TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)’

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger . . . David A. Grant . . . . . . . . . . . . . You Gave Me the Life I Was Destined to Have

You Gave Me the Life I Was Destined to Have

by

David A. Grant

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI’ve been thinking about you again and wondering how life has been treating you.

Last night, Sarah and I were at the high school. We went to watch fireworks.

Like we do most every year, we set up our blanket, then walked the oval track for a couple of laps. It’s a great place to people-watch.

The bleachers caught my eye as I looked up to one of the top rows – to where I was sitting when I saw you graduate.

David A. Grant - Brain Injury Survivor & Author

David A. Grant – Brain Injury Survivor & Author

You had no idea I was there at your graduation. How could you?

Except for the day we met shortly after the accident, we’ve not seen each other.

One of our own kids graduated the same day that you did. It was just another of those “chance meetings” that have too often come to pass.

I never expected to hear your name on the loudspeaker that graduation day.

Nor did I know how deeply my PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) ran as I fell into my seat, unable to even stand for the rest of the ceremony.

A while back, I wrote that if I had the chance, I might just thank you for changing the very course of my life.

Today, I would most likely not thank you.

fireworks-animatedBut I need to be very clear, I am not angry, nor do I hold any resentment. To hold bitterness in my heart is to allow myself to be run over again and again – every day that I breathe.

Life is just too short.

Sometimes things just happen.

Sometimes newly-licensed teenage drivers run over cyclists. We both know that better than most.

It’s a safe bet to say that you did not plan your day by saying, “By today’s end, I’ll have T-boned a local cyclist.”onbicycle

It’s weird and hard to put into words – even for a guy like me, but I am living the life I was destined to live.

You just played a small, rather impactful part.

Kind of like a long line of falling dominoes, you knocked over the first domino when you struck me that cold November day back in 2010.

And from there, that line of dominoes has continued to fall. It’s circled the globe a few times … and, one-by-one, the dominoes fall.Dominoes

While I can’t thank you for hitting me that fated day, I can now see that it was unavoidable. It was destined to happen.

Over the years, I have come to realize that I have lost my life. I spend a lot of time living for others.

A few years ago, I was able to find you on Facebook. You were in college then.

Lest we forget, you were only sixteen when we first met.

You looked like a typical college kid – happy, clean cut, smiling … ready to embrace your future and all the promise that it holds.

I looked for you again today. Not in a creepy kind of way – more so, just to see how you are.

After a few minutes, I gave up. You were nowhere to be found.

I suppose that’s best.

You most likely don’t wonder about “that guy” that you hit while you were still a kid, but occasionally he thinks about you.

I have no need to forgive you as I never condemned you. Funny how that works.

If Fate saw our paths cross again, I would most likely not let you know who I was. No greater good would be served by it.

But here, in the faux anonymity that comes with today’s world, I wish you well … and I wish you happiness.

Peace.

About David A. Grant

David A. Grant 2 101115

David A. Grant – Brain Injury Survivor & Author

David A. Grant is a freelance writer, keynote speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of “Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury,” a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His newest title, “Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury,” was released in 2015.

David is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.” As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog.

David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter.

David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 15,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community as well as the publisher of “TBI Hope and Inspiration Magazine.”

 

Thank you, David A. Grant.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David A. Grant.)

 

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Brain Injury Resources . . . . . . “Their War Came Home” . . . . . . . (a documentary on the Effect of PTSD on Veterans and Their Families and Friends)

“Their War Came Home” – a Free (YouTube) Documentary on the Effect of PTSD

on Veterans and Their Families and Friends

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Marilyn-Lash

Marilyn Lash, MSW, president of Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, Inc.

 

Marilyn Lash, MSW, president of a 20-year-old company dedicated to brain injury, Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, Inc., has been very interested in brain injury and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in children, adults, and veterans. She was very involved in the production of (and appears in) the newly released documentary “Their War Came Home.” Marilyn told me about it and sent me the link. My husband and I immediately watched it. This documentary is a “must see.”

Their-War-Came-Home-Postcard-768x544

“Their War Came Home” A documentary by veterans for veterans

My husband and I watched gut-wrenching interviews of veterans describing the horrors of what PTSD did to them and to their families and friends. The documentary highlights the lack of awareness by the public and the major deficiencies of the military’s dealing with this huge problem. We witness veterans speaking candidly about suicide; outbursts, rage, and other emotional problems; drug abuse; alcoholism; homelessness; the problems of hypervigilance and isolation; and the effects it has on their loved ones. There is a heartfelt interview with a woman who is the spouse of a Navy SEAL with PTSD. Her words may resonate on many levels with some of you caregivers. Her comments on “living grief” are particularly touching. How does one lose the original version of one’s survivor and learn to love the one who took his or her place?

War ExplosionThe documentary ends on a hopeful note. The veterans who gave the interviews are learning to cope with their PTSD, often with great difficulty. There are volunteer organizations that help, and the film ends by showing several hotlines to call.Male Soldier

I highly recommend this documentary. It’s only 50 minutes long and is freely available on YouTube. You can also find it at Lash’s Blog on Brain Injury. It’s a must see!

 

(Photos compliments of Lash & Associates Publishing/Training, Inc.)

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

 

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . . Paige Matis (caregiver for her boyfriend, Bryan Carpenter)

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury

Paige Matis (caregiver for her boyfriend, Bryan Carpenter)

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.

 

Bryan Carpenter 1

Bryan Carpenter – Survivor & Marine

In honor of this recent Memorial Day, I want tell you about my Marine and my hero – and my better half, Bryan.

Bryan enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2004. He went to fight for our country in the war in Iraq in 2006. Luckily, that year he survived not one, but two IEDs (improvised explosive devices often used as roadside bombs).

In the second incident, Bryan was the driver of the Humvee he was in. He suffered the worst injuries of the four Marines involved in the explosion. Bryan was knocked unconscious from the impact of the bomb. In the field, a military doctor did an emergency tracheotomy, but he nicked Bryan’s artery. Bryan also had a shattered pelvis, which cut his abdomen and caused him to bleed internally. Bryan only had moments to live. He underwent a transfusion with six units of blood. Nobody thought Bryan would make it out of his medically induced coma.

Bryan Carpenter 5 Survivor

Bryan Carpenter – Survivor

Two and a half weeks later, Bryan woke up. He was told by doctors that his dream of serving in the military as his lifelong career was over. The chances of Bryan’s ever walking “normally” again were close to zero. He was also told that he would suffer from this explosion for the rest of his life. Bryan said his dreams literally shattered right before his eyes.

Bryan never gave up. He was determined to beat the odds the doctors gave him. So far, he has done his best to achieve that goal. I know he still struggles every day with his PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), his traumatic brain injury, and the pain from his physical injuries. But, he still pushes forward. Bryan learned to walk again on his own. He has dedicated his life to physical therapy, and he never misses a day at the gym. After the incident, Bryan was a 120-pound man and was barely able to stand on his own two feet. He is currently walking independently, and he weighs 230 pounds (all healthy body mass and muscle).

Bryan Carpenter 2

Bryan Carpenter – Survivor

Bryan strives every day to help others. He has been an inspirational speaker, speaking to school-shooting victims, middle-school students, open events, etc. He is a gym trainer and an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) coach. He was a bouncer at night clubs; he went to the Fire Academy; he threw out the ceremonial Opening Pitch in 2012 for the Cleveland Indians; he was even the Grand Marshall in his hometown parade. I know Bryan tries to accomplish everything he puts his mind to, especially when he knows that it will benefit someone. He is trying his hardest to help people achieve their goals after suffering pain like the pain he has gone through. Although he may struggle with the effects of his injuries from the explosion, he never lets them limit him.

Bryan Carpenter 3

Bryan Carpenter – Survivor

Bryan has put all his focus and attention into his new dream and reality – his book. He wrote the book not only as therapy, but also to inspire others that the unbelievable is always possible. In his book, Bryan talks about his dream to be in the military – from when he enlisted and went through boot camp to being deployed and injured. He has written about his recovery and the inspirational things he has done with his life as of now.

Holidays, like Memorial Day, remind me of what Bryan has overcome. Thankfully, and miraculously, he has beaten death. He has gone on to beat the odds. He wrote a book on his recovery to continue to serve and better his country.

 

Bryan Carpenter 4

Bryan Carpenter – Survivor

Many people have paid the ultimate price in the military. Those men and women will never be forgotten. … I am very thankful to have the chance to hug my Miracle a little tighter and a little longer on Memorial Day.

 

To learn more about Bryan Carpenter, please visit his website, Battle After Iraq.

You can also see Bryan’s book about his recovery. “Never Ending Battle After Iraq: A Marine’s Road to Recovery.”

 

Thank you to Paige Matis for sharing this story about her boyfriend, Bryan.

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” Panel: Living and Coping with PTSD

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road”

Panel: Lisa Dryer and Julie Kintz

Living and Coping with PTSD

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that many people experience who are involved in traumatic events, such as physical or sexual assaults, traffic accidents, or any life-threatening traumas. PTSD is also often experienced by those who may witness a traumatic event. For Folks living with brain injury are often affected with PTSD.  PTSD is also common among troops returning from war with what was once called battle-fatigue or shell-shock.

 

Julie Kintz Survivor Panel 070515

Julie Kintz – Survivor

Dryer, Lisa Survivor

Lisa Dryer – Survivor

My panel, Lisa Dryer and Julie Kintz, both who live and cope with PTSD, joined me to discuss this topic. We hope to shed some light on what PTSD is and how survivors can cope with it. They each offer suggestions that work for them.

 

Several Facebook friends contributed comments and their thoughts about their experiences with PTSD. I want to thank Beth, Melissa, Sherrie, Firefighter JD (John Doe anonymous), Katey, Tara, JD2 (John Doe 2 anonymous), Jen, Alan, and Judi for their courage in sharing some very personal stories.

See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” Living and Coping with PTSD

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger David A. Grant . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Warning: Graphic Content

Warning: Graphic Content

 by

David A. Grant

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI found myself doing something that I don’t usually do. This morning, I just stared at my keyboard and waited. Most of the time, putting virtual pen to paper is easy. On a good day, I can pour out a thousand words in under an hour.

Not today.

One of the most unexpected by-products of this new life is my PTSD (post traumatic-stress disorder). Since time out of mind, I’ve heard the term PTSD. But like so many, perhaps even you, I mistakenly associated it exclusively with veterans, with those that had seen the unimaginable.

Never did I expect to be walking daily with this newfound friend. Some things you just can’t see coming – like a speeding car driven by a sixteen-year-old driver. Its onset was abrupt. It was unrelenting. It was unexpected.

And it’s more than a bit insidious.

Early on, as my physical injuries began to heal, like a dark flower blooming under a full moon, my PTSD began to blossom. Professional help did little to stem the terror tide.

The nightmares remain the worst part. For a couple of years after my accident, “bad PTSD nights” came anywhere from ten to twenty nights a

month. When I say “bad,” I mean bad. These aren’t your “Boogeyman-under-the-bed” kind of dreams.

Grant, David and Sarah 111715

David & Sarah Grant

Not even close.

Over the years, I have had most every sort of Stephen King horror inflicted upon me after dark. From being burned alive to drowning after drowning, from severed limbs to vivid dream pain that feels more real than reality, it’s been a real shit storm. My apologies if profanity offends, but better a four-letter word than a vivid description of life after dark.

The sound of an ambulance passing by our home drove me to tears for the better part of a couple of years – stopping me dead in my tracks if happenstance found me working in our yard.

Crowds? No more. Action-packed movies? Maybe for you, but not for us. Sudden or abrupt noises? You’ll find my shoes on the floor and me long gone.

Time does have a way of offering clarity. Today I know that I live with a textbook case of PTSD. Like other challenges I face, it’s invisible. Meeting me today for the first time, you’d never know. “Hey, I see that you live with PTSD,” said no one – ever.

As time passed, Sarah and I developed compensatory strategies to help. It is good for us both.

Known by few is a condition called “Secondary PTSD.” Those close to a trauma survivor, though not physically hurt, carry their own deep and painful scars. Sarah has a pretty classic case of secondary PTSD.

Circumstance, rather than virtue of any kind, has reshaped our lives. Our

12248573_10206516855973739_1693909187_o

the Grant’s Sanctuary

lives together today are smaller, but none less rewarding. We shun most crowds, but do not live reclusively. We spend a lot of time outdoors – crowded music festivals replaced by nature walks. Our yard has been transformed into a sanctuary with waterfalls, birdfeeders and flowers abounding. It’s now a sacred place for us – a place where we both continue to heal.

Life today is more enriching than before. I still startle easily. I cry less often at the sounds of a siren wailing. And we are both cautious about what we allow ourselves to be exposed to.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower Paris, France

The events that have unfolded in Paris over the last few days are heartbreaking. It’s at times like these that the rubber meets the PTSD road. I need to be careful of getting sucked in to wanting to know too much detail, balancing it with the very human need to know what is happening in the world at large. I watch “just enough” TV to know what’s happening. I read “just enough” of the news online – very often going no further than the headlines.

Just this morning, as I read the USA Today news on my tablet, a content block caught my eye: WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. Suffice to say, I passed that one right by, knowing that honoring my condition is good for me and good for those around me. I am praying for those who are part of the horror. Blasts mean that there are now new members of the TBI club. Hundreds, if not thousands – perhaps an entire nation – will now live with PTSD. My heart weeps for them.

But even with the most dutiful of diligence, I am reminded that I am forever bound to PTSD.

Last Thursday night was our weekly Date Night. Our cinematic choice this past week was the Peanuts Movie. We’ve seen just about every animated flick released in the last few years. It was a smile-filled night out. Just dinner and a movie. Just us two. Hand-holding and quiet whispers – just the way we like it.

At 10:00 PM, I leaned over, gave Sarah her good night kiss and fell quickly asleep. Though I no longer dread bedtime, I live in the reality that any night can be a bad night.

Grant, David and Sarah 2 111715

David & Sarah Grant

At 11:30 PM, Sarah woke me up as I lay next to her crying out in pain, my feet sinking into molten dream lava, being burned off my torso as I looked down in abject horror. I could smell my own flesh burning. Unable to move, I screamed in mortal terror.

“C’mon David, wake up. Wake up, David,” she called out – again coaxing me back to the relative safety of awakeness. We’ve danced this midnight two-step hundreds of times.

And so the rhythm of our new life goes – enjoying those sacred moments between the tougher times, and hunkering down to ride out the occasional PTSD storms.

In the bigger scheme of things, fate could have been much more harsh. I could have died that day – leaving Sarah to walk through the recent five-year anniversary of the day alone, her memory of me beginning to fade.

But we have each other. And in having each other, we have all we need.

 

About David A. Grant

David A. Grant 2 101115

David A. Grant

David A. Grant is a freelance writer, keynote speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of “Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury,” a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His newest title, “Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury,” was released in 2015.

David is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.” As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog.

David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter.

David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 15,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community as well as the publisher of “TBI Hope and Inspiration Magazine.”

Thank you, David A. Grant.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David A. Grant)

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.

 

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Brazyl Ward

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Brazyl Ward

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

(submitted by Brazyl’s mother and caregiver, Tiffany Ward)

  bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718Hello everyone! I want to share with you the story of my daughter, Brazyl, who is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivor. Brazyl was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Halloween night 2013, while we were crossing the street after a Trick-or-Treat event at our nearby church. The driver was going 100 mph. Brazyl Ward 1 060215He was never caught. Brazyl was in a coma for two months. She had to have a piece of her skull removed to save her life. Almost two years later, Brazyl is still fighting and still healing. Brazyl Ward 2 060215 10995616_1017057208304496_985199258378217371_nI had to quit my job to take care of my six-year-old fulltime. I was fighting my own depression, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) due to witnessing my daughter being hit. I decided to write a book about our family’s struggle and testimony. Brazyl Ward 3 060215Brazyl was only given a 10% chance of survival, but she fought hard and made it! Brazyl Ward Pre TBI  0602151459273_10202437998854496_1528207085_nI’m so proud of my baby girl!

To learn more about Brazyl and her family, go to Tiffany Ward’s website, Tragedy to Testimony: A Family’s Fight to Cope. Brazyl Ward Book Cover  0602151908358_1036095399751774_1138776938944540928_nThis is also the title of the book Tiffany wrote to tell Brazyl’s story.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Susan Shacka

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Susan Shacka

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Shacka, Susan1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Susan Shacka

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

Sioux City, Iowa, USA

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

I acquired a brain injury in 2009 at age 51.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury occurred after the removal of a lap-band procedure that caused complications. I couldn’t keep anything down – not even food or water.

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

My stomach felt numb for a few days after the removal. I couldn’t eat for two months, and I lost 80 pounds in that period. I was so weak. The first angel in my life was Suzanne. We just met.

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

Within fourteen days, I couldn’t walk. I went to the hospital via ambulance, not knowing that I would never come home; lose my apartment, car, and cat of ten years; and lose a lot memories and collectibles. I had double vision within two weeks of the lap-band removal. Prior to removing the band, my potassium was so low that I had to take it straight (three times a day in the hospital – Ugh!). They immediately ordered a CT (computerized tomography) scan, a spinal tap, Xrays, etc. First, I was given cortisone shots and IVs because I was dehydrated. I requested “Ensure” to bump up my vitamin levels, but it made my blood sugar high. Then they realized the cortisone was making it high, so they stopped. Just to let everyone know, I never went back to that surgeon or that hospital ever again. I was treated at another hospital. I was all alone and scared. All the tests were done during the first week. Doctor after doctor came, and they still didn’t know what the cause was. They thought it might have been Multiple Sclerosis at some point. I was given IVIg (intravenous immunoglobulin), and I had insurance people and neurologists coming in and out. The head neurologist – bless Dr. Shen! – found out that I had Guillain-Barré syndrome (named after two French doctors). It is both a neurological and an autoimmune disease. One can be paralyzed, which I was from waist down. (That numbness on my waist and the tripping were clues.) Dr. Shen immediately ordered eight hours a day of IVIg to neutralize the antibodies attacking my system.

7.Were you in a coma? If so, how long?Shacka, Susan Survivor 053015

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)? How long were you in rehab?

I was in rehab for eight months. While in the hospital, I had to do baby steps and learn how to sit, move, and touch hands with the occupational therapist. It was hard, as I had to take Benadryl during each session to help with symptoms. The medication worked so well that it sometimes knocked me out. The ultimate indignity occurred before I left the hospital. It is clear in my mind to this day. I had to use the sliding-board to get into the wheelchair. Eventually I went to an acute rehab facility. I am still getting occupational and physical therapies twice a week through a government program called PACE (Programs for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly). Everything is paid for through them: a bath aide who cleans while I shower, meals at home, occupational and physical therapies, my learning how to write, glasses, etc.

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

My personality toward my family has changed – I just want to be part of them. I use my “Cadillac” a lot – my walker! But, I risk my safety when I walk the dog. I have residuals from Guillain-Barré syndrome – neuropathy pain and pins and needles in my hands. I have a special type of shoes, as I don’t have flexibility in my feet. And, I have use of only my left hand. After being a secretary for top doctors, a marketing director, vice presidents, etc., I now type with one finger. To top things off, and there is no connection, I acquired another neurological/autoimmune disease (ataxia) in 2013. There are over 60 types. I guess I have Cerebellum Ataxia. This is a movement disorder similar to Parkinson’s Disease. (It’s Michael J. Fox who will help find a cure!) I knew something else was wrong – I was dropping things, I had a problem with balance, I was slurring my words, and my fine-motor skills deteriorated. By this time, I had moved back to my hometown, where my aunt and cousins live. But, it turned out they rejected me – it was hurtful knowing that something was wrong with me. The local contact at Brain Alliance knew I needed to see neurophysicist. I was diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). My neurologist did blood test after blood test (over 15 vials one time). He wasn’t about to give up. Luckily, my neurologist knows the neurophysicist, and they conferred about me. I did have to go in for emergency IVIg treatments for my ataxia. My anti-GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase, an enzyme) antibody titer (a marker for cerebellar ataxia) was high. It was over 250; normal is 0.10.

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

I moved closer to my sister and her brother-in-law, which helps so much. I am going to church and meeting new people. I changed my Medical Power of Attorney to someone who gets me and my problems; goes to my church; understands about depression and, more importantly, disability, as her husband had a stroke. Bless both!

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

I miss driving and working.

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

I would still be living in California.

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

I’m homebound a lot!

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

I spend time at MPOA once a month and do bible study. I live in a place with older people (80s), but I want to spend more time with people my age. I am 57.

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

I find it hard to meet people.

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

Meeting people is difficult, as it costs money for the handicap bus.

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

I have a bath aide twice a week – no other caregiver. My family says they’ll take me grocery shopping.

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

I hope to pay off my bills and move to another place.

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.

Get involved; find a church. For me, getting a pet has been wonderful for my mood. Medication has been important. Don’t be embarrassed about seeing a counselor. It has helped me so much.

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

Understand that it’s not your fault. For me, I did the lap-band upon the suggestion of a doctor. I also did it because I didn’t want to be like my mother, who was extremely overweight. I eventually lost 150 pounds – half of me!

You can still find your passion. I am administrator for my disease support-group on Facebook, called “Ataxians Helping Other Ataxians,” which in about eight months has over 860 members. This is my passion. I still have the need to help people. I was in the local newspaper and on TV and radio. Now I am working on a petition to get a spokesperson. It is listed “Spokesperson needed….” Please vote!

Bless you all for reading this! Love each other more. Say it more, as life is short!

 

Susan Shacka Survivor 053015Thank you, Susan, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

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

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.

(Photos compliments of Susan.)

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Caregivers SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

Caregivers SPEAK OUT! – Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

jeannette davidson-Mayer 0417151. What is your name? (last name optional)

Jeannette Davidson-Mayer

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

New Plymouth, Idaho, USA     2004djmjdm@gmail.com

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?

My husband, DeWayne, has a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was 38 when it happened. While serving in Iraq, DeWayne survived one Humvee rollover, two close-range IEDs (improvised explosive devices), one helicopter explosion (They were guarding a downed helicopter when the remains were blown-up for disposal), and lastly an IED that went off right under the command seat, where DeWayne was sitting. All this happened in 2005 between May 23rd and October 3rd.

4. On what date did you begin care for your brain-injury survivor?

At the end of October 2004, DeWayne was flown to Madigan Air Force Base in Washington State on the advance plane from Iraq. I made a few trips there to see him. He was allowed occasional trips home. By February 2006, DeWayne was home for good. We didn’t know DeWayne had a TBI until mid-2007. We just knew something wasn’t connecting right in his daily mental functions.

Were you the main caregiver?

Yes. Our daughter as well has learned to be a caregiver over the years.486770_10200560183360321_1086965832_n

Are you now?

Yes

How old were you when you began care?

33

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

No

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

Yes, I was employed. My employer helped above the call of duty. In mid-October 2014, I did have to quit working because DeWayne’s medical needs had increased. Also, I had gone to one of our smaller companies, which is a 10-minute drive vs. a 5-minute walk. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend this change, which created hardships for our daughter and for DeWayne and me as a couple.

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

I couldn’t make it without the love and support of our family, friends, and church family. Help is from driving DeWayne to assisting with happenings at home. Most of all, help is providing an ear to listen.

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

My quality of care has grown over the years. It took a while because I didn’t know how to ask for help. I was embarrassed to ask, and I didn’t understand how to ask either. I felt that if I couldn’t do it myself, I was failing my family.

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

No, but DeWayne was knocked out several times.

10. Did your survivor have rehab?

Yes

If so, what kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient and/or outpatient and occupational, physical, speech, and/or other)?

DeWayne had occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapies as an outpatient. He also had behavioral health therapy.

How long was the rehab?

Rehab started out three days a week, eight hours a day, for three months at Idaho Elks Rehab. DeWayne was then moved to the Boise VA (Veterans Administration) facility, where he went several days a week. DeWayne still has recreational therapy, physical therapy, and occasionally occupational therapy. And, monthly behavioral health therapy.

Where were you when your survivor was getting therapy?

Idaho Elk’s Rehab, Boise VA Medical Center, Tri-Cities Physical Therapy, St. Luke’s Spinal Care

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

DeWayne has many difficulties. He has fixations. He’s easily lost, confused, and disoriented. He tires easily. His short-term memory is a problem. DeWayne doesn’t always understand what is happening around him or what is being said to him. Also we don’t always understand what he is trying to say to us. He suffers from migraines/headaches. He has silent seizures, bi-lateral hearing loss, tremors, and sensitivity to light.

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

I can’t really say if life is better or worse because of the TBI. We are both different from the deployment alone. I am the lucky wife because he came home alive, which is a celebration in itself.

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

There is a lot I miss (for example, long hiking trips and long conversations). But, the trade-off is worth it.

14. What do you enjoy most in post-brain-injury life?Jeannette Davidson-Mayer & DeWayne

We have learned to depend on each other completely – as spouses and as a family. We tend to stand up for what we believe in. We hold on tighter. We often show each other how important we are. We travel off-season, which is nice because the crowds are less. Nicer indeed!

15. What do you like least about brain injury?

We never know what to expect from day to day, yet it is also a positive, for we never have a dull moment.

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

Through many trials and errors, we have finally discovered our saving grace. Our kitchen has become our “Central Command Post.” Our lives center around our kitchen. We were able to set up an atmosphere that can adapt to DeWayne’s ever-changing daily new normal. Post-it Notes and whiteboard markers saved our family.

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

Of course, DeWayne’s TBI has affected home life, relationships, and so on. We have lost.

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

Our social life has been cut. We don’t go out as much. We avoid crowds, noisy situations, and places that make DeWayne uncomfortable. I also have become uneasy about the same things that make DeWayne uneasy.

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

Our plans for the future are to continue to live in joy and love together, to share our lives with our children as they continue to grow, to travel the world in an RV, and to reach out to others to show them that they have the inner strength needed to move forward. (How they move forward is unique to each family.)

20. What advice would you offer other caregivers of brain-injury survivors?

Never give up. Give in from time to time. Let it out – cry or scream. Then look back on what is happening to find ways to make adjustments or to find solutions to the challenges. Know that you are not alone. You yourself, along with your family, have so much to offer.

Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Military families are not alone in living with TBIs and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and in being caregivers. We didn’t sign up for this life, but we have it. Now let’s figure out how to keep moving forward, so we can reach higher, dream bigger, and hold on tighter.

To learn more about Jeannette Davidson-Mayer, you can listen to her interview with me on “Another Fork in the Road” on blogtalkradio.com or at R4 Alliance.

 

Jeannette Davidson-MayerThank you, Jeannette, for taking part in this interview. I hope that your experience will offer some hope, comfort, and inspiration to my readers.

If you would like to be a part of this project, please go to TBI Caregiver Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Photo compliments of Jeannette.)

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

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Kristin Russo

Survivors  SPEAK OUT!  Kristin Russo

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Russo, Kristin December 2014 After

Kristin Russo – Post-TBI Dec. 2014

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

Kristin Russo

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

Annandale, Virginia, USA

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

July 22, 2013 – I was 28.

4. How did your TBI occur?

My TBI was caused by a collision with a tractor-trailer. Read about it. “Kristin Russo accident.”

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

It was realized about 2-3 days into my stay in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

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

I have no memory of the accident, the month in the hospital, and even the first 5-6 months at home under 24-hour care.

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

Yes. My coma was induced.

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

I had occupational, physical, speech, and recreational therapies for a month as an inpatient. I had therapy as an outpatient until May 2014 when all but physical therapy ended. I’m still in physical therapy for physical injuries.

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

I have moderate to severe diminished visual memory, mild to moderate decreased attention span, diminished executive function, and mildly diminished speech and language function. Those are the significant findings as per my neurological addendum. It was also noted that I am likely to have significant permanent neurocognitive dysfunction due to the TBI. This problem with the physical brain injury is further complicated due the fact that I have significant PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I have a college degree, yet I had to learn how to do things as simple as double-digit subtraction. My entire education has been wiped away. Since I graduated with honors, it was easy to get accepted to Liberty University. But, I can’t retain information anymore, so I’m not sure if I’m going to go back to try and learn everything all over again. My neurologist has diagnosed me with ADD (attention deficit disorder) due to the TBI. I’m not allowed to use anything hot without supervision, etc.

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

Some things are better because I now have an excuse for being directionally challenged or for when I mess up (haha). 😉 Things are worse because I am dependent and I HATE IT! (I am an independent girl.) I was such an intelligent woman. I was still paying off my degree when the accident happened. Not being able to use ANY of the knowledge really made me unhappy. Not being able to work has been horrible because that is all I have ever known. I have been working since the day I turned 14. (My first day of work was on my 14th birthday). I worked at the same place until I graduated high school and went to college. I hate that I can no longer drive. I miss being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. 😦 I live about eighty miles from where I grew up, so it’s not often that someone comes to visit me. The accident caused me to lose my family because my own father was stealing my pain pills for his sick addiction. I’ve lost some of my friends because I’m a totally different person personality-wise. I’m 100% honest, and I have dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. The girl in the accident died. She wasn’t the best wife. (I’d give more details, but those things are better kept between husband and wife. 😉 ) But, that’s why my accident happened, and I know it. God was showing me what was in front of me, and the same, for my husband. God was bringing us closer together, and that’s exactly what my accident did. So, that’s what I do like about the TBI. Another thing that I like about the TBI is that I don’t remember the accident or being in the hospital or even the 5-6 months after it. I also don’t remember my surgeries up to July. I remember the ones on Black Friday and December 1st. But, yeah, the girl I was before was a girl who drank a lot and went to clubs and acted like she was a single 21-year-old female. Since I’m not her anymore, I’ve lost a couple friends who were just like that girl. I don’t need those girls anyway!

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

I miss being able to drink alcohol sometimes – at least to drink socially. I miss being able to drive. I miss being able to do what I want when I want. I miss working. What I do now is to constantly go to appointments – it’s nuts! I am still in physical therapy – several months post accident. I just got yet another MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging). I had surgery number eight on January 27th. I began speech therapy in January since insurance started paying again. I miss sleeping like a normal person. I miss being skinny. (I was a size 2 when I was married on July 7th, 2011, and I’m not that size anymore.) I hate being on so many damn medications. I loathe people’s not understanding invisible disabilities. I also have CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) that was caused by the accident. It’s a chronic pain disease that has no cure.

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

I enjoy the fact that the Trauma Survivors Network Next Steps program taught me to find the positive in everything, so I do. When my legs hurt, I remind myself that I shouldn’t have any, so I thank God for letting me keep my legs! When I have my chronic headaches, I thank God for not making the swelling be so bad that I need to have surgery!

13. What do you like least about your TBI?

I don’t like that I sleep every other day sometimes. I dislike the chronic headaches and the fact that a headache is invisible. I don’t like having memory issues and being confused so often.

14. Has anything helped you to accept your TBI?

God

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

My husband gets rather upset when I forget that I’m not supposed to use a curling iron, and I fail to remember to turn it off. I no longer speak to my parents – my father makes fun of my TBI and acts like I’m making it up. (A*^#@~! ! I guess that’s what drugs do to ya.)

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

I don’t really have a social life anymore. Things are so much louder now. People annoy me more. 😦 I have NO filter. I just want to be home with my husband or alone with my dogs. I haven’t watched TV since the accident.

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

My husband is my main caregiver.

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

I’ll be running a photography business. 🙂 And, I better be a mommy to more than just my fur babies!

Russo, Kristin Before Accident

Kristin Russo Pre-TBI

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other TBI survivors with your specific kind of TBI.

I urge people to try to make a positive out of everything. Depression is so ugly. I wish that I never hit that stage. Having a positive attitude has helped me SOOO much.

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

I give back now by volunteering at the hospital where I did my outpatient therapy. I got one of my dogs certified as a therapy dog, and we visit patients. I also visit patients in the trauma unit. My visits help others, and they also help me!

 

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

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

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.

(Photos compliments of Kristin.)

As I say after each post:

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

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the lower right corner of your screen.

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.

 

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury Davien Lopez

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 – one view at a time.

Davien Lopez (survivor) contributed by Diana Lopez (mom and caregiver)

10501889_768245286553199_2546552260294944140_nI am the mother of a now six-year-old boy who has a TBI (traumatic brain injury). My son, Davien, was four and a half years old when people in a car were shooting at people in Davien Lopez with brotheranother car in front of our house. While Davien was napping in my arms, a stray bullet came through our bedroom window and the headboard and struck my son in his left frontal lobe. The bullet traveled diagonally across Davien’s face and lodged in the right side of his cheek. Davien suffers from bilateral frontal lobe brain damage. He had a fractured jaw, which is healed now. He is completely blind in his right eye. He has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), a mood disorder, Davien Lopez 033015and an impulse disorder. A year and a half later, Davien runs around like nothing happened. He still has a ton of psychiatric issues, but that is nothing compared to what could have occurred. A smile emoticon here is a picture of Davien and Bruno (Davien’s service dog in training).

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post:

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

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