TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘“Prisoner Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story”’

Past Blast: Mansion Dancing Under the Stars

“TBI Tales: Mansion Dancing Under the Stars”

(originally published April 26, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

mansion-at-westport

David and I met on the dance floor when I was 16 years old. He was 17. We fell in love under a strobe light. Through our married years, we danced at weddings and at parties, but when David’s Traumatic Brain Injury left his body as limp as Raggedy Andy, I never dreamed that David and I would ever dance again. But, during a recent trip to Westport, Massachusetts, to spend time with our son, Jared, his fiancé, Emily, and her family, we found ourselves staying in a mansion … only feet from the Atlantic Ocean. Our host, dancers-thSusan, was beyond gracious, concerned about our every comfort. On our second night there, she threw a big family party on her extensive patio and even more expansive grounds overlooking the ocean; and she invited us. We stopped in about midnight.

The partygoers were huddled around the fire-ring … music still blaring. Jared and Emily began to dance on the patio. I swayed. David sat in a tall patio chair. Then the unthinkable happened. David asked me to dance. I hadn’t expected that! David can barely walk – dancing had not been on his radar for more than seven years. I looked at him expectantly. Was he kidding, being facetious? ballroom_dancing_stars_swinging_lg_clrNo! With a huge grin, I answered, “Yes!”

We didn’t Cha-Cha or Swing, as we had learned in our Ballroom Dance classes. We didn’t attempt the Fox Trot, or even the Waltz, though Paula, our dance instructor after David had his TBI (another story), would have been proud of us if we had. But, we did our own dance. We swayed back and forth – never moving our feet. We call it the “TBI Sway.” We swayed with my head resting against David’s shoulder and his hand gently placed at the small of my back. We swayed with David holding on to me for dear life … for balance. We danced under the stars to an old favorite, “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers, with the sounds of ocean waves lapping the shore, with smiles on our lips, and remembrances of days gone by … and the promise of our days ahead.dance under stars

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . High School Football Game Forfeited After Nine Head Injuries

High School Football Game Forfeited After Nine Head Injuries

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

football-teamA high school football team from Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, forfeited its game after nine players left the game with possible head injuries. The coach took the precaution of having all players checked at the hospital. Before going to hospital, four players had already displayed symptoms of having a serious concussion (nausea, vomiting), and they still showed symptoms two days later when the article was written.

Illegal hits were not the problem, but the violence of football became even more obvious when the forfeiting team was clearly outmatched by its opponent.  The score was 35-0 about halfway through the game.

football13It is now known that players of US and Canadian football have a high risk of developing a brain injury, and the problem is particularly serious for youth, with their still-developing brains.  Concussions are the most obvious brain injury, but the multiple subconcussive hits common in US and Canadian football can also lead to brain damage, which may not become apparent for several years.  A highly-cited research paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the degenerative brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) was found in a low but significant fraction (21%) of players who only played football through high school. CTE was more commonly found (>90%) in the autopsied brains of players who played professionally or only through college. Even with a possible bias in the brains studied, the findings are alarming. As a result of the new knowledge, some players are retiring early (1,2), and parents are becoming concerned. (1. Full story and 2. my radio interview of Cyndy Feasel, Mary Seau, and Debra Pyka, all of whom lost a loved one to football)

onair

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SPEAK OUT! News Bit . . . . . Football, Brain Injury & Kids

Football, Brain Injury & Kids

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thIs American football a dying sport? With football’s prominence in American culture, it seems safe to assume no one would predict that its days are numbered. But, there is a growing undercurrent that may eventually lead to the demise of football as we know it. There is more and more evidence that the constant subconcussive hits experienced by football players lead to a high risk of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE can lead to early dementia, football12depression, suicidal thoughts, or problems with cognition, memory, or impulsive behavior.

Recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is more evidence of the enormous risk of developing CTE by playing American football. (CTE can at present only be confirmed upon studying brain tissue at autopsy, although research is being directed to finding a test that can detect CTE in the brains of living players.) A study of 202 brains of former football players was done by researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University. They found CTE in 87% of all the brains studied. Of the 110 brains of former professional players in the NFL (National Football League, the premier professional football league in the US), 109 (99%) showed CTE. Playing only college football did not significantly reduce the risk of having CTE, which was found in 91% of the brains of former college players. Playing less football did seem to lower the risk. Only 27% of the brains of former players who played through high school, but no further, showed evidence of CTE. Also, the severity of CTE was probably less with less playing time.

brain4The results have important implications for players. Many players feel they’ve been left ignorant of the risks of brain injury by the NFL, or worse, assured by the league that there is minimal risk. [Some players have quit or retired early (1, 2). Recently, a class-action lawsuit about concussions brought by former players against the NFL was settled for $1 billion.] The NFL has argued, and most players and fans who know about CTE believe, that the brains being studied are biased toward CTE because the autopsied brains in large part are from players already suspected of having a brain injury. Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University researcher who has examined many of the brains, has stated that the results are staggering even for a biased sample (go to 1:35:58 in the video). She has stated, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football; there is a problem.”

Evidence of any CTE in high school football players is particularly disturbing (go to 1:29:08 in the video). Parents have taken note. Even though the NFL is actively promoting football directly to children, enrollment in youth football leagues is significantly down. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE by studying the brain of Mike Webster, the football-teamfamous Pittsburgh Steeler Center, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Let Kids Play Football.” During my radio interview of George Visger, a former lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who had to quit the game because of a brain injury, he speculated that the preeminence of football in American society will disappear because the NFL’s talent pool will dry up. He speculates that the cost of liability insurance will be too high for youth football leagues to pay (go to 30 minutes into my interview of him).

There is no doubt that American football is exciting to watch, and there are many benefits to playing such a demanding team sport. But, difficult as it is to believe, it seems likely that the high risk of brain injury will eventually end the game.

 

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TBI Tales: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Messy Kitchen & Fruit Salad

 

A Messy Kitchen
by
Michael Puffer (caregiver for his wife, Maria)
presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Puffer. Michael & Mari a

Maria Puffer – Brain Injury Survivor Michael Puffer – Caregiver for Maria

I came home after a long day and found what looked like a mess in the kitchen. I sat down and put my face in my hands and cried. I couldn’t believe what I came home to. I wasn’t angry, but I couldn’t stop the tears.

Twenty-three months ago, the state of the kitchen would not have been a remarkable finding. Tonight, it was truly unbelievable, and I was blown away!Messy Kitchen

Just under two years ago, I thought I had lost the most important person in my life. My loving wife, Maria Puffer, was in a horrific car accident. She suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and a spinal cord contusion, and she was in a coma at North Memorial Hospital near Minneapolis.

Ever since that day, Maria has fought to show us she is still with us and she is ever-determined to recover and get her life back. Week by week, day by day, hour by hour – she never quits, complains, or feels sorry for herself. Maria practices walking with a walker an hour a day, sometimes nearly falling asleep because she always wants to push herself. She thanks me every night for taking care of her. She shows all of us what true grit and love is.

Fruit_salad_clipartMaria asked me a few days ago where the Kitchen Aid mixer was. I told her it was in the pantry. The next day – there it was on the counter. Maria asked daughter Samantha to pick up the ingredients to make fruit salad. I told her we would make fruit salad over the weekend, but there never was time to do it.

Maria didn’t wait. She made the fruit salad by herself.

My tears were tears of joy and wonder. When she came into the kitchen, I reached out, gave her a huge hug, and said, “You are awesome!” (Maria is absolutely the strongest person I’ll ever know. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in her life!)Man & Woman Hugging

We had dinner together and enjoyed the very best fruit salad in the world for desert.

I will try forever to be the best husband that I can be. I know I have the best wife, and she deserves the best from me.

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SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Daniel Bellmore - Brain Injury Survivor

Daniel Bellmore – Brain Injury Survivor

Daniel Bellmore (survivor) … I graduated from grad school with my Master’s Degree in mental health counseling, specializing in trauma and addictions.mental-health

David Smith (survivor) … In the past week, I’ve been working for a guy I met in town. I have been cleaning out his basement, 16358690_1201798153189065_1370881325_nthe entire house, etc. Yesterday, I began painting a bedroom, and I plan to finish this morning. I went to a TBI (traumatic brain injury) workshop – an art-therapy group. I also went to a “celebrate-recovery” group – I’ve been trying to help a friend.

clip-art-painting-314011I have difficulty staying focused on these accomplishments and others, since I woke out of a coma eight months ago. I’m glad that I can do these things.

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributor!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

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

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If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Ed Steeves

Making a Choice

by

Ed Steeves

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI had a month to get ready. Yet mentally, it seemed a short time to prepare, but I would have gone immediately if it were possible. It had been such a long time coming, honestly. I was sitting around being idle for way too long. To be completely honest, this was one of the bravest things I chose to do, so I had to be strong. It was like getting the courage up to jump into the deep end, while uncertain about how cold or how deep the water is.
dive-in-poolFor the very first time in well over five years, I felt that the choice was completely up to me. I wondered if I should just consider playing it safe – dip a toe in and try to slowly get into the water, all the time staying at the edge of the pool. Or, if I should take the chance – go for the adrenaline rush.

I was tired of chickening out – of playing a fool. For the first time in a very long time (well, to be really truthful, possibly for the first time in my life), I made a choice for me, with only myself to thank or blame. I could have cut the tension with a knife.

suitcaseSo, off on my trip I went, with no end in sight, with no final destination set, but I knew I would figure it all out. I wanted to begin to live my life without all of the restrictions. Did I feel I was ready for that?

Ed Steeves - Brain Injury Survivor and World Traveler

Ed Steeves – Brain Injury Survivor and World Traveler

Without any doubt!

I headed off on an amazing adventure – to see who I could become and to travel the world. I followed the path that I dreamed of: the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand, and more. I was ready to see the future into which I had been hurled. I found myself, did some soul-searching, and tested my limits.

 

Thank you, Ed Steeves.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ed Steeves.)

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.

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your lastname to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

harry-jordan-survivor-120916

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan (survivor) I’ve been blessed with many things in my life, but recently I was in tears. My left foot – on the side I had the stroke on – hasn’t moved since 2009 (pre stroke), but the other way-clipart-waycool2day, I was able to push down and move it! I know I’m being so emotional over something so small, but it’s HUGE TO ME! Maybe I am getting better. Maybe.

 
itsnottoolate-2015-1

simon-limbrick

Simon Limbrick – Brain Injury Survivor

 

 

Simon Limbrick (survivor) It’s been thirty-seven years since my TBI (traumatic brain injury), and I’m now learning that I should not have pulled out of my coma or made all the gains I did. I was determined to bring further improvement to my left eye, which sustained third nerve damage. I was told that I would eventually go blind in it and that I would definitely not be able to move it. In one of my annual eye checks, an optometrist remarked that he had never heard of someone with my condition having the eye improve year after year. In the last twelve months, there has been definite, noticeable vertical movement, as well.  My message to others? IT’S NEVER TOO LATE FOR HEALING!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributors.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

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.

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Feel free to “Like” my post.

 

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