TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Surving Traumaric Brain Injury’

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury – Amy Zellmer

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Amy Zellmer

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.

Amy Zellmer (survivor)

Amy Zellmer 3 Survivor 101015They say a picture says a thousand words. It’s been nineteen months since I fell on a patch of ice and landed full-force on the back of my skull. I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) plus whiplash, torn muscles in my neck, shoulder, and chest, and I also dislocated my sternum. What the photo doesn’t show is how I wasn’t able to do any exercise – even mild – for the first year. Just walking around the grocery store was enough to leave me spent for the rest of the day – let alone carrying in the bags of groceries. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I lived pretty much in my bed or on the couch for over a year. I would do photography sessions a few times a week (because that’s my only form of income, and I had bills to pay) and pay the price for two days – icing my body and popping ibuprofen like it was candy. Even just six months ago, I couldn’t properly stand up straight – let alone do strength training. And let’s not forget about the horrible vertigo and balance issues that came with the TBI. But I finally decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! It was time to DO SOMETHING – anything! So I started doing yoga for 10-15 minutes a day. At first it was hard – really hard. I could do only very basic, simple stretching poses. I would hold onto a chair for any pose that required standing so that I didn’t lose my balance. But you know what? IT HELPED! It started me on a path to gaining back my strength and endurance.Amy Zellmer Survivor 1 101015

AND NOW LOOK AT ME! I am working with a fab trainer. We are using weights and resistance to get my body back to pre-injury status. It feels so good to be able to walk standing fully upright, and have the strength to carry my groceries into the house. I feel absolutely amazing, and my symptoms are subsiding (the physical ones; Amy Zellmer 2 Survivor 101015the neurological ones are still present). I know it seems impossible when you’re in the darkest days after a TBI. I’ve completely been there. But, man, you take back control of your life when you finally start to step out of it and say, “F… Y.., TBI!” If I can do this, I know you can too!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alisa Noah


Survivors SPEAK OUT! Alisa Ann Noah



Donna O’Donnell Figurski


Noah, Alisa Ann L7l38moCWms-awgtIo9_70iApASPda_FVoPydfH1Eav5cCUnvpSudWfhdApNDrmPOqCkIcYbJLDfkrIxawI0Iu_D3IeGgzKZ1Whh7Lc2pmxdyJbB19_Vw114VdME3ant9vsNlq-qX9SNXn7SApjHhzoVZqU1ToqtwiFTpWcqKJ9lbUSBAV0pVh-fvnXN3tkGrsqt1hPzAODSjNBFrDOOjJ-u_iGQ547W

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

Alisa aka “El Dorado”

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

North Carolina, USA

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

February 2012

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury came from a motor vehicle accident. I wasn’t at fault. My truck was rear-ended at 50+ mph. Because my truck had no headrests, my head hit the back glass.

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


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

I was first treated in the Emergency Room. Scans and X-rays were taken. Later I had a neck brace, cervical epidurals, other cervical injections, and physical therapy.

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


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

I did physical therapy.

How long were you in rehab?

Three months of 3 days a week

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

I have vision loss; migraines; balance issues; sleep problems; mood problems; memory loss; anxiety; and pain, pain, pain. Unexpected loud noises send me into a panic.

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

My life got worse for about three years. I have recently started to make progress with happiness and finding new ways to keep busy.

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

I miss my career as a horse trainer, and I miss college.

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

Retirement (LOL)

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

I dislike the pain and my physical limitations.

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

Friends and new hobbies have helped me accept my brain injury.

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

Yes. People don’t understand my thought process or mood swings.

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

Yes. I fear driving. I don’t engage in social activities much anymore.

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

My mother and my roommate are my main caregivers.

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

Hmmm, I’m not sure. I take things 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.

Don’t let doctors just throw pills at you. After I had been told for almost three years that my condition is permanent, I recently learned that I can heal from it. Do your research. Some doctors are really no help.

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

NEVER let your “disabilities” define who you are as a person! You are and always will be just as valuable and important as anyone else. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Stay strong!

(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.

(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.

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.


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