Survivors SPEAK OUT! Su Meck
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
My name is Su Meck.
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
I currently live in Northern Virginia (USA) outside of Washington D.C.
On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
3. My brain injury occurred on Sunday, May 22, 1988. I was twenty-two years old at the time.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
A ceiling fan in my kitchen fell and hit my head, knocking me down. As I fell, my head hit the kitchen counter, and then hit the floor.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
My husband, Jim, was sitting right there at the kitchen table reading the Fort Worth Star Telegram when the ceiling fan fell on me. He saw the whole thing.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Jim called 911 right away. The ambulance came and took me to the closer (smaller satellite) hospital. But it was quickly determined that I needed to be at the bigger downtown Forth Worth hospital because that hospital actually had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan machine.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
Whether or not I was in a coma depends upon which pages of my (handwritten) medical records one reads. I was definitely in and out of consciousness for a few days, but I am unsure as to if I was in an actual 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?
Rehab? In Texas? In 1988? LOL! The “rehab” that I had was terribly inadequate, especially by today’s standards. I was assigned a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, but it is unclear what specifically those people did with me.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
The most significant loss for me was experiencing total retrograde amnesia, which means I lost all of my memories of roughly the first twenty-two years of my life. Initially, both short- and long-term memory were affected. I did not recognize my husband, my two children (ages 2 and 1), any other family members, or friends. I also couldn’t walk, read, count, brush my teeth or hair, feed myself, etc. My personality post accident is the opposite of my personality from before the accident.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life totally changed. Better or worse? It’s way more complicated than that. I don’t personally know what my life was like before the accident. I have to rely on the memories and stories of others who knew me. Which, by the way, really kind of sucks.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I don’t have any memory of anything from my life pre TBI (traumatic brain injury): all of my childhood/teenage/early adulthood memories, learning how to ride a bike, birthdays, grandparents, learning how to play piano and drums, vacations, my first crush, my first kiss, pets, losing my virginity, college-looking (the first time), sorority rush/initiation/parties/friends, meeting and falling in love with my husband, my wedding, the pregnancies of my two boys and their first years, and so many, many, many more …
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
Advocating for my fellow TBI survivors. I love speaking to groups of survivors, caregivers, and anyone really about what it is like to live with a TBI.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
Nearly everything else
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Even though there are still some days that I feel as though I can’t do, or understand, or remember a damn thing, the process of writing my book helped me to come to terms with how far I have actually come since my accident.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Oh yes! I don’t feel as if I am part of my family (my parents’ and siblings’ family). I think of my kids as more like my siblings. And my husband? Well … We are still married (33 years) … But since my accident, there have been some genuinely shitty times!
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
I’m sure it has changed in many ways, but one thing that comes to mind (and the thing that was most noticeable when I was in college at both Montgomery College and then at Smith College) is the fact that I feel way more comfortable around people in their 20s and 30s than I do around people my “real” age (50s).
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
Jim, my husband, is my main caregiver now. But at times, my children often took on the caregiver role because Jim traveled so much.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
Wow! This is a tough one. I would love to continue writing (and publishing) stories, essays, lyrics, whatever. I always wanted to be part of a working/performing rock band, playing drums as well as singing. I want to become more proficient on the guitar, uke, and piano. I’d love to travel around speaking and educating people about what it is like to live in this crazy world as a TBI survivor. I’d love to move back to New England. I want to ski, and hike, and learn to swim. I’d love to have a dog (a service dog would be great to keep me from wandering). I want to take long extended vacations to Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, and even Canada.
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.
Be happy with who you are now, even if you are one hundred percent different from the person you were before. Be honest with yourself and others. It is okay to ask for help. Graduating from Smith College in 2014 was a huge accomplishment for me. In fact, Smith almost did me in physically, mentally, and emotionally. But Smith also gave me a tremendous gift: An enthusiastic love of reading and learning. Keep learning!
Please buy and read my book, I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. (I’m shameless!) And, if you like it, please write a positive review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. (Yes, I’m truly shameless!)
Please check out Su Meck’s book. It’s a great read!
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