TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

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

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . Nolan McDonnell — Survivor of Brain Injury

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Nolan McDonnell

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Survivor of Brain Injury – Nolan McDonnell

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

Nolan McDonnell

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

San Jose, California, USA     Nolan@CoachNolan.com

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

My traumatic brain injury occurred on April 23, 2017, at the age of 31.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I was the victim of a robbery. I was held at gunpoint and then shot in the head. My brain injury is bilateral, as the bullet went through both sides of my brain.

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

I was found in my car, which was riddled with bullet holes. I had an entrance wound in my skull from the bullet.

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

I had seven blood transfusions, a craniotomy, and maybe some other things.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?physical-activity-clipart-10

Yes – fifteen 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 have or had speech, occupational, physical, stretch, recreational, massage, and craniosacral therapies and acupuncture. It has been two and a half years now, and I put in eight hours a day, five days a week.

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

I was a paraplegic – I could not move from the neck down. I worked hard to overcome this, however. I still suffer from extreme spasticity, muscle imbalance, and minimal range of motion on the left side of my body, as well as in my legs.

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

My life is better after my traumatic brain injury. Before the injury, I did not know how short, valuable, and fragile life is.

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

I miss skateboarding, making new friends at school, the freedom to get up and do anything I wanted at any given time, athletics, not having a caregiver, living alone, and having guests come over.

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

I like my perspective on and my valuing of both life and people. Life is so valuable to me now – more meaningful and beautiful.

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

I love everything about my brain injury. Life is more important to me now.

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

No

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

Yes. We had to make everything wheelchair-accessible, and someone always needs to be with me. Also, with my injury, I can’t get up and go make myself a sandwich or go to the store and get something that I want. Somebody needs to do those things for me. I am a lot more limited in that aspect, but it’s not a big deal if I plan ahead.

The biggest aspect about this question is addressing the invisible injury. People look at me and see that I’m strong, and they expect that, at any moment, I can just get up and start walking, hiking, or going on dates.

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

Not really for me. I have always been a very social person, and my wheelchair is a great conversation starter! People come up all the time and ask me what happened. I am always making new friends.

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

My mother

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

(not answered)

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.

This is a tough question because no two injuries are the same, but I will share my input and what worked for me to get my legs strong again.

Learning how to use my legs has been especially difficult. My parents bought an assist-bar at Home Depot and mounted it to the wall, a little below chest height. I can use my wheelchair to wheel up to the bar and practice standing up, do squats, stand up, and let go and learn how to balance.

Another great thing that I would love to share is to go to your local community college and check out adaptive PE (physical education) classes. The community colleges by my house have adaptive PE – they have standing frames and parallel bars, and all of the equipment and workout-machines are wheelchair-accessible. Adaptive PE programs usually have water classes as well.

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

Nolan McDonnell – Survivor of Brain Injury

I would suggest that other brain injury survivors take initiative and demonstrate that they want to help themselves because that will encourage support from other people. Also, always continue doing exercises and stretching. Try to increase your range of motion, and workout constantly. Fitness creates a mind-body connection and promotes new neurological pathways. Additionally, if you take care of yourself physically, you tend to eat better – and proper nutrition is very important for a healthy brain.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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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 Blog

SPEAK 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 donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.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.

Kathleen Lynx
Survivor of Brain Injury

Kathleen Lynx (survivor) … I just had to crow. It’s been nine years post TBI (traumatic brain injury), and I was able to sew a pair of PJ pants. They were originally going to be capris, but after a few errors, I have sleep pants. I goofed on measuring and had to put in eight inches of side panels so they would fit, but I finished them. It’s the first item I have sewn that fits. Yeah!

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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 Blog

SPEAK 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 donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.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.

 

Sherrie Crusha – Brain Injury Survivor

Sherrie Crusha (survivor) … I haven’t been able to draw a whole picture since my TBI (traumatic brain injury), 31 years ago. I did my best one yet a couple of days ago.

Drawing by Sherrie Crusha

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

Brain Research in Mice May Lead to the Treatment of PTSD and Depression in Humans

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

A young Boston University professor, Steve Ramirez, a neuroscientist, has identified cells of a mouse brain that enhance the positive or negative scientist-clip-art-41a38614afbd47caca00c32a563f44defeelings of a memory.

Stimulating cells that enhance positive feelings can suppress or deaden the trauma associated with a bad memory. In contrast, stimulating cells that enhance negative feelings makes a bad memory feel worse.

The hippocampus in both the mouse brain and the human brain is the region of the brain responsible for storing memories, including all the details and emotions associated with them. Each memory activates a unique combination of cells of the hippocampus.  Some of the cells affect emotion and behavior.

mouse-clip-art-grey-pink-mouse-mdRamirez and his collaborators (including first author Briana Chen of Columbia University) used genetically engineered mice whose neurons glow when they’re activated. Those cells can later be artificially activated with laser light. The team found that a negative memory (like getting a mild electric shock to the feet) activates cells at the bottom of the hippocampus.  A positive memory (like being in the presence of a female mouse) activates cells at the top of the hippocampus.

They then were able to stimulate those same cells with a laser.  When the bottom cells of the hippocampus were activated, the mouse behaved (freezing and/or avoidance behavior) as if it were recalling the negative memory of the shock. Stimulation of the cells in the top region of the hippocampus reduced the avoidance response.51wUt-P+FKL._SL500_

This is basic research, but it is a significant first step in the eventual development of treatments for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, and depression.  (Full story)

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Brain Injury Resources . . . . . Brain Injury Journey Bulletin by Lash & Associates Publishing

Brain Injury Journey Bulletin by Lash & Associates Publishing

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Lash & Associates

Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, Inc. introduces its newest brainchild. The Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN is a compilation of brain-injury resources on a variety of topics of interest to those who live in the world of brain injury. Caregiving, memory issues, and grief and loss are some of the interest areas presented in the bulletin.

Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, Inc. is the leading publisher of brain-injury-related books and resources. They are in the know!

The bulletin is published free of charge each month. You only need to sign up for your subscription. Follow this link to get your free subscription, and YOU can be in the know too. Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN

 

 

July 2017
Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN: GRIEF and LOSS

June 2017
Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN: Executive Functions Critical and Vital to Organization, Prioritizing, and Behaviors

May 2017
Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN: “Caregivers – The Visible/Invisible TBI Support Network”

April 2017
Brain Injury Journey BULLETIN: Memory

 

To locate additional books pertaining to brain injury, please check out Lash & Associates Publishing/Training Inc.

 

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Brain Injury Resources . . . . . “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook”

After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook

by

Barbara Stahura, C.J.F. and Susan B. Schuster, M.A., CCC-SLP

presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

After Brain Injury Telling Your StoryThis workbook by Barbara Stahura and Susan B. Schuster guides survivors of brain injury and blast injury through the powerful healing experience of telling their own stories with simple journaling techniques.

By writing short journal entries, survivors explore the challenges, losses, changes, emotions, adjustments, stresses, and milestones as they rebuild their lives.

Journaling after brain injury helps written and verbal communication skills and provides cognitive retraining for following instruction. It helps promote self awareness as well as recognition of strengths and difficulties after brain injury.

Susan B. Schuster

Susan B. Schuster, M.A., CCC-SLP Author of “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story – A Journaling Workbook”

It is a tool for planning for the future and discussions with family members. Journaling can be done individually, in a group or with assistance from caregivers or family.

Barbara Stahura, C.J.F. Author of “After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story – A Journaling Workbook”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To locate additional books pertaining to brain injury, please check out Lash & Associates Publishing/Training Inc.

 

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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

 

harry-jordan-and-mom-122716

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.

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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.

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If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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.

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(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.)

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