TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘“Prisoners Without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale”’

COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Vaccine is Possible

COVID-19 . . . Evidence that a Vaccine is Possible

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

The 100+ labs trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 were delighted with a study showing that COVID-19 stimulates a strong antibody response in humans. Scientists from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) demonstrated that a vaccine for COVID-19 is definitely possible.

The scientists studied blood from mildly sick individuals who recovered. They found a high level of antibodies to the spike protein, used by COVID-19 to infect.

The strong antibody response suggests that immunity will occur in humans and will last a while, but no one knows for how long – weeks? months? years?

The scientists were surprised by another result. For you also to understand it, I have to give you some background. (Sorry!)

There are seven coronaviruses that infect humans.

Four are common and cause mild, cold-like symptoms.  We’ve all probably had one or more of these.

Three coronaviruses (SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 <which causes COVID-19>, and MERS- CoV) cause serious human disease and some fatalities.

Blood taken before COVID-19 even existed in humans nevertheless showed the presence of antibodies that reacted with COVID-19.  Infection with one of the mild coronaviruses may have stimulated the body’s production of some antibodies that cross-react with COVID-19.

Some seemingly healthy individuals have died from COVID-19. In contrast, some people not predicted to do well had mild disease or were asymptomatic. Doctors are perplexed by their inability to predict who will recover.

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

One possibility is that the amount of cross-reactive antibodies arising from previous infection with one or more of the mild coronaviruses may determine how well a COVID-19-infected person will do.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

 

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COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . To Open or Not to Open

COVID-19 . . . To Open or Not to Open

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

David H. Figurski, PhD — Brain Injury Survivor — Professor Emeritus of Microbiology & Immunology — Columbia University

 

Some governors say “Open.” Scientists say “Don’t open.” Whom do you believe?

I’m a scientist.  I know where I stand.

Below are some facts to help you decide.

For those of you in the west, the coronavirus infections have just begun.  You can see from the map of May 19 (see below) that infections are still moving westward.

Coronavirus Map – New York Times – 05/19/20

Many people, particularly those in the west, don’t seem to understand that the US is still in the early stages of this pandemic. They are lulled by the low number of cases in their state. The numbers are misleading for two reasons.

(1) Only seriously symptomatic (mostly hospitalized) people and celebrities are being tested because the US is seriously in need of more testing.  (2) The virus has not reached you yet. (That’s the especially true in the western half of the US.)

New York City is still very bad, but strict social-distancing guidelines have produced a significant drop in new cases.

Washington State had the potential to become a major hot spot, but they acted quickly and aggressively.

In contrast, several states are opening up and relaxing guidelines, despite a continued rise in new cases.  (That’s the case here in Arizona, where Governor Ducey allowed restaurants to open this week. This decision is particularly horrifying because the pandemic hasn’t really reached us yet.)

Reported cases in the United States

(Every red dot represents a cluster of infections – probably started by an infected asymptomatic traveler.  Right now, most cases are in the east, but every day you see more red dots in the western half of the US.)

 

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

Stay Safe and Healthy!

 

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COVID-19 . . . It’s Everywhere! Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski Talks about Coronavirus

COVID-19 . . . It’s Everywhere!

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

Talks about Coronavirus

by David Figurski, Ph.D

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

David Columbia Award May 2017Because the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, including the brain injury community, I have added a new category called “COVID-19” to this blog. This category is for posting much-needed information and facts on the new coronavirus and the global pandemic it has caused.

The major reason I added the COVID-19 category is that I have unique access to a survivor of brain injury who is knowledgeable about this pandemic.

For 35 years, my husband, David, was a professor and did research in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University. He retired on September 1, 2013. In January 2005, David had a cerebellar hemorrhage. He survived a three-week

coronavirus-covid-19-design-vector

coma and three brain surgeries in the first two weeks of his coma. Unfortunately, he was left with many physical disabilities, but his cognitive brain was untouched, allowing him to return full-time to the faculty after 19 months. (Those 19 months are described in detail in my book Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale.) For 45 years, David did research on the molecular genetics of various microorganisms, including viruses.

02 Fork Yield Banner copyTo allow you to be introduced to David, I am reposting the link to my radio show of April 19, 2020, on the Brain Injury Radio Network called,  “Another Fork in the Road: BI Survivor/Columbia Prof Dr. David Figurski & Covid19.” (The link first appeared in my post on May 4, 2020.) David was my guest, and I interviewed him about his brain injury and about COVID-19. (Our discussion of COVID-19 begins at 49:50.)

David Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! ………. Mimi Hayes – Survivor, Author, Comedienne

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Mimi Hayes – Survivor, Author, Comedienne

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)

 

Mimi Hayes – Survivor of Brain Injury Author of “I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head”

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

Mimi Hayes

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

Brooklyn, New York, USA

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

My brain injury happened approximately in late August 2014. I was 22 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I got a bad migraine while I was on a blind date. After about a week, I’d developed weird symptoms, vision problems, coordination difficulties, etc.

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

My mom knew pretty quickly that something was wrong. It wasn’t until after a few doctor visits

that we got an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and it was finally taken seriously.

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

MRI

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

Nope

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 in inpatient therapy for two weeks and in outpatient therapy for about three months. I had speech, occupational, and physical therapies.

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

I have some lasting vision issues on the left side, but they’re minimal and happen only when I’m tired. I have issues with concentration, memory, fatigue, coordination, and sensitivity to lights and sounds.

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

My life changed for the better in every way. Yes, it’s hard to have to adjust to a new brain, but I would never be where I am or who I am without this experience

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

Probably just being a bit more fit. I used to play ice hockey, and my brain completely forgot that

muscle-memory. Also, I wasn’t such a scatterbrain, but that’s endearing most of the time.

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

Challenging myself to live in New York City, a place where I never imagined I could live with a TBI (traumatic brain injury).

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

I don’t like that my brain injury has elevated my anxiety, which I had before the injury. It’s probably a low-grade PTSD (post traumatic-stress disorder) tied to all things medical.

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

I don’t think I’ve ever not accepted my brain injury. It’s just that I forget it sometimes. I maybe do something I could have done before with no problem, like a concert, but I’m completely exhausted the entire next day.

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

Sure. My family had to learn about my new challenges. We had to stop eating dinner with the TV on in the background, and we learned that I’m quicker to anger. They never weren’t there for me, and, if anything, my brain injury brought me much closer to them.

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

I’ve always been very social. It’s just that now I have to power-down more to recharge.

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

Me. But, I don’t really understand what it takes to be a caregiver. I was a nanny to three small boys for a year, and that was a lot of work! But no, I’ve never been a caregiver.

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

Hard to say, but I’d like to put out a few more books, do a TED Talk, and continue to travel with my comedy. As soon as theaters are back open, I’d like to put my one-woman show on off-Broadway.

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.

Just give yourself grace. Don’t compare yourself to other people’s recoveries or even to who you used to be before. Also, it’s OK to change who you are after a near-death situation. It’s OK to change your job, your city, hell, anything you want. You deserve to explore the new you.

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

There’s a great big community out here. You are not alone. You’d be surprised how many people I’ve met on Instagram and now consider them to be best friends. I would have never met them in real life.

We are strong, and we all want to share our stories with each other and connect. My advice is to get online, start using hashtags, and explore. You will find us. And, we can’t wait to connect with you!

To learn more about Mimi Hayes, visit her website.

Mimi Hayes Website

Mimi Hayes’ book, I’ll Be OK, It’s Just a Hole in My Head

 

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TBI Tales . . . . . . . . . . . . Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life

Overcoming Obstacles while Getting On with Life
by
Chelsea Rolph

presented by


Donna O’Donnell Figurski
(author – Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)

 

chelsea rolph

Chelsea Rolph – Survivor of Brain Injury

This has been one heck of a decade! When I think back to how it all began, I would have never seen myself where I am now.

I began this decade healing from a concussion and graduating high school. I chose to do a “Victory Lap” so I could have the time to figure out what I wanted to do with my future.

As the school year began in September 2010, I returned back to varsity sports to continue to do what I loved … play.

Unfortunately, as most people know, it did not end well. I was knocked out during a basketball game in the last 4 seconds, leaving me with the concussion of all concussions.

I remember sitting in accounting, music, and business classes and crying to myself because it hurt too much to read the text. I also remember going home and breaking down because I no longer had the sports to turn to as a stress relief. I was frustrated with the amount of exhaustion I was feeling at the end of the day.

I was sent to a concussion rehab clinic for a few months, and this was the first time I felt like I finally had some answers. At the beginning of this decade, my parents would take me to the hospital every week to get tests done on both my heart and my brain. These tests concluded with doctors suggesting that my “new normal” was going to be a long transition with no end in sight.

Although all of my friends were applying to colleges and universities, I was told that I should not consider post-secondary education at that time. Despite this, I still applied to colleges and universities to keep my options open.

After being accepted to all of my options, I decided to go to McMaster University (MAC), so I had family support close by if I were really struggling. After accepting MAC, I met with a counselor to discuss what the rehab clinic had said I should have for accommodations.

After the guidance counselor at MAC agreed to all of the accommodations that were recommended for me, she suggested that I should take two classes a semester and take ten years to complete my undergrad.

Fast-forward to the end of the decade – most people know that not only did I choose to take a full course load, but I also chose to try to accomplish it without the accommodations recommended. The counselors did not believe I would be successful even with the accommodations and tried to talk me out of it. Not only did I take a full course load, but I was also working close to full-time hours at the same time.

Get-a-Bachelors-Degree-Online-Step-15Four years later, in May of 2015, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In August 2015, I was hired in my first full-time job! After three months, I received a promotion, and then, ten months after that, I was promoted again to the position I am currently in. Over the last 4.5 years, I have had the amazing opportunity to work with so many amazing students and colleagues who have helped shape me into the person I am today. Unfortunately, I have chosen to leave my current position to pursue other opportunities.

As this decade ends, a new and exciting chapter begins! Today I find myself writing this from the comforts of my home as I begin my journey as an entrepreneur. My business partner and I are so excited to have the opportunity to quit our full-time jobs to focus on running our own business.

Along with reminiscing about my professional career over the past ten years, I also think about the personal experiences. Many have been positive, but I also had my share of sorrows. I have lost so many amazing people in my life, including both of my grandmas, my uncle, and a friend. I have lost a pet and nearly lost two more. I struggled with immigration. And, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I am very happy to say that I have also had the opportunity to see my mom defeat cancer and ring that victory bell. I am also happy that Rod and I no longer need to worry about immigration or travelling out of the country together for events. I also have a long list of amazing other things that have happened over the past decade: graduating, falling in love, buying a car, travelling to many cities and countries (for example, Las Vegas, New York City, Ecuador, the east coast of Canada, mainland Europe, and the UK), attending a conference in the United Nations headquarters, fundraising around $150,000 for both OIPlocal and global organizations, making so many amazing new friends, experiencing weddings, getting over my fear of babies, having nieces and nephews, getting a kitten, and going back to school to study French as a second language.

Here’s to hoping that the next decade will bring less of the sadness and more of the happiness and excitement that I have been lucky enough/privileged to experience.

Cheers to 2020!

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On the Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest: Dr. David Figurski

On the Air: Guest: Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

David Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

 

Dr. David Figurski, retired professor of microbiology, talks about his brain injury and COVID-19

I don’t often publicize my radio show on the Brain Injury Radio Network, but one of our brain injury survivors is knowledgeable about the COVID-19 pandemic, which I’m sure is on your mind.  Like me, you probably have lots of questions.

My guest on the April 19th show was my husband, Dr. David Figurski.  David has been living with several physical disabilities since January 2005, when he had a brain hemorrhage, but, fortunately, after three brain surgeries in two weeks, he was unaffected cognitively.  For 35 years, including eight years after his traumatic brain injury, David was a professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University, where he also had a research lab.  David has done research on bacteria and viruses for 45 years.  Unsurprisingly, he has been very interested in the new human coronavirus and the global pandemic it has caused.news-clipart-news-anchor-4

My 80-minute show was live on April 19th, but it was recorded and can now be listened to at any time as a podcast.  My interview of David has two parts.  From 9:30 to 49:50, David and I talk about life with his brain injury.  From 49:50 to the end, David and I discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.

To Listen Go To:

SPEAK OUT! On the Air with . . . Brain Injury Radio Show Menu “Another Fork in the Road”

blogtalkradio.com/braininjuryradio/2020/04/20/another-fork-in-the-road-bi-survivorcolumbia-prof-dr-david-figurski-covid19

 

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Harriet Hodgson – Caregiver and Author

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! Harriet Hodgson (caregiver for husband)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Author of Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale)

 

Harriet Hodgson – Caregiver for her husband, John – Author of many books.

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

Harriet Hodgson

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

Rochester, Minnesota, USA      harriethodgson@charter.net

3. What is the brain-injury survivor’s relationship to you? How old was the survivor when he/she had the brain injury? What caused your survivor’s brain injury?

I cared for my mother, who had been a brilliant woman before her Vascular Dementia. At the time, nobody knew mini-strokes continued to spread.

4. When did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor? Were you the main caregiver? Are you now? How old were you when you began care?

I started caring for my mother after she was found wandering in a department store. Interestingly, my mother called from Florida to tell me this story. “The clerk told me cars are parked outside the store.” In my fifties, I moved my mother from Melbourne, Florida, to Rochester, Minnesota, to care for her.

5. Were you caring for anyone else at that time (e.g., children, parents, etc.)?

I wasn’t caring for anyone else at the time.

6. Were you employed at the time of your survivor’s brain injury? If so, were you able to continue working?

Yes. I was a freelance writer. Continuing to write was difficult. My mother lived with us for a month, while her apartment in an assisted living community was being readied for her. If I sat down at the computer, she stood behind me and literally breathed down my neck.

7. Did you have any help? If so, what kind and for how long?

I moved my mother into an assisted living community. Also developed a weekly schedule of care: shopping day, medical/dental day, errand day, out to lunch day, etc.

8. When did your support of the survivor begin (e.g., immediately – in the hospital; when the survivor returned home; etc.)?

On a frigid night, when the temperature was 35-below and the wind chill was 50-below, my mother called and said she was going back to Long Island to be with friends. All of the people she mentioned were deceased. I called her physician, and he wrote orders sending her to nursing care, a locked ward.

9. Was your survivor in a coma? If so, what did you do during that time?

No coma. Profound confusion.

10. Did your survivor have rehab? If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)? How long was the rehab? Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

No rehab. There was no way to fix my mother’s mind.

11. What problems or disabilities of your brain-injury survivor required your care, if any?

Complained to management. Social services came and evaluated her. Mom couldn’t answer any of the questions on the Mini Mental Status Exam. Worse, she said, “My daughter put me in here.”

12. How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? Is it better? Is it worse?

Years later (maybe ten), caregiving took over my life. I’ve cared for three generations of family members: my mother, my orphaned twin grandchildren, and now my husband, who has a spinal cord injury. This prompted me to write a series of books for family caregivers.

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

I miss the freedom of my old life and being able to do what I want. Am also physically and emotionally tired.

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

Being even closer to my husband. We are devoted to each other.

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

I hate the unpredictability of brain injury. For example, my mother would call my phone number repeatedly and hang up repeatedly because she didn’t recognize my voice.

16. Has anything helped you to accept your survivor’s brain injury?

Learning about Vascular Dementia and writing have helped.

17. Has your survivor’s injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

Eventually my mother’s brain shut down. She couldn’t read, couldn’t speak (grunts), didn’t recognize me, and thought I had come to harm her. This was heartbreaking.

Harriet Hodgson – Caregiver and Author; Dr. John Hodgson

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

I don’t really have a social life.

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

My plans are to care for my husband until one of us dies. Both of us are 84 years old.

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

Be kind to yourself, and be on the lookout for Compassion Fatigue.

 

If you would like to learn more about Harriet, please visit her website;

Harriet Hodgson

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