TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘SPEAK OUT!’

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Thomas Hopkins, Jr (Tommy)

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Tommy Hopkins, Jr Survivor of Brain Injury

 

 

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

Thomas Hopkins, Jr.

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

Mountain Home, Idaho, USA (originally from Wisconsin)

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

I was 19 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

I have had several head traumas that led to my brain injuries. I’ll discuss the main ones. I have two injuries from February 2003. The first was due to a JDAM bomb (Joint Direct Attack Munition – a guidance kit that converts unguided bombs into all-weather precision-guided munitions). The second was from an explosion in a unit I was working with. In 2006, on my 4th tour, I had gotten a hammer to the head. I do not recall this incident at all. My fourth injury was in May 2007. I was still on my 4th tour. Our camp got morning RPG/mortar hits. The shop I was working in had one hit close by that shook the shop. The 40-lb. equipment I was working on fell over and hit me in the back of the head.

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

I started noticing issues after my first injury back in 2003 – daily headaches, ringing in my ears, light sensitivity, plus I would invert numbers.

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

Due to the units I was in, I did not get treatment. I’ll rephrase that – due to the units I was part of, unless you lost a limb, your sight, etc. or your life was in danger, you were not allowed to seek medical treatment.

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

No coma

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 started seeking help once I got out of the army. I started at the VA (medical care at hospitals of the Veterans Administration). It was not the best outcome.

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

I have convergence insufficiency (a condition in which your eyes are unable to work together when looking at nearby objects, creating double or blurred vision),

photophobia, daily headaches that turn into migraines, and constant tinnitus. One doctor said I have damage to the autonomic and limbic systems in my brain. Other doctors have said that I don’t even have a brain injury! (LOL) I have no concept of time; I experience jerks (involuntary muscle movements); I search for words; my speech is slurred; my brain often won’t let me get my words out; and I have a poor memory. I do not feel 60+% of my body, and my lower limbs do not work a lot of the time. “Partial Para” is what they call it. At times, I need to be in a wheelchair.

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

Worse

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

I miss my memory. It used to be photographic.

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

Retirement (LOL) … Driving my wife nuts (LOL) … Um, working my brain in different ways to work on problems and situations that come up in my hobbies

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

I’m not Johnny-on-the-spot anymore. I miss my memory. My body is going to shit.

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

MY WIFE. Even though most of my injury is “invisible,” she showed me that I also have physical scars that I and others can see.

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

Yup. That’s a very long answer.

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

Yup. We lost a lot of friends and family because I was not the same Tommy I was before I was brain-injured in the war.

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

Tommy Hopkins, Jr. Brain Injury Survivor
Caregiver – Kristina Hopkins

MY WIFE! I have a rough idea of some of what she does for me, but I have no clue of what all she does.

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

My “plan” is to maintain what I have and live each day as if it is my last.

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.

Yes. You have to adapt to your new self. That old person is gone. I had to realize I will never be as I once was, BUT I am still able to do most things with adaptation.

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

My advice: Good days come and go. Work with the day you have because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

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(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Past Blast – “Guest Blogger … Ken Collins – 38 Tips for Living with a Brain Injury”

Past Blast  (originally published December 29, 2014)

SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger: Ken Collins

(Host on the Brain Injury Radio Network)

offers

38 Tips for Living With a Brain Injury

 

Boy Blogger thOn December 31st, I will have lived with a traumatic brain injury for 38 years. I have used several strategies for co-existing with and minimizing the effects of my TBI. I know now that the brain-injury recovery process is ongoing and that there are four major areas to work on during recovery: (1) Getting Organized, (2) Being Responsible, (3) Following Through, and (4) Moving On. I learned a lot over the years, and I want to share my experiences. I have listed 38 tips (one for each year) that could be helpful to you.

 

1. Regain trust in yourself and in others.

2. Try not to be critical of mistakes you make. In the early years of your recovery, there will be too many of them to count. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

3. Find purpose and meaning in your life again. This will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Having a sense of purpose and meaning will give you something to live for and will help you feel worthwhile, help motivate you, and improve your recovery process. You will start feeling better about yourself.

4. Keep stress and anxiety to a minimum every day. Reducing stress and anxiety will Stress free zoneincrease your self-esteem and make life easier. Stress and anxiety trigger the fight-or-flight response in the mid-brain. You don’t have any control over this response because it is part of the Emotional Nervous System. When the fight-or-flight response is activated, it increases confusion and makes it harder to process information.

5. Regain your self-confidence and self-respect.

6.Be proactive.

7. Stay focused, calm, and relaxed as much as possible. This will make it easier to think, and you become less dependent on others to remind you. Becoming more responsible for yourself will build good habits on your part and will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run.

8. Get a large calendar. Put it up on your wall and use it. Make sure it’s in a location where you will always see it. An iPad (or clone), a smart phone, or a note pad with a calendar and alarm does the same thing. A calendar will also relieve stress and anxiety by helping you stay on task and not forget.

Key rack9. Get a key-holder and put it by your door to put your keys on when you come home. Do this every night so you won’t have to look for your keys in the morning. Starting your day off on the right foot will make your day easier and help to relieve stress and anxiety.

10. Make a “To Do” list to help you stay organized. iPads, iPhones or other smart phones, and note pads work wonders with this. The list will help you and make you feel good about yourself.

11. Making a list before you go shopping will save you money by cutting down on impulse-buying. It will also help you become more responsible and less dependent on others. Being less dependent on others improves your self-esteem.

12. Get lots of rest, and slow down. Many times we try to do too many things at once, and nothing gets done. Sleeping on an issue or concern can be the best way to help you figure it out. Getting enough rest will give you valuable energy to think better and solve difficult situations. Sufficient rest will also relieve stress and anxiety.

13. Set up a routine and stick to it. A routine will make it easier for you to follow through with what you have planned for the day. By doing the same thing every day, you will start building trust in your capabilities again.

14. Eat healthy foods, and get lots of exercise. Doing these things will help you get the blood with its oxygen circulating to your brain.Healthy Foods

15. Get a dog and take it for walks. In my case, I have nine dogs, and they take me for a walk every morning and night! They also give me the unconditional love and companionship I need to feel good about myself and be happy.

16. Find ways to relax that aren’t counterproductive to your well-being. Abusing alcohol and drugs to “relax” is counterproductive. Long walks, yoga, and Tai Chi are much better for you and will make processing and problem-solving much easier. Stress and anxiety will be reduced.

17. Be patient.

18. Pay attention and become an active listener. Actively “hearing” what people have to say is more important than passively “listening” to what they say. Watch their body language. When I get distracted, sometimes it is harder to understand what a person is saying. Stay relaxed and focus. Take deep breaths – nothing works better than getting oxygen-filled blood to your brain.

19. Be around positive people and people who care about you. Nothing is more depressing than listening to someone who’s always complaining about his or her life or about what is going wrong in the world. Become active. Don’t just sit around hoping things will get better. Quit talking about a problem, and do something about it instead.

20. Don’t take criticism personally. When people don’t understand things, they criticize them. Constructive criticism can make you a better person in the long run.

21. Keep an open mind. Remember that your family and friends want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how. Many people don’t understand what you are going through, so don’t hold them responsible for this.Breathe

22. Stay calm; stay relaxed; take deep breaths; and move on!

23. Be careful of those you hang out with because they will set the stage for how you act. Friends who judge others and criticize you aren’t “friends.”

24. Grudges will only hold you back. They will be like anchors and keep you from being able to move on.

25. Lighten up on yourself, your family, and friends who want to help you.

26. Worry less and smile more.

27. Be content with what you have. Others have it much worse than you.

28. Find ways to stay active and be less isolated. Get out of your head and into the outside world.

Never Give Up29. Don’t give up – embrace adversity. Have adversity give you the resolve it will take to get better and improve your life. This will be up to you and no one else. People will be there to help you, but all of the work will be up to you. Use it or lose it!

30. Take ownership of your recovery. Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.

31. Life is hard for most people. Life after a brain injury will definitely be hard, but not impossible. It will get easier over time – be patient! Make the best of every day and move on.

32. Thinking too much about a problem or issue can cause depression. This will trigger the fight-or-flight response, and you will be like a dog chasing its tail.

33. Be good to yourself.

34. Don’t take life too seriously.

Ken Collins for Blog

35. Don’t let the little things get you down. When you think about them too long, they seem bigger than they really are.

36. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. This will only increase your stress and anxiety and trigger the fight-or-flight response.

37. Be happy with yourself and don’t try to live up to others’ expectations.

38. Most importantly – don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Be strong. Find hope – because with hope, anything is possible!

Stop by the Brain Injury Radio Network to hear Ken. His show airs every 1st Thursday of each month from 5:00p to 6:30p Pacific Time.

Thank you, Ken Collins.

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

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . John Bradshaw

presented

by Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

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

John Bradshaw

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

Apple Valley, California, USA

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

July 4, 2012     Age 56

4. How did your brain injury occur?

Car accident

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

The impact was immediately known to be serious. I was in a coma at the scene of the accident.

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

I was air-lifted from the scene of the accident. My condition was assessed. I had CT (computerized tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans, and I was put on a respirator.

7. Were you in a coma?

Yes

If so, how long?

Deep coma: 1 week; sleep coma: 3 weeks

8. Did you do rehab?

Yes

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

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

How long were you in rehab?

My therapies basically lasted 1+ years. I still do physical therapy every year to help with balance and strengthening.

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

I have problems with balance and perception. I have a personality disorder, a mood disorder, memory-loss, and nervousness, to name a few issues.

10. How has your life changed?

There is no normal. Every day is different.

Is it better?

No

Is it worse?

Yes

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

In general, I miss knowing where I am, my quick train-of-thought, and my memory.

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

I enjoy the people I have connected with through support groups and rehab.

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

I dislike not knowing things in general and not understanding why I am like this.

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

Yes. Jesus sent me back to let everyone know he and his father are alive. They love us, so it doesn’t matter what church you go to. They want to see us come home.

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

Yes

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

Yes. I find it very difficult to interact with others now.

17. Who is your main caregiver?

My wife

Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

No

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

I have no plans for the future. I take it one day at a time.

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.

(No answer)

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

Life will never be the same. Take it one day at a time, and believe it does get better with time. My wife’s favorite reminder motto is: “I am not what has happened to me … I am what I choose to become.”

 

 

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . . . Steven A. Marderosian

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Steven A. Marderosian

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Steven A. Marderosian Before TBI 20190429_120335

Survivor – Steven A. Marderosian Pre-TBI

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

Steven A. Marderosian

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

Barrington, Illinois, USA; E-mail: steven@marderosianlaw.com

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

February 28, 2018; I was 49 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

AVM (arteriovenous malformation) rupture – hemorrhagic stroke

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

My wife heard me sounding confused while talking to someone on my phone. Later she saw me looking at my phone as if I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. Then I started to notice my left arm going numb, and then, my left leg. I tried to “walk it off,” but I crashed to the floor.

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

My wife raced me to the Emergency Room, where I triggered a “stroke alert” response. I recall only the very start of it. My wife was kept outside a curtain, so I don’t know any of the details before I stabilized.

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

By the grace of God, 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?

Towards end of two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit/neurology (and removal of my AVM by rare cross-craniotomy brain surgery), I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy evaluations in the regular hospital. I spent two more weeks in a rehab hospital for physical, occupational, and speech therapies. I then moved home with six more weeks of physical therapy and occupational therapy in a partial admission “day rehab” at the same rehab hospital. My total was more than two months of rehab.

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

My left side was paralyzed from the shoulders down – it was near total from the ribcage down. (I had no balance – I couldn’t stay up on all fours.) My left shoulder/arm/hand was moderately impaired. I have no real cognitive deficits per se, but my mental processing is disabled in high-level speed and volume capacity. My AVM was at the border of the frontal and parietal lobes, bleeding into the frontal lobe in the right hemisphere. It fractured me emotionally.

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

surfer-boy-clipart-1It’s a mixed bag. I got up on a board and surfed just three months “post op” (against a “no contact sports” order). I’m physically stronger and even faster than I was pre TBI. But, my mental processing speed and capacity are still disabled. A bipolar diagnosis a few years pre TBI (likely due to progressive blood flow abnormality) appears to have been rectified by the AVM removal. But, while my mood is more stable, I still struggle to figure out my new personality. My general emotional state is different and strange.

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

I miss the lightning-fast mental processing and the seemingly limitless volume capacity. I miss not having to relearn every maneuver in black belt karate and fighting, downhill (telemark) skiing, and all other physically demanding things I’d been doing. I miss the 6-6.5 hours of sleep per night without ever napping or feeling tired.

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

I like that I care about the real suffering in the world (i.e., not my own, by comparison), in the midst of which I lived and rehabbed. I like having a far more stable mood and seemingly being cured of bipolar disorder. I’m looking forward to this second chance to fix past mistakes and live as God wants me to. And to never, ever, fear anything in the world again – other than God.

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

I dislike needing way too much sleep and always being tired no matter what I do or don’t tired-clipart-they-7do. I don’t like figuring out my new altered personality, my future career, and even my likes and dislikes. I don’t like having to relearn every advanced physical maneuver and regaining my previous mental processing speed and volume capacity.

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

I have been greatly helped by my undying (and now bulletproof) faith in Jesus Christ; by my eldest son, who is bipolar (now I want him scanned for an AVM too) and is the only one in my family who understands my continuing emotional turmoil; and by the support of my close friends in Christ and by my BFF of 45 years.

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

I look, speak, and act “fine,” so family (except my eldest son) and others don’t really understand my continuing emotional turmoil and new personality. So, I keep my inner feelings mostly to myself (and to my BFF, to my eldest son, to my bible study group, and to my therapist).

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

I was kind of a homebody before, so my social life is not much different. But, busy, noisyno-noise-clipart-1 places, like crowded restaurants, create a sensory overload that can become overwhelming, especially after high-stress or high-volume days. It’s like I can hear every individual sound of 100 people, intercoms, TVs, and devices all blaring at once. I just want to scream, “Will everyone please just shut the f#@k up!?”

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

I’m so undeservedly blessed that I don’t have or need a caregiver anymore. My wife had to do it for the first few months after I moved back home, but I’ve been mostly on my own since then. My “emotional caregivers” are probably my BFF, my eldest son, my bible study group, and my therapist.

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

I can’t tolerate the blatant dishonesty and BS involved in practicing law anymore (especially litigation, where it’s the worst) – not my own, but that of others who simply “double down” when I catch them and call them out. Far too many “judges” seem even worse than the lawyers. My BFF and I have done construction rehab work, and we just launched a demolition and construction company. In ten years, I hope it will be my main source of income, with my eldest son working with us and me taking only select legal work “on the side” (which sounds like Heaven). I wrote a book on God’s miracles in m

Steven A. Marderosian After TBI 20190429_113920

Survivor – Steven A. Marderosian Post-TBI

y experience. I hope to write more and to speak to inspire and help others overcome their crises and follow Jesus Christ.

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.

Don’t try to force yourself back into who you were; you simply aren’t that person anymore and never will be again. I always say that as well as I’m doing now, “everything is different” somehow. Embrace who you’ve become and the power your experience and resilience have given you to overcome any obstacle. And, help others do the same.

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

Thank God constantly for every breath you take; every blessing you have; and even every challenge, setback, and outright sorrow you experience. All these things work together to achieve God’s will to make you stronger and better as the person He wants you to be. And never, ever, sweat the “small stuff” again – life’s just too short.

With all God’s blessings to all survivors everywhere,

Steven A. Marderosian

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor)

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What is your name? (last name optional)

Steven A. Marderosian

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

Barrington, Illinois, USA; E-mail: steven@marderosianlaw.com

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

February 28, 2018; I was 49 years old.

How did your brain injury occur?

AVM (arteriovenous malformation) rupture – hemorrhagic stroke

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

My wife heard me sounding confused while talking to someone on my phone. Later she saw me looking at my phone as if I didn’t know what it was or how it worked. Then I started to notice my left arm going numb, and then, my left leg. I tried to “walk it off,” but I crashed to the floor.

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

My wife raced me to the Emergency Room, where I triggered a “stroke alert” response. I recall only the very start of it. My wife was kept outside a curtain, so I don’t know any of the details before I stabilized.

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

By the grace of God, no

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?

Towards end of two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit/neurology (and removal of my AVM by rare cross-craniotomy brain surgery), I had physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy evaluations in the regular hospital. I spent two more weeks in a rehab hospital for physical, occupational, and speech therapies. I then moved home with six more weeks of physical therapy and occupational therapy in a partial admission “day rehab” at the same rehab hospital. My total was more than two months of rehab.

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

My left side was paralyzed from the shoulders down – it was near total from the ribcage down. (I had no balance – I couldn’t stay up on all fours.) My left shoulder/arm/hand was moderately impaired. I have no real cognitive deficits per se, but my mental processing is disabled in high-level speed and volume capacity. My AVM was at the border of the frontal and parietal lobes, bleeding into the frontal lobe in the right hemisphere. It fractured me emotionally.

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

It’s a mixed bag. I got up on a board and surfed just three months “post op” (against a “no contact sports” order). I’m physically stronger and even faster than I was pre TBI. But, my mental processing speed and capacity are still disabled. A bipolar diagnosis a few years pre TBI (likely due to progressive blood flow abnormality) appears to have been rectified by the AVM removal. But, while my mood is more stable, I still struggle to figure out my new personality. My general emotional state is different and strange.

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

I miss the lightning-fast mental processing and the seemingly limitless volume capacity. I miss not having to relearn every maneuver in black belt karate and fighting, downhill (telemark) skiing, and all other physically demanding things I’d been doing. I miss the 6-6.5 hours of sleep per night without ever napping or feeling tired.

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

I like that I care about the real suffering in the world (i.e., not my own, by comparison), in the midst of which I lived and rehabbed. I like having a far more stable mood and seemingly being cured of bipolar disorder. I’m looking forward to this second chance to fix past mistakes and live as God wants me to. And to never, ever, fear anything in the world again – other than God.

What do you like least about your brain injury?

I dislike needing way too much sleep and always being tired no matter what I do or don’t do. I don’t like figuring out my new altered personality, my future career, and even my likes and dislikes. I don’t like having to relearn every advanced physical maneuver and regaining my previous mental processing speed and volume capacity.

Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

I have been greatly helped by my undying (and now bulletproof) faith in Jesus Christ; by my eldest son, who is bipolar (now I want him scanned for an AVM too) and is the only one in my family who understands my continuing emotional turmoil; and by the support of my close friends in Christ and by my BFF of 45 years.

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

I look, speak, and act “fine,” so family (except my eldest son) and others don’t really understand my continuing emotional turmoil and new personality. So, I keep my inner feelings mostly to myself (and to my BFF, to my eldest son, to my bible study group, and to my therapist).

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

I was kind of a homebody before, so my social life is not much different. But, busy, noisy places, like crowded restaurants, create a sensory overload that can become overwhelming, especially after high-stress or high-volume days. It’s like I can hear every individual sound of 100 people, intercoms, TVs, and devices all blaring at once. I just want to scream, “Will everyone please just shut the f#@k up!?”

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

I’m so undeservedly blessed that I don’t have or need a caregiver anymore. My wife had to do it for the first few months after I moved back home, but I’ve been mostly on my own since then. My “emotional caregivers” are probably my BFF, my eldest son, my bible study group, and my therapist.

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

I can’t tolerate the blatant dishonesty and BS involved in practicing law anymore (especially litigation, where it’s the worst) – not my own, but that of others who simply “double down” when I catch them and call them out. Far too many “judges” seem even worse than the lawyers. My BFF and I have done construction rehab work, and we just launched a demolition and construction company. In ten years, I hope it will be my main source of oncome, with my eldest son working with us and me taking only select legal work “on the side” (which sounds like Heaven). I wrote a book on God’s miracles in my experience. I hope to write more and to speak to inspire and help others overcome their crises and follow Jesus Christ.

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.

Don’t try to force yourself back into who you were; you simply aren’t that person anymore and never will be again. I always say that as well as I’m doing now, “everything is different” somehow. Embrace who you’ve become and the power your experience and resilience have given you to overcome any obstacle. And, help others do the same.

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

Thank God constantly for every breath you take; every blessing you have; and even every challenge, setback, and outright sorrow you experience. All these things work together to achieve God’s will to make you stronger and better as the person He wants you to be. And never, ever, sweat the “small stuff” again – life’s just too short.

 

With all God’s blessings to all survivors everywhere,

Steven A. Marderosian

 

Past Blast: “Brain Injury Resources – Unleashed Talents”

“Brain Injury Resources – Unleashed Talents”

(originally published July 29, 2014)

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Can TBI Unleash a Talent That We Didn’t Know We Have?

 

Brain th-2TBI survivors are usually defined by others in negative terms. Survivors are often seen as people who are no longer able to do something they once did easily or as people who are physically disabled. It has become strikingly evident from the interviews on this blog (Survivors SPEAK OUT!) that TBI survivors, once they have accepted the new normal of their lives, often show immense courage and determination. They have aspirations and exhibit motivation that is intensified or that wasn’t even known to exist. Here are two videos that show a positive outcome from TBI.

The first video is long (1 hr, 5 min), but it is mesmerizing. In it, neurologist Dr. Darold Treffert discusses (with videos) the “savant syndrome.” It is thought that some abnormality in the brain unleashes a skill that normal people find to be phenomenal. At 29 min 20 sec into the video, Dr. Treffert discusses “The Acquired Savant” – a person who has become a savant after a brain injury. Although becoming a savant after a brain injury can happen, it’s rare. But, any model of the brain has to be able to explain the savant syndrome. Dr. Treffert suggests that the brain comes “fully loaded with software” and that the normal functional brain eventually suppresses much of its intrinsic “software” to reduce stimulation. This means that we all may have suppressed talents.

The second video is much shorter (15 min) and is relevant to all TBI survivors. Ann Zuccardy redefines what it means to be smart. A person may define himself or herself by a certain talent or ability. Does one’s life then become unfulfilling when that skill is lost as the result of a brain injury? Ann Zuccardy, who was affected by a brain injury, tells us that the loss of a dominant skill allows a person to nurture and/or develop other skills that may have been ignored. These other skills can be as useful as or even more impressive than the dominant one was.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor)

 

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So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . . . . . Do Motorcycle Helmets Protect the Brain?

So, Whaddya Think?

Do Motorcycle Helmets Protect the Brain?

by

David H. Figurski, Ph.D

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D. survivor of brain injury

Whether or not motorcycle helmets reduce head injuries is a topic that is highly controversial. Witness the fact that some states have motorcycle helmet laws while others don’t.

Clearly, helmets do not prevent all brain injuries. Former National Football League lineman George Visger (San Francisco 49ers), who’s a survivor of a football-induced brain injury, worries about the false sense of security that helmets can engender.  (Listen to minutes 12:00-14:00 of Donna’s August 16, 2015, interview of him.)

On the positive side, many people believe motorcycle helmets can reduce minor head injuries and thereby mitigate or even prevent some brain injuries. I am staunchly pro-helmet in my viewpoint, but I am also realistic about how protective a helmet actually is. Recently, I encountered someone who is an adamant proponent of the anti-helmet viewpoint. Here’s what happened.

Donna and I recently attended a lecture by Carrie Collins-Fadell, Executive Director of the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ), on the basics of brain injury and the work of the organization. At one point, I asked Carrie if BIAAZ had an official position on motorcycle helmet laws. (Arizona currently has no such law.) Given the current debate, her unsurprising answer was that it does not.

I’m a firm believer in helmets because one saved my face and possibly prevented a serious brain injury. I loved my bike, and, like most riders feel about their riding ability, I considered myself to be competent, alert, and safety-conscious. But, my bike was totaled in an accident that was not my fault.Vehicules-Moto-476361

As I rounded a bend in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York one Sunday morning, I encountered a massive oil spill that was left on the road by an emergency car repair. My tires lost their grip, my bike and I went down, and my bike ended up underneath on oncoming car. Fortunately, I was thrown from my bike and ended up down the road. (The hysterical driver thought I was still with my bike underneath her car.)

The point of this story is that I was wearing the best full-face helmet I could buy. I hit face-first. I know that because the chin-bar on my helmet was ground down from the road. Because of that helmet, I was able to walk away – although with some road-rash. I hate to think what would have happened to me if I had not been wearing that helmet.

CoolClips_vc040139I told Carrie that I was in favor of helmet laws. But, another member of the audience took issue with me and presented the opposing view. “The only reason I would wear a helmet is if a law required me to.” We had a short discussion about our opposing beliefs. There are valid arguments for both opinions, and I know much more could have been said. But, I was mindful of the time, and I suspected Carrie was eager to get back to her talk. (I know Donna was happy I ended quickly!)

Both of us made valid points. I’d like to address comments that were stated and what could have been said.

The audience-member argued that a helmet adds possibly dangerous weight to a rider’s head. This is a valid point.

Helmets can add up to 5 pounds to the head, and that extra weight can endanger the neck, with consequences for the brain and/or spine. (Professional race-drivers are well aware of this danger. I raced cars at the amateur level, and, again, I considered myself to be safety-conscious, although Donna thought that racing cars at all was a strange way to show it! Nevertheless, I was the first driver in the group to use a HANS device – a carbon-fiber collar that’s held tight by the safety harness. The point is that the weight of the head and helmet is somewhat counteracted by tethering the helmet to the device. There is evidence showing that the reduction in the number and/or force of head impacts by a HANS device is protective.)dk163

The audience-member also argued that a full-face helmet cuts down on peripheral vision.  I completely agree that good peripheral vision is really important for safe riding. I adamantly disagreed with the statement, however, that a full-face helmet interferes with peripheral vision, but I didn’t take the time to give my reasons for believing that way.

It’s true that old full-face helmets have small eye-ports and restrict peripheral vision. But, many modern full-face helmets have wide eye-ports so peripheral vision is not restricted. That was a consideration when I purchased my helmets for motorcycling and car racing.

Another point the audience-member made was that a helmet does nothing to protect the brain in a serious accident and, as was noted above, may make neck injury more likely. I agree that helmets are not protective in a major accident. I know of a rider who was killed while wearing a good helmet.

A helmet will not protect the brain in a catastrophic accident, but a helmet might reduce the severity of a brain injury in a minor accident. A slight impact of the head in a highly-cushioned helmet may lead to no brain injury at all or to a less severe brain injury. But, a slight impact of a helmetless head could lead to a serious brain injury or even be fatal.incident-clipart-accident

The audience-member also mentioned that he’s been riding 40 years without a helmet. I congratulate him for the accomplishment of never having had a serious accident. I too thought I would ride my bike for many years. But, unexpected things happen. One such incident happened to me. It’s why some of us wear safety gear.

The audience-member and I ended by agreeing on a point. We both understand that, during a serious impact, no helmet can protect the jelly-like brain, which exists inside a hard skull.

I understand there is considerable joy in riding totally free and unencumbered. Motorcycles are about freedom, and the principle of individual freedom is paramo61463unt for some people. Those of us who wear safety gear are concerned with the significant risk of riding with the lack of precautions. We still experience the feeling of the impressive freedom that comes from riding a motorcycle – just a bit less.

 

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Courtney Clark

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Courtney Clark Photo 2

Courtney Clark – survivor of Brain Injury & Motivational Speaker

 

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

Courtney Clark

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

Austin, Texas, USA

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

In the spring of 2011, at age 31, I discovered I had an AVM (arteriovenous malformation).

4. How did your brain injury occur?

An AVM is a congenital birth defect of the blood vessels. I actually had no symptoms and no warning signs, but I had been living with it for 31 years when doctors found it.

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

My oncologist actually found my AVM at my 5-year cancer-free scans! Because I didn’t have any symptoms (usually symptoms are headaches and seizures), I had no idea that I had it. I also learned that three aneurysms were within the AVM. Any one could have ruptured at any time.brain-20clip-20art-brain4

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

I flew to New York to be seen by one of the top neurosurgeons I could find. I had three brain surgeries.

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

I wasn’t in a coma. I woke up from surgery the first day, but I struggled with consciousness for almost two weeks.

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 didn’t have to do rehab, but I did have to teach myself how to read again over the course of about a month because I really struggled with comprehension.

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

visionThe main issues I struggled with right away were visual issues. I had a problem with depth perception, and, because of that, I couldn’t walk for several days – I could only walk a few steps at a time. For the next several months, I also had to work on reading and anything else that required visual comprehension.

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

My life the first year was painful. I was running a small nonprofit out of my home, and I found that I could barely stay awake long enough to do any work. I felt completely helpless. (I couldn’t even take myself to the bathroom.) Now, I’d say my overall life is better – going through this with a supportive husband by my side has shown me I chose the right partner (the second time around). Also, I have even more perspective on life.

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

Yoga! I am NOT a natural athlete like everyone in my family. But, in yoga, I had mastered the headstand. I could do not one but two cool headstands! I felt like a rock-star athlete for the first time in my life! When my neurosurgeon told me that I could no longer do Yoga th-1headstands (it sounds obvious now but caught me completely off guard at the time), it was the first time I really, truly wept. Like, I’ve been through so much, and now I can’t even do this ONE THING that brings me so much joy and makes me feel like a beast!

In a larger sense, I also miss that feeling of immortality that we all have when we’re young – when we think nothing bad could ever happen to us.

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

I’m so much more appreciative of my husband, my loved ones, and my life! Because of everything I’ve been through, I now get to research, write, and speak on resilience, and I love traveling the world to get to help other people.

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

These days, nothing!

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

One of the main things that helped me was volunteering and giving back to other people. (It’s a strategy I ALWAYS use to help me when I’m struggling with something.) Research shows that volunteering is one of the best ways to get perspective on our struggles.

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

My relationship with my husband, Jamie, has been affected – because I feel 100% certain that I’ve chosen the right life-partner. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 26, my then-husband wasn’t as supportive as I would have liked. The push in the direction to end my marriage was painful, but necessary. Jamie, my second husband, and I hadn’t even been married a year when the AVM was found. I was so worried that having to take care of me – take me to the bathroom, etc. – was going to hurt our new marriage. But, Jamie was, and continues to be, a most-supportive, caring partner.

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

I feel very lucky – I didn’t have any long-term changes to my social life. Short-term, yes; but long term, not really. I will say that, after my surgeries, I have a “life is short” feeling – I don’t put up with a lot of BS or unkindness from friends.

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

Image result for Free Cartoon Clip Art love life

My husband was my main caregiver. I don’t know if anyone can totally “get it” until he or she has been through it, but I always say that in some ways it’s almost harder to be the loved one than the patient. It was especially difficult for Jamie to deal with me because I had experienced the world of cancer also! Jamie didn’t always get to be the one to choose the treatment plan, but he had to just go along with whatever I chose. And, I got wheeled away, and I slept through the 10-hour surgery, but my husband was awake, pacing the floor the whole time!

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

Ten years from now, I want to continue traveling and speaking to groups to help them gain resilience and handle change and challenge.

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 biggest helpful hint is that helping someone else is a tool that EVERYONE can use. So often, we think that, if we’re struggling, we have nothing to give. And, we may feel drained, exhausted, or like “Why do I need to help somebody else? I’m still getting help?” or “How could I even help someone, with my life the way that it is?” But, giving doesn’t have to be directed downward – to someone less fortunate. When I was sick the first time, I kept up with my volunteer activities, and I found that it gave me a sense of personal power and accomplishment, even when I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much in my everyday life.

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

My best advice is that healing and recovering from a brain injury isn’t a linear process. Before your brain injury, maybe you were like me: go-go-go, getting everything done, climbing the ladder, all about success. You can’t just “bounce back” after something like this. It’s a long, slow trudge, which our society doesn’t glamorize. But, the slow journey is really the only option, and that’s not all bad. It’s an opportunity to reprioritize and savor the smaller things (which I used to ignore).

 

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Courtney Clark – Survivor of Brain Injury – will be Keynote Speaker – BIAAZ Rays of Hope Conference – May 17, 2019, Phoenix, Arizona

 

Learn more about Courtney Clark on her website, Courtney Clark – Accelerated Resilience.

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