitation doctor says I still cannot drive, as my reflexes are not up to snuff. My plan is to help others that are TBI survivors or caregivers. I can provide info and support.

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 Comment” 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.

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Melissa Cronin

SPEAK OUT! – Melissa Cronin


Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Melissa Cronin Head Shot 2

Melissa Cronin

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

Melissa Cronin

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

South Burlington, Vermont, USA

3. When did you have your TBI? At what age?

Age 36

4. How did your TBI occur?

In 2003, when visiting the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, an elderly driver confused the gas pedal for the brake and sped through the market. I was thrown forward, and my head hit the pavement. The force of the impact resulted in a ruptured spleen and multiple fractures, including my pelvis.

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

Fourteen months after the accident, when I returned to part-time work as a public health nurse, I experienced increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and multitasking. My boss threatened to fire me, so I resigned and attempted part-time work in a pediatrician’s office (bad idea for someone with a TBI), but I struggled to keep up in a fast-paced environment. In May 2006, I finally saw a neuropsychiatrist for testing, and the results proved to be consistent with a TBI.

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

I did not have emergency treatment for a TBI. The CT (computerized tomography, also known as “CAT”) scans showed no bleeding (typical for a “mild” TBI). I did have emergency surgery, though, to remove my ruptured spleen.

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


8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I had physical and occupational therapy at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to help regain muscle mass and strength after being hospitalized for nearly one month. I would be in a wheelchair for four months while my fractures healed, so rehab taught me ways to navigate through my day.

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

Fatigue, difficulty multitasking and concentrating, occasional irritability, depression; and difficulty processing verbal, auditory, and visual information

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

My life is both better and worse. It’s better because my TBI, and other injuries, opened up a path for me to writing. And my husband, whom I met only three weeks prior to the accident, has been my strongest support. It’s worse because I eventually had to give up my 20-year nursing career.

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

Running and skiing, and the babies I cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit where I worked before my injury

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

Writing, playing the Irish fiddle, going for walks, and, of course, my husband’s unwavering support

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I’m much slower at getting things done. I often sleep in until 9:30 or 10:00 am, and I feel as if I’ve wasted much of the day. Also, I often fail to understand concepts others seem to grasp so easily.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

I’ve been helped by the neuropsychiatrist who diagnosed me with a TBI and by the cognitive therapist who treated me. Also, my therapist – he continually reminds me that my brain has been rewired.

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

Definitely my home life has been affected. I rely on my husband to do much of the “heavy” lifting, like cooking, grocery shopping, and driving, because I am easily distracted.

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

Absolutely. I do not socialize as much as I did before my injury because it doesn’t take much for me to become fatigued.


“Invisible Bruise” Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries. June 2014

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

I am my own main caregiver, though my husband does much of the cooking. I do not know what it takes to be a caregiver, though my father is living with Alzheimer’s, and I help out as much as I can.

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

Writing and traveling

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 TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

I wish I understood much earlier the truth about TBIs before I re-entered the workplace and had to face the threat of being fired. For example, I wish someone had warned me that I might have actually suffered a TBI, and that the initial presentation of milder injuries does not mean the consequences are mild.

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

Persevere. Try not to compare yourself to non-brain injured individuals – you’ll only get frustrated. Pay attention to what your body and brain are telling you, and give yourself permission to take naps. Exercise your brain, in moderation, by doing crossword puzzles or learning a new skill. Whatever you accomplish, even if it’s getting out of bed by 7:00 am, is an accomplishment.

Melissa is the author of “Invisible Bruise,” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Melissa playing fiddle

Melissa Cronin with her fiddle

To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website/blog at Melissa Cronin.


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

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

(Photos compliments of Melissa.)

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.

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