TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Story’

TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Smiling is Contagious . . . . . . Smile, Harry, Smile!

Smiling is Contagious – Smile, Harry, Smile!

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

harry-jordan-in-gym

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – in Gym

Recently I published Harry Jordan‘s “Itty-Bitty GIANT Step” and a great photo of a smiling Harry on my blog. Afterwards, we exchanged messages by Private Message on Facebook. I told him that I loved his smile. However, he told me that he rarely smiles and that his mother would be shocked to see this smiling photo of him.

Well, that was enough incentive for me to challenge Harry. I told him I would publish his smiling photos on my blog if he would send me five more. He did – including one of him AND his mom.

smile

 

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Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & his Mom

 

 

You can read our chat below.

Donna: I just love your smile.

Harry: I really don’t smile. My mom will be shocked.

Donna: Why will she be shocked?

Harry: ‘Cause I don’t smile.

Donna: Well, you SHOULD every minute. You smile with your eyes.

Harry: I don’t look at my pics – always mean – no real reason to smile.

Donna: Well, look at this pic, and maybe you can see a reason to smile.

Harry: I will try.

Donna: It made me smile, and it’s contagious. See how many people you can affect. Start with your mom.

Harry: If it can help ANYONE, I will smile.

harry-jordan-smiling

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor – Smile, Harry, Smile

Donna: Well, it helped ME!!!!! Pick your mom up and hug her and give her a BIG smile. Then let me know what she said.

Harry: And for that I will smile.

Donna: See … it’s working! Send me five NEW photos of you smiling, and I will publish them. Challenge is on.

Harry: Ha! Ha! Ha! Dang, now THAT is a challenge.

Did you know that smiling really is contagious? How many times have you walked down the street or through a store and someone, a stranger, smiled at you. What did you do? Chances are you smiled right back. It’s almost an automatic reaction. Did you know that smiling is healthy for you? It is! It releases neurotransmitters, like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. These hormones are produced in the brain and can help to relieve stress and lower blood pressure. Whoever thought that a smile could be your best medicine? Well, it’s certainly worth a try.

harry-jordan-and-friend

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Friend

So, as we so often hear, “Turn that frown upside down!” and see how much better you feel. Harry did! Just look at all the photos of his wonderful smile. He makes me smile, and I hope he does you, too.

harry-jordan-original-smile

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor

Harry Jordan - Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

Harry Jordan – Brain Injury Survivor & Cousins

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

If you have a story to share and would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please submit your TBI Tale to me at neelyf@aol.com. I will publish as many stories as I can.

As I say after each post:

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.anim0014-1_e0-1

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Bonnie Nish

Survivors SPEAK OUT!  Bonnie Nish

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

bonnie-nish-5

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

Bonnie Nish

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

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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

I had two: one in 2012 at age 55 and another in 2013 at age 56.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

For the first one – a child I worked with in a school was using a zip line, and, as he was coming off, he began to lose his balance. I put my head on his back to steady him, and his head came whipping back – the back of his head caught me just above the temple. For the second one, a basketball bounced off the rim and hit me in the same place that the first one did.boy-on-zipline

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

Immediately

basketball-clip-art-free-download6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

At first, I just went to a walk-in clinic, and they told me I should be better by Monday. (It was Friday.) About two weeks later, I couldn’t get two words out without stuttering, so I went to the Emergency Room. They did a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan and sent me to see a neurologist. That neurologist thought I didn’t have post-concussion syndrome, even though I was stuttering and couldn’t move my right finger from my nose to his finger. The Workmen’s Compensation neuropsychologist disagreed with this and thought I did have it.

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

No

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)?

I had outpatient therapy as designated by the Workmen’s Compensation Board.

How long were you in rehab?

Four months

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

I experience nausea, dizziness, light-sensitivity, loss of appetite, an inability to retain what I read, an inability to write, stuttering, a loss of words, impulsivity, anxiety, and an inability to follow multiple conversations at once. I have a problem with my balance. I lost twenty-five pounds. I have an over-stimulated sense of smell, an inability to play piano and remember what I knew, a loss of executive decision-making skills, a constant buzzing in my head, and concentration problems.

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

It’s mixed. I still have buzzing in my head all of the time, and it gets louder if I do too much. And, I still have some memory problems. But, I also appreciate my ability to think like never before. I have published two books since my concussions.

bonnie-nish-2

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

I miss not hearing buzzing and not feeling anxious.

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

I enjoy knowing when I can do things that I couldn’t do while I was in the middle of it all.

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

I dislike not being able to write or read. That is the scariest thing for me.

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

Yes. Time.

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

Yes. My children became my caregivers. That was hard for them, especially for my youngest daughter. It took some time for us to get past my being dependent on her.

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

Yes. I don’t go out as much as I used to. I still find it hard to be in large groups and crowds.

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

My youngest daughter was my main caregiver. Yes, I understand how hard and how demanding it was for her. And how scary.

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

I have returned to my academic work. I intend to finish my PhD and teach and write. I would like to get a few more books out. (I am currently working on two.) Also, I hope to live somewhere else in the world for a while.

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 is to let people around you know that one thing that might happen to you is that you might become very impulsive. It is best if you can get some help with this. Leave your cards at home and only take a certain amount of cash with you. Mention to your friends and family that if they see you buying something you would never normally buy, they might want to question this. I didn’t figure this out until I was in the concussion clinic and heard a few of the guys talking about how impulsive they were. For this reason, they kept only $20 in their pockets. This was after I bought a stationary bike when I couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed it. I also bought five dresses and have worn only two.

bonnie-nish-1

Bonnie Nish – Brain Injury Survivor & author

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

This is a hard and difficult journey. You may feel as though you are a different person. You are in some ways. It takes time to grow into this new way of being. Have patience with yourself – the way you would for a dear friend.

 

 

 

To learn more about Bonnie Nish, please visit her website.

To order Bonnie’s book, click here.
 “Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Not Just Another Headline” 


 

(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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!

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . . . . Matthew Vickers (survivor)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Matthew Vickers (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.

matthew-vickers-3

Matthew Vickers – Brain Injury Survivor

Matthew Vickers (survivor)

I was diagnosed with a severe diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury two years ago as the result of a motor-vehicle accident. The car flipped four times, and I was ejected from the vehicle. The result was that I was in a coma for a month, and it was thought that I would remain in a vegetative state. I awoke, and, when I was able, I began rehab, which I matthew-vickers-2continue to this day. I have completed speech and vision therapies, and I am continuing physical and occupational therapies. Cognitively, I am 100% there, but physically, not so much. Although I am not wheelchair-bound, I have lost the ability to walk from the accident. Through physical therapy, I have progressed to using a cane and a walker. I can walk with minimal assistance a good seventy feet.

matthew-vickers-1

Matthew Vickers – Brain Injury Survivor

Going to therapy has been relearning life skills. With determination, I excel. It was thought that if I regained consciousness, I would be a vegetable. I’ve been told I’d never walk again. But, walk I do. Never accept defeat. Never quit.

Thank you Matthew Vickers for sharing your story.

(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.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kenneth Powell

Survivors SPEAK OUT!    Kenneth Powell

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

 

Kenneth Powell - Brain Injury Survivor

Kenneth Powell – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Kenneth Powell

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

Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

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

2010     I was 42 years of age.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I’ve had three hemorrhagic strokes on the lower left side of my brain.

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

I fell out of bed after trying to stand up. My (then) girlfriend found me.

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

The first stroke occurred on April 30, 2010. I knew my name, where I was, and what I was told had happened. Immediately after sleeping that night, the second stroke occurred. I was put into a coma for the next 30 days.

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

Yes. 30 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)?

I had occupational, physical, and speech therapies as an inpatient and an outpatient.

9. How long were you in rehab?

One month

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

Aphasia, right-side paralysis, complete amnesia

Kenneth Powell - Brain Injury Survivor

Kenneth Powell – Brain Injury Survivor

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

My life is challenging.

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

I miss running and normal kidney function.

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

I enjoy sharing my experience with others and proving mind over matter.

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

I dislike people’s perceptions of “the disabled.”

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

My faith has helped me accept my brain injury.

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

The perceptions about “disabled” or “handicapped” individuals have been a hindrance. Romantic relationships are nearly nonexistent.

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

Perceptions about the disabled greatly affect my life.

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

I am my own main caregiver. I am helped occasionally by my sister.

Kenneth Powell - Brain Injury Survivor

Kenneth Powell – Brain Injury Survivor

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

I hope to be back to work.

20. 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.

Ask as many questions as possible. Know and interact with as many survivors as you can (via websites, support-groups, etc.).

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

Personal and spiritual FAITH is essential to the day-to-day survival of this injury.

 

(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 SPEAK OUT! Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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.

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! … Jo Dalton

Survivors SPEAK OUT!   Jo Dalton

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Jo Dalton – Brain Injury Survivor

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

Jo Dalton

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

Switzerland

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

Age 28

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Traffic accident – head-on collision at 50 mph

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

My car was smashed up, and it was obvious that I was injured. My husband was driving his car behind me and was terrified that I was dead.

medical-helicopter6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

I was helicoptered to the Emergency Room. I became very agitated, and it took three men to get me into the helicopter.

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

Yes. Around 45 minutes

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 was released from the hospital after five weeks: three weeks in one hospital and two weeks in another. I remember very little of it. My physical therapy was five weeks with a couple of “islands of memory.” I had some neuropsychology, although I don’t remember it. At the second hospital, I believe I had some physiotherapy. At two months post TBI (traumatic brain injury), I saw the treating-neurologist from the first hospital. That doctor said that I “could go back to work and forget all about it”! The treating-doctor from the second hospital saw me as an outpatient, and she was not happy. She organized six neuropsychology appointments for me. That was the only rehab I had.

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

Initially, I had phobias about closed doors and the dark. My balance was a little out. I was told by one psychiatrist that my personality caused depression and insomnia; by another, that if I was tired, I would sleep. I found it incredibly hard to teach – I had forgotten everything I learned in college and in five years of teaching. I felt I had lost my identity. I was assessed by a neuropsychologist recently. I was told that I am slow to respond, that I have aphasia, that I get tired very quickly, and that I don’t deal well with stress.

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

I was an ambitious, full-time, Primary School teacher. I loved my job, and I was studying for a Master’s Degree in Education to achieve promotion. Because of my brain injury, it was impossible to continue either. I was confident and outgoing. I was enjoying living in a new country (I’m English, and I wanted some experience abroad). My life has changed entirely, but not all for the bad. I appreciate the small things in life (for example, fresh air, my dogs, reading (though it’s harder now to concentrate), clean bedding, and the beauty of nature (quite easy to appreciate here in Switzerland!). I also appreciate my friends and see the importance of supporting other people.

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

I miss quite a lot really! I miss the ambition and energy that I had, the love of my job, and my independence.

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

I enjoy getting outside with my dogs, exercising, and being involved in forums to help TBI survivors.

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

I dislike the fact that I am slow; that I have insomnia and depression, for which I’ve been taking benzodiazepines and antidepressants on and off for the last sixteen years; and the inability to have children unaided – my periods stopped and have only restarted since I stopped work. I’ve miscarried five times – presumably due to stress. I wanted to have two children, but I am lucky to have the one daughter whom I do have.

clock-clip-art-4ib4bm5ig14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Time! To me, it’s the biggest healer. Time passing has put things into perspective and allowed me to accept that I cannot have my life back as it was. But, there are other things I can do. I am currently in the process of making a claim for help from the state, and if I receive an allowance, I would like to work with just one dyslexic student.

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

Thankfully, I am extremely lucky to have a supportive husband and family. I found out who my true friends are, and I am lucky that they have been so much help. The ones who weren’t were clearly not really friends.

Jo Dalton - Brain Injury Survivor

Jo Dalton – Brain Injury Survivor

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

For the first five or six years after the accident, I didn’t really have a social life – talking to more than one person was impossible. I became tired very quickly and had to leave, straight away. I was not keen to have too much noise around me. I spent quite a lot of time watching films in my apartment, as I was not keen on going out during the day. I live in a French-speaking area and lost a lot of confidence with language. In the last two years, I’ve rediscovered the need for a social life. I go out a couple of times a month, easier since I stopped work after a seizure in September 2015.

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

My husband is my main caregiver. We are both currently coming to terms with what this has meant for both of us at different stages in my recovery. He is now seeing a psychologist to give him some direction and help.

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

I would like to be doing dyslexia tutoring on a small scale, raising awareness of TBI by talking in schools, and perhaps doing some voluntary work.

18. 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.

As a survivor, you need to educate yourself, accept that recovery is a long, long haul, and find online support. We are talking years of recovery. And, hard as it is to hear, it is very unlikely that you will get back to how you were. On the other hand, the strength you gain from dealing with life after a brain injury is enormous and empowering. I would also say that you shouldn’t accept what every doctor tells you. Very few “get” brain injury, and you must not allow anyone to make you feel that it’s your fault in some way.

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

See my answer above. Also, know that [time] + [acceptance] = [ease in life]. Oh, and don’t push yourself too far, too fast. It doesn’t produce good results, as I’ve discovered!

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! . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

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

me

 

Jennifer Stokley (survivor) … I recently met a stranger at my door who was sent to do bug home care. There was no notice, but I let him in to do his work. I asked questions – I had him explain things I needed to know. I have severe anxiety disorder and huge panic attacks. Strangers are a HUGE trigger; letting them into my home is even bigger. I handled it all – no anxiety, no nothing!

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.

If you 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. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

 

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Repair of Brain Injury in Mice by Transplanted Neurons

Repair of Brain Injury in Mice by Transplanted Neurons

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Newsboy thThis is an incredible finding with strong clinical implications! There already is evidence that transplanted neurons can survive and grow in the brain. The newly introduced neurons can form synapses, and they sometimes improve function by partially compensating for a damaged brain circuit. What was not known was whether the original damage could be repaired. Now scientists have shown in a well-studied mouse model of the brain that transplanted neurons can replace the damaged neurons, make the appropriate connections, and repair the damage.ridkk855t

The research was done in Germany by scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich in Planegg, the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, the Helmholtz Center Munich, and the German Research Center for Environmental Health in Neuherberg. Neurons in the visual cortex of the adult mouse brain were killed, then immature (embryonic) mouse neurons from the cerebral cortex were transplanted into the damaged area of the adult mouse brain. What the scientists found was remarkable. The transplanted neurons developed into mature cells – the same kind as the killed cells, and the new cells replaced the killed cells to give normal function. The process took several months.th-1

The visual cortex is one of the best studied areas of the mouse brain. The structures and connections of the nerve cells are known. So, the scientists, using sophisticated tools, were able to propose that the transplanted neurons used the same developmental signals that were used by the original cells. The transplanted immature neurons developed the proper structures, targeted the same areas of the brain, and made the same connections throughout the brain as did the original cells. The transplanted cells repaired the damaged circuits and allowed the visual cortex to function normally again.gray-mouse-hi-1

This basic research in mice has astonishing clinical implications for humans. (I wrote before about how the mouse is a good first model for the human.) Lost or damaged neurons can be replaced with incredible precision. That means there may be a future treatment, maybe even a cure, for all kinds of damage to the brain, including that which occurs from acquired and traumatic brain injuries, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. (Full story)

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No memory of the day that changed my life

My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

Everything and nothing. GM1123 😊

Bienvenue. I’m thinking this is the spot where I am to write a witty, flowery personal section that pulls you in......I got nuthin’

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